Food & Drink

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Amari (plural of amaro), the Italian term for “bitters,” refers to distilled spirits containing an infusion of bittering “botanicals” such as herbs, roots or barks. Some of the many botanicals used include gentian, rhubarb, quinine, aniseed, saffron, peppermint, cloves, bitter orange and cinnamon. Bitters were originally produced to soothe and relax the stomach after meals and therefore are often referred to as “digestives.” They are also used as ingredients in some cocktails.

Aperire, a Latin word, that means to open, is the origin of the word apéritif — a beverage that usually “opens” lunch or dinner as a stimulant to the appetite. Most apéritifs have an initial sweet taste with a somewhat bitter aftertaste because of the use of quinine, a bitter compound that comes from the bark of the Cinchona tree. This slight bitterness whets the appetite and cleanses the palate.

Unfortunately, many consumers cringe at the bitter flavor of some amari, preferring sweeter beverages to run across their palates, while others look upon bitters as a “cult” or “rite of passage” beverage. There appears to be growing interest in this category, which can easily be shown by the vast number of articles and cocktails about bitters in the news.

Although Italy has the lion’s share of amari, we also find delectable offerings from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, the United States and many other countries. 

Here are some of my favorites from Italy:

Aperol (22 proof, Veneto): Luminous orange color. Made from an infusion of aromatic herbs, spices and roots, including bitter orange, gentian and rhubarb.

Averna (68 proof, Sicily): Dark brown with colalike aroma and bittersweet taste; hints of black pepper, cloves, licorice and vanilla.

Branca Menta (60 proof, Lombardy): Dark, red-brown color; bouquet and flavor of spearmint, chocolate, citrus, menthol and herbs.

Campari (48 proof, Lombardy): Ruby-red, bitter beverage; bouquet and taste of bitter orange, cherry and strawberry, with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Cynar (34 proof, Veneto): Brown color; bouquet and taste of almonds, herbs, honey and walnuts.

Fernet-Branca (80 proof, Lombardy): Dark brown, extremely bitter; contains more than 40 herbs and spices.

Ramazzotti (60 proof, Lombardy): Dark brown, bittersweet; made from 33 different herbs, roots and spices.

There is no one correct way to serve amari; they are great served “neat” (room temperature), refrigerator chilled or on the rocks. Each can be served as a tall drink, filled with sparkling mineral water (or sparkling wine) and garnished with a wedge of lemon, lime or even orange. A maraschino cherry on top may provide a finishing touch.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” 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.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Butter Frosting and Sprinkles

By Barbara Beltrami

When the kids get tired of their tablets and cellphones (lol), when it’s so hot that everybody is fighting to get in front of the AC vents, or when summer vacation is past the halfway mark and boredom sets in, it’s cupcakes to the rescue. Easy and user friendly, the following basic recipes for cupcakes and their frostings leave lots of room for creativity.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Butter Frosting topped with Chocolate Sprinkles

YIELD: Makes 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

One stick unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1¾ cups sifted cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Fill 12 muffin cups with paper liners. With electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and add alternately with the milk to the butter mixture; do not overbeat. Stir in vanilla. Fill muffin cups ⅔ full and bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden and pulling away slightly from sides of pan. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. When cool, top with frosting of choice. Serve with chocolate milk or lemonade.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Butter Frosting topped with Pink Sprinkles

YIELD: Makes 24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup cocoa

1 cup hot water

1⅔ cups flour

1½ cups sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup soft unsalted butter

2 eggs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Mix cocoa and water until smooth; let cool. Blend flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add butter and cocoa mixture; scraping sides of bowl frequently, beat two minutes on medium speed of mixer. Add eggs and beat two more minutes. Fill muffin cups half full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from muffin tin and cool on wire rack. Frost as desired. Serve with milk or orangeade.

Vanilla Butter Frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Butter Frosting topped with Confetti Sprinkles

YIELD: Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup soft unsalted butter

3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

3 tablespoons cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Blend butter and sugar together; stir in cream and vanilla till smooth.

