Authors Posts by Barbara Beltrami

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Basil Pesto

By Barbara Beltrami

Have you ever known anyone who didn’t like the classic basil pesto? Easy to prepare in a matter of minutes, pesto is a no-fuss-no-cook-no-mess-no-fail concoction that is the invention of some ancient culinary genius in Genoa.

Pesto means sauce in Italian and although basil pesto is by far the best known and most popular version, it can actually be made from a variety of herbs and other ingredients. There are six basic ingredients to making pesto. There is the main ingredient such as basil or something with an intense distinctive flavor along with nuts, cheese, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. How much? Good question. It’s one of those things that you do by eye and taste. Although once in a while I tweak the amounts a little. I generally use a handful of the main ingredient, a handful of the nuts, a handful of the grated cheese, one clove of garlic, enough oil to give the pesto the right silky consistency and salt and pepper, to taste.

That being said, I will nevertheless provide you with a few recipes I like. In addition to the classic basil pesto, there are arugula and walnut pesto and sun-dried tomato and olive pesto, to name but a few I’ve tried. Though there’s no space to write about them all here, you might like to use the following recipes as models and also try mint and almond pesto, cilantro and pumpkin seed or spinach and hazelnut. Traditional old-fashioned Italian cooks claim the only real way to make pesto is to pound and grind it together with a mortar and pestle and would be mortified to know that I puree it all in my electric food processor. And while pesto is best loved when paired with pasta, it is also a fabulous embellishment for chicken, fish, omelets, crostini, vegetables and soups.

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

½ cup pignoli nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

One garlic clove

Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In an electric food processor puree all ingredients except the salt and pepper. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, then continue pureeing until mixture reaches a silky consistency. Remove from processor bowl and stir in the salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with spaghetti, gnocchi or a pasta that has a lot of grooves to hold the pesto; crostini, grilled fish, chicken, pork or veggies or as a garnish to soup.

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups arugula leaves

½ cup walnut pieces

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In an electric food processor, scraping sides of bowl often, puree all ingredients except salt and pepper. When mixture has achieved a slightly bumpy texture, remove from bowl and stir in salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with grilled beef, veggies, fowl or pork, on rye bread crostini, over wide noodles or rigatoni or as a garnish to soup.

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Pesto

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Pesto

YIELD: Makes 2½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

½ cup pitted oil-packed black olives

½ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¹/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

One clove garlic

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In an electric food processor, scraping sides of bowl often, puree all ingredients until mixture achieves a finely ground consistency. Serve at room temperature over pasta, on crostini or crackers, on grilled chicken, fish or veggies or as a garnish to soup.

By Barbara Beltrami

Like the weather this season, peaches have been remarkably good. If you read my column last week, you’ll remember that I talked about peaches and what ideal desserts are wrought from them. And I also promised you another column about them this week. Well, you’re in for a treat because I’m going to tell you about what wonderful ingredients or complements peaches are for savory dishes.

I’ll bet you’re thinking, “No thanks, I think I’ll just stick with the those peachy desserts.” That’s what I said the first time I was introduced to peaches in a savory dish. But then I became a convert, and you will too after you’ve tasted refreshing peach, arugula, Gorgonzola and pecan salad; peach salsa; and ginger-peachy pork chops.

And by the way, none of this means you can’t have peach dumplings, peach crisp, peach shortcake, peach pie, peach cobbler, peach ice cream or just sliced fresh peaches in wine for dessert. Hey, when they’re this good, you have to go for their gold.

Peach, Arugula, Pecan and Gorgonzola Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 1 small head radicchio, washed and shredded or chopped

1 bunch arugula, washed

1 large peach, sliced

¼ cup chopped pecans

¹/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, toss together the radicchio, arugula, peach and pecans. In a small bowl, vigorously whisk together the oil, vinegars, cheese, salt and pepper. Just before serving drizzle liquid mixture over radicchio mixture, toss to thoroughly coat, and serve immediately at room temperature with grilled chicken, beef, pork or shrimp.

Peach Salsa

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large peach, pared and chopped

1 medium tomato, chopped

½ cup seeded chopped jalapenos

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon fresh lime zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: Toss all ingredients together; serve at room temperature. Best if served immediately but can be prepared a couple of hours in advance. Serve with taco chips, crackers, grilled beef or chicken.

