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Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Greens

By Barbara Beltrami

You may be wondering why I seldom write about Asian cuisine. It’s simple; I don’t know very much about it and have cooked it infrequently. However, with the spate of Asian restaurants springing up everywhere, I’ve had more occasion to dine on that cuisine. In turn, with the help of cookbooks and the internet I’ve tried to duplicate or at least imitate some of my favorite dishes, especially the soups, so rich in umami flavor. I have developed a yen (pardon the pun) for Japanese ramen, Chinese dumpling soup and my longtime favorite, hot and spicy soup.

The recipes I’ve developed may not be, by Asian standards, very authentic, but to me they taste pretty much like the genuine thing.

Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Greens

Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Greens

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¾ pound fresh shrimp in shells, peeled and deveined

1½ tablespoons peeled very finely minced fresh ginger

4 tablespoons minced scallions

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon sesame oil

¼ cup finely minced canned water chestnuts

50 wonton wrappers

3½ cups minced, trimmed fresh baby bok choy

8 cups chicken stock or broth

DIRECTIONS:

In food processor bowl blend shrimp, ginger, scallions, salt, pepper, sherry and oil to a smooth paste.; stir in water chestnuts. In large pot, bring unsalted water to steady simmer. Lightly brush edges of wonton wrapper with water; place half a teaspoon of filling in center, then pinch corners shut to form a little pouch.

When all wrappers are filled poach them for one and a half minutes in simmering water, remove with slotted spoon, drain well and spread on large platter. Blanch bok choy in dumpling water 10 to 15 seconds, drain, then immerse in ice water, drain again and press gently to remove excess water.

In a large pot, bring chicken stock to steady simmer, gently add dumplings and cook for a minute or so to heat them through. Serve soup hot with fried noodles or spring rolls.

Chicken, Spinach, Mushroom and Ramen Noodle Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

10 cups water

1 pound chicken tenders, diced

1 tablespoon fresh chopped peeled ginger

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1 bunch scallions, cleaned and thinly sliced

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons light (not too salty) miso

3 ounces dried brown rice ramen noodles

½ pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 medium zucchini, diced

1/3 pound green beans, cleaned and sliced

10 ounces tofu, diced

2 cups broccoli florets and peeled stems, thinly sliced

¾ pound fresh spinach, washed and chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot, simmer together the water, chicken, ginger, pepper and soy sauce for 15 minutes; discard ginger but retain liquid. In a large skillet over medium heat saute scallions, onion, carrot and garlic in sesame oil for 5 minutes, until onion is transparent and carrot is somewhat tender; toss with soy sauce. Transfer to pot with liquid; add miso, stir and bring to a boil. Add ramen noodles, mushrooms, zucchini, green beans, tofu and broccoli; return to boil and cook 5 minutes; add spinach and simmer one or two minutes. Serve immediately with a dry white wine or saki.

Spicy Hot Northern Chinese Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons finely minced garlic

2 to 2½ teaspoons finely minced hot peppers (serrano or other)

1 tablespoon finely minced peeled fresh ginger

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

7 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, peppers and ginger and saute until soft but not browned. Add breadcrumbs and stir well to combine with garlic mixture; add cayenne and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes; add lime juice, salt and pepper. When ready to serve, being very careful not to let soup boil, very slowly and gently stir in beaten eggs and cilantro. Serve immediately with fried rice, green tea and lots of ice cold water!

Oven-Fried Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

You’re probably wondering why I hardly ever write about chicken. In fact, several people have asked me that, and I can answer only that there are so many chicken recipes in magazines and cookbooks and on the internet that it’s seemed superfluous. However, a recent menu planning experience has convinced me otherwise.

At my wit’s end to accommodate those who didn’t eat red meat or were allergic to fish, I found myself scouring my files for recipes and realized that there’s always such a good old standby whose myriad ways of preparation have rescued many a cook, tantalized many a guest and certainly saved the day for me.

There are three recipes here: one for the cook top, one for the grill and one for the oven, so depending on the weather, your mood and what else you have on hand, you can choose your preparation. That’s the great thing about chicken; there are so many ways to prepare it that you can’t go wrong. In fact, I think I’m going to do a column on chicken more often.