Chocolate Butter Frosting

Make vanilla frosting but stir in three squares unsweetened chocolate, melted, into blended mixture.

Orange or Lemon Frosting

Make vanilla butter frosting but omit vanilla and replace cream with same amount of orange or lemon juice.

Oven-Fried Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

When I was a little kid, there were three elderly women, Harriet, Tess and Bea, friends of my grandmother, who shared a beach bungalow on some little island off the Connecticut coast. Each summer we would pack the car and make our annual pilgrimage to visit them. 

It always seemed there was so much to do there. They would send us on scavenger hunts for prizes from the dime store or foraging for beach glass. We fished, dug clams, husked corn and ate cucumbers and tomatoes from their garden and helped them make jam from the wild berries along the road. We baked cakes and cookies and pies and played cards and checkers and Monopoly on the porch.  

But best of all were the picnics, the highlights of our time there. Harriet insisted there was only one menu for any real picnic, and it could not be altered or amended. Her fried chicken took center stage while Tess’ potato salad sat in a Pyrex bowl right beside it along with Bea’s deviled eggs. Sliced tomatoes were obligatory as were iced tea and lemonade and, of course, watermelon. They would never share their recipes, but I think these are pretty good approximations.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 broiler-fryer chickens, cut into 4 pieces each

1 quart buttermilk

1 cup flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Place chicken in a large shallow baking dish; pour buttermilk over it and coat thoroughly; turn to coat other side. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, turning once. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove chicken from buttermilk and pat lightly with paper towels; discard buttermilk. 

Dip chicken first in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Pour oil into large shallow baking pan; place chicken in pan and place in oven; bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning once, until chicken is crisp. Remove chicken, drain on paper towels and serve hot, at room temperature or cold with potato salad, deviled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed

½ cup minced celery

¼ cup minced red onion

½ cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

½ cup (or more) mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Boil potatoes until tender but firm; cool to room temperature; cut into bite-size chunks, if necessary. In a large bowl combine with celery, onion and parsley. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with mustard, salt and pepper; add to potato mixture and combine. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately at room temperature with fried chicken, devilled eggs and sliced tomatoes.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 hard-boiled eggs

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Remove egg shells, then cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash with salt, mayonnaise, mustard and cayenne. With a small teaspoon, scoop mixture back into egg whites. Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately with fried chicken, potato salad and sliced tomatoes.

By Barbara Beltrami

One of the bumper crops produced by summer backyard gardens and featured by farm stands is the cucumber, ever popular for its crunchy texture and ease of preparation. Comfortable as a mere salad ingredient for its crispness, the main attraction of a cold cucumber soup to inaugurate a summer meal, or a tzatziki accompanying a barbecue, the cucumber lends itself easily to summer fare. 

There are those who say the skin should be left on; then there are those who say the skin should be pared; and there are also those who say the skin should be pared but not completely — just in alternate stripes and a fork run down the sides to create a fancy presentation after slicing. 

Beyond those are the people who like their cucumbers sliced ultra thin and those who claim that the cucumber is at its best when cut into spears, the seeds scooped out and the spears diced. Whatever your preference, I hope you find the recipes that follow handy additions to your summer repertoire.

Cucumber Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt

1 cup white or cider vinegar

½ cup sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

Sprinkle cucumbers lightly with salt and let stand 10 minutes. Rinse, drain and place in serving dish. Combine vinegar, sugar, ground pepper and bell pepper and let sit 5 minutes. Pour over cucumbers. Sprinkle dish with parsley. Serve at room temperature with meat or poultry.

