Roast Chicken. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

I never thought I’d be living through a time of pandemic virus and quarantines. In light of that, writing about food seems rather frivolous.  Or does it? After all, we still have to eat and build our resistance, and we have to eat well.  

With cabin fever, boredom and fear occupying our very existence, there seem to be very few pleasures left to us. So why not turn to food, the comfort that never quits. If your pantry, fridge and freezer are well stocked, and I hope they are, it’s a good time to take to the stove and oven and revitalize your cooking and baking skills, your appetite and your spirits.  

This is a time for comfort food. Make some soups and freeze them; skim off some broth for future use (just in case). Use up leftovers in casseroles and stews; revert to the habits of our ancestors who wasted nothing. Bake a batch of cookies or brownies and whip up some soothing puddings and custards. Clean out the pantry, fridge and freezer to make room for new additions. Use long forgotten items, if they’re still okay, as the inspiration for creative concoctions. 

Here are two recipes for the ultimate in comfort food, Roast Chicken and Pot Roast.

Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken. Stock photo

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.


One 3 to 4 pound chicken, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed and patted dry 

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs


Preheat oven to 475 F. Remove innards and rub inside cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, herbs (sage, rosemary and parsley work well) and salt and pepper. Drizzle half the oil mixture over chicken, then turn so breast side is up and drizzle remaining mixture over it. 

Roast until breast starts to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 F. Baste with pan juices and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 to 165 F, about 50 to 60 minutes. 

When chicken is ready, tip pan so juices run from cavity into pan, remove bird to platter or cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer juices to small saucepan and skim off as much fat from juices as possible. Reheat juice and pour over carved chicken. Serve hot or warm with rice or potatoes and a salad or green veggie. (Reserve carcass for chicken soup.)

Pot Roast

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.


One 3 1/2 to 4 pound beef brisket

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup oil

4 smashed garlic cloves

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

6 carrots , peeled and cut into large chunks

2 celery ribs, cut into quarters

1 bay leaf

2 cups dry red wine

3 cups beef or vegetable broth

One 14 ounce can whole plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with their juice


Preheat oven to 325 F. In a large Dutch oven heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the brisket with salt and pepper and add it to the pot, fat side down. Cook until dark brown, about 5 minutes; turn and cook 5 more minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent and start to brown, about 10 minutes. 

Return brisket to pot, add wine, broth and tomatoes, cover and place in oven. Cook, turning once, for 3 hours. Remove brisket, remove celery and bay leaf from pot and discard. Mash vegetables in pot, then over medium-high heat, cook veggies and liquid until reduced and somewhat thickened, about 10 minutes. Return brisket to pot; over medium-low heat, cook in liquid until heated through, about 10 minutes. Remove brisket from pot, slice, place on platter and smother with liquid. Serve immediately with noodles or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Potatoes Duchess

By Barbara Beltrami

Everybody loves potatoes. Everybody cooks potatoes, and everybody eats potatoes (unless they’re on a crash diet). Mashed, baked, home fries, French fries, roasted, chips, salad, boiled and steamed and more. They lend themselves to so many preparations and cooking methods that it’s no wonder they’re the staple of many diets and figure largely in cuisines all over the world. 

But good as potatoes are, even they get boring. So here are a few recipes that take potatoes to a new level where they are so delicious that they’re sure to nudge over even the crispiest of French fries and the creamiest of mashed potatoes. One is for a rösti, a Swiss version of a large potato pancake. Another is for Hasselbacks, russets cut accordion-style, drenched with butter and olive oil and cooked to golden perfection. And the third is for Duchess potatoes, mashed and then baked to fluffy scrumptiousness.


YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings


1 pound potatoes, peeled

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil


In a large bowl or food processor coarsely grate potatoes; thoroughly mix in salt and pepper; let mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a second bowl (and don’t worry about any discoloring). 

Over medium-high heat, pour oil into heavy 8-inch skillet; test oil by dropping in a potato shred, and if it sizzles, it’s ready. Being careful of a few inevitable spatters, gently drop mixture by handfuls into hot oil, starting with center of pan and moving outward to edges; using the back of a spoon or spatula, flatten into an even pancake. Lower heat but keep it high enough to maintain a good sizzle (don’t let bottom brown too quickly), about 15 minutes. 