Summer Chicken Stew

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 3½-pound chicken cut into 8 pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Flour for dredging

½ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 small eggplant, diced

1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or basil

2 large fresh tomatoes, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup dry white wine

DIRECTIONS:

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge it in flour. In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Fry chicken, turning pieces once, until both sides are golden; remove to large saucepan. Discard oil and add remaining ¼ cup oil to pan; add onion, eggplant, bell pepper and herbs and saute stirring frequently, over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to saucepan with chicken, add tomatoes, garlic and wine and mix thoroughly. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally and adding ½ cup water at a time, if needed, until chicken and veggies are done, about 45 minutes. Serve with orzo and a summer lettuce salad.

Pesto Grilled Chicken

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

2 garlic cloves

½ cup olive oil

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

½ cup pignoli nuts

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 3½-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

DIRECTIONS:

Place basil, garlic, oil, grated cheese, pignoli nuts and salt and pepper in bowl of electric food processor and puree, scraping bowl often, until smooth and medium green in color. Heat grill to medium-hot. In large bowl toss chicken pieces with pesto until evenly coated. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Let sit and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is crispy and slightly charred and juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and corn on the cob.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 3½-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

3 cups buttermilk

1½ cups unseasoned breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or oregano

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place chicken in a large bowl and pour buttermilk over it; let sit to marinate at room temperature 30 minutes. In a wide shallow bowl or pan, thoroughly combine breadcrumbs, herbs and salt and pepper. Dip chicken pieces in breadcrumb mixture to thoroughly coat on both sides; place on greased baking sheet and let sit 15 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 F. Bake chicken until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a sharp knife, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot with cole slaw and mashed potatoes.

Cherry Fool. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Those peaches and nectarines blushed their way into your heart. The plums looked like 1,000-karat rubies and amethysts. The cherries, at least the one you sneaked a sample of, burst with flavor as you bit into it. So you bought them and brought them home and piled them in your favorite bowl. Then you waited for them to ripen.

And one day they did, all at once. So you ate a few, maybe made a fruit salad. And then they turned wrinkled and blemished and mushy and reminded you what an incurable impulse buyer you are. But don’t worry. There are some wonderful ways to use less than perfect summer stone fruit such as peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and cherries.

You can put them in a saucepan with a little water or wine and sugar and cook them into a fruit compote. Or bake them with some butter, sugar, flour and oatmeal. You can make a crisp or a cobbler, a pie or a pudding, a fool or a tart. And no matter what you do, it’s a good idea to have plenty of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on hand.

Fruit Crisp

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 cups chopped stone fruit

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Butter for greasing baking dish

1/3 cup flour

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl toss together fruit, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Transfer to greased 2 to 2½ quart or 9 × 13 nonreactive baking dish. In a food processor combine flour, brown sugar, salt, oats and butter until mixture has a coarse texture. Sprinkle evenly over fruit. Bake about 60 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden. Cool on wire rack one hour or until very warm but not hot. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Fruit Fool

Cherry Fool. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound stone fruit, pitted and sliced or chopped

3 tbl granulated sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbl confectioners’ sugar

Dash vanilla extract

Fresh mint leaves

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan combine fruit and granulated sugar; add just enough water to barely cover. Bring mixture to boil, then let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the fruit is very tender. Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate 30 minutes. In a large bowl, whip the cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form but don’t let it get too stiff. Fold whipped cream into cooked fruit and spoon into parfait or wine glasses; garnish with mint. Serve with crisp cookies.

Summer Bread Pudding

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 to 8 cups stone fruit, pared, pitted and diced

½ to ¾ cup sugar

1 to 2 tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice

10 to 12 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan combine fruit, sugar, lemon juice and 1/3 to ½ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to steady simmer and cook for about 8 to10 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and fruit releases its juices. Pour a little of the fruit syrup into bottom of medium bowl; line bottom of bowl with one layer of bread slices cut to fit shape. Making sure it is completely coated, spoon about one-third of the fruit with some juice over bread. Top with more bread slices, then fruit and juices. Repeat procedure until fruit and juices as well as bread are all used up, but be sure to finish with bread on top.

Let cool completely, pat plastic wrap onto pudding so it touches it, then place a plate the same size as the top of the pudding and weight with something that weighs about one pound (an unopened 14-ounce can works well). Refrigerate 6 to 8 hours. When ready to serve, run a knife around edge of pudding, then flip and unmold onto plate. Slice into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Green beans are in season on Long Island from July to September. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Green beans, string beans, snap beans —  What’s in a name? They’re all pretty much the same thing; a favorite, as veggies go, among many people, and unlike some other veggies, seldom considered “yucky.” At this time of year, they abound in bushel baskets at farm stands, green thatches of long and slender and crisp vegetable freshness. Trimmed and lightly steamed just to the point of tenderness where they still retain their greenness, they make a fine side dish on their own dressed with lemon or butter, or as a tasty component of salads, soups, casseroles, pasta or potato dishes.

