Food & Drink

Store bottles with corks horizontal to keep the cork wet. Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

“A man, fallen on hard times, sold his art collection but kept his wine cellar. When asked why he did not sell his wine, he said, ‘A man can live without art, but not without culture.’” — Author Unknown

Wines are best stored at a temperature of 52 to 55˚F, which is perfect for those who have temperature-controlled cellars or perhaps live in old castles with stone foundations. However, most people live in homes or apartments that are kept at a constant 68 to 72˚F, which creates storage problems.

Find the coolest spot in your home or apartment and keep your wines there. Prefabricated wine racks are fine, providing they keep bottles in a horizontal position, so the wine will always stay in contact with the cork.

If you purchase red wines that need aging and you don’t have a perfect wine cellar, these wines will mature at a slightly faster rate at warm temperatures. For example, if the recommended maturity of a red wine is 10 years, keeping it at warmer temperatures will advance the maturity date by maybe a year or so at most.

Most red wines are best enjoyed within four to seven years after the vintage date, while white wines within three years after vintage date. The exception are full-bodied, tannic red wines (including port), which will benefit from aging.

Wine’s longevity can be attributed to many factors, among them higher acidity, high alcohol, carbon dioxide, concentrated fruit, sugar (residual) and tannin, which is an antioxidant. 

For the proper storage and aging of wines:

•Ideal storage temperature is 52 to 55°F; no light; 55 to 65 percent humidity; no vibrations. Avoid kitchen, above the refrigerator or garage storage, which can be quite hot.

•Store bottles with corks horizontal to keep the cork wet. Avoid upside down storage, which may lead to leaking corks. Upright storage of “still” wines results in dried corks.

•Storing champagne and sparkling wine upright will keep it fresher and lasting longer.

•An empty corrugated cardboard wine or liquor box turned on its side makes a handy “wine rack.” Drainage tiles and concrete blocks are also ideal.

•Sparkling wines and champagne should be consumed soon after purchasing. The exception are the vintage-dated bottlings, which should be consumed within 10 years of the vintage date.

My aging rules are simple; I’d rather open a bottle of a young wine and say, “It tastes good now but will be better in ‘X’ years” rather than opening a bottle of wine aged for many years and say, “It was probably good several years ago, but now it’s over-the-hill!”

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.

Zucchini-Stuffed Vidalia Onions

By Barbara Beltrami

Will Rogers, that old comedian and homespun philosopher, once said that although an onion could make people weep, he had yet to find a veggie that could make people laugh; and Julia Child found it hard to imagine a civilization without onions. Carl Sandburg remarked that, “Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep”; and Ulysses S. Grant said he wouldn’t move his army without onions. All wise people. 

While I’ll never be quoted like these famous people, I will say that I can’t imagine being a cook without having onions on hand in my pantry. From ramps (actually wild leeks or wild garlic) to scallions to Vidalia onions, spring brings many varieties to us, but none is as sweet and easy on the palate as the Vidalia, in my opinion, the aristocrat of the onion family.

Pale golden and large, they make their appearance for a very short time, like right now, and even people who don’t normally like onions, love them. A nice slice of Vidalia on a hamburger or on a bagel with lox and cream cheese will bring you a great taste sensation. Stuff Vidalias, roast them with balsamic vinegar, or turn them into a hot dip or just use them in place of regular onions and enjoy their wonderful mild but savory taste.

Zucchini-Stuffed Vidalia Onions

Zucchini-Stuffed Vidalia Onions

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 Vidalia onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups finely chopped zucchini

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

¼ cup plain breadcrumbs

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice off top and a little bit of the bottom of onions. Place, top side up, in a shallow baking dish and cook for one hour, until soft, but not mushy. Remove from oven; lower temperature to 350 F. When onions are cool enough to handle, leaving a half-inch shell, scoop insides from onions. 

Save and chop one cup for stuffing and the remainder for another use. In a medium skillet, heat oil; add zucchini, garlic, thyme and basil and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Carefully spoon mixture into onion shells; bake in same pan until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm with a mixed salad, garlic bread and any meat or fowl.

Hot Vidalia Onion Dip

YIELD: Makes about 5 cups.