Ginger-Peachy Pork Chops

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or peanut oil

4 medium pork chops

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup broth

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 large firm peaches, sliced

1 tablespoon candied ginger, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS: In a medium skillet heat the oil. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. With the heat on medium high, brown the meat, about 2 minutes per side. While the chops are browning, in a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, orange and lemon juices and set aside.

Remove the pork chops from the pan and set aside. Add the broth, grated ginger, garlic, liquid mixture and peaches to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, over high heat until the sauce is thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pork chops, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until meat is cooked through and peaches are soft, about 10 minutes. Place chops on a platter, spoon sauce over them and sprinkle with candied ginger and peanuts. Serve with rice and stir-fried bok choy, broccoli and snap peas.

Peach Dumplings

By Barbara Beltrami

You know it’s really summer when the pyramids of peaches instead of apples greet you at the supermarket. You know it’s summer when you bite into a peach and the juice runs down your chin and forearm and you don’t even care. It’s when dessert is peach dumplings or peach crisp that you’ve baked early in the morning before the kitchen got too hot or you decided you’d really rather just lie in the shade or by the pool and read and nap. So get up with the birds this week, get those peachy desserts in the oven and stay tuned for next week’s column, Peachy Peaches Part II.

Peach Dumplings

Peach Dumplings

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Pastry for two-crust pie

6 just ripe medium freestone peaches

6 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

DIRECTIONS: Make pie pastry, form into a ball, seal in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Meanwhile, pare peaches and be careful to keep peaches as whole as possible. With the tip of a small sharp knife, cut down from stem end of peach into peach and cut around pit to remove it. Fill each cavity left by pit with one tablespoon sugar and one tablespoon butter. Remove pastry from refrigerator and on a lightly floured surface, roll the ball into a 10-inch by 15-inch rectangle, about one-eighth-inch thick. Cut into 6 equal squares. Place a peach on each square; mold pastry around it until peach is completely covered. Place pastry-covered peaches in a deep baking dish and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 F. In saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar with half a cup of water and, stirring constantly, cook 5 minutes. Spoon syrup over each dumpling. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F and, basting with syrup 2 or 3 times, bake 30 to 40 minutes more, until crust is light golden and a sharp knife inserted into peach meets no resistance. Serve at room temperature or warm with whipped cream, vanilla or peach ice cream.

Peach Crisp

Peach Crisp

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2½ pounds ripe peaches

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick soft unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease an 8- by 8- by 2-inch baking dish. Wash peaches; pare, if desired; remove pits. Slice peaches into prepared baking dish. Sift flour with sugar, salt, and cinnamon into medium bowl. With pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle evenly over peaches. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until topping is crisp and golden and peaches are bubbly and tender. Serve with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream.

Red Gazpacho

By Barbara Beltrami

As much as hot soup is a tummy warmer in cold weather, cold soup can be a real refresher in warm weather. Most cold soups are really just pureed veggies or fruits … gazpacho, borscht and vichyssoise, all coolers from different European cuisines, immediately come to mind. Surely the most popular is gazpacho. Think it’s just a puree of tomatoes, bread and other fresh veggies? Think again. That’s red gazpacho. But there’s also white gazpacho called “ajo bianco” made with cucumbers, almonds and green grapes. Or green gazpacho made with cucumber, tomatillo, arugula, avocado, scallions, cilantro and parsley.

Take your pick and don’t feel that you have to follow the ingredients list religiously. Throw in whatever you have as long as it doesn’t radically change the flavor or color. And adding fruits just makes it even better. Think watermelon for the red gazpacho, peeled apple or pear for the white, honeydew for the green. Just think of them as smoothies served in a bowl.

Classic Red Gazpacho

Red Gazpacho

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups fresh cored and chopped tomatoes

1½ cups peeled, chopped cucumber

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

½ cup water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 slices bread, cubed

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 cup or more canned tomato juice

6 scallions, sliced

DIRECTIONS: In an electric blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients except the scallions. Puree until smooth. Pour into a sieve and place over a bowl; press and stir to extract as much juice as possible; discard solids. Adjust seasonings if necessary by adding more salt and/or vinegar. If the mixture is too thick, add more tomato juice. Chill before serving; garnish with sliced scallions. Serve with taco chips, crusty bread with extra virgin olive oil, Spanish olives or manchego cheese or crudités.