So here’s what you need to do. Go to a farm stand, carefully pick out a bunch of skinny unblemished beans, take them home, sit yourself down near a fan or an AC vent, put a bowl in your lap, and with a little knife or your thumbnail, remove the brownish stem ends of the beans, then cut or snap them to desired size (I like to leave them whole). Here are some recipes to get you started.

Green Bean and Potato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

This is almost but not quite a salade nicoise.

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped

1 pound skinny green beans, stem end removed

2 garlic cloves, smashed into a paste

1 tablespoon anchovy paste

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped

2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large handfuls baby arugula

4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

2 ripe garden fresh tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender; remove from water, let sit until cool enough to handle , then cut into thin slices or dice. Simultaneously, in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer, salt the green beans to taste and cook over boiling water until tender but still bright green. Immediately remove and place in bowl of ice water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, capers, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. When ready to serve, arrange arugula on a serving plate, toss the potatoes and beans with the vinaigrette and pile on top of the arugula. Arrange sliced or diced eggs and tomatoes on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper; garnish with chopped herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled dry white wine, crusty French bread and unsalted butter.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

This combination of green beans and onions is a far cry from that old recipe made with canned onions and cream of mushroom soup.

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large Vidalia or red onions, peeled and cut into rings

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

½ tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 pounds fresh skinny green beans, trimmed and steamed or boiled till tender but still bright green

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the butter and oil in medium skillet over medium heat; add onions, turn heat up to medium-high, and cook onions, stirring frequently, until light golden; add thyme, brown sugar and vinegar and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are a rich medium dark brown. Place string beans in a serving bowl and top with caramelized onions. Serve warm or hot with poultry or meat.

Green Beans with Bacon and Balsamic

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cooked till tender but bright green

½ pound bacon, cooked till crispy and crumbled

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large serving bowl toss the beans and bacon. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, bacon fat, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Half an hour before serving, toss the string bean mixture with oil mixture; tossing a few more times, let sit for at least half an hour. Serve at room temperature or warm with pork or poultry or as a main dish.

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Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

With her passionate reminiscences and mouth-watering descriptions of comfort foods from way back in our childhoods — things that were part of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ regular repertoires; the kinds of things we neither cook anymore nor see on menus — my friend has motivated me to comb through old recipe files and cookbooks to try to duplicate them. I have done so with the caveat that they will never be as good as the ones we remember. How could they be? However, as my new muse in this as in so many things, I am dedicating this column to her.

Tomato Aspic 

Ask any Southern lady and she will tell you that this dish is a standard at luncheons and funerals.

YIELD: Makes 8 to10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

¼ cup boiling water

4 cups tomato juice

1 tablespoon chopped onion

½ green bell pepper chopped

1 celery rib

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon celery seeds

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Nonstick cooking spray

Fresh bibb lettuce leaves

Fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the cold water over the gelatin; let sit 5 minutes. Whisk boiling water into gelatin until it is dissolved. In a large saucepan, combine the tomato juice, onion, pepper, celery, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and celery seeds. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes; pour through wire mesh strainer into medium bowl; discard veggies or save for another use. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice. Spray a 10-cup ring mold with nonstick cooking spray; pour mixture into mold; chill 6 hours or until set. Unmold onto plate lined with lettuce leaves; garnish with parsley. Serve with shrimp salad and deviled eggs.

Old-Fashioned Crabmeat Casserole

Casseroles were very popular decades ago. The combination of crabmeat, butter and breadcrumbs makes this a rich but oh-so-delicious seafood dish.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 large egg

1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 stick unsalted butter

1½ cups unflavored breadcrumbs

1 cup half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound cooked crabmeat (picked over to remove any bits of shell)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter or grease a two-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl whisk together egg, parsley and mustard. In a medium saucepan melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat; add one cup breadcrumbs and half-and-half; cook stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; add egg mixture and salt and pepper and stir just enough to incorporate but not cook egg. Fold in crabmeat; transfer to prepared casserole; sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs; dot with remaining butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with rice.

Julia’s Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Julia was the daughter of a slave. That’s how many generations the recipe

for this childhood favorite has been around.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 12 to 15 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole grain oats (old-fashioned not instant oatmeal)

¼ stick unsalted butter plus butter for greasing baking sheets

¾ cup medium brown sugar

1 egg

Pinch or 2 all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon vanilla or to taste.