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups chopped Vidalia onions

3 cups shredded fontina cheese

2½ cups good mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat an ovenproof serving dish with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients and scoop into prepared dish. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until top is golden. Serve hot or warm with toasted focaccia and crudités.

Balsamic Roasted Vidalia Onions and Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3 Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into eighths

4 medium-large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges

13 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 

½ teaspoon sugar

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl toss all ingredients together to thoroughly coat. Place in a large, shallow roasting dish or pan (the size of a lasagna dish), cover with aluminum foil and roast 20 to 25 minutes, until potatoes are soft but not mushy and liquid is reduced to a glaze. Remove foil, toss to coat and continue roasting another 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm with meat or fowl, and cooked greens.

Lettuce Herb Salad with Nasturtiums and Pansies

By Barbara Beltrami

While the flowers that bloom in the spring (tra-la) may not provide a hearty repast for an appetite burning with spring fever (unless you’re a deer), many a posy  can be used as an ingredient that is as pleasing to the palate as it is to the nose and eye. If you want to make flowers a centerpiece for an elegant or informal spring or summer meal, by all means stick them in that Waterford vase or ceramic pitcher you made in pottery class. 

But if you want to adorn a gorgeous and memorable dessert, try candied violets and rose petals. And for one of the prettiest salads you’ve ever seen, toss in nasturtiums, pansies and lots of herbs. Looking for a knockout appetizer? Stuff squash blossoms with a mixture of ricotta, cream cheese and chives. So go on, get out there with the deer and feast on your garden.

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese

3 ounces whipped cream cheese 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup minced drained fresh tomatoes

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

12 squash blossoms (the ones that grow on stems, not attached to baby squash)

DIRECTIONS: 

In a food processor puree the ricotta, cream cheese and oil. Using a rubber or plastic spatula, scrape contents into a small bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, chives, salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or small resealable plastic bag. If using a plastic bag, seal, then snip a small diagonal corner off the bottom of the bag. Snip the pistils from inside the squash blossoms, and make sure no insects are hiding in there.

 Gently pry and hold the blossom open with one hand while you pipe about a tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the blossom with the other hand. Lay blossoms on a platter and serve at room temperature with focaccia and a chilled white wine.

Lettuce-Herb Salad with Nasturtiums and Pansies

Lettuce Herb Salad with Nasturtiums and Pansies

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups mixed baby greens

2 cups arugula

2 cups torn bibb lettuce

½ cup nasturtium leaves

6 lovage leaves, finely chopped (optional)

10 to 12 basil leaves, julienned

1 handful chives, washed and snipped

¼ cup vinaigrette or balsamic salad dressing

10 to 12 nasturtium blossoms

10 to 12 yellow pansies

6 chive flowers, chopped

DIRECTIONS: 

Wash and gently dry greens, arugula, lettuce, nasturtium leaves, lovage and basil. Toss with the chives in a salad bowl. Gently rinse and shake dry the nasturtium blossoms and pansies. Refrigerate all greens, flowers and herbs until 30 minutes before serving. When ready to serve add salad dressing and toss again. Sprinkle nasturtium blossoms, pansies and chive flowers on top of salad and serve immediately with tuna or chicken salad.

Candied Violets and Rose Petals

Candied violets on cupcakes

YIELD: Decorates one dessert.

INGREDIENTS:

¼ to ½ cup violet blossoms

¼ to ½ cup rose petals

1 egg white

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ to ½ cup superfine granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS: 

Candied rose petals on a cake

Gently rinse and drain the blossoms and petals. Remove stems and then spread out to  dry for a short time, but not long enough to wilt. In a small bowl beat egg white until soft peaks form, then add vanilla and beat just enough to combine. Very carefully and gently dip blossoms and petals into egg white mixture; let violets drip a little, then dip them in sugar to entirely coat. Again handle them with great care. For the violets, try to open them a little with your fingers or a toothpick, then add a little sugar to the insides. For rose petals, just be sure both sides are coated with egg white mixture, then sugar.  

Place on a cookie sheet and let dry in the sun or in a warm oven no higher than 200 F.  When they are dry and sort of crispy, store in an airtight container lined with waxed paper. Serve as garnish for cake, cupcakes or ice cream.

