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cooking cove

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By Barbara Beltrami

Carpe diem! Any day now, if it hasn’t already happened, soft shell crabs will be available in fish markets. Usually in season locally from late spring through summer, these tasty crustaceans, actually blue crabs that have molted their exoskeleton and are edible in their entirety, are a seafood lover’s ultimate summer treat. 

Soft shell crabs are at their best, I think, when lightly floured and shallow fried, but some would say it’s when they’re deep fried. They must be eaten when they are really really fresh and once cooked require no more than a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice. However, if you want to think outside the box, you might try them with a coconut topping. 

Fried Soft Shell Crabs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

1¾ cups milk

4 fresh cleaned soft shell crabs

1 cup flour

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg

½ cup of milk

2 or more cups vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:

Pour 1¾ cups of milk into a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the crabs in one layer. Place crabs in milk and soak, turning once, for one hour. Combine flour, salt and pepper; dredge crabs in mixture. In a shallow dish beat egg with half cup of milk; dip crabs in mixture to coat thoroughly, then dip crabs in flour mixture again. 

Pour oil to a depth of at least 3 inches in a large skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Being careful to avoid spatter, gently place the crabs in oil, fry until golden brown, about 1½ minutes, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes total time. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with cole slaw and ice cold beer.

Sautéed Soft Shell Crabs

Sautéed Soft Shell Crabs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1¾ cups milk

4 fresh cleaned soft shell crabs

1 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

One lemon, quartered

DIRECTIONS:

Pour milk into a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the crabs in one layer. Place crabs in milk and soak them, turning once, for one hour. Remove crabs; discard milk. Season flour with salt and pepper and lightly dredge crabs in it.  Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; sauté crabs, turning once, until both sides are golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes total time. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately with lemon wedges and a crisp dry white wine.

Coconut-Coated Soft Shell Crabs

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 sautéed soft shell crabs

½ cup coconut flakes

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1 egg white, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Place oven rack 8 inches from broiler; preheat broiler. In a small bowl combine coconut, mustard, salt, hot pepper and egg white. Place crabs, top side up, on broiler pan; with back of large spoon press coconut mixture onto top shells of crabs; spread and pat down; drizzle with melted butter. Place broiler pan on prepared rack; broil until coconut mixture is golden brown and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with tropical fruit salad and rice.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut Yogurt

By Barbara Beltrami

Have you noticed how moms are always eating salads? They have them for lunch, they order them in restaurants, they serve them with a lot of things they cook and they even try to get you to eat more of them. Yep! Moms love salads. So how about preparing a super-duper salad or two for her on Mother’s Day? Here are some that she’ll love — for breakfast, lunch or dinner. So take your pick … or do all three. And if you join her in eating them, she’ll be oh, so happy.

Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut Yogurt

Tropical Fruit Salad with Coconut Yogurt

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

½ pineapple, peeled and diced

1 mango, peeled and diced

½ ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced

¼ ripe honeydew, peeled, seeded and diced

2 kiwis, peeled and diced

1 cup raspberries, washed and dried

1 cup blackberries, washed and dried

1 cup blueberries, washed and dried

¼ cup honey

Zest and juice of one orange

1 pint coconut yogurt

1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted (optional)

 DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwis and berries. In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, orange zest and juice and yogurt. Cover and refrigerate both mixtures until 30 minutes before serving. Do not prepare more than 4 hours ahead of time, though. Spoon fruit onto fancy dish or in large wine glasses; top with yogurt mixture, then almonds if desired. Serve with muffins or biscotti.

Lobster-Stuffed Tomato with Shrimp and Israeli Couscous

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

 INGREDIENTS:

4 large ripe tomatoes

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 cups lobster meat, diced

¾ cup mayonnaise

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

8 leaves bibb lettuce

8 cooked jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

DIRECTIONS:

Slice enough off the top of each tomato to make a wide opening. With a serrated or sharp spoon, scoop out the tomato pulp. Mince flesh from tomato tops and combine with pulp. In a medium bowl combine with couscous, olive oil and salt and pepper; set aside. In a large bowl combine the lobster, mayonnaise, celery, lemon juice, dill and salt and pepper. Carefully scoop lobster mixture into hollowed-out tomatoes. Place lettuce leaves, curved side down, on four plates. On one lettuce leaf place the lobster-filled tomato; on the other leaf place a scoop of the couscous mixture. Top each scoop with a shrimp. Cover and refrigerate until 20 minutes before ready to serve. Can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead of time. Serve chilled with buttered multigrain toast cut into triangles.