Cold Cucumber Soup

Cold Cucumber Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 cups unpeeled diced cucumber

1 cup arugula leaves, chopped and de-stemmed

1 potato, peeled and minced

2 cups chicken broth

2 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup heavy cream

Chopped scallions or radishes for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium or large saucepan, melt the butter, then cook the onion in it until it is transparent. Add cucumber, arugula, potato, broth, parsley, salt and pepper and dry mustard. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes until potato is tender. Puree in an electric food processor. Cover and chill. When ready to serve, add cream, stir well and garnish. Serve with salad, fish, chicken, sandwiches or slices of an interesting bread.

Tzatziki

Tzatziki

YIELD: Makes approximately 1½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

½ English cucumber, peeled and grated

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ tablespoon lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and using small spoon, scrape out the seeds if there are any. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the cucumber. In a medium bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, garlic, dill, mint, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with pita bread and lamb, eggplant, hummus or other Mediterranean dishes.

Rosemary Sorbet

By Barbara Beltrami

Back in the days when Atlantic City was Atlantic City and not Las Vegas, before grand old hotels that smelled vaguely of dampness and time had given way to glitzy casinos hermetically sealed off from sea breezes, before the roll of the dice replaced the thundering of ocean waves — years ago when the best bet in town was a paper sack of salt water taffy or chocolate fudge — those were the  days when, innocent of the perils of youth or bronzing, we lay on the beach amid the mingled scents of salt,  suntan lotion and roasting hot dogs and contemplated the glistening bodies of wannabe beach bums and babes.

As our radios wailed and thumped songs of unrequited love and a few years later of making love, not war, we propped ourselves on our elbows and gave squinty surveillance to our sandy surroundings and their occupants. 

We could see him coming far down the beach. He was a short, rather paunchy fellow who sported a white T-shirt, a thick black mustache and a sparse black comb over. Trudging along the sand and dragging his two-wheeled cart behind him, he would zigzag his way among the gaudy patches that were our beach blankets. Then, as his approach became imminent and unavoidable, we would sit up and fish quarters from the pockets of our tumbled pile of clothing and listen to him calling out his wares. “Ice pops here!”

 Stopping and planting his portly body in front of us so as to carefully block our tanning rays, his eyes twinkling just a tad lasciviously, he would loudly cajole us, everyone and no one in particular, “Hey! Good-lookin’, come on, give your tongue a sleigh ride, give your chick a lick on a stick.” 

Call them what you will — ices, sorbets, sherbets, granitas or pops, a scoop by any other name would taste as sweet and delightfully cooling on a sultry July day.

Rosemary Sorbet

Rosemary Sorbet

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 stalks fresh rosemary

2 cups sugar

5 cups water

2 cups white wine

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine rosemary, sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar. When syrup reaches boiling point, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then strain; discard rosemary. In a medium bowl combine 2½  cups syrup with wine and lemon juice, place in a freezer container 3 to 4 hours and stir every half hour or so or until slushy or place in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Cover and freeze. Scoop into small dishes, garnish with rosemary sprigs before serving.

Lime Sherbet

Lime Sherbet

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

2/3 cup sugar 

1¾ cup water

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 egg whites

Thin half-slices lime for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

Soak gelatin in ¼ cup cold water, In small saucepan combine sugar and 1¾ cup water and heat, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add gelatin mixture and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until well chilled. Add lime juice, then stiffly beaten but not dry egg whites. Place in freezer container and stir every half hour or so until slushy or process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place in small dishes, garnish with lime slices before serving.

Raspberry Granita

 

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen raspberries, pureed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium sauce pan, stirring frequently, bring water and sugar to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer 5 minutes; let syrup cool to room temperature. Stir in raspberry puree and lemon juice. Pour mixture into 9×9-inch brownie pan. Freeze, stirring and scraping sides every half hour for 3 to 4 hours until mixture has a fine snowy texture. Cover and keep in freezer until ready to serve.

Fried Squash Blossoms

By Barbara Beltrami

The first time I ever saw or heard of squash blossoms as an edible commodity was many years ago in Provence. It was market day in the little town where we were staying, and I wandered from stall to stall ogling the pyramids of perfect fruits and veggies. I kept encountering certain golden blossoms in front of hand-lettered signs saying, “Fleurs de courgette,” which I knew translated into squash blossoms. 