White Gazpacho

White Gazpacho

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup seedless green grapes, washed and coarsely chopped

1 apple or ripe pear, pared and cored, cut into chunks

1 cup peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped cucumber

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

3 cups stale bread, coarsely chopped

½ cup milk

Coarse salt to taste

1 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 to 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Finely ground white pepper, to taste

More vinegar, if desired

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl combine grapes, apple or pear, cucumber, garlic, bread, milk, 2 cups of water, and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours. Transfer to a blender or food processor, add half the almonds, half a cup of the oil, the vinegar and salt and pepper. Blend until thick; add more water, a tablespoonful at a time, if too thick. Stir and press puree through a fine sieve into a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Pour mixture into individual bowls, drizzle with remaining quarter cup of oil, a little more vinegar if desired, and sprinkle with remaining half cup almonds. Serve chilled with chips, crackers or garlic bread.

Green Gazpacho

Green Gazpacho

 

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup wine vinegar (preferably white)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

One 8-ounce container plain Greek yogurt

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

2½ to 3 cups Italian or French bread, crusts removed

1 large cucumber, peeled, seed and cut into chunks

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

4 large tomatillos, husked and coarsely chopped

1 handful arugula leaves

1 handful cilantro leaves

1 handful parsley leaves

Flesh of one avocado

4 scallions, sliced

2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, yogurt and half a cup of the oil. Add remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly to be sure vegetables and bread are coated with liquid mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Puree chilled mixture, a little at a time. Combine all pureed batches and mix thoroughly; add water, a little at a time, if too thick. Ladle into 6 individual bowls and drizzle with remaining quarter cup olive oil. Serve with chips and salsa, tacos, cheese and crackers or bread dipped in olive oil.

Cherry Clafoutis

By Barbara Beltrami

There’s a bowl of cherries sitting on my kitchen counter, and every time I walk by and pop one into my mouth I think of Irving Berlin’s song about life being just a bowl of cherries and I think, “Really?” But then I remember another line from the song that says “…so live and laugh at it all” and I think, “OK, maybe he was right.”

Before I get any more philosophical, let’s talk about those cherries. True, they are wonderful on their own, and oh so nice to look at when they’re fresh and have a nice green stem and an unblemished dark shiny skin. Like most summer fruits, they don’t last long in that condition, but when they start to go, they also make a darn good clafoutis, pie or scone.

Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry Clafoutis

This a French skillet dessert with a flan-like filling and pitted or unpitted cherries. It couldn’t be easier or quicker to make unless you insist on pitting the cherries, which I always feel I should do if it’s for company.

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing

1¼ cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cherry liqueur or brandy

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

6 eggs

Pinch of salt or to taste

¾ cup flour

3 cups pitted or unpitted dark cherries, stems removed

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet or baking dish with butter. In a blender or food processor, combine the milk, sugar, liqueur, extracts, eggs, salt and flour; blend until smooth. Pour into skillet, then evenly scatter cherries on top. Bake until a golden crust has formed on top and bottom (lift gently with a spatula to check) and a sharp instrument inserted in center comes out clean. When cooled to warm or room temperature, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with iced coffee or tea in summer and hot coffee or tea in winter or a dessert wine any time.

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

Forever linked in American lore with George Washington and his honesty, cherry pie is so much more than the subject of a presidential tale. In fact, it may well be the queen of American fruit pies.

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 crusts for a 9-inch pie

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

2/3 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons butter

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. For the bottom crust, making sure it overlaps the edges, line a 9-inch pie plate with rolled-out dough. Mix cherries with tapioca, sugar and extract. Let stand for 15 minutes. Pour into pie plate. Dot with butter. Cover with a second circle of rolled-out dough (be sure to make slits so the steam can escape) or woven lattice strips cut from the dough. Bake 10 minutes at 450 F, then lower heat to 350 F and bake another 35 to 40 minutes, until crust is golden and cherry mixture is bubbly and thickened. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Scones

Cherry Scones

Serve these cherry scones warm from the oven and your guests are sure to enjoy them. Scones are traditionally served with jam and clotted cream, a British cross between butter and whipped cream; but it’s hard to find, bothersome to make and not for the uninitiated palate anyway. Really good Irish creamery butter is better, I think.