Little Chef’s Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

 INGREDIENTS:

1½ heads bibb, romaine, red or green leaf lettuce, washed, dried and chopped

1/3 pound Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese, cut into very thin strips

1/3 pound grilled chicken breast, cut into very thin strips

1/3 pound baked ham, cut into very thin strips

4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered or sliced

1 ripe avocado, peeled, sliced and doused with freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 green bell pepper, washed, seeded and cut into very thin strips

16 heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

½English cucumber, finely diced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup salad dressing or to taste

 DIRECTIONS:

Arrange lettuce on four plates or one large platter. Lay cheese, chicken and ham in evenly spaced-apart diagonal stripes across lettuce. In between stripes lay egg and avocado and pepper and tomatoes; sprinkle cucumber over top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with salad dressing. Serve chilled with crusty rolls and butter.

Foil-Wrapped Scampi and Linguini

By Barbara Beltrami

Except for a carefully manicured lawn or oversized SUV, I think there is nothing as emblematic of suburbia as the outdoor grill. However, in these days of more conscientious and healthful eating habits it is likely to conjure up an image rather different from that of former times. Then, Dad, garbed in a chef’s toque, oversized potholder mitt and motto-inscribed apron, stood in a cloud of black smoke flipping hamburgers, spearing hot dogs and slathering ribs and chicken with viscous crimson sauces. 

These days the grill still signifies suburbia, but the fare is just as likely to be fish, shellfish or veggies doused with marinades of oils, vinegars, juices and herbs or rubbed with spices, and it’s just as likely to be Mom wielding those tongs or spatula. The weather is warmer, spring is here and summer is just around the corner, so uncover that grill and get going!

Margarita-Marinated Grilled Swordfish

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds swordfish, cut into 4 pieces

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup tequila

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ cup chopped onion

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 lime, quartered

2 handfuls fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse swordfish steaks and pat dry. In a shallow nonreactive dish combine lime juice, tequila, oil, cumin, onion, salt and pepper; add swordfish, sprinkle with half the cilantro, cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. Turn, cover and marinate 30 minutes more. At midpoint in marinating process, prepare the grill and preheat on medium. After the hour of marinating, place fish on grill and cook, gently turning once, 3 to 7 minutes on each side, depending on its thickness; baste with leftover marinade. Remove from grill, garnish with fresh lime wedges and remaining cilantro; serve hot or warm with a bean salad.

Foil-Wrapped Scampi and Linguini

Foil-Wrapped Scampi and Linguini

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

¾ stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons dry white wine

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Juice and zest of half a lemon

1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound linguini

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare grill on high heat. Tear off two pieces of 18-inch-long foil; lay on top of each other. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; transfer to center of foil; fold long ends of foil over each other to create a seal, then bring short ends up and fold tightly to ensure that the packet is completely sealed. Let sit while you bring a pot of water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions; while pasta is cooking, place foil packet on grill. Each should take about 8 to 10 minutes; pasta is done when al dente; shrimp is done when completely pink. Place pasta in a large serving bowl; open packet carefully to let steam escape and empty contents over pasta. Toss and serve immediately with a crisp green salad and dry white wine.

Grilled Potatoes and Vidalia Onions

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

 INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch-thick slices

4 Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into ¾-inch-thick slices

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to medium-high. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine olive oil and salt and pepper and with a pastry brush, coat both sides of potato and onion slices with mixture; place on grill and turning once when bottoms of slices are dark brown, grill until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm with grilled fish, shellfish, meat or fowl.

