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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.

Cheesecake With Cherry Glaze. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Cheesecake has to be one of the most popular desserts around. I mean, who doesn’t like cheesecake? I have two versions that have been in my recipe file for as long as I can remember. 

One, a rich and creamy decadent version is called Cousin Edith’s Cheesecake. I have no cousin named Edith, nor do I know whose cousin she is; I just know that ages ago I found it in one of those ancient spiral bound ladies auxiliary fundraiser cookbooks languishing at a yard sale. My eye was drawn to it because of all the recipes there, it was the only one on a stained and dog-eared page, always a sign of a cook’s or baker’s favorite. 

Another recipe for Italian Ricotta Cheesecake, much lighter but equally delicious, was found in my mother-in-law’s scrawl tucked into an old address book many years ago and has undergone a slight updating for modern kitchen appliances. They both are real company pleasers and travel well when it’s my turn to bring dessert. 

Cousin Edith’s Cheesecake With Cherry Glaze

Cheesecake With Cherry Glaze. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

11/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup melted unsalted butter

¼ cup sugar

Two 8-ounce bricks cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 eggs

1 cup light cream

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup cherry juice

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan. In medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and quarter-cup of sugar; press into bottom and partially up sides of pan. Bake for 10 minutes; let cool slightly. While it is cooling, in large mixer bowl beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy, about one minute; add sugar and flour. Mix well. Blend in eggs, one at a time; then stir in cream and vanilla. Pour mixture into crumb-lined pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until set in middle. Turn off oven; let sit in oven another 30 minutes. Cool before removing rim. 

Meanwhile, in small saucepan combine cherry juice, two tablespoons sugar and cornstarch. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly, place cake on serving plate and pour cherry glaze on top. Serve with coffee, tea or dessert wine.

Ricotta Cheesecake

YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest

1½ cups sugar

½ cup flour

3 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan, place pan on a 12-inch square of aluminum foil and mold it tightly around bottom and sides of pan. In a large bowl beat eggs, vanilla and zest just until blended. Beat in sugar and flour. In a food processor or blender, puree ricotta until very smooth; then add to the egg mixture and stir well. Pour batter into prepared pan and place pan in a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of hot water on middle rack of oven. 

Bake for 1½ hours or until a knife inserted 2 inches from center of cake comes out clean. Turn off oven. Prop oven door open with a wooden spoon and let cake cool there for half an hour. Remove from oven; remove foil and cool completely on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve chilled or at room temperature with amaretto, hazelnut liqueur or espresso.

Steamed Soft-Shell Clams and Mussels in Garlic and White Wine. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

We are so lucky. It’s summer and we live on Long Island and if there’s one thing we’re known for it’s our miles and miles of beaches skirting the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island Sound and several bays in between. To spend a day “by the sea, by the beautiful sea,” to play in the sand and surf, and then to dine on its bounty is the essence of summer for us.

When we’re exhilarated and exhausted by the salt air and sunshine, nothing makes a more perfect ending to the day than tucking into a seafood dinner. Of course, it must start off with freshly shucked, ice cold clams and oysters, and if a good sea breeze is kicking up, a bowl of chunky chowder keeps everyone happy until the steamers and mussels have relinquished themselves to their garlic and wine bath.

But all these briny appetizers are just a tease leading to the main attraction: lobsters grilled to charred succulence accompanied by Long Island spuds, a bowlful of husk-wrapped corn, another bowl of tender young greens from the garden — all chased down, of course, with a Long Island chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.

Then finally, there is the moment when, content with the conviviality of the gathering, sated with the taste of the sea, we sit back, contemplate the sunset, sip a mug of good strong coffee and find room somehow, somewhere, for fresh Long Island strawberry cobbler crowned by dollops of vanilla ice cream.

Steamed Soft-Shell Clams and Mussels in Garlic and White Wine

Steamed Soft-Shell Clams and Mussels in Garlic and White Wine. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 dozen soft-shell clams, scrubbed

4 dozen mussels, scrubbed

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bay leaf

6 bruised garlic cloves

1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup dry white wine

½ pound unsalted butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse clams and mussels under cold running water; place in large pot with two cups of water, oil, herbs and wine; steam until shells open, 6 to 8 minutes. Discard any whose shells don’t open.  With slotted spoon remove clams and mussels from broth and divide evenly among individual soup bowls; discard herbs. Strain broth through a sieve or cheesecloth and pour into individual bowls or cups. Serve clams, mussels and broth immediately with melted butter for dipping.

