Food & Drink

Fresh Pea Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re thinking of not bothering to read this because you have better things to do than shell peas, relax. This article is about those emerald green ones that are an early spring crop and that you buy, if you happen to be  into shelling peas, in the produce department. Otherwise, you buy them frozen, and they’re almost as good, certainly good enough for the recipes that follow. If you think peas are half of the vegetable called peasandcarrots that you grew up with, think again. This is about fresh pea soup with mint, a lovely spring dish served hot or warm and a refreshing summer dish, served cold. It’s about pasta with peas, asparagus and arugula and, yes, for nostalgia’s sake, it’s even about peasandcarrots but in a tangy rice salad.

Fresh Pea Soup

Fresh Pea Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups chopped Vidalia onion

1 cup chopped fresh fennel

4 to 5 cups chicken broth

Two 10-ounce packages frozen peas or 5 cups shelled fresh peas

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and fennel and, stirring frequently, cook over medium-low heat until they begin to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth, peas, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper; then cook 10 minutes over medium heat until vegetables are tender but peas are still bright green. Reserve two tablespoons peas. 

Let soup cool 10 minutes; puree in batches in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until just bubbling. Remove from heat. Ladle into soup tureen or individual soup plates; swirl in cream and garnish with reserved peas. Serve hot, warm or cold with soft rolls, tomato and cucumber salad and a crisp, dry white wine.

Spaghetti with Peas, Asparagus and Arugula

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches scallions, top third discarded, bottom two-thirds cleaned and sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup dry white wine

¾ cup chicken broth

1½ bunches asparagus, cleaned, bottoms of stalks removed, then sliced diagonally cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound thin spaghetti

One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed, or 2 cups shelled fresh peas

One 10-ounce package sugar snap  peas, thawed

1 bunch arugula, washed, destemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; add olive oil. Add scallions and cook over medium heat until they are soft but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and white wine; cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced to a glaze. Add chicken broth, stir and remove from heat. 

Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling water until tender but still bright green about 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from water and set aside; reserve water. Cook spaghetti according to package directions in water from asparagus, then drain and place in skillet with scallions, garlic, wine and broth. Heat over medium low flame and toss with thawed peas and snap peas. 

When heated through, place in large pasta bowl, and toss with arugula, the one-third cup oil, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Serve warm with crusty Italian bread, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Cold Basmati Rice Salad with PeasandCarrots

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

5 to 6 cups cooked basmati rice

2 cups thawed frozen peas or 2 cups cooked shelled fresh peas

2 cups cooked diced fresh carrots

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

2 scallions, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed    lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be served at room temperature or cold with meat, poultry or fish.

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

I love reading quotes, especially funny, historical, inspirational or those from well-known individuals. With that in mind I’d like to share 20 of my favorite wine quotes that may stimulate you to reach for a bottle of wine.

1. “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” (Author unknown)

2. “A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.” (Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1755–1826, French politician and writer)

3. “The fine wine leaves you with something pleasant. The ordinary wine just leaves.” (Maynard A. Amerine, 1911–1998, professor emeritus, University of California, Davis)

4. “Wine is one of the agreeable and essential ingredients of life.” (Julia Child, 1912–2004, American master chef)

5. “Wine is the intellectual part of a meal. Meats are merely the material part.” (Alexander Dumas, 1802–1870, French novelist)

6. “Where there is no wine, there is no love.” (Euripides 480–406 B.C., Greek playwright)

7. “If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul.” (Clifton Fadiman, 1904–1999, American writer and editor)

8. “I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.” (Oliver Goldsmith, 1728–1774, novelist; “She Stoops to Conquer,” 1773)

9. “Wine is a substance that is wonderfully appropriate to man, in health as well as in sickness, if it be administered at the right time, and in proper quantities, according to the individual constitution.” (Hippocrates, 460–377 B.C., Greek physician)

10. “Wine is like sex in that few men will admit not knowing all about it.” (Hugh Johnson, 1939–, British author)

11. “What is better than to sit at the end of the day and drink wine with friends, or substitutes for friends?” (James Joyce, 1882–1941, Irish novelist and poet)

12. “When it comes to wine, I tell people to throw away the vintage charts and to invest in a corkscrew. The best way to learn about wine is in the drinking.” (Alexis Lichine, 1913–1989, wine writer and winery owner)

13. “I feast on wine and bread, and feasts they are.” (Michelangelo, 1475–1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet)