Blueberry Scones

By Barbara Beltrami

Our British legacy, along with our language and customs, includes scones. At lunch the other day my friends and I ordered scones for dessert and I was reminded of just how good they can be with clotted cream and raspberry jam or even with butter or olive oil, if they’re savory rather than sweet. With our pinkies well extended we sipped tea and got caught up on each other’s lives and felt very civilized. Always the purist, I ordered the traditional scone with raisins. My more adventurous companions opted for the less conventional versions, and we all had a wonderful tea party.

Basic Scones

Blueberry Scones

YIELD: Makes 12 scones

INGREDIENTS:

2¾ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

8 ounces cold unsalted butter

1½ cups dried currants

2 large eggs

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup light cream

2 teaspoons milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. With a pastry blender or fork, mash in the butter until mixture has a lumpy-crumbly texture; stir in currants. In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs, vanilla and cream; then stir into the dry mixture until thoroughly combined.

Sprinkle a little flour over an ungreased baking sheet. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a 6-inch round disc that is about ¾ inch high. Brush each disc with a teaspoon of milk, then sprinkle with the two tablespoons granulated sugar.

Carefully and gently cut each disc into 6 wedges and pull the wedges away from the center so that they are barely separated, not touching. Place, uncovered, in freezer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 F. Bake scones until golden brown and cooked through with no wet spots showing, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 to 10 minutes on baking sheet. Serve warm with clotted cream, butter, jam or all of the above.

For other sweet scone variations substitute one of the following for the currants:

Raisins, chopped dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, mini chocolate chips, chopped pecans or walnuts or 1 tablespoon lemon or orange zest

For savory scones, omit the vanilla extract and final 2 tablespoons sugar, reduce the 1/3 cup sugar to 2 tablespoons and add one of the following:

1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, ¼ cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried, 1½ cups chopped sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) or 2 tablespoons freshly ground coarse black pepper. Serve with butter or extra virgin olive oil.

Clotted Cream

Clotted Cream

YIELD: Makes 1 cup

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup pasteurized but not ultra -pasteurized heavy cream

1 cup pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized light cream

DIRECTIONS:

Line a medium fine mesh strainer with a paper towel; place over a small-medium bowl. Leaving an inch at the top, pour in cream. Refrigerate for 2 hours. The liquid (whey) will drip through and leave a ring of clotted cream around top; with a rubber spatula, scrape this down.

Repeat procedure until a cup or so of clotted cream is left. Discard liquid. Serve clotted cream with warm scones and raspberry jam.

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

By Barbara Beltrami

With the spring holidays falling simultaneously this year, it’s nice to share recipes that are appropriate for either Easter or Passover dinner. And with meat becoming less and less the centerpiece for these occasions and vegetables becoming more and more the main attraction, the old boiled and baked versions need some updating. Adding lemon and/or herbs is one way to make those veggies more interesting; combining and roasting them is another. And while all veggies can be tweaked and turned into wonderful accompaniments and features for the holidays, because it is spring, I like to focus on the seasonal ones. The following recipes are all oven done and can be cooked right along with a roast.

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 shallots, diced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice of one lemon

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Lay asparagus in greased shallow nonreactive baking pan. In a small bowl whisk together remaining ingredients, drizzle over asparagus and toss to coat well. Roast until asparagus is tender but still bright green, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to warm platter and drizzle any remaining juices over top. Serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish. 

Roasted Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large zucchini, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 large eggplant, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped

4 medium tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss all ingredients together in a large baking dish; cover with aluminum foil and, scraping and stirring 2 or 3 times, bake for 30 minutes or until all veggies are tender. Remove foil and roast another 10 to 15 minutes until slightly brown. Transfer to a warm dish and serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish.

Tarragon Roasted Carrots and Fennel

 YIELD: Makes 8 servings. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch diagonal slices

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch wedges

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place carrots and fennel in a shallow roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, tarragon, salt and pepper and pour over veggies; toss thoroughly to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until tender; remove foil and bake 5 to 10 minutes more until slightly brown on top. Transfer to warm platter and serve hot or warm with meat, poultry or fish.