I decided I would surprise my husband and show him what a good little French cook I was and make them for dinner. Young and foolish and not wanting to appear stupid, I was afraid to ask how one cooked them. Instead, I shored up my courage and my French and told the man in the stall that I’d like a kilo of them. He eyed me rather strangely but complied with a “Merci, Madame” and something that looked an awful lot like a smirk. 

I took the squash blossoms back to the house, washed them under hot running water and proceeded to boil them. Mon dieu! What a soggy slimy yellow unrecognizable mess I had wrought. I fed it to the resident goat and never told my husband about my sortie into French produce. 

The next day we decided to explore the town and have dinner at a little sidewalk café on the corner and there on the menu were “Fleurs de courgette!” Of course, I ordered them, and when they arrived, I had before me three beautiful gently fried squash blossoms stuffed with a creamy goat cheese and sprinkled with chervil. Since then I’ve encountered many a squash blossom from my own garden and in restaurants here in the States, but none of them have been as delicious as those very first ones I tasted.

Note: If you are harvesting squash blossoms from your garden, pick the male ones, which are on stems, rather than the female ones, which have a little bump on the end that will grow into squash.

Fried Squash Blossoms

Fried Squash Blossoms

YIELD: Makes 4 servings as an appetizer

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup flour

1 large egg

½ cup sparkling water

12 to 16 squash blossoms

Extra virgin olive oil to cover bottom of medium skillet

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small-medium bowl, whisk together the flour and egg, then add sparkling water and continue whisking until smooth. Gently rinse blossoms in cold water and pat dry. Remove pistils. Heat oil in skillet. Meanwhile dip blossoms in batter. When oil is very hot but not smoking, carefully lower the batter-dipped blossoms into the oil. When they are golden brown on the bottom, gently turn and brown the other side. Remove them from the oil, drain them on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Serve hot with prosecco and thin bread sticks.

Squash Blossom Frittata

Squash Blossom Frittata

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup minced shallot

16 squash blossoms, stems and pistils removed

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

7 large eggs, beaten

Handful fresh Italian parsley, washed and chopped

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat broiler. Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced shallot; reduce heat to medium and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add blossoms and gently sauté until just wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange blossoms in an attractive circular pattern around skillet; increase heat to medium-high. Add eggs and cook until beginning to set around edges, lifting frittata with heatproof rubber spatula and allowing eggs to flow underneath. Continue cooking until eggs are softly set, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer skillet to broiler; broil until top of frittata is set, about 1 minute. Using a large plate and pot holders, invert skillet and slide frittata onto plate so bottom side is up and squash blossom pattern is visible.  Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a mixed green salad, baguette slices and extra virgin olive oil or melon, croissants and unsalted butter.

Tea Time

The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society will host a Victorian Tea at the Fitz-Greene Hallock Homestead (1888), 2869 Pond Road, Lake Ronkonkoma on Saturday, July 21 with seatings at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Come enjoy a Victorian-style tea with scones, clotted cream, assorted finger sandwiches and sweets. $25 donation requested. To reserve your seat, please call 631-588-7599.

Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc, 2016 (Sonoma, California): Perfumed bouquet loaded with honeysuckle, melon and stone fruit. Flavors of dill, pineapple, citrus and passion fruit. Don’t miss a bottle. Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

As an author and professional taster, I generally taste and evaluate more than 100 alcoholic beverages (wine, spirits, beer and sake) per week. Some are good, some are very good to excellent, while others are not very good. During the last month I had an opportunity to taste some very interesting wines and spirits that I’d like to share with you.

Moletto Grappa di Prosecco, Italy (80 proof): Crystal clear with a delicate, refined and perfumed bouquet of pears, fennel and chamomile flowers. Surprisingly smooth with hints of ginger, orange and apples. Serve slightly chilled.