14. “The metamorphosis of grape juice to wine is a natural process, but the creation of truly fine wines requires balanced contributions of tradition, expertise, and innovation.” (Angelo Papagni, Papagni Vineyards, Madera, California)

15. “Wine can be considered with good reason as the most healthful and most hygienic of all beverages.” (Louis Pasteur, 1822–1895, biologist and chemist)

16. “There are two reasons for drinking wine: one is when you are thirsty, to cure it; the other is when you are not thirsty, to prevent it. Prevention is always better than cure.” (Thomas Love Peacock, 1785–1866, English novelist and poet; “Melincourt,” 1817)

17. “Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” (André L. Simon, 1877–1970, French wine writer)

18. “You Americans have the loveliest wines in the world, you know, but you don’t realize it. You call them ‘domestic’ and that’s enough to start trouble anywhere.” (H.G. Wells, 1866–1946, British novelist, historian and social reformer)

19. “Our Italian winery workers were full of red wine and garlic. They never caught anything. The germs couldn’t get close enough to them.” (Karl L. Wente, Wente Vineyards, California)

20. ‘Wine is sunlight, held together by water.’ (Galileo Galilei)

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Gin, Vodka, Rum & Tequila” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR bkjm@hotmail.com.

By Barbara Beltrami

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that often dishes that start out cast in supporting roles end up being the stars of a meal. I’m thinking of things like potatoes au gratin or pasta with a creamy lemon sauce or polenta with green chilies. A dry overdone piece of meat or poultry doesn’t stand a chance next to a savory side dish; a piece of overdone or (worse) underdone fish pales next to such tasty accompaniments. And so, before you know it, a side dish becomes a main dish and, served up with a veggie or salad, takes on a life of its own. As with so many simple recipes, this is where you get to be creative and dream up your own versions and variations with additions or even deletions.

Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Lemon Sauce and Prosciutto

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

¾ pound angel hair pasta (capellini)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 slices prosciutto, chopped

1 large shallot, minced

¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Juice and grated zest of two lemons

1 cup heavy cream

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter and oil and sauté the prosciutto and shallot for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the parsley, lemon zest and cream and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Add cooked pasta to skillet, toss to coat, then add lemon juice, a little at a time until desired tartness is achieved and cook over medium heat until all liquid is absorbed by pasta. Serve hot or warm with fresh asparagus, peas or a light green salad.

 Potatoes au Gratin

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

Nonstick cooking spray

6 medium potatoes, very thinly sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup minced onion

3 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 cups milk

½ cup half and half

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup unflavored breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat bottom and sides of 2-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange potato slices evenly in dish. In medium saucepan or skillet, melt three tablespoons of the butter; add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft. Stirring constantly, add flour, salt and pepper; continue cooking until mixture is bubbly; remove from heat.  

Add milk and half and half, return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil, then boil and stir for one minute, until it thickens. Add cheese and stir until it melts. Pour mixture over potatoes; sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes; remove foil and bake another hour, until liquid is absorbed by potatoes and top is golden brown. Remove from oven; let sit 10 minutes, then serve immediately with a crisp mixed green salad.

Polenta with Green Chili Peppers, Tomatoes and Manchego Cheese

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups milk

1 cup water

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

3 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

17-ounce can whole green chilies, drained and diced

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups grated manchego cheese

½ cup melted unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, cornmeal, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly with a wire whisk, bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook and stir until mixture thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes. 

With a rubber spatula, scrape half the mixture into the baking dish; sprinkle half the chilies, half the tomatoes, half the grated Parmesan and half the manchego. Drizzle half the melted butter over top. Starting with remaining polenta, repeat procedure and finish with remaining melted butter. Bake about 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a spinach and mushroom salad.

Mushroom and Brie Crostini

By Barbara Beltrami

Some years ago, my husband bought a book on mycology and decided that we were going to pick our own wild mushrooms in the woods. My mind fast forwarded to our  virtual obituaries stating that the cause of death had been eating poisonous toadstools (sauteed in butter, white wine and shallots, of course). 

Preferring the fairy tale image of mushrooms in an enchanted forest populated by cute little gnomes and rejecting the legacy of my prehistoric female predecessors and early ancestral gatherers, I vehemently nixed the idea. Instead I frequented the produce aisles of high-end supermarkets to seek out wild mushrooms harvested by responsible and knowledgeable organic farmers.  