Chicken legs and pork ribs smothered in Texas Barbecue Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

After the harsh winter and capricious spring we’ve endured, Memorial Day comes as a welcome harbinger of summer and all that it embraces. From picnic to pool party, beach to ball game, swimming and surfing and napping in a hammock, this holiday officially ushers in the season and all its pleasures and indulgences. Perhaps the first and most frequent herald, though, is the backyard barbecue. For pure anticipation, the aroma of something on the grill after a long day at the beach, in the pool or, on the flip side, plugging away in the heat is one of summer’s most welcome enticements. 

Let us not forget, however, especially in these troubled times, what the holiday is all about. Let us remember all the fallen soldiers who have not lived to enjoy these renewable pleasures of the season that we take so much for granted.

Here are four of many regional recipes for barbecue sauce guaranteed to whet any summer appetite. Depending on what part of the South or West you hail from, you will think that the barbecue sauce from your region is the only one worth dipping a basting brush into. 

For example, Texas barbecue sauce is, as you might expect, redolent with tomatoes and southwestern flavors like chili, whereas South Carolina uses a lot of mustard, which gives its sauce a yellowish hue. Go to Kansas City and you’ll find a sweet sauce that relies heavily on molasses, brown sugar and onion; but its rival, Memphis, boasts a tangy, thin sauce that calls for mustard and a big dose of vinegar. Basically, these recipes call for little more preparation than combining the ingredients. If your roots are in Brooklyn or Queens, you can impartially enjoy them all.

Texas Barbecue Sauce

Chicken legs and pork ribs smothered in Texas Barbecue Sauce

YIELD: Makes about 3½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups ketchup

1 large onion, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup A.1 sauce

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed      lemon juice

1 tablespoon molasses

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium nonreactive saucepan combine ingredients and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate or use immediately to baste steak, pork ribs or chicken legs during last 15 minutes of grilling. Pass any extra sauce with meal and serve with plenty of cole slaw and potato salad.

South Carolina Barbecue Sauce

Pulled pork on a bun smothered in South Carolina BBQ Sauce

YIELD: Makes 3 to 3½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, minced 

2 garlic cloves, chopped and sautéed in one tablespoon vegetable oil until soft but not at all browned

2 cups prepared yellow mustard

2/3 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup ketchup

1 teaspoon hot sauce

¾ cup sugar

One chicken bouillon cube, crushed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat vegetable oil and sauté onion until golden; remove and set aside. Sauté garlic until soft but not at all brown. Remove and along with onion, add to remaining ingredients; puree together in electric food processor. Cover and refrigerate or use immediately to baste pulled pork or brisket during last 15 minutes of grilling. Serve with sweet potato fries, tomato and kale salad and ice cold beer.

Kansas City Barbecue Sauce

Chicken smothered in Kansas City BBQ Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, bruised

½ cup tomato sauce

¼ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon yellow prepared mustard

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet; add onion and garlic and sauté till soft. Add remaining ingredients, except liquid smoke, as well as one cup water. Stirring frequently, heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in liquid smoke. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use or use immediately to baste chicken, pork or beef during last 15 minutes of grilling. Serve with fried green tomatoes, french fries and tossed salad.

Memphis Barbecue Sauce

A rack of ribs basted with Memphis BBQ Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, bruised

1/3 cup cider vinegar

¾ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup steak sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon yellow prepared mustard

Dash of celery seed

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet; add onion and garlic and sauté till soft. Add remaining ingredients, except liquid smoke, as well as ½ cup water. Stirring frequently, heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in liquid smoke. Use to baste beef, pork or chicken during last 15 minutes of grilling and serve with corn on the cob, cooked greens and fried potatoes.

Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

‘No, Agnes, a Bordeaux is not a house of ill repute.’ 

— George Bain 1920–2006, Canadian author, “Champagne is for Breakfast,” 1972

At a fabulous private wine event, I had the opportunity of tasting wines from three classic Bordeaux wineries dating back to 1982. The wineries were Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Château Branaire-Ducru, and Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Leading the sit-down discussion were representatives from each of the Bordeaux estates. My tasting notes of some of the wines are below.

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Pauillac; fifth growth—1855 Classification)

Produces only red wine from a grape blend that varies by vintage; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

2009: Dark red color with a complex bouquet of fruits, black currant, cedar, spices, licorice. Youthful.