Carefully slide rösti onto a dinner plate; keep skillet over heat. Put another dinner plate over rösti and holding the two plates tightly together, invert them so brown bottom of pancake is now on top. Remove top plate and slide rösti back into skillet, brown side up. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender and new bottom is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Slide onto platter, cut into wedges and serve hot with meat, poultry or fish and a green vegetable.

Potatoes Duchess

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Ground nutmeg to taste

2 eggs lightly beaten with 2 egg yolks


In a large pot of boiling salted water cook potatoes, covered, until soft but not mushy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and dry them by shaking them in pan over heat. Put potatoes through a sieve or ricer, add butter, salt and pepper, nutmeg, eggs and egg yolks; beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until very smooth and fluffy. Preheat broiler; place potato mixture in a pastry bag and pipe into desired shapes or portions in a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet; place under broiler to brown on top. Serve immediately with a fine cut of beef or delicate fish.


YIELD: Makes 6 servings


1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup snipped chives

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 russet potatoes


Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl whisk together the butter, olive oil, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper. Lay potatoes on a cutting board and place the handles of two wooden cooking spoons alongside them lengthwise (this will prevent your cutting all the way through to their bottoms). Cut potatoes into quarter-inch slices leaving 1/4 inch at bottom so they are still attached. Place potatoes in a shallow baking pan and, being sure to get into crevices, brush evenly with butter mixture. Bake until crisp and tender, about one hour. Serve immediately with grilled meat, poultry or fish.

‘This book is a love affair with seaside eating.’ 
—  from the Foreword by Gael Greene

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Co-author Hillary Davis

Hillary Davis and Stacy Dermont have collaborated on a book that is more than just a collection of recipes. It is an engagingly written celebration of not just seasonal cooking but local sourcing. They have brought together multiple elements of Long Island and channeled them into a guide that is both entertaining and practical. The love for their home is furthered in its citing of neighborhood farms and businesses and the plethora of ingredients that they provide to make magic in the kitchen.

“Over many meals and food-oriented adventures,” writes Davis, “we came to the conclusion that we wanted to share what we love about this very special part of the world. … In the way we have chosen to live, we shop at our local farm stands and farmers’ markets for most or all of our fresh produce, as much to revel in the amazing quality and choice as to feel as if we are taking part in preserving our small-farm heritage.”  

This local-centric ideology is a passion for both writer-chefs and this clearly honest zeal continues throughout the book. Prior to each recipe there is a succinct and informative narrative piece: a personal anecdote or a slice of hyperlocal detail. Both authors pen in a homey narrative, as if they are sharing a bit of themselves as they prepare the plethora of repasts. Whether it’s a history of the ingredients or a “one time when” they enrich the entire reading experience.

In the first part of the book, there is a discussion about the importance of pairings of food to beverages. Their thesis is that they should amplify or contrast to enhance the meal. Davis and Dermont explain each and propose a local drink as complement.  Most often, there is a recommendation of a product from one of the 60 local wineries, 40 craft breweries, or one of the many distilleries or cideries. Sometimes, they simply advise an herbal tea. These details are a wonderful augmentation.

Co-author Stacy Dermont

The book proper is divided by seasons:  spring, low summer, high summer, fall and winter. Presented is a very detailed list of what is in season and when, a list that should be kept nearby throughout the year. There is even a plea for “Nothing Goes to Waste” with ideas for using remnants in making stock or composting.

Each section of the book contains small plates, salads, main courses and desserts. In the hundred recipes, there is  a nice mix of well-loved and new dishes as well as unique takes on popular favorites.

It is a tribute to the clarity of the writing that even the more complicated and challenging recipes are explained in such a way that novice cooks can accomplish them. They are given step by step with just the right amount of detail. There are also instructions on topics ranging from the roasting of garlic to the blanching of fresh bamboo shoots to the selection and cooking of clams. This is a wealth of knowledge, expertly shared. 

It would be impossible to highlight all of the wonderful choices that are on offer:  Potato Cheesecake with Caramel Crust, Kale Poppers, Blue Cheese Chicken with Strawberry Salsa, Long Island Duck Breasts with Duck Walk Vineyards Blueberry Port Sauce, BLT Macaroni Salad with Ham Crisps, So Many Tomatoes Sauce over Spaghetti Squash, Peconic Bay Scallops with Riesling Cream, Roasted Montauk Pearl Oysters, Wine Country Beef Stew, Cider-Poached Apples on a Cloud of Cider-Sweetened Ricotta … there is not just something for everyone — there is a bounty of culinary joys.