Clam and Garden Vegetable Chowder

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 quarts freshly shucked clams in liquor

½ pound diced bacon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions, diced

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 large celery rib, cleaned and diced

1 fennel bulb, cleaned and diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced

One 28-ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes with their juice

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Drain and reserve liquor from clams; rinse clams in cold water, chop and set aside. Strain liquor through fine sieve or cheesecloth; set aside.

In a large pot, cook bacon pieces until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels; add olive oil to bacon fat, then onions, pepper, zucchini, celery, fennel, carrots and potatoes; stir to coat thoroughly and cook, stirring frequently until fat and oil are absorbed and vegetables have started to change color and consistency, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes with their juice and enough water to cover veggies; cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender, about one hour. Add bacon, clams and their liquid, herbs and seasoning; cook until just heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately with oyster crackers.

By Barbara Beltrami

For Mother’s Day I wrote about moms loving salads. And it’s true. For Father’s Day I’m writing about dads loving hefty stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts because, chauvinistic as it sounds, it’s also true. Hopefully you don’t get picked up by the cholesterol police for the Father’s Day breakfast I’m about to share with you, but I know Dad will love the Steak and Eggs with Bloody Mary Sauce and Garlic Bread, the Drunken Melon Balls and the ‘Cappuccino’ Smoothie, so much that it will be worth it for one beautiful June morning.

Steak and Eggs with Bloody Mary Sauce

Steak and Eggs with Bloody Mary Sauce

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 1½–2 pound flank steak

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup chopped fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

One crusty baguette

One stick unsalted butter, softened

3 large garlic cloves, minced

One 14-ounce can tomato sauce

¼ cup prepared horseradish, well-drained

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

4 ounces unsalted butter

6 extra large eggs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to high setting. Brush steak on both sides with olive oil, then sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper. Slice baguette in half lengthwise; spread each half with butter, then sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper. Cut into 6 pieces with tops and bottoms together, reassemble and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Grill steak 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, for medium rare, more or less for other desired doneness. Remove from grill, let sit for 10 minutes, then slice and set aside to keep warm.

Place garlic bread on upper rack or off to side of main grill rack; turn once or twice; remove when heated through and crust feels slightly hard to the touch, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan, over medium heat, mix and cook the tomato sauce, horseradish, oil, and lemon juice, stirring occasionally, until bubbly and thick. On iron griddle, melt the 4 ounces of butter, then fry eggs to desired doneness. On a large platter assemble sliced steak, eggs and garlic bread. Pour Bloody Mary Sauce over steak. Serve immediately with a “Cappuccino” Smoothie and Drunken Melon Balls.

Drunken Melon Balls

Drunken Melon Balls

 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 baby watermelon

½ cantaloupe, seeds removed

¼ honeydew, seeds removed

½ cup vodka or white rum

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

1 lime, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

With a melon baller, scoop balls from melons and place them in a large bowl. Toss with vodka or rum, cover and refrigerate at least one hour, tossing them several times in between. Transfer to chilled glasses, garnish with mint and a lime slice and serve with “Cappuccino” Smoothie, Steak and Eggs or Danish pastries.

‘Cappuccino’ Smoothie

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups coffee yogurt

1 cup whole or 2% milk

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder

½ cup sugar or to taste

1 cup ice cubes

¼ cup coffee liqueur

Ground cinnamon

Shaved chocolate

DIRECTIONS:

Place all ingredients except cinnamon and shaved chocolate in jar of electric blender, pulse a few times, then process until thick and foamy. Sprinkle with cinnamon and shaved chocolate. Serve immediately with steak and eggs, Drunken Melon Balls, muffins or croissants.

Annabelle’s Key Lime Cheesecake

By Barbara Beltrami

People who live in hot climates know about limes. They use them lavishly in savory and sweet dishes as well as drinks and know just how refreshing their taste can be, particularly if they’re key limes, which have an extra intense flavor and tartness. I think a lime dessert on a balmy evening under the stars or as a pick-me-up with just a glass of iced tea or coffee on a steamy afternoon is the supreme finale and palate pleaser when something sweet is in order. Here are three winners to take your taste buds to some really cool places.