2006: Bouquet of black currant liqueur with hints of cedar, black tea. Still tannic.

2005: Garnet-color with hints of cherries, black currants, spices and wet stone. Still quite youthful.

2000: Brick-color; bouquet of cherries, mint, licorice, and plums. Still quite flavorful and fruity.

Château Branaire-Ducru (Saint-Julien; fourth growth—1855 Classification) 

Produces only red wine from a grape blend that varies by vintage; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Wines are aged in oak barrels for 16 to 20 months.

2011: Dark color with a bouquet of cedar, sweet cherries, chocolate, and spices. Some tannin to lose. Overall quite young.

2010: Closed, tight nose; heaps of fruit, well-balanced, tannin and plenty of cherries.

2008: Perfumed bouquet, violets, dried red fruits, well-balanced, still tannic, some black currants.

2005: Bouquet loaded with brown baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), wonderfully structured, softening. Still youthful.

1989: Perfumed bouquet of roses, cherries and violets. Medium-full bodied and elegant but thinning out. Drink by 2020.

1982: Brick-color; certain sweetness of fruit; soft, elegant with some tannin, hint of tea and orange peel. Drink by 2020. 

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Martillac, Graves)

Red wines are made from a grape blend that varies by vintage; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Red wines are aged in oak barrels for about 18 months.

2010 ‘Blanc’: (Blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris, 5% Sémillon grapes) Bouquet and flavor of coconut, marzipan, citrus, peach, mango and ripe melons. 10 months in oak.

2012 ‘Blanc’: (Blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris, 5% Sémillon grapes) Flavors of peach, apricot and citrus, with hints of caramel and star anise. 10 months in oak.

2012 ‘Rouge’: Dark colored with huge mouthful of black tea, black currants, spices and black cherries.

2009 ‘Rouge’: Full-flavored with red fruits abounding; spices, perfumed bouquet, cinnamon and raspberries.

2000 ‘Rouge’: Notes of sweet cherries, cranberry, licorice, and black raspberry with light tannins. Elegant.

1998 ‘Rouge’: Maroon-colored with an earthy bouquet; black currants, dark fruits, sweet cherries, leather, mushrooms. Velvety and very long aftertaste. Wow!

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.

Nicoise Salad

By Barbara Beltrami

As warm weather becomes the rule rather than the exception in this weird spring we’ve been having, our appetites and menus turn more and more to salads and their refreshing effect on our palates. 

Salads can be the main attraction of a meal if they contain lots of different ingredients including protein and are artfully arranged in a bowl or on a platter. These one-dish meals are called composed salads after the French “salade composee” and you’ve probably seen them on restaurant menus.

One  well known composed salad is Salade Nicoise (also after the French and meaning salad as it’s done in Nice). It’s a savory combination of potatoes, marinated in olive oil and vinegar; fresh or canned tuna; green beans; hard boiled eggs; anchovies; black olives; tomatoes and cucumbers all dressed with extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar.  

Another is the traditional Cobb Salad. Chock full of bacon, egg, tomatoes, roasted chicken breast, avacado, and Roquefort cheese, it is thought to have been invented back in the early 20th century by Robert Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood. 

And finally there is a composed seafood salad that I’ve recreated from one I remember at a tiny seaside restaurant on Cape Cod many years ago. As you might expect, it features cooked lobster, scallops, shrimp and cod plus fresh peas, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, chorizo sausage, boiled potatoes and fresh corn scraped off the cob. And of course, all three of these recipes call for underpinnings of tender seasonal lettuces. 

As with so many recipes I share with you, the real fun is not in duplicating these, but in using them as guidelines to create your own versions of these salads or even to invent your own completely original composed salad.

Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 head Bibb or romaine lettuce, leaves, washed, dried and separated 

1 split chicken breast, roasted or poached and torn into large chunks

2 to 3 hard boiled eggs, quartered

2 cups cherry tomatoes, each sliced into halves

1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into wedges

Juice of one lemon

6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

1 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

Line a serving bowl or platter with lettuce. Arrange chicken, hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes in a line or circle on top of lettuce. Brush avocado with lemon juice and add to arrangement. Add bacon on the side and crumble Roquefort cheese over everything. Serve with Roquefort or ranch dressing, rolls and butter and iced tea or coffee.