 New Potato Pancake with Green Onions

 YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

 INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds tiny new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced very thin

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously grease 9-inch iron skillet or round baking pan. In a large bowl, toss together the potato slices, onion, oil, salt and pepper and turn into skillet or baking pan. Smooth out mixture so all potato slices are lying flat. Bake until potatoes are tender and bottom of mixture is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Preheat broiler; slide pan under broiler and cook until top is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove, loosen sides and bottom with spatula and invert onto warm serving platter or leave right side up, if desired and top with parsley. Serve warm or hot with meat, poultry or fish.

By Barbara Beltrami

Years ago my friend told me about how she used baked wonton wrappers as little pastry cups to hold all sorts of fillings and served them as hors d’oeuvres. And what a clever idea it turned out to be. Although doing that wasn’t her own idea … she had gotten it from another friend…whoever originally dreamed up such a convenient and elegant idea for hors d’oeuvres deserves some sort of prize. Since the time my friend shared the idea with me, these little one or two-bite gems have seen my guests and me through many a happy hour. The concoctions you can fill them with are endless, but here are some of my standbys.

Basic Wonton Wrapper Cups

YIELD: Makes 12 cups

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

12 wonton wrappers

2 tablespoons oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat muffin tin  with nonstick cooking spray. Press a wonton wrapper gently into each muffin cup, taking care to press firmly against sides and bottom. Brush with oil. Bake 4 to 5 minutes until golden and crisp. As soon as cool enough to handle, remove from muffin tin and place on rack or cool platter. Serve with desired filling.

Sausage, Pepper and Monterey Jack Filling

Wonton Wrapper with Sausage, Pepper and Monterey Jack Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced

3 to 4 large sweet Italian sausages, finely crumbled

1 frying pepper, seeded and finely chopped

12 baked wonton cups

½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium skillet heat oil over medium heat; add onion, sausage and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft and sausage is brown, about 7 minutes. With slotted spoon remove from skillet and set aside to keep warm or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. (If refrigerating, reheat before filling cups.) Preheat oven to 375 F. Place cups back in muffin tin or on baking sheet, fill with hot or reheated sausage mixture, sprinkle cheese on top of filling and bake just until cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot or warm with wine or cocktails.

Asian Shrimp Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped peanuts

1 tablespoon rice or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage

12 baked wonton cups

12 medium cooked shrimp, tail removed

 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

¼ cup sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, combine the sesame oil, peanuts, vinegar, one tablespoon of the peanut oil, soy sauce, honey and red cabbage. In another medium bowl toss together the shrimp, chili sauce, remaining tablespoon peanut oil and Sriracha sauce. Evenly divide the cabbage mixture among 12 wonton cups, top each with a shrimp and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature with cocktails or wine.

Chicken Tarragon Filling

Wonton Wrapper with Chicken Tarragon Filling

YIELD: Fills 12 wonton cups

INGREDIENTS:

One boneless chicken breast, cooked and finely chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon minced onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

6 leaves bibb lettuce, torn in half

12 baked wonton cups

12 slices cherry tomato 

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients except lettuce and tomato. Line each wonton cup with half a lettuce leaf, then divide chicken mixture evenly among cups. Top each with a tomato slice. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Artichokes

By Barbara Beltrami

If they had a beauty contest for vegetables, I think the artichoke would win. It’s such a pretty veggie, so flower-like and mysterious with its closed leaves and well-hidden heart deep in its center. Actually a member of the thistle family, it is more specifically known as a globe artichoke and unfortunately is as difficult to find as it is to prepare, but well worth the effort ultimately.

A good artichoke feels heavy, its leaves are tightly closed and squeak when you squeeze it. Because it is such a special veggie, it can be steamed and eaten with a simple lemon and butter sauce; on the other hand, because it has such an interesting construction, it lends itself beautifully to a breadcrumb, garlic and olive oil stuffing in between the leaves. Or when in Rome or not in Rome, do as the Romans do and braise it in white wine, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and season it with a generous sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Prepping and Steaming an Artichoke

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Juice of one whole lemon

4 globe artichokes

4 slices lemon

4 garlic cloves

1 fresh bay leaf

DIRECTIONS:

Fill a large bowl with cold water and lemon juice; as you prepare the artichokes as follows, place them in the lemon water to keep them from turning brown. With a kitchen scissor, cut off the thorny tips of the outer leaves. Using a serrated knife slice about 1 inch off the tip of the artichoke. Pull off any small leaves at the base near the stem. Cut off an inch or so at the bottom of the stem, and using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin.