Eventually, the book and the idea were shelved, but not before we had eaten many varieties of mushrooms prepared in an even bigger variety of ways. While  button and Portobello are the most commonly available, shitake, cremini, oyster, morel, enoki and others are the most tasty, delicate (and expensive!) but well worth their price.

Wild Mushroom Soup

Wild Mushroom Soup

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh porcini, morel or chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

2 tablespoons minced Italian flat-leaf parsley

6 fresh mint or catnip leaves

4 cups beef broth

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 to 4 slices good Italian bread, toasted

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil; add mushrooms and herbs; sauté gently over medium heat until slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Rub toasted bread with garlic and place in bottoms of soup bowls. Ladle in soup and serve immediately with an omelet, cheese and light red wine.

Mushroom and Brie Crostini

Mushroom and Brie Crostini

YIELD: Makes 8 crostini

INGREDIENTS: 

8¼-inch-thick slices crusty Italian or French bread,  toasted

12 ounces brie, rind removed

2 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned and very thinly sliced

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat broiler. Cover each slice of toast with 1/8 of the cheese; place on a baking sheet 6 inches from broiler and cook just until the cheese melts. Transfer crostini to serving platter; top with mushrooms, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with  a dry white wine.

Sauteed Mushrooms

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ pounds assorted mushroom varieties, cleaned and sliced

¼ cup unsalted butter

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat; toss in the mushrooms and do not stir them until they start to brown; stir them and continue to cook five more minutes. Add butter and cook another five minutes until they are nicely browned. Add garlic, mint, parsley, lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately with eggs, meat or poultry.

Julia's Chocolate Chiffon Cake

By Barbara Beltrami

Last week I wrote about spring holiday meals and how much in common there is among the cuisines of various religions. From tender young vegetables to lots of eggs as decorations or ingredients, to light, fluffy desserts, everything seems to converge on the spring theme. Last week I also promised to give you a few recipes for those light-as-a-feather cakes that, whether angel food, sponge or chiffon, rely heavily on egg whites.

Spring-y and delicate, none are difficult to make. All of them make beautiful presentations, especially if decorated with seasonal pastels or confections and all of them function beautifully as complements to fruits, sauces, ice cream and sorbets. So tie on your apron, heat up that oven, get out your electric mixer and cake pans, take those eggs out of the refrigerator and let’s bake!

Julia’s Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Julia’s Chocolate Chiffon Cake

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup boiling water

½ cup cocoa

1¾ cups cake flour

1¾ cups sugar

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup vegetable oil

7 unbeaten egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

7 egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine boiling water and cocoa; let cool. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center, then add oil, egg yolks, vanilla and cocoa mixture, and beat until smooth. Put egg whites and cream of tartar into large mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Pour egg yolk mixture in thin stream over entire surface of egg whites. With rubber spatula gently fold in until well blended. Pour into ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake 55 minutes, then raise heat to 350 F and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven; invert onto wire rack until cool. Remove from pan and decorate with your favorite frosting, if desired. Otherwise, serve with fudge sauce, whipped cream, liqueur or vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

Nana’s Orange Sponge Cake

Nana’s Orange Sponge Cake

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 eggs, separated

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

½ cup Passover cake meal

¼ cup potato starch

Freshly grated rind of half an orange

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. In another larger bowl combine the egg yolks, sugar and orange juice and beat until frothy and pale. In a third bowl combine the cake meal and potato starch and gradually beat into the egg yolk mixture until batter is smooth. Fold in the egg whites and orange rind. Transfer batter to an ungreased tube pan with a removable bottom and bake for one hour. Remove from oven and invert over wire rack until cool. Unmold and serve with orange sorbet, stewed fruit or fresh berries.

Rebecca’s Angel Food Cake

Rebecca’s Angel Food Cake

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 egg whites

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1¼ cups fine granulated sugar

1 cup cake flour

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 325 F. Dust a 10-inch tube pan with flour but do not butter it. Beat egg whites with salt until foamy; add cream of tartar and continue beating until egg whites form soft peaks. Add almond and vanilla extracts; lightly stir once. Sift together the sugar and cake flour over a separate bowl; repeat three times. Using a whisk or spatula, gently fold the sifted mixture, two tablespoons at a time, into the beaten egg whites until the batter is completely blended. Spoon evenly into prepared tube pan. Bake for 50 minutes; turn the oven off and leave cake in for another 10 minutes. Turn cake upside down on a wire rack and let sit for one hour, then carefully unmold. Serve with chocolate sauce or pureed strawberries.

Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Adding grated cheese to a dish of pasta is something we do automatically, sometimes without regard to the type of cheese we’re using or which is suggested in the recipe. Not all grated cheeses are alike. These hard-grating cheeses belong to a group known as grana (in Italian), which means they have a flaky, grainy or granular texture; sharp, well-aged and hard to very hard. These cheeses are suitable for grating when they begin to get old.

Grana cheeses can be made from cow, sheep or even goat’s milk. Although most are made in Italy, some are produced in Greece, Switzerland, Argentina and the United States.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the most popular grana cheeses, but keep in mind, “all Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses are grana, but not all grana cheeses are Parmigiano-Reggiano.” Italian hard cheeses were once referred to as “cacio duro.” The word “Grana” is legally protected by Grana Padano Protected Designation of Origin, such that only Grana Padano can use the term to sell its produce in EU countries.

Some examples of grana cheeses are Asiago, Bagozzo, Crotonese, Grana Padano, Granone Lodigiano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, Piave, Vacchino Romano (Italy), Kefalotyri (Greece), Sapsago and Sbrinz (Switzerland), Reggianito (Argentina) and dry Jack (U.S.).

Grana cheeses will keep for several months if wrapped in damp cheesecloth and then enclosed in aluminum foil and refrigerated. You can purchase grana cheese either previously grated or in chunk form.

If purchasing already grated, plan on using it within 60 days since it will begin to dry out. When using chunks, grate only the cheese you need at one time and refrigerate the unused portion. Hard cheeses may be frozen for up to eight weeks but should then be used for grating, shredding or cooking.

In addition to sprinkling on pasta or popcorn, many grana cheeses are great enjoyed by the chunk with a piece of crusty bread and glass of wine (red or white) or even whiskey. Let the cheese come to room temperature for optimum enjoyment.

My wine recommendations are:

•2016 Standing Stone Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY)

•2016 Gundlach-Bundschu “dry” Gewürztraminer (Sonoma, CA)

•2016 Four Graces “Pinot Gris” (Willamette, OR)

•2016 Shooting Star “Chardonnay” (Lake County, CA)

•2013 Podere Ruggeri Corsini “Barbera Armujan” (Piedmont, Italy)

•2011 La Spinona “Barolo Sorì Gepin” (Piedmont, Italy)

•2015 Poggio al Sole “Chianti Classico” (Tuscany, Italy)

My whiskey recommendations are:

•Wild Turkey Rare Breed Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Proof

•Jim Beam Black Label Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Gin, Vodka, Rum & Tequila” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR bkjm@hotmail.com.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Glaze

By Barbara Beltrami

Spring is here, or is it? As I sit here writing this a week before publication and approximately two weeks before the holidays, the third snowstorm in two weeks is swirling outside my window. The calendar says spring started on March 20, but right now it’s hard to take that seriously. Anyway, think positively with me and read on.

This year, as so often happens, Easter and Passover fall at the same time. No matter which holiday we observe, it is a signal to officially welcome spring. Out with the old dried up winter floral arrangements, in with pussy willows and daffodils. Out with hearty stews and soups and root veggies; in with asparagus, tender young greens and tiny new potatoes.

And while each holiday has its own religious and traditional observations, many dishes prepared for the feasts have a lot in common. For Passover, eggs are used in abundance to replace the forbidden leavening; for Easter, eggs from the eponymous bunny find their way into many creative dishes. Clear broths served with matzo balls, thin noodles or tortellini usher in the holiday meal, and light fluffy cakes made with flour or matzo meal and egg whites offer a grand finale.

So set your table with daffodils, roast a leg of lamb or a ham and those tiny new potatoes, prepare a bunch of asparagus and perhaps a baby arugula and mache salad and whip up a feather-light spring-y (pun intended) cake. (Next week I’ll give you a recipe or two for those cakes.)

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Glaze

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Glaze

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and washed

½ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and lay asparagus in it. In a small bowl, mix together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce and brown sugar. Being sure to coat all the spears, gently toss the asparagus with the balsamic mixture. Bake, gently tossing again once or twice, for 10 to 20 minutes, until asparagus are tender. Remove to platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with roasted meat or fowl and potatoes.

Roasted Baby Potatoes and Carrots with Shallots

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds baby potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

1 pound baby carrots, washed and trimmed, if necessary

2 shallot bulbs, peeled and separated into cloves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, de-stemmed and finely chopped

Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl toss all the ingredients together, then place in a large shallow baking dish and put in oven. Turning occasionally with a spatula, roast 30 to 45 minutes until carrots are tender and potatoes are crisp on the outside. Serve immediately with roasted meat or fowl.