DIRECTIONS:

Generously grease two baking sheets and set aside. Preheat oven to 275 F. Spread oatmeal on another baking sheet and toast it for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside and let cool. Raise oven temperature to 350 F. In a large saucepan, melt butter over moderately low heat; add sugar and mix well. Remove pan from cook top, stir in egg and oatmeal; beat until blended, then thoroughly blend in flour and vanilla. Drop batter, about one tablespoon at a time, about two inches apart as cookies will spread, onto greased baking sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies are firm and edges are slightly brown. Let cool a few minutes on baking sheets, then with sharp spatula, carefully remove to wire racks, Serve with ice cold milk.

Honeydew melons are a versatile treat and can be used as an ingredient in salads, side dishes, entrees and even drinks. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

I have found that honeydew melons can often be a rather dicey proposition. I frequently think I’ve picked out a promising one only to get it home where it languishes and never ripens. Or it does ripen but the result is a flavorless disappointment. 

Well, that’s no way to start a food column, is it? Let me start over on a more positive note.  

When a honeydew is good, it’s very good. When it’s perfectly ripened, it is an explosion of mouth-watering fruit worthy of its name. On its own, it sings of summer. With other ingredients it’s a perfect foil for salty or slightly bitter flavors. And it’s such a pretty color; just looking at it is enough to cool one off. 

So, if you’re good at picking out melons, or if you’re lucky enough to find a winner, try some of these honeydew recipes.

Honeydew Salad with Honey-Citrus Dressing

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 avocado, diced

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

½ ripe honeydew melon, diced

2 cups baby arugula

4 red radishes, scrubbed and sliced thin

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1½ tablespoons lime or orange juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 slices prosciutto, torn into small pieces

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl toss the avocado with the freshly squeezed lemon juice to thoroughly coat.  Add honeydew, arugula and radishes; toss again and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, honey, lime or orange juice, salt and pepper. When ready to serve, toss with melon mixture; sprinkle prosciutto on top and serve immediately with prosecco and breadsticks.

Honeydew Sorbet with Candied Ginger

Honeydew Sorbet

YIELD: Makes about 3½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

4 cups diced ripe honeydew melon

¼ to 1/3 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar and water until sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Measure out ¾ cup; reserve and refrigerate any extra for later use. Puree melon in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Measure out 2½ cups. Cover and refrigerate any extra puree for another use. Combine sugar syrup, melon puree and chopped ginger in bowl of ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to freezer container, cover and freeze for at least two hours. Serve with ginger snaps.

Shrimp and Lobster Salad in Honeydew Bowls

YIELD: Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup chopped cooked shrimp

1 cup chopped cooked lobster meat

¼ cup minced celery

¼ cup minced green bell pepper

 1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or tarragon

¼ teaspoon celery seed

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small ripe honeydew, halved and seeded

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, lobster, celery, green pepper, mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill or tarragon, celery seed, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly and scoop into hollowed out honeydew halves. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for one hour before serving.

Poached chicken breasts with tonnato sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

Midsummer. Not exactly a dream and more of a nightmare if the temperature hits the 90s and the humidity is high too. No time to turn on an oven or sweat over a grill. Better to cook in the early morning, then refrigerate for later. But what? 

A steak grilled, cooled and refrigerated in a savory marinade, then sliced works well; so do poached chicken breasts immersed in a tonnato (tuna, mayonnaise and capers) sauce. Potato salad is always welcome whether dressed with the traditional mayonnaise, celery and hard-boiled egg or an herbed vinaigrette. 

Salad? Sliced tomatoes with onions or scallions, sprinkled with fresh corn kernels or the ever popular mozzarella and basil; garden lettuce and cucumbers and peppers; watermelon, tomato, cucumber and feta. Here are a few dreamy recipes to help you keep your midsummer nights cool.

Poached Chicken Breasts With Tonnato Sauce

Poached chicken breasts with tonnato sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 medium boneless chicken breast halves

3 cups cold water

1 cup cold dry white wine

1 medium sprig fresh thyme

1 medium sprig fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 handful fresh chives

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

One 6-ounce can Italian dark tuna packed in olive oil

2 anchovy fillets

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained

Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Place chicken breasts in a large skillet; cover with cold water and wine; add herbs and salt. Bring water to boil over medium heat. When a rolling boil is achieved, turn breasts over with tongs, remove from heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a breast reads 150 F. Remove breasts to cutting board; let sit 5 minutes, then slice. Arrange on a platter, cover and refrigerate. 