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad

 

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves washed, dried and separated

4 to 6 small new potatoes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One tablespoon or more wine vinegar

Half pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed

Two 7-ounce cans tuna 

4 hardboiled eggs, quartered

2 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into one-inch cubes

4 to 6 anchovy filets

1 cup Greek or Italian black olives

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS: 

Line bottom of large bowl or medium platter with lettuce leaves. Scrub potatoes and boil until just tender. Cut in halves or quarters; dress with olive oil and vinegar and set aside to cool, then pile in center of bowl or platter. Steam green beans until tender but still bright green. Immerse in ice water, let sit 5 minutes, drain and set aside. Drain tuna, separate into chunks and arrange over or around potatoes,  

Add green beans, eggs, tomatoes and cucumbers, then anchovies and finally olives. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; dress with extra virgin oil and vinegar right before serving. Serve with French baguette slices, unsalted butter and a cold, crisp, dry white wine.

Cape Cod Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 head iceberg, romaine or red leaf lettuce, washed, drained and dried

3 cups cooked lobster meat, cut into large chunks

1 pound cooked sea scallops

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

1 pound cooked cod or salmon, broken into large chunks

One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed

2 cups cherry tomatoes

2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, cooked and cooled

1/2 pound cooked chorizo sausage, sliced

Fresh corn, scraped off 2 cobs

6 to 12 small new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

One 14-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

3 to 4 lemons, cut into wedges

1 cup snipped fresh chives

DIRECTIONS: 

Line a very large platter with the lettuce. Arrange the remaining ingredients, except for the chives, in circles around the platter in whatever order you desire. Sprinkle chives on top. Serve chilled with a variety of dressings such as mayonnaise, green goddess, vinaigrette, Russian and cocktail sauce and a well-chilled Chablis. 

Barbra Streisand in a scene from 'Hello Dolly'

By Heidi Sutton

I am simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven. — Barbra Streisand

What can one say about Barbra Streisand? In a career spanning six decades, the legendary singer, songwriter, actress, author and filmmaker has won multiple Academy Awards, Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, Tonys and a Peabody, proving that the incredible voice that launched her career was only one of her remarkable talents. 

So it was only natural for Sal St. George to pay tribute to the legendary star in his latest Living History Production, now playing at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village through June 14. 

Barbra Streisand at the 1969 Academy Awards with her best-actress Oscar for her role in ‘Funny Girl.’ Photo courtesy of Photofest

According to St. George, the show focuses on a specific turning point in Streisand’s career. “The story takes place in 1969. Barbra recently won the Oscar for “Funny Girl” and her latest movie, “Hello Dolly” has just been released,” he said, adding, “This was a pivotal time in young Barbra’s life. She was divorcing Elliot Gould at this time, as well.” 

Now the 27-year-old is a special guest on the fictitious sixties talk show, “The Dixie Carlyle Program.” Formatted as if the audience is coming to a live taping of the show, Streisand is interviewed about her life and career. 

The original script was written by St. George. “It takes approximately three months of research before the actual writing process begins,” he explained.

Gabrielle Lutz, who plays the role of talk show host Dixie Carlyle, said “I love creating a character from scratch. Dixie is fun and off-beat. You never know what she is going to do next.”

Sarah Franco tackles the role of Streisand in the show. “When Sarah auditioned and sang for us I immediately heard the sound of Barbra’s voice,” said St. George. “She is a disciplined and hard-working actor. I knew she would be able to personify the legendary singer.”

“How do you portray an icon like Barbra? I just try to master her mannerisms and vocalizations,” said Franco. “I also enjoyed the opportunity to portray the real Fanny Brice in this show. We recreate a Baby Snooks radio show.” Franco will sing many of Streisand’s hits from that time period during the 90-minute show.

Sarah Franco will portray Barbra Streisand in the show.

St. George’s son, Darren, who has been featured in numerous productions over the years, most notably as Tobias Brunt, the ruthless Bounty Hunter in “Running Scared, Running Free” and as Edgar Allan Poe, has the role of Danny DeLuca. “This is one of the most ambitious shows we have ever mounted. The finale will surprise and delight you. It was a challenge to produce, but it is all there onstage for the audience to enjoy,” said Darren.