Baby Arugula, Mache and Green Grape Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups baby arugula, washed and patted dry

3 cups mache, washed and patted dry

1½ cups green seedless grapes, washed and patted dry, then halved lengthwise

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon prepared mustard

1 garlic clove, bruised

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large salad bowl, toss arugula, mache and grapes together. If using within an hour, do not refrigerate; otherwise cover and refrigerate until one hour before use. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Remove garlic clove before dressing salad. When ready to serve and not before, toss the mixture with the greens and grapes and serve immediately with roasted meat or fowl or as an appetizer.

 

 

By Barbara Beltrami

I’ve never kissed the Blarney Stone. I’ve never encountered a leprechaun (that I know of), but I have been known to raise a pint and mispronounce “Slainte!” And I do have some Irish blood in me, which must be the reason I adore corned beef and cabbage. In fact, at this time of year I buy a couple of corned beefs and freeze them so that I can use them throughout the year. While I am usually a traditionalist, every once in a while I go on a kick to reinvent and jazz up the ordinary and same old, same old, delicious as they might be.

And so it is this St. Patrick’s Day that I’ve come up with three variations on the corned beef and cabbage theme … a stew, a casserole and cabbage rolls. You can make them from scratch with fresh ingredients or from leftovers, but either way I think you’ll enjoy their welcome flavors and unique forms.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 celery ribs, cleaned and chopped

4 carrots, peeled and diced

One 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice

3 cups beef broth

4 cups shredded cabbage

1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced

½ pound cooked corned beef, diced

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large pot, heat the oil, add the onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat about 5 to 7 minutes, until onion is slightly opaque. Add the tomatoes, broth, cabbage, potatoes and 3 to 4 cups water; bring to a boil, then cook, uncovered, over medium heat until everything is tender. Add corned beef, bay leaf salt and pepper; then cook 5 more minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve hot with pumpernickel or rye bread and a light red wine, sauvignon blanc wine or beer.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Casserole

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 cups peeled cooked and sliced potatoes

4 cups cooked shredded cabbage

1 medium onion, diced and browned

½ pound corned beef, julienned

1½ cups shredded Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

8 eggs

1½ cups milk

¾ teaspoon dry mustard

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat inside of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with oil. Line bottom of pan with half the potatoes, then half the cabbage, half the onions, half the corned beef and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat layers with remaining halves of ingredients, but start with cabbage and end with potatoes. Season again. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper and cayenne pepper. Beat until foamy. Pour mixture over layered ingredients in baking dish. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, mixture is set and top is golden and bubbly, about one hour. Remove from oven, let sit for 15 minutes, then serve with a tomato salad and crusty rolls with butter.

Corned Beef Hash Cabbage Rolls

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 large head cabbage, core removed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 cups finely diced cooked corned beef

3 cups finely diced cooked potatoes

1 large egg, beaten

3 cups beef broth

One 14-oz can petite diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Carefully separate leaves from cabbage and in a large pot, steam until slightly wilted. Meanwhile in a small skillet, heat oil, add onion and sauté until golden. In a large bowl, combine the corned beef, potatoes, sautéed onion and egg. Lay a wilted cabbage leaf, inside facing up so it looks like a little dish, on a board or plate. Roll about 1½ to 2 teaspoons of corned beef mixture into a ball and lay in center of cabbage leaf. Tuck in ends and roll up. Place, seam side down, in a 9- by 13-inch nonreactive baking dish.

Repeat procedure with remaining cabbage leaves and mixture. Tuck any extra small cabbage leaves around cabbage rolls. Pour beef broth into baking dish; evenly distribute tomatoes and their juice over tops of cabbage rolls. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 35 to 45 minutes until juice is bubbling and cabbage is tender. Place on a platter and spoon cooking liquid over and around cabbage rolls. Serve hot or warm with mustard, pickles, sharp cheese and bread.

Chicken Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

A bunch of us were hanging around waiting for the meeting to start. Sally was going through wads of tissues and cough drops and looked and sounded miserable. “Why didn’t I just stay home?” she whined. “What you need, Honey, is some nice homemade Jewish penicillin aka chicken soup,” I declared. Keiko shook her head. “No. No. Must drink broth with ginger and cabbage. Very good for chest and throat,” she countered.