Put mayonnaise, oil, tuna, anchovies, lemon juice, capers and black pepper in jar of blender and puree until smooth; cover and refrigerate one hour. Pour generously over sliced chicken. Serve cold on a bed of lettuce with potato or rice salad and sliced fresh tomatoes.

Herbed Potato Salad

Herbed Potato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

¼ cup chopped fresh chervil

2 scallions, very thinly sliced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dry white wine

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan, boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place in large bowl to cool to room temperature. In small bowl whisk together herbs, scallions, oil, wine, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over potatoes; toss to coat thoroughly; cover and refrigerate tossing again after 30 minutes, one hour. Serve with poultry, fish or meat. 

Watermelon, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups diced cucumber

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 cups diced watermelon

1 cup crumbled feta

Sliced red onion (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, toss together cucumber and tomatoes. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, parsley, dill, salt and pepper; pour over cucumber and tomatoes. Tossing frequently, let sit one hour. When ready to serve, add watermelon, feta and red onion (if used); toss again. Serve with poultry, meat or fish.

Basil Ice Cream

By Barbara Beltrami

There is something so satisfying about traipsing among the plants in one’s own herb garden and pinching the leaves to enjoy their fragrant and sometimes acrid pungency. And no herb offers a redolent summer perfume like basil. Nothing beats plucking one’s own basil for extravagant use in summer dishes. 

Basilico in Italian, basilic in French and derived from the Greek word for “kingly,” this marvelous herb was considered a sacred plant long ago. In fact, legend has it that St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, received a divine revelation that the true cross would be found where the air was sweetly perfumed. And guess where she found it? Under a basil patch! 

Although sweet basil with small delicate foliage is preferable to the more familiar large, broad-leafed variety, even the latter plant produces an intensity of flavor that few methods of preparation can diminish and most can enhance. 

Thinking inside the basil box, it’s thick red slices of just-picked garden tomatoes, still warm from the sun, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and slivers of fresh basil leaves; it’s linguine gently tossed with a basil pesto or breast of chicken stuffed with basil and goat cheese. Thinking outside the box, it’s basil as a flavoring for mayonnaise or a refreshing summer cooler or ice cream. Yes, I know. I’ve written about basil in past columns. But it’s that kind of herb; it’s so good that it bears repeating every now and then. 

Basil Ice Cream

Basil Ice Cream

YIELD: Makes four ¾-cup servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups whole milk or half-and-half

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves

½ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

4 large egg yolks

½ cup very cold heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium heavy saucepan, bring milk, basil, ¼ cup sugar and salt to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes. Transfer to blender and process until basil is finely ground, about one minute. In medium bowl, beat egg yolks with remaining ¼ cup sugar until thick and pale, about one minute. Add milk mixture in a thin stream, beating constantly with an electric mixer, until well combined. 

Pour entire mixture into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and reads 175 F on thermometer. (Do not let boil!) Immediately remove from heat and pour through fine sieve into metal bowl; set bowl over larger bowl of ice water and stir until cold, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in cream and transfer to ice cream maker; freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to airtight container and freeze at least two hours before serving with biscotti.

Basil-Parsley Mayonnaise

Basil-Parsley Mayonnaise

YIELD: Makes about ¾ cup

INGREDIENTS:

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 smashed garlic clove

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In the jar of an electric blender, combine egg yolks, lemon juice and mustard powder; pulse a few times; add herbs. With machine running, drizzle in oil until mixture emulsifies. Transfer to container, cover and chill. Serve with fish or chicken.

Basil-Citrus Cooler

Basil-Citrus Cooler

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup lightly packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups orange juice

1 cup sparkling water

4 sprigs fresh basil for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium nonreactive bowl, combine the basil and sugar. With the back of a wooden spoon crush the basil leaves until thoroughly bruised; stir in orange juice. Strain through cheesecloth or wire mesh strainer into ice cube-filled glasses. Add sparkling water; stir and garnish with basil sprigs. Serve immediately with tea cake or cookies.

Chicken Liver Crostini. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

A recent trip to my beloved Tuscan countryside compels me to share with you some thoughts about its rustic fare that emanates mostly from peasant farm people who for hundreds of years have eked every last bit from those rolling patch-worked hills and the olives trees, grapevines, vegetables and animals they raised on them. Hence, that area is well known and loved for its simple fare of olive oil, wine, tomatoes, beans and cured meats. Not so much actual recipes as frugal combinations of basic staples, Tuscan food is as earthy as its cypress-dotted green and ocher landscape crowned by ancient hilltop towns and tile-roofed stone farmhouses.