After the performance, participants will be treated to a high tea luncheon featuring finger sandwiches (tuna, cucumber and chicken), assorted pastries, coffee and tea provided by Fratelli’s Italian Eatery of Stony Brook along with a meet and greet with the actors.

For Sal St. George, he’s already planning the next show. “This is our sixteenth year producing programs for the WMHO. Soon we will be preparing for our holiday program. The special guest has not yet been finalized. But we are looking to do the story of another successful female entertainer and icon — a very famous country western star.” Stay tuned.

Partially sponsored by Roosevelt Investments, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook will present a musical tribute to Barbra Streisand on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. Available dates at press time are May 17, 19, 23, 30, 31, June 2, 7, 9, 10, 13 and 14. Admission, which includes lunch, is $50 adults, $48 seniors and $43 for groups of 20 or more. To make reservations, call 631-689-5888. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

Chocolate-Raspberry Muffins

By Barbara Beltrami

You love Mom. Mom loves you … and chocolate. What a treat for her to have not just breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day but a chocolate breakfast in bed. Imagine how delighted she will be to awaken to a beautiful tray (with a flower on it, of course) and discover chocolate-raspberry muffins, white chocolate chip pancakes or a chocolate banana smoothie. Of course, you don’t have to do all of these, but you can. And the following recipes are all for multiple servings, so you can jump onto the bed and join Mom! Whatever you decide, don’t forget to include a cup of nice hot coffee or tea for her to sip along with all her goodies. And another thing:  Remember to be kind and sweet and helpful to Mom all day long, just as you always are. 

Chocolate-Banana Smoothie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups milk

2 bananas

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS: 

Place all ingredients in a blender and liquefy until thick and foamy. Serve immediately with muffins, pancakes, waffles, fresh fruit or a granola bar.

Chocolate-Raspberry Muffins

YIELD: Makes 12 muffins.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

¾ cup chocolate chips

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 cup raspberries

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease or line muffin tin with foil or paper cups. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk, vanilla and butter. Stir in raspberries. Bake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with hot coffee or tea.

White Chocolate Chip Pancakes

White Chocolate Pancakes

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

½ stick unsalted butter

1 cup milk

1¼ cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup white chocolate morsels

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small saucepan warm the butter and milk, but do not let it boil. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs; add the butter and milk mixture, then the dry ingredients and the chocolate morsels just until blended. Melt 1 tablespoon butter on a griddle over medium heat; ladle one-quarter cup of batter for each pancake onto the griddle. When bubbly, flip and cook 30 seconds more. Serve hot with butter, maple syrup and bacon.

Baby Zucchini Boats

By Barbara Beltrami

Call them what you will … hors d’oeuvres, appetizers or tapas. In Spain and Portugal, tapas abound in many bars, and at least one legend has it that long ago an innkeeper put a slice of cured ham on top of a glass of wine to keep the flies away, as a makeshift lid. To cover in Spanish is “tapar,” so a lid is a “tapa” — hence the name. 

Depending on how many or how few you pop or scoop into your mouth as you’re sipping your wine or beer, they will either whet or whip your desire to proceed to the main attraction, the meal that is sometimes meant to follow. In fact, in Spain and Portugal, it is part of the culture to stop by a bar to sit and relax and share a few little plates of tapas, often twice a day. While they can be anything as simple as a well-cured olive on a toothpick, they can also be as complex as an artichoke stew or empanada.  

Eaten as a snack, a first course or a prelude to a meal, tapas are rapidly becoming standard fare in American cuisine as well. So think of anything savory, serve it in small portions and you’ve got tapas. And doesn’t that sound so much better than munchies, finger food or snacks?

Garlic French Toast

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 large eggs

A few drops water

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 slices crusty bread

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl beat the eggs and water; add garlic, salt and pepper and beat again. Transfer egg mixture to a large shallow baking dish, add bread slices; soak for 30 seconds, then turn and let sit until all the egg mixture has been absorbed. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet until hot. Fry bread, turning when bottom is golden., about 1 minute. When other side is golden, remove immediately or garlic will burn. Serve hot or warm with a red or white sangria.