Lazzaroni Amaro Liqueur, Italy: Dark brown colored with an intense bouquet of ginger, spices, cloves, rhubarb and cola. Semisweet with flavors of peppermint, black pepper, herbs and a touch of bitterness. Great over ice or as a tall drink with some sparkling mineral water.

Laird’s Straight Applejack 1780, Scobeyville, New Jersey (86 proof): Made from an astonishing 17 pounds of apples including Winesap, Fuji, Red and Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Granny Smith and Jonathan. Amber colored with overtones of baked apples and cider. Very complex and full tasting with flavors of apples, burnt sugar, vanilla and orange peel. Warming, smooth finish and very long aftertaste. I love this straight with some ice cubes with perhaps a splash of water. Superb!

Richland Single Estate Rum, Georgia, USA: Made from pure sugarcane grown in Georgia. Amber colored with a distinctive bouquet and flavor of cinnamon, grass, vanilla, nutmeg, maple syrup and spices. Smooth with virtually no burn. Excellent rum.

Absolut Ruby Red Vodka (Sweden): I am a Scotch n’ soda drinker and generally don’t drink “clear spirits” with seltzer. Boy was I surprised when I added ice and seltzer, then gave it a stir with my swizzle stick and brought it to my nose. Powerful aromas of grapefruit abounded. I drank deeply and was rewarded with flavors of grapefruit that continued well into the second sip. Absolutely (pardon the pun) delicious!

Hecht & Bannier Côtes de Provence Rosé, 2017, France (blend of grenache, cinsaut and vermentino): Dry and very clean with flavors of strawberries, red cherries and plums and a lingering berry aftertaste. Perfect for summertime!

Steele Zinfandel Pacini Vineyard, 2015,  Lake County, California (aged 12 months in oak): Bouquet and flavor of spicy cherries, cranberry cola and menthol with undertones of vanilla, nutmeg and dried plums. Big mouthful of a well-made wine.

Rei Manfredi Bianco, 2017, Basilicata, Italy (blend of Müller-Thurgau and Gewürztraminer): Really perfumed with citrus overtones and flavors of litchi, jasmine and tropical fruit.

Rapitalà Piano Maltese, 2017, Sicily, Italy (blend of catarratto, grillo and chardonnay): Dry, clean and crispy with an aroma and flavor of citrus, pears, delicious apples and roasted almonds. Slightly tart with a wonderful aftertaste.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey” 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.

Steamed Clams

By Barbara Beltrami

There are some foods that need all the help they can get for flavor, and there are other foods that are exquisite as they are and need very little or no help. With their briny natural flavor, clams are a perfect example of the latter. In fact, their only permissible enhancements should be fresh lemon or melted butter. Chilled, freshly opened and slurped from the half shell, they are peerless for succulence. Steamed and served with their own broth, they are voluptuously pleasing to the palate. And roasted or grilled, they are simply scrumptious. And in a sauce over a delicate pasta? Divine. Here are three basic recipes that feature clams with minimal secondary ingredients. It would be criminal to camouflage or detract from that sweetly brackish flavor.

Steamed Clams

Steamed Clams

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 pounds soft shell clams

1½ sticks unsalted butter

Juice of one lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

2½ cups cold water

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 ribs celery, cut into thirds

1 bay leaf

DIRECTIONS: 

Soak the clams in a large pot of cold water, move them around a bit, let them settle, then change water and repeat procedure twice until clams are very clean and there is no sand in the bottom of the pot. In a small pan, melt butter over low heat, then add lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Set aside to keep warm. 

In a large pot combine the two and a half cups water, onion, celery, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes; add clams and cover pot. Check in about 5 minutes for clams to be open. Discard any clams that don’t open after a few more minutes. 