YIELD: Makes about 12 scones

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons

1 scant teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

5 tablespoons cold butter

3 eggs

¾ cup cream

½ cup pitted chopped fresh cherries

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. In a food processor, combine the two cups flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Using pulse button, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time until it is completely blended. Beat two of the eggs with the cream and pulse once or twice only to blend with ingredients in processor. Stir in the cherries (do not pulse). Scrape the dough onto a board dusted with the remaining two tablespoons flour. Knead 10 or 12 times, then press into a one-inch thick rectangle. Using a biscuit cutter or glass, cut dough into 2-inch rounds and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Being careful not to overwork it, press the remaining dough into a new rectangle and repeat procedure. Mix third egg with one tablespoon water and brush tops of scones with it. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Serve with butter and cherry jam, coffee or tea.

Pan Bagnat

By Barbara Beltrami

Some of you may remember Starkist’s Charlie the Tuna, the suicidal fish who boasted about the superiority of his peers who made it to the cannery. I don’t even know if he’s still around, but I do know that good tuna is a real treat whether it’s white albacore whipped into a salad with mayonnaise and celery and maybe a little onion or belly tuna packed in olive oil and served as part of an antipasto or just a fresh tuna steak, seasoned, then seared on the outside and rare or raw on the inside.

Beyond these basic and familiar tuna preparations are myriad dishes that seem to emanate particularly from the Mediterranean countries and are real palate pleasers. An unusual summer sandwich is something called pan bagnat, French for “wet bread,” composed of tuna, olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes and anchovies plus variable other ingredients on crusty French bread. Now think about a fresh grilled tuna burger with wasabi mayonnaise or tonnato sauce, a creamy tuna emulsion that is as good as a dip as it is as a sauce.

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One crisp-crusted baguette about 18 inches long

4 to 6 flat anchovies

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Two 6-ounce cans oil-packed tuna with their oil

One medium red onion, peeled and cut into thin rings

Two hard-boiled eggs, sliced thin

½ cup chopped Kalamata olives

One large firm ripe tomato, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS: Slice the baguette in half along its length. Scoop out enough of the soft part of the bread inside to make a well in each half. With a fork, evenly distribute the anchovies along the length of the bottom half of the bread. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and oil from tuna until it forms a creamy emulsion. Place the tuna, onion, eggs, olives and tomato in order given on top of anchovies. Drizzle oil mixture evenly over layered ingredients and immediately cover with top half of baguette. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, set on a flat surface at room temperature and weight down with a heavy skillet in which have been placed a couple of heavy cans or objects. Let sit at least two hours; then slice into four sandwiches. Serve with potato salad or chips, fruit and cheese and a light red wine or ice cold beer.

Tuna Burger with Wasabi Mayonnaise

Tuna Burger with Wasabi Mayonnaise

 

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

1 pound ahi or sushi-grade tuna, finely chopped

One egg, beaten ¼ cup minced onion

½ cup bread crumbs

Coarse sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon wasabi powder

1/4 cup mayonnaise

4 hamburger rolls

1 cup lettuce leaves, washed and dried

4 slices tomato

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce and pepper flakes. Add tuna, egg, onion, bread crumbs and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and form into four patties, cover and refrigerate half an hour. Meanwhile, preheat grill on high and mix wasabi powder with two teaspoons warm water; add resulting paste to mayonnaise and mix thoroughly. Grill tuna patties one and a half minutes on each side for rare, longer for medium and well done. Place on bottom halves of rolls, top with lettuce and tomato and spread top halves with wasabi mayonnaise. Serve immediately with potato chips or french fries and cole slaw.