Alternatively all but an inch or so of the stem can be removed and peeled and cooked separately. Gently prying the leaves open, run the artichoke under cold water. Set up a pot large pot with about 3 inches water and a steamer basket. Place the lemon, garlic and bay leaf in the water and bring it to a boil; stand the artichokes in the steamer basket, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until outer leaves can be easily pulled off. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature with melted butter or hollandaise sauce.

Eating an artichoke

Pull off a leaf; gripping it between your thumb and forefinger, dip it in butter or sauce.  Bite down on leaf and scrape away tender pulp with your front teeth. Discard leaf. Continue with each leaf until you get to the tender inner leaves with the purple tips; eat only the light-colored parts. With a spoon or knife, scrape out and discard the fuzzy inedible choke that covers the heart, which is the best part of all and well worth all that preliminary work. Cut the heart into quarters and dip it into the sauce. Enjoy.

Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unflavored breadcrumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic, parsley, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. With the heel of your hand, press down on artichokes to force leaves to separate and open a little. Divide breadcrumb mixture into 4 equal portions and stuff each artichoke between leaves and in central cavity; drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Wrap each artichoke in aluminum foil, place in baking dish and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until browned and tender. Eat as in Eating an Artichoke but be sure to scrape away and discard fuzzy choke. Serve with rustic Italian bread and a tomato and mozzarella salad.

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

By Barbara Beltrami

OK, so it’s officially spring, and I’m thinking of working up a feast to fete Demeter who forced old Zeus to send Persephone back from the underworld. Frankly, I don’t know what we would do if he hadn’t struck that bargain with Pluto. Amid the fanfare of daffodil trumpets it is time to pay homage to Persephone’s return to Demeter and the regeneration of our world, to hail with delight the little sprouts that are harbingers of the greening of Mother Earth.

Long before I clean closets, wash windows or don my gardening gear, I change menus, imperceptibly at first, but soon in my pantry lumpy root veggies give way to green sproutish things like asparagus and artichokes while cabbages and beans relinquish their staple status to tender green onions and peas. Soups still simmer on my stove top, but they’re more likely to be potages of spring leeks and new potatoes than hefty minestrones. Pastas always stay, but sauces become lighter, less robust.

The minute I see the first basket of berries I swear off apples and pears; I put away the stock pot and clean up the grill and exchange the bittersweet in my vases for pussy willows.  So let the elysian games begin! Nothing but the best to honor Mother Earth. If I were to actually cook a dinner honoring the rites of spring here’s what it would be:

Carpaccio of Fresh Salmon

Spaghettini with Fresh Asparagus Puree

Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Mustard Glaze

New Potatoes, Braised Leeks

Garden Salad with Spring Onion Vinaigrette

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

Spaghettini with Asparagus Puree

Spaghettini with Asparagus Puree

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 to 1½ pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound spaghettini

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, steam asparagus until tender and just at the point of turning a yellowish green. Cut off asparagus tips; reserve. In a food processor, puree asparagus stems, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Cook spaghettini according to package directions.

Meanwhile, transfer pureed asparagus to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until gently bubbling. Drain pasta, transfer to serving bowl and toss with puree. Scatter reserved tips on top. Serve hot or warm with a chilled dry white wine.

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

Strawberry Soufflé with Fresh Raspberries

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 heaping pint fresh strawberries

8 eggs, separated

½ cup sugar + 1/3 cup sugar

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons kirschwasser or Chambord liqueur

Butter for greasing soufflé dishes

Confectioners’ sugar

½ pint fresh raspberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 F. Hull, wash and drain strawberries; place in bowl of food processor and puree till very smooth. Scrape puree into a large bowl, add egg yolks, half cup sugar, lemon juice and liqueur. Beat and blend thoroughly.

Generously grease bottoms and sides of 1½-cup capacity soufflé dishes. Beat egg whites until stiff; beat in remaining 1/3 cup sugar, then fold into strawberry mixture. Spoon equal portions of mixture into prepared dishes, place on baking sheet and bake 7 minutes. Reduce heat to 425 F and bake 7 minutes more.