Tea Lime Cookies

YIELD: Makes about 2 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup milk

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest

1¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl combine the two teaspoons lime juice and milk; let sit about 5 minutes. In a large bowl use electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg with lime zest; then stir in lime juice-milk mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; blend into butter mixture; drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, until edges are pale brown. Let cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice and confectioners’ sugar. Brush onto cooled cookies. Serve with iced tea or iced coffee.

Annabelle’s Key Lime Cheesecake

Annabelle’s Key Lime Cheesecake

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons sugar

½ stick unsalted butter, melted

2½ eight-ounce bricks cream cheese, softened

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons flour

¾ cup Key lime juice

Dash vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, two tablespoons sugar and melted butter. Press onto bottom and partly up sides of a greased 10-inch spring form pan. Bake 5 to 10 minutes; cool on wire rack.

In a large bowl using a mixer on medium-high speed beat cream cheese and three-quarters cup of sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time; then beat in remaining ingredients until mixture is smooth; pour into cooled crust. Bake in 375 F oven for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 250 F and bake another 45 to 55 minutes, until mixture is just set.

Remove from oven, cool on wire rack, cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours. Remove from pan, top with whipped cream if desired, and serve chilled with coffee, tea or honeydew liqueur.

Alice’s Key Lime Pie

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest

One 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk

2/3 cup Key lime juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press mixture onto bottom and sides of 8- or 9-inch pie plate. Bake about 10 minutes; cool in plate on wire rack. While crust is cooling, using wire whisk attachment to mixer, beat egg yolks with lime zest until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk and continue to beat until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes longer. With mixer speed on low, add lime juice and beat just until blended, no longer. Pour into crust and bake about 10 minutes, until filling is barely set (a knife inserted in center should come out clean). Cool to room temperature, refrigerate, then freeze for half an hour before serving. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin topped with Gremolata

By Barbara Beltrami

A little sprig for a garnish, another little sprig to chop and sprinkle on top, a tablespoon here, a tablespoon there, but hardly ever the center of attention. And so it goes with parsley, actually perhaps the most agreeable, versatile, recipe-friendly herb in the garden. What a pity it is so unsung, so taken for granted because it really can figure significantly in a tabbouleh, gremolata or cream of parsley soup. While curly parsley may be prettier, the flat-leaf variety is definitely preferred for its flavor. So cook up some dishes with the latter, but garnish them with the former and enjoy them both. And by the way, I’ve just planted my garden so you haven’t heard the last from me on the subject of herbs. Stay tuned.

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup bulgur wheat

1½ cups boiling water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of two small lemons

Salt to taste

1 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into ½-inch pieces

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

Freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, combine the bulgur wheat, boiling water, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Stir well, then let sit at room temperature for one hour. Add the parsley, mint, scallions, cucumber and tomatoes; add pepper and more salt if needed; toss and cover; let sit at room temperature for an hour or two. Toss again and serve at room temperature or chilled with fish, poultry or meat and tzatziki.

Gremolata

Roasted Beef Tenderloin
topped with Gremolata

YIELD: Makes ¾ to 1 cup

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves

Zest of one small lemon

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse several times until mixture is semismooth. With rubber spatula, scrape sides of bowl and pulse 4 or 5 more times. Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Serve with fish, poultry or meat.

Cream of Parsley Soup

Cream of Parsley Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 bunches Italian flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 Vidalia onion, diced

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup light or heavy cream or half-and-half

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

1 pint sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare a large bowl with ice water; layer several sheets of paper towels. In a large saucepan bring 1½ quarts of water to a boil; drop parsley into water and boil until soft and bright green, about 1 to 1½ minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove parsley and drop gently into ice water. When cool, remove and squeeze out excess water; place on paper towels and squeeze out any remaining liquid. Chop parsley and set aside. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat; add garlic and onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add broth and cream and stirring frequently, cook over medium heat until slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add parsley and salt and pepper; stir and cook another 5 minutes.

Let cool slightly; transfer to food processor or blender, add lemon juice and puree until smooth. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and accompanied by a dry white wine and toasted baguette slices drizzled with olive oil.

Stock photo

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.