Special note should be made of the original photography by Barbara Lassen. Lassen’s keen eye brings the dishes to life in dazzling and vivid colors, further reminding us that there is a special multifaceted aesthetic involved in this entire process. 

Davis and Dermont’s The Hamptons Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes Pairing Land and Sea will make a wonderful addition to culinary libraries throughout the Island. But even more importantly, it will find its best home in kitchens for many years to come.

The cookbook is available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon and will be in bookstores by April 7. For upcoming book signings, please visit

Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

There’s the supermarket flyer with perfect slabs of corned beef surrounded by perfect wedges of cabbage and perfect orbs of boiled potatoes. But who says that’s the only way to serve that traditional St. Patrick’s Day fare? Let’s go modern. Let’s think about corned beef and cabbage stew, corned beef and cabbage sliders or reubens or corned beef stuffed cabbage. In fact, how about a corned beef and cabbage pizza? They’re all different and delicious, and they can be cooked or at least assembled, in some cases, ahead of time. That leaves you more time to celebrate the wearin’ o’ the green.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.


2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

4 cups sliced cabbage

1 quart chicken broth

2 cups water

6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 2” chunks

1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 3-pound corned beef brisket with spice packet

3 cups chopped potatoes


In a large pot heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly wilted. Add broth, water, carrots, parsley, salt and pepper, corned beef and contents of spice packet. Cover and cook over low heat until corned beef is tender about 2 1/2 to 3 hours or according to package directions. Remove meat and let sit for 15 minutes. Cut into 2” cubes and return along with potatoes to cooking liquid. Cook over low heat until potatoes are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with mustard or horseradish.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza

YIELD: Makes two 12″ pizzas.


Nonstick cooking spray

1/3 cup coarse corn meal

2 pizza crusts

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

3 cups sliced or coarsely shredded green cabbage

1 small onion, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 ounces coarsely shredded cooked corned beef

1 large or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

1/4 cup olive oil


Spray two 12” pizza pans with nonstick cooking spray. Scatter corn meal evenly over bottom of pan; roll out or stretch pizza dough to fit pans. Spread crusts evenly with mustard.  Place cabbage and onion in a steamer basket over boiling water in a large saucepan; cover and steam until cabbage is just barely tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 450 F. Place cabbage and onions on pizza crusts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then distribute corned beef over them and finally lay potato slices evenly on top. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle top with salt and pepper. Bake until crust is dark golden and potatoes are tender and crisp on edges, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with stout beer or ale. 

Corned Beef Stuffed Cabbage

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.


1 large head cabbage

3 cups diced cooked corned beef

3 cups diced cooked potatoes, lightly mashed

Salt and freshly ground black 

pepper to taste

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup beef or vegetable broth


Preheat oven to 350 F. Separate large outer leaves from cabbage; wash and place in a steamer over boiling water; cook slightly until soft and flexible, about 10 to 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, with paring knife remove rib from center or each leaf (you will  now have two leaves). 

In a large bowl combine corned beef potatoes, salt, pepper and egg; mix well and form into small balls, about one heaping teaspoon each, depending on size of leaf. Place mixture in center of each leaf, tuck sides in and roll up. Spray bottom of casserole dish or Dutch oven. Place cabbage rolls, flap side down and place any extra leaves on top. Pour broth over them, cover and cook 30 to 40 minutes, until heated through. Serve hot or warm with crusty bread and Irish butter.

Easy Shrimp Curry

By Barbara Beltrami

Just exactly what is curry? Good question. Originally it was a name given by western colonizers to the dishes they perceived as foreign.  But what is it really? It’s a variety of dishes using complex herbs and spices, especially cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, and fresh or dried chiles. 

What is its provenance? Basically it comes from the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Although genuine curries use their spices separately, not in a combination called curry powder which westerners created, unless you are well versed in making curries, it is best to at least make your own curry powder which most recipes call for anyway. And more often than not, curry refers to the sauce in which a dish is prepared. 

I’m not very experienced with curries, but the ones I’ve done are not for those on a bland diet. They’re savory, aromatic piquant combinations that give a pleasant wakeup call to your palate.