When I came home, I got to thinking about these remedies and checked them out on the internet. As it happens, many doctors endorse chicken soup for its ability to open up sinus passages and fight inflammation. Does it actually have to be made by a Jewish grandmother? No medical evidence for that, but I think so because I am one!

And sure enough, I found reasonable evidence of the values of ginger and cabbage. The ginger with its spiciness helps unclog nasal passages, fights inflammation and soothes sore throats; and cabbage, loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants and sulfur is a good anti-inflammatory. Now I’m not saying these are foolproof or will cure you. But hey, I don’t think they can make you any worse and maybe they really can make you feel better.

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

 

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 5-pound roasting chicken

1 large onion, peeled

2 celery ribs, with leaves

8 to 10 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds

1 handful parsley

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Chicken bouillon cubes, to taste (optional)

DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Add 8 to 10 cups water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, one hour. Remove chicken from pot and peel off white meat; coarsely shred, place in a container, cover and refrigerate. Return remaining chicken and bones to pot and simmer, covered, another hour. In a colander or wire mesh strainer, strain entire contents of pot. Return broth and carrots to pot.

Separate bones, gristle and skin from dark meat and discard; refrigerate or freeze dark meat for another use. Cover and refrigerate broth and carrots; once fat has risen to top and hardened, gently remove it and discard or reserve for another use. When ready to serve soup, ladle a few cups of the cold broth and add the cold chicken breast into a smaller pot. Simmer that and the large pot of broth until barely boiling. Place hot chicken breast pieces, carrots and broth into soup bowl.

Serve immediately with separately cooked noodles, rice or matzo balls.

Ginger Broth with Cabbage

Ginger Broth with Cabbage

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 scallions, green part removed, trimmed and sliced

8 cups chicken broth

1/4 head cabbage, washed and shredded

One 4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large pot combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes; strain and remove all solids except cabbage. Serve hot with rice, soba noodles or shredded chicken.

Chicken Kabobs with Avocado Cream Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

For those of you who managed to get away for a midwinter vacation, chances are that if it was some place warm, the avocado figured into your diet.  For those of you who remained home, chances are that right about now you’re fantasizing and dreaming about that season when you are in a warm climate and the avocado and other summery staples will figure into your daily fare. 

I was recently in Los Angeles where movie stars are celestial, traffic is hellish and avocados seem to take top billing on every restaurant menu. Not just guacamole, but avocado salads and smoothies, tortillas, tacos and toasts,  pestos,  panini and pies, melts and mousses. It’s no wonder that the avocado — with 240 calories, no cholesterol, lots of fiber and vitamins and a rich creamy texture — is so popular with those health-conscious Californians.

Here are my versions of some avocado dishes I enjoyed.

Creamy Avocado Sauce

Chicken Kabobs with Avocado Cream Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

½ tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

¼ small chipotle pepper, chopped

Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In bowl of electric food processor, puree all ingredients together until silky smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with fish, poultry, burritos, tacos, burgers or chips.

Avocado, Cheddar and Chicken Melt

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup ketchup

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 grilled or sauteed half-pound boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 ripe avocados

4 whole wheat or multigrain English muffins, halved and lightly toasted

8 slices heirloom tomato

8 large thin slices cheddar cheese, about ¼-inch thick

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, ketchup, scallions, parsley and cilantro. Cut the chicken breast into four even pieces, then horizontally into 8 thin slices. Peel the avocados, remove the pits and slice each one into quarters. Preheat broiler.  Meanwhile, spread the mayonnaise mixture evenly onto each toasted muffin half; top with a slice of chicken, then the avocado, tomato slices and finally the cheese. Place in broiling pan and broil three inches from heat until cheese melts, about one and a half minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve with Caesar salad and chips or fries.

Seafood and Avocado Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

1 pound cooked lobster meat, coarsely chopped

½ pound sea scallops, cooked and sliced

½ pound calamari, cooked and sliced

One celery rib, thinly sliced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one lemon

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

4 ripe avocados, peeled and pit removed

One head butter or Bibb lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces

2 cups baby arugula

DIRECTIONS:

In a  large bowl combine the shrimp, lobster meat, scallops, calamari,  celery, olive oil,  half the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slice avocados, spread out on a plate and sprinkle lightly with remaining lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Discard any extra lemon juice that collects in bottom of plate or save for another use. Line a  serving plate with lettuce and arugula; place avocado slices around edges, then turn seafood mixture onto center of plate. Serve immediately with a dry white wine and a good crunchy baguette.

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