Serve hot sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, garnished with fresh raspberries and accompanied by crisp vanilla wafers.

Roasted Lemon Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

There’s been a new development in our kitchen. It used to be that I did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen and my husband did the pots and pans. But lately I find myself doing the pots, or most of them, too. I think it’s because we recently got new cookware and, the control freak that I am, I want to keep them looking new and shiny, so I do them myself. That has led to another interesting development, though. In the interest of self-preservation, I’ve started to lean toward one-pot recipes, and of course I’ve gravitated toward the most obvious ones … those with chicken. Here are two I’ve tried that I think you’ll like too. They both go nicely with a tossed salad, but then, of course, there’s that bowl to wash.

Chicken with Black Beans and Corn

Chicken with Black Beans and Corn

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ tablespoon ground cumin

½ tablespoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 frying pepper, seeded and diced

Two 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, lightly drained

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 scallions, trimmed, washed and sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and rub into both sides of chicken. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; brown the chicken, turning once, until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from skillet; set aside to keep warm. In same pan, stirring constantly, cook onion and peppers over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Add beans, corn, and tomatoes and cook over medium heat until liquid is evaporated. Place in serving bowl and toss with vinegar, cilantro and scallions; add more salt and pepper to taste. Slice chicken and place over mixture. Serve hot or warm with green salad and rustic bread, if desired.

Roasted Lemon Chicken

Roasted Lemon Chicken

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 large lemons

One 3½- to 4-pound chicken, cut up

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch diagonal slices

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Squeeze the juice and scrape the pulp from one lemon. Cut the other lemon into 8 slices. In a shallow roasting or baking pan, toss together the chicken, carrots, potatoes, onion, oil, lemon juice and pulp, oregano, salt and pepper until thoroughly coated. Place a lemon slice on each chicken piece. Roast, turning the veggies once or twice, until carrots and potatoes are tender and chicken is golden, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Serve hot with a green salad, if desired.

Irish Cream

By Barbara Beltrami

‘Tis a challenge to write about St. Patrick’s Day without resorting to the clichéd corned beef and cabbage. Sure and there are other Irish dishes that can also celebrate the wearin’ o’ the green.

There’s colcannon boiled potatoes and cabbage mashed together with butter and salt and pepper. Then there’s shepherd’s pie, a dish as hearty as they come, made with ground meat and veggies and topped with a mashed potato crust. I’d never made colcannon before, but after looking up a few recipes, it was easy to come up with my own version. I dug up shepherd’s pie from deep in my recipe files where I’d forgotten all about it and have happily restored it to my current repertoire. But I think my favorite is Irish cream, a whiskey blend with cream and an alcohol by volume content of 15 to 20 percent that will put green beer to shame.

Colcannon

 

Colcannon

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered

¼ pound unsalted butter

2 leeks (white and light green parts only) washed and thinly sliced

¼ large head cabbage, shredded

1¾ cups half-and-half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large saucepan over medium heat boil the potatoes in salted water until fork tender. Meanwhile in another large saucepan melt half the butter over medium heat, add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until soft; add half-and-half, stir and bring to simmer. Add potatoes, two tablespoons of the remaining butter and salt and pepper; stir and coarsely mash whole mixture. Transfer to serving bowl; melt final two tablespoons butter and drizzle over top.  Serve hot with fish, meat or poultry.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled in salted water until very tender

¼ pound unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup diced carrots

1½ pounds ground beef

½ cup vegetable or beef broth

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. While potatoes are boiling, melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Add the broth and continue to cook, covered, over medium heat until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in thawed peas and season with salt and pepper. Mash potatoes with remaining butter. Spread meat and vegetable mixture in an 8×13-inch greased baking dish; spread potatoes on top to form a crust; bake until mashed potatoes turn slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot with a crisp green salad.

Irish Cream

Irish Cream

YIELD: Makes approximately 6 cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup heavy cream

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1¾ cups Irish whiskey

½ cup coffee liqueur

¼ cup chocolate liqueur

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature with hot coffee, over ice or with crispy cookies such as biscotti or wafers. Top with whipped cream if desired.

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