Tonnato (Tuna) Sauce or Dip

Tonnato Dip

YIELD: Makes 1½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

One 4-ounce jar Italian oil-packed tuna with oil

3 anchovy filets, chopped

1½ tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/3 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Puree all ingredients in electric food processor until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with crostini, potato chips, crackers, crudités or over simply seasoned pork, fish, chicken, veal or pasta.

By Barbara Beltrami

As June winds down, parties rev up to celebrate graduations, weddings, showers, reunions and everything in between. While hors d’oeuvres from supermarket and warehouse freezers are wonderful and handy, on a hot day nobody really wants to be stuck sliding trays in and out of an oven while everybody else is playing Marco Polo in the pool. Chips with salsa or guacamole may be the default munchies, but, because they are just that, they’re not fare for special occasions. Here are two recipes for hors d’oeuvres that are special but easy to put together and sure to please your guests. Each has at least one popular ingredient and makes a festive presentation as well as a delicious nibble. Picture bruschette with fresh tomatoes and arugula, ham rolls with melon and radishes and endive leaves stuffed with herbed goat cheese.

Bruschette with Fresh Tomatoes and Arugula

Bruschette with Fresh Tomatoes and Arugula

This is the go-to hors d’oeuvre with or without the arugula in many parts of Italy. It is pronounced “broo-skeh-tay.”

YIELD: Makes 12 bruschette

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped

12 basil leaves, chopped

Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

12 fresh arugula leaves

12 slices crusty Italian bread

3 garlic cloves, peeled

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Place mixture in a strainer or colander and let stand at room temperature at least one hour to drain remaining juices. Place back in bowl, add olive oil and mix thoroughly. Preheat broiler, grill or oven. Toast bread until lightly browned and crisp on both sides, 5 to 10 minutes depending on heat temperature. Remove from heat and immediately rub each slice with garlic clove. Heap tomato mixture onto bread and place an arugula leaf on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled light and dry white wine, prosecco, iced tea, lemonade, beer, cocktails or sparkling water with lemon or lime.

Ham Rolls with Melon and Radishes

This is a takeoff on the ever popular melon and prosciutto. The saltiness of the ham, the sweetness of the melon and the crispness and heat of the radishes complement each other.

YIELD: Makes 18 rolls

INGREDIENTS:

18 very thin slices Virginia or Black Forest ham or prosciutto

18 half-inch-thick sticks cantaloupe or honeydew melon

2/3 cup shredded or finely chopped radishes

½ cup chopped basil

DIRECTIONS: On a tray, platter or board, lay out the ham slices, a few at a time. Place a melon stick at one edge of each slice, sprinkle with radishes and basil and roll tightly, starting at filled edge. If necessary insert one or two toothpicks to hold each roll together. Stack on plate or platter. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with beer, cocktails, rose or Beaujolais wine, sangria, iced tea, lemonade or flavored sparkling water.

Endive Leaves Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs

Endive Leaves Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs

This hors d’oeuvre is good in all seasons but especially in the summer when herbs are freshly picked and have intense flavors.

YIELD: Makes 18 to 24 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

Two endives

One 3- or 4-ounce log plain goat cheese, softened

3 to 4 ounces whipped cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons cream or milk

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

¼ cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Tear or cut the endive leaves from the head; wash and dry. Arrange on platter. In a medium bowl, beat together the goat cheese, cream cheese, cream, herbs and salt and pepper. Spread mixture evenly among leaves. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with chilled dry white wine, cocktails, iced tea, lemonade, white sangria or chilled sparkling water with lemon or lime.

Strawberry Layer Cake

By Barbara Beltrami

Here it is the middle of June and finally the weather has caught up with the calendar. Despite all the rain and unseasonably cold weather that descended upon us at the beginning of the month, local strawberries, undaunted, have made their timely appearance, thank goodness.

Like most other fruits and vegetables, our local strawberries are so much more flavorful than the imported ones we get throughout the year. More sweet and juicy, they easily lend themselves to being eaten without any adornment. But if you insist, a little sugar and some heavy cream poured over them suffices. And if you want to make them the focus of a fancier dish, there are always plenty to choose from.

Although there are many who swear that strawberries are good in savory dishes such as strawberry risotto, strawberry-tomato soup, and strawberry-jalapeno-avocado salsa, give me a strawberry layer cake or a strawberry cheese tart with chocolate crumb.