Transfer opened clams to a large serving bowl; set aside to keep warm. Remove and discard onion, celery and bay leaf; pour the broth through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and stop before you get to the sediment at the bottom of the pot. Pour the hot broth into small bowls or cups, likewise with the melted butter and place one of each at each diner’s place. Put bowl of clams, accompanied by another bowl or two for discarded shells, in the middle of the table. Serve with ice cold beer, lots of crusty bread and plenty of napkins.

Roasted Clams

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

24 medium hard-shell clams

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ stick butter, melted

Lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 450 F. Scrub clams under cold running water; arrange in shallow roasting or baking pan. Bake 5 minutes or until shells open; remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, remove top shell; serve on lower shell after sparingly seasoning with salt and pepper and drizzling or brushing with melted butter. Serve with freshly picked corn on the cob, sliced garden tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic bread.

Clam Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds littleneck or Manila clams, well scrubbed and rinsed

½ cup water or dry white wine

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ stick butter

1 handful parsley, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot, steam the clams in water or wine until they open. Remove clams from pot; discard any that do not open; reserve cooking liquid. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the clams from their shells, cut up any large ones and set aside to keep warm. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, cook garlic in butter 3 to 4 minutes until it releases its aroma. Carefully add the cooking liquid; be sure to leave residual sand in pot. Add parsley and pepper, then clams; cover and gently reheat, but do not overcook, when ready to serve. Serve with capelllini or linguine and a crisp green salad.

Cherry Clafouti with Mascarpone and Blueberries

By Barbara Beltrami

Even in these days of political dissent, I think and hope that we all still remember what the Fourth of July is really about, the achieving of independence from tyrannical rule and the birth of our nation and the good old red, white and blue of our flag. 

Accordingly, I say Fourth of July food should be not just the traditional barbecue fare but also concoctions in red, white and blue. However, what blue foods are there except for blueberries and blue corn? So here in honor of Old Glory, our grand old flag, the birth and longevity of our nation, I offer you a cherry clafouti with mascarpone and blueberries, blue corn chip spread with sour cream and salsa, and watermelon, feta, cucumber and blueberry salad parfait.

Cherry Clafouti with Mascarpone and Blueberries

Cherry Clafouti with Mascarpone and Blueberries

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1¼ cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt

½ cup flour

3 cups pitted fresh cherries

8 ounces mascarpone 

1 pint fresh blueberries, washed

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Vigorously whip together the milk, half the sugar, the eggs, vanilla, salt and flour until well emulsified. Grease a 2-quart casserole, then pour half the batter into it. Bake 7 to 10 minutes until it starts to set but a knife inserted in center does not come out clean. Remove from oven, evenly distribute cherries over top, sprinkle with remaining sugar, then remaining batter. Bake 45 to 60 minutes until clafouti is puffed and golden brown. 

Remove from oven and serve warm with a dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkling of fresh blueberries.  

Blue Corn Chip Spread

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups crumbled blue corn chips

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

One 8-ounce container sour cream

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons milk or cream

2 cups shredded manchego cheese

2 to 3 cups salsa

DIRECTIONS: 

Grease a large deep pie plate or 9×13 shallow baking dish with olive oil. Spread the crumbled corn chips evenly on the bottom. In a blender or food processor combine the cream cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper and milk until they are well blended and the mixture is smooth but thick. Spread over the crumbled chips, then sprinkle with manchego cheese. Finally, spread the salsa over the top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with whole blue corn chips, crackers, cold beer, sangria, lemonade or soda.

Watermelon, Cucumber, Blueberry and Feta Salad Parfait

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups bite-size watermelon pieces

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Place ½ cup watermelon pieces in each glass, next add 1/8 of the diced cucumber, then 1/8 cup blueberries and finally two tablespoons feta. Repeat procedure. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegars, salt and pepper; keep at room temperature. When ready to serve, uncover and drizzle dressing evenly over each parfait. Serve as an appetizer or side dish with bread sticks, crusty rustic bread and extra virgin olive oil in which to dip the bread.

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