Basic Curry Powder

Curry Powder


YIELD: Makes approximately 1/2 cup.


2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon cayenne


In small bowl thoroughly combine all ingredients; transfer to jar, cover tightly and store in a cool dark place.

Easy Shrimp Curry

Easy Shrimp Curry

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.


1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

One 2” piece ginger, peeled and chopped

One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes

1/4 cup oil

1 to 2 serrano chile peppers, halved

2 teaspoons homemade curry powder (see recipe above)

Salt to taste

1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup chopped cilantro


In an electric food processor, mince the onion, garlic and ginger; remove and set aside. In the same processor bowl puree tomatoes with one cup water. In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onion, garlic, ginger, chiles, salt and curry powder. Stirring frequently over medium-high heat, cook until onion start to brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Add pureed tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add shrimp and cook over medium-low heat until pink and done, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, remove and discard chiles; stir in yogurt and cilantro. Serve hot with basmati rice

Vegetable Curry

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.


1 pound cauliflower florets

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1 1/2 tablespoons homemade curry powder(see recipe above)

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried pepper flakes

One 14 1/2-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

3 cups finely chopped, rinsed Swiss chard

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves


Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss cauliflower with one teaspoon oil, then spread on half of a rimmed cookie sheet. Toss grape tomatoes with another teaspoon oil and spread on other half of cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper; roast until florets start to brown a little and tomatoes turn soft, about 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile in a small-medium skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat; add onion and, stirring frequently, cook onion until is starts to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until they release their aroma, about one minute. Add tomatoes, cauliflower, chick peas and Swiss chard and cook over medium heat until chard is tender and other vegetables are heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve hot with a cucumber and yogurt salad.


Stewed Fruit Compote. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Fresh fruit, having been picked and stored for who knows how long, can turn out to be a huge disappointment. How many times have I bought apples, bitten into one and found it tasting more like a potato than an apple? Or pears that have lasted for two weeks without ever ripening or else turning brown right away? Berries? Pretty much tasteless and very expensive, often with several green furry specimens on the bottom of the package. And this goes for shriveled grapes, tasteless tough citrus fruits and even melons that have not survived the long journey from foreign farm to supermarket. 

So what’s a cook to do? Chalk up the cost to hope springing eternal in the modern shopper’s breast and convert them into fruit compotes. Simmered in water or wine, some sugar and spice, with maybe some dried fruit too, mixed with a generous shot of liqueur, whiskey or brandy, and served warm over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or baked, then crowned with a creamy sauce makes fresh fruit failures morph into the stuff of which delectable desserts are made. The following recipes are merely suggestions based upon whatever failed fruit you have on hand; they are very adaptable to substitutions.

Baked Fruit Compote

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Nonstick cooking spray

12 crumbled macaroons or ginger snaps

2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples

2 cups peeled, cored and chopped pears

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sherry

1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Half a stick unsalted butter


Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 2 1/2 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle bottom with half the cookie crumbs. In a medium bowl toss together the apples and pears. Lay half the fruit mixture evenly in baking dish; top with remaining cookie crumbs, then remaining half of fruit mixture. Sprinkle top with sugar, sherry and almonds. Dot with butter. Bake until top is slightly golden and inside is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream.

Stewed Fruit Compote

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.


2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1” wedges

2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into 1” wedges

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/2 cup dried plums, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup dried figs, chopped

Peel from half a lemon

Juice from half a lemon

1/2 bottle dry red wine

2 cups water

3/4 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup brandy


In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except the brandy. Stir, bring to a boil over medium high heat, then simmer until fruits are tender and liquid is thick and syrupy, about one hour. Remove lemon peel and cinnamon stick, stir in brandy and simmer one minute more. Serve hot or warm over vanilla ice cream.

Fresh Fruit Compote 

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.


2 grapefruits, peeled, seeded, pith removed and chopped

3 oranges, peeled, seeded, pith removed and chopped

1 small bunch seedless grapes, washed

2 cups melon balls

1 peach, peeled and chopped

1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

1 pint blueberries, washed

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

12 ounces apple juice or apricot nectar

2 tablespoons diced candied ginger

2 tablespoons brandy or liqueur


In a large bowl thoroughly mix all the fruit with the orange juice; cover and set aside. In a small saucepan, dissolve cornstarch in cold water, then add fruit juice. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add ginger, cool; stir in brandy, cover and chill. Pour over fruit and serve with vanilla yogurt.