Strawberry Layer Cake

Strawberry Layer Cake

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

5 to 6 egg whites (depending on size of eggs)

1/8 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ cup sifted cake flour

¾ cup sugar, sifted

1 quart strawberries, washed and dried

3 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup orange juice

1 pint heavy cream

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pint strawberry ice cream, slightly softened

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 10- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan. Beat egg whites until frothy and just stiff enough to form peaks, but not dry; sprinkle salt and cream of tartar over top. Gradually and gently sift in ¾ cup of sugar with flour. Gradually add mixture into egg whites, folding it in as you do so. Turn into ungreased loaf pan and bake for 25 minutes or until done. Invert pan onto rack and let stand for one hour or until cool.

Meanwhile hull and slice half the strawberries (leave the remaining half whole but cut off stems); mash the sliced ones with 3 tablespoons sugar and orange juice. Using an electric mixer or egg beater, whip the cream with ¼ cup sugar and vanilla extract. Slice the cake into three layers; spread the mashed strawberries over one layer, then place second layer over them; spread the strawberry ice cream over that layer and top with the third layer. With a spatula spread the whipped cream over top and sides of cake and place whole strawberries, pointed end up, on top. Serve immediately with hot coffee or tea or ice cold milk.

Strawberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Crumb Crust

Strawberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Crumb Crust

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

¾ stick unsalted butter, melted

1 ounce semisweet baking chocolate

One 9-ounce package chocolate wafers, finely crumbled

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, dried and hulled

1/3 cup melted red currant jelly

DIRECTIONS: Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. In double boiler, melt butter and chocolate. In medium bowl, combine mixture with cookie crumbs. Press into pie plate. Refrigerate for one hour. In another medium bowl, gradually whisk together the cream cheese and milk; add lemon juice and vanilla and stir thoroughly. Pour into chilled pie crust; top with whole strawberries, pointed end up. Brush with jelly. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving with coffee, tea or milk.

Strawberry Margaritas

Strawberry Margaritas

 

YIELD: Makes 4 margaritas

INGREDIENTS:

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, dried and sliced

2½ cups crushed ice

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup sugar

5 lime wedges

¼ cup orange liqueur

¼ cup coarsely ground sea salt

4 sprigs of mint

DIRECTIONS: In a blender, combine strawberries, ice, lime juice, sugar and orange liqueur. Pulse until smooth. Rub rim of each glass with a lime wedge, then turn glass upside down and dip in salt to coat. Pour into four cocktail glasses and garnish each glass with a lime wedge and sprig of mint. Serve with pesto crostini, salsa and tortilla chips, a wedge of manchego cheese, tacos, burritos or empanadas.

Rhubarb Pie

By Barbara Beltrami

Rhubarb. You either like it or you don’t. Or you never liked it when you were a kid, but now you do. Or maybe you’ve never even had it. But here it is growing and appearing in gardens or produce departments as another harbinger of spring into summer. It can be eaten raw or cooked, in a dessert, sauce, salsa or chutney; but it does require sugar as on its own it is very sour. And just remember: It’s the stalks you eat, not the leaves. They’re poisonous.

Most people think of rhubarb as strawberry’s other half. That’s probably because strawberries and rhubarb ripen pretty much simultaneously and do complement each other. There are lots of strawberry festivals going on and next week I will write about them. But for now, let’s just talk about rhubarb, for which there are no festivals that I know of. What a shame.

Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb Pie

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Two 9-inch or larger pie crusts, preferably homemade

5 cups washed, trimmed and sliced rhubarb

1¼ cups sugar

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Roll out one pie crust to a few inches larger than the bottom of the pie plate and drape the excess over the rim. In a large bowl, make the filling by mixing the rhubarb, sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Spread filling evenly over crust, dot with butter. Roll out the top crust the same way and place evenly over filling. Wet your fingers with ice water, then fold and press edges together on top of rim, and with a small pointed knife, make a few slits in the crust. Bake 15 minutes at 450 F, then another 20 to 25 minutes at 350 F. Pie is ready when crust is golden and some juice bubbles through slits. Serve with vanilla ice cream, sweetened whipped cream or crème fraiche.

Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

For the topping:

1 cup flour

1/3 cup oats (not quick cooking)

¾ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 stick of unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup chopped almonds

For the rhubarb mixture:

Butter for greasing baking dish

2½–3 pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces (you should end up with about 2 pounds or 8 cups)

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously grease an 8-inch by 8-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. For the topping, in a medium bowl combine the flour, oats, sugar, salt, melted butter and almonds. Refrigerate one hour or until ready to use. For the rhubarb mixture, in a large bowl thoroughly combine the rhubarb, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake about 45 minutes or until top is golden and slightly crispy and filling is bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or strawberry ice cream or whipped cream.

Rhubarb Sauce

Rhubarb Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces

1/3–1/2 cup sugar or to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook rhubarb and sugar together, stirring occasionally, until they reach a mushy but thick consistency, about 20 to 30 minutes. (Rhubarb will release a lot of water, but you can add about ¼ cup of water to start, if you wish.) That’s it! Serve on vanilla ice cream.

Quiche Lorraine

By Barbara Beltrami

Of all my memories from my travels, one of the clearest and most poignant is a picnic lunch on a riverbank in the Dordogne area of France. After a long walk through meadows and the cobblestoned streets of tiny villages, across bridges and down rutted roads, what our guide had told us would be a modest lunch prepared by his fiancée turned out to be an incredibly sumptuous feast of everything one fantasizes about in such a setting.

I still remember the platters of freshly cut melon with delicate slices of ham, local farm fresh cheeses and butter, pates with cornichons, thick slices of juicy homegrown tomatoes and fresh picked delicate greens with just a touch of vinaigrette, long crusty baguettes still warm from the oven, ruby red cherries and the piece de resistance — not one but three different quiches made, of course, with vegetables from their garden, eggs from their chickens and cream from their cow.

I’ve made many a fancy lunch and many a quiche in my day, but none will ever come close to those. I have neither the quality of ingredients nor that setting with its perfect ambiance. But I have often tried to imitate if not duplicate those quiches. The recipes that follow for Quiche Lorraine, Zucchini Quiche and Spinach and Mushroom Quiche are the closest I’ve gotten. Bon appétit!

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Pastry for one 9-inch pie

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

4 strips crispy cooked bacon, lightly crumbled

1 cup shredded Gruyere or Emmenthaler (Swiss) cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups half-and-half

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch quiche pan or pie plate with pastry and bake 5 minutes. In a small skillet, sauté onion in butter until softened and opaque. Sprinkle bacon, onion and cheeses over bottom of baked pastry. With a wire whisk thoroughly combine eggs, half-and-half, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Pour mixture onto pie crust. Bake the quiche 15 minutes at 450 F, then reduce oven temperature to 350 F and bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Serve hot or warm with onion soup, arugula salad and a French baguette.

Zucchini Quiche

Zucchini Quiche

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 9-inch pie crust

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2/3–¾ lb zucchini, washed, halved lengthwise then very thinly sliced crosswise

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1½ cups half-and-half

3 large eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 ounces Emmenthaler (Swiss), Jarlsberg or Gruyere cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Line bottom and sides of 9-inch quiche pan or pie dish with pie crust and bake 5 minutes. In large skillet melt butter; add oil. Add zucchini and onion and sauté until tender and just starting to turn golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. In medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the half-and-half, eggs and salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese, zucchini and onions evenly over bottom of crust. Pour in egg mixture. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with garlic bread and sliced tomatoes with olive oil, basil and vinegar.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 9-inch pie crust

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup cleaned fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 cup cooked, drained and chopped fresh or frozen spinach

2/3 cup grated Emmenthaler (Swiss) cheese

1/3 cup crumbled blue or Roquefort cheese

1 3/4 cups half-and-half

3 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch quiche pan or pie plate with crust and bake 5 minutes. In small skillet, melt butter, add mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat; add prepared spinach and toss with mushrooms and remaining melted butter to coat. Sprinkle evenly in pie dish, then sprinkle the two cheeses on top. In medium bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs and salt and pepper. Pour into pie plate. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with a salad of fennel, endive, radicchio, fresh or dried fruits, chopped walnuts and a French baguette.