Chicken Liver Crostini

YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup chopped fresh mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

1 pound chicken livers

¼ cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon chopped anchovies

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

12 to 16 slices toasted rustic Italian bread

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions and chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are transparent and livers are brown outside and pale pink inside, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine, capers, anchovies, parsley and bay leaf. Continue to cook until liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove and discard bay leaf; add salt and pepper. With a fork or back or a cooking spoon, mash livers or, if desired, place in bowl of food processor and pulse a few times. Drizzle bread with extra virgin olive oil and spread chicken liver mixture on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled young wine.

 Bread and Tomato Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

5 pounds ripe tomatoes, diced with their juice

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

¼–½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Coarse salt to taste

½ pound stale rustic bread cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley 

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until opaque, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, garlic, crushed red pepper and salt. Cook, partially covered, over medium heat until mixture is somewhat thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in bread, basil and parsley; let sit until bread is softened, then mash it into mixture. Stir in extra virgin olive oil and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a crisp dry white wine.

Tuscan Bean Salad 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 celery rib, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

2/3 cup finely chopped red onion

½ cup chopped oil-cured black olives

½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place beans, celery, onion, olives, parsley and rosemary in a large bowl; toss to combine. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add to bean mixture; toss to thoroughly coat. Let sit one hour, toss again and serve at room temperature with arugula and cherry tomato salad, crusty bread and slices of prosciutto and salami.

Farfalle Salad with Salmon, Asparagus and Peas. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

When it’s time for a backyard barbecue or pool party, neighborhood get-together or family celebration, it seems that in the past few years the traditional salads have given up some of their popularity to pasta salads, one of my favorite things to put together. I cook up a nice big pot of some weird-shaped pasta and then put my imagination to work. The last three times I did that I came up with some real doozies that turned out to be big hits. 

The first was farfalle with poached salmon, peas, asparagus, dill, yogurt and mayonnaise. Another one was penne with chick peas, black olives, cherry tomatoes, grilled eggplant and goat cheese, and the most recent one was basically an antipasto salad: fusilli tossed with julienned Genoa salami,, provolone, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and anchovies in a simple olive oil, wine vinegar and herb dressing. Try one or all of them or boil up a pot of pasta and see what happens next.

Farfalle Salad with Salmon, Asparagus and Peas

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained

Freshly squeezed juice of one small lemon

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

1 pound farfalle pasta, cooked and at room temperature 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 package frozen peas, thawed

1 pound fresh asparagus, cooked and sliced into 1-inch pieces

3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 pound fresh salmon, poached and torn into bite-size pieces

1/3 cup chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, using a wire whisk thoroughly combine yogurt, mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. In a large bowl toss the pasta with the olive oil to coat thoroughly. Add peas, asparagus, scallions  and yogurt mixture; toss again; scatter salmon and dill over top of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled with cucumber salad.

Penne Salad Provencale

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound cooked penne, at room temperature

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup white or red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, bruised

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or 1 tsp. dried

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

Nonstick cooking spray

1 medium eggplant, washed and diced

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

One 14-ounce can chick peas, rinsed/drained

3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced

1 cup oil-packed black olives, pitted and sliced

6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In small bowl combine oil, vinegar, garlic, marjoram and thyme. Let sit at room temperature one hour; remove and discard garlic. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; spread eggplant evenly and bake, until soft, about 10 minutes. In medium bowl, toss eggplant with ¼ cup olive oil. In large bowl, combine pasta, eggplant, chick peas, tomatoes, olives, goat cheese and oil and vinegar mixture; season with salt and pepper; toss thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate up to one hour; let sit 30 minutes before serving with a green salad, and meat, fowl or fish.

Fusilli Salad with Antipasto

YIELD: Makes 8 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, bruised

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound cooked fusilli pasta

½ cup pepperoncini, drained

½ pound sliced Genoa salami, julienned

¼ pound sliced provolone cheese, julienned

½ pound mozzarella cheese, diced

¾ cup roasted red peppers, diced

1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced or chopped

½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and diced

10 anchovy fillets, minced

1 cup thinly sliced celery

DIRECTIONS:

In small bowl combine oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper; whisk vigorously; let sit at room temperature one hour; remove garlic and discard; whisk mixture again. In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients; toss, add oil and vinegar mixture, toss again. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve, let sit 30 minutes at room temperature. Serve with wine, beer, or soft drinks.