Beef Stew with Root Veggies. Photo from METRO

By Barbara Beltrami

I’m sitting here listening to the rain pelt the windows while the wind howls, and all I can think of besides lighting a fire and curling up in front of it is to stand in my fuzzy slippers at the kitchen counter and chop veggies and meat into chunks for a hearty stew. I’m going to go to my recipe files, find something that doesn’t require any ingredients I have to go out in the rain and wind to buy (and if it does, I’ll tweak it to accommodate what I have on hand). I’ll put a big pot on to simmer, then I think I’ll light that fire and curl up in front of it while the savory aromas of the stew waft through the house. 

Beef Stew with Root Veggies

YIELD: Makes 8 servings. 


½ cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes

½ cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups dry white wine

1 quart beef broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2 -inch pieces

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

½ pound turnips, peeled and cut into   2-inch pieces

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound baby potatoes, scrubbed

1 pound pearl onions, peeled

3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl combine flour, salt and pepper. Add beef cubes in small batches and toss to coat thoroughly. In large Dutch oven or heavy casserole, heat two tablespoons oil. Add flour-coated meat in four batches, adding two more tablespoons oil with each batch, and over medium-high heat, brown it on all sides, about 6 minutes; transfer to bowl to keep warm. Add chopped onion, and stirring frequently, cook until soft and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add white wine, broth and thyme; bring to boil; return beef to pot; cover and braise in oven for one hour. Add veggies, potatoes, onions and parsley and cook for another hour, until veggies are tender; add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a crisp salad and warm crusty French bread.

Chicken Stew with Green Chilies

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.


½ cup olive oil

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into 2-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound poblano or Anaheim chilies, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced

3 serrano chilies thinly sliced

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 cups chicken broth

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped cilantro

6 lime wedges


In large heavy casserole or Dutch oven heat oil until very hot. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then add it to oil and cook, turning at least once, over high heat, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion, both kinds of chilies and garlic. Season again with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium high heat until chiles are softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer until everything is tender and liquid is reduced by half. about 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro, garnish with lime wedges and serve immediately with taco chips and rice

Lamb and Chick Pea Tagine

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.


¼ cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

Peeled (not grated) zest from half a lemon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Pinch crumbled saffron threads

1 cinnamon stick

3½ pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces

4 cups water

8 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices

1 onion, diced

2 cups pitted green olives

One 14-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


In large bowl, mix together oil, garlic, lemon zest, ginger, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper, dried pepper flakes, saffron and cinnamon and lamb. Cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours. Transfer to a tagine or heavy Dutch oven. Add water, carrots and onion; bring to simmer, cover and cook over low heat until lamb is very tender, about two hours. Skim any fat from broth, add olives and chick peas and cook another two or three minutes. Remove from heat, stir in parsley, cilantro and lemon juice. Serve immediately with couscous and a cucumber salad.


Photo from METRO

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re one of those lucky people for whom Valentine’s Day means three dozen long-stemmed red roses delivered at work, dinner at a high-end restaurant with candlelight, Champagne and violinists and a gift in a very tiny box, don’t read any further. For the rest of us, there are any number of things I could write about for Valentine’s Day, but given that it’s tomorrow, I suspect that a few recipes for a sinfully scrumptious sexy dinner for two would be most welcome. So let’s first chill a bottle of Champagne; then start with some oysters (you know what they say about them!) on the half shell with a raspberry vinegar mignonette; next we’ll do a pasta with lots of juicy chunks of lobster; and then finally individual chocolate soufflés. Set a little table by the fireplace, light some candles and voila! What a romantic evening it’s going to be!

Raspberry Vinegar Mignonette

YIELD: Makes about ⅓-½ cup.


¼ cup white or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

½ tablespoon coarsely ground fresh pepper

Pinch of salt


In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and let sit 20 to 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Serve with fresh chilled oysters on the half shell and French bread with unsalted butter.