Colossal Shrimp with Anchovies  and Cherry Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 wooden skewers (about half the size of a pencil)

6 colossal shrimp, peeled, deveined and boiled

6 anchovy fillets

6 cherry tomatoes

½ cup mayonnaise

DIRECTIONS: 

On each skewer, spear a shrimp, anchovy fillet and tomato. Cover and chill until ready to serve with mayonnaise as a dip. Serve with ice cold beer or a chilled crisp dry white wine.

Stuffed Baby Zucchini Boats

Baby Zucchini Boats

YIELD: Makes 16 pieces

INGREDIENTS: 

8 tiny zucchini (about 4 to 6 inches long)

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium onion, minced

½ pound ground beef, lamb or sausage

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon tomato paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

½ pint plain Greek yogurt

1 fresh medium tomato, finely chopped

8 mint leaves, minced

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a shallow 8×13-inch baking dish. Wash zucchini, trim off ends and halve lengthwise. With a sharp-edged spoon, scoop out seeds and pulp; chop pulp and reserve. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil; add onion, meat, lemon zest and chopped zucchini. Saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender and meat is brown, 5 to 10 minutes. 

Add tomato paste, a tablespoon or two of water, garlic and sugar; stir and cook over low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Stir in the yogurt, chopped tomato and mint leaves. Remove from heat and spoon mixture into hollowed out zucchini. Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese. Place filled zucchini in prepared dish and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese melts.

Balsamic Marinated Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

As often as we may observe or comment that someone is no spring chicken and well seasoned, there are some spring chickens of the farm variety that are young and tender and just waiting to be seasoned. It won’t be long now before we put away our slow cookers and pull out that barbecue, polish it up and start grilling. And nothing takes to the grill like chicken, especially if it’s marinated in or simply coated with a savory seasoning, sauce or rub. 

Whether it’s chicken parts such as thighs or drumsticks, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin into paillards or left thick and sliced, a cut-up broiler/fryer or a roasting chicken, special seasonings take that bird from plain and ordinary to gourmet glamorous. Apply the seasonings ahead of time, cover and refrigerate, and when it’s barbecue time or meal time, all you need to do is grill that lovely bird. 

Balsamic Marinated Chicken

Balsamic Marinated Chicken

 

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup white wine

1 shallot, finely chopped  

3 to 4 garlic cloves peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon each fresh thyme and oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl, whisk together the first seven ingredients. Remove fat from chicken, rinse and pat dry. Place everything in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Seal tightly and tilt to be sure all chicken pieces are coated; refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably more, up to 8 hours. When ready to cook, oil grill rack, then preheat grill to medium high. Grill chicken, turning once and basting frequently with marinade until brown on the outside and clear juices run on the inside, 5 to 10 minutes per side depending on thickness. Discard any unused marinade. Remove from grill, slice across grain and serve hot, cold or at room temperature with grilled veggies and wild rice.

Rosemary, Garlic and Mustard Marinated Chicken Thighs

Rosemary, Garlic and Mustard Marinated Chicken Thighs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 to 8 chicken thighs, depending on size

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper. Remove fat and skin (if desired) from chicken thighs. Place chicken in a shallow nonreactive baking dish. With a pastry brush or rubber spatula, coat the chicken on both sides with the prepared mixture; cover tightly and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours until ready to cook. Prepare and preheat grill to medium high. Grill thighs 8 to 10 minutes per side. Check for doneness, remove from grill and serve hot, warm or cold with fresh corn on the cob, ratatouille and sweet potato fries.

Chicken in Curry-Yogurt Marinade

Chicken in Curry-Yogurt Marinade

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons curry powder

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

1 broiler-fryer, cut up

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, curry powder, lime juice, cayenne and salt. Lay chicken parts in a shallow dish and slather marinade over them. Place chicken and any remaining marinade in a resealable gallon bag and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours. 

When ready to cook, prepare and preheat grill to medium high. Place chicken parts over direct heat, meaty sides down. Grill until outsides are a light brown (about 10 minutes), then turn the pieces and grill another 5 minutes. Remove chicken to indirect heat, close grill lid and grill 30 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Let sit for 10 minutes. Serve hot, warm or cold with tomato, olive and onion salad, rice and sautéed spinach.

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