Cappellini with Lobster and Shitake Mushrooms

YIELD: Makes 2 servings.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, chopped

6 oz. shitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup tomato puree

2 tablespoons cream

½ pound cappellini

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cooked meat from one 1½-pound lobster, cut into bite-size pieces


Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat; add oil, shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes; do not let garlic burn. Remove mushrooms and set aside to keep warm; add salt and pepper, tomato puree and cream, stir to combine thoroughly, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil; add cappellini and cook 1 minute less than recommended time on package. Reserving half a cup of cooking water, drain pasta and transfer to skillet with sauce in it; toss to combine; add pasta water as needed if sauce seems too thick; toss again. Stir in basil, parsley, lobster and mushrooms; simmer until everything is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a chilled chardonnay.

Mini Chocolate Soufflés

YIELD: Makes 2 servings.


1½ teaspoons melted butter

2 tablespoons sugar

2 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon flour

¼ cup + 1 teaspoon cold milk

Pinch salt

1 egg yolk

2 egg whites

Pinch cream of tartar

3 teaspoons sugar


Preheat oven to 375 F; line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush bottoms and sides of two 5-ounce ramekins with melted butter; coat bottoms and sides with sugar; pour off excess. Place chocolate pieces in double boiler over hot but not boiling or even simmering water over low heat. In a small-medium skillet over medium heat melt tablespoon butter and whisk in flour until mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and whisk in milk until mixture is smooth, thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. 

Remove skillet from heat and transfer mixture to bowl with melted chocolate. Add salt and egg yolk and mix thoroughly; leave bowl over hot but not boiling or even simmering water while you beat egg whites. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in mixing bowl and whisk until mixture begins to thicken but doesn’t form peaks. Whisk in 1 teaspoon sugar, then remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, one at a time, every 15 seconds; continue whisking until mixture forms soft peaks, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Gently fold half the egg whites into chocolate mixture to combine thoroughly, about 1 or 2 minutes; repeat with remaining egg whites until they are no longer visible. Divide mixture between two ramekins and place them on baking sheet. Bake until they are puffy on top and have risen above rims of ramekins, about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with a dollop of whipped cream and a glass of liqueur.

Photo by Metro

By Barbara Beltrami

Calamari. When did it get so popular? Great as a snack, an appetizer, part of a main dish or a main dish itself, its chewy but tender texture and mild seafood flavor explains why it’s featured on so many menus. Calamari is fairly easy to cook (usually one minute in boiling water) before deep frying, sauteing, marinating for a salad or adding to a pasta sauce. Available at most fish mongers or supermarkets, it’s nicely cleaned, frozen and conveniently packaged to be thawed, then sliced into rings.

Fried Calamari

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.


1 pound thawed, frozen cleaned squid

1 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup flour

2/3 cup corn flour

1/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups or more canola oil


Cut calamari tubes into half-inch rings; leave small tentacles whole. Place in a medium bowl, pour buttermilk over it, toss to coat thoroughly, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably more. When ready to fry, in large skillet or Dutch oven heat oil to 375 F.  With a slotted spoon remove calamari from buttermilk and let excess drip off. In a shallow dish combine flours, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Dredge calamari with flour mixture and gently place in hot oil; fry, turning if necessary, until golden, about one minute. With a slotted spoon remove the calamari quickly to paper towels and drain. Serve hot with lemon wedges and marinara, cocktail or tartar sauce.

Calamari Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.


11/2 pounds thawed, frozen cleaned squid, cut into 1/2-inch rings

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Half red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced

2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes

1 celery rib, cleaned and cut into thin slices

1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped


Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil; add calamari and cook one minute, then immerse in ice water to stop cooking. When cool, drain in colander; pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and red onion; let sit 15 minutes so flavors blend. In a serving bowl, toss together calamari, olives, tomatoes, celery, fennel and parsley; add dressing and toss again to thoroughly blend.  Serve at room temperature with rustic bread and extra virgin olive oil.

Spicy Calamari in Tomato Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.


¼ cup olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

One 28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes

6 ounces clam juice or broth

½ cup dry red, rose or white wine

¼ cup chopped fresh oregano

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

½ cup chopped fresh basil

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt and black pepper to taste 

½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

2½ pounds thawed, frozen cleaned calamari, cut into ½-inch rings


In a small medium pot over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion and saute until golden, about 5 minutes; add garlic and saute until it releases its aroma, about half a minute. Add tomatoes with their juice, clam juice, wine, herbs, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add calamari and cook till tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with linguine and/or grilled Italian bread slices.