Cooking Cove: Memories and recipes from a kitchen chair traveler

Cooking Cove: Memories and recipes from a kitchen chair traveler

Lobster Roll. Photo from METRO

By Barbara Beltrami

When I think of visiting a place it’s as much about the food as the sights. It’s the sweet anticipation of squid ink pasta in Venice or a real barbecue in Wyoming or pastry in Vienna or gumbo in New Orleans. 

It’s walking in the alleyways of little towns and smelling dinner cooking, going to an open air market and picking out just caught fish, just picked veggies, just baked crusty bread. It’s dining in a waterfront restaurant and slurping oysters with a chilled Sancerre or having an espresso at an outdoor café and people watching or picnicking in a field of lavender in Provence. It’s hearing distant music and laughter and the clinking of glasses, watching native people carry dinner home on  bicycles, in baskets on their heads or in string bags along cobbled streets. It’s sipping cocktails high up in a sky-scraper and watching the city light up. And it’s passing sidewalks where people squat on their haunches, drink tea and eat bowls of rice. 

But not this year nor any time soon. Leafing through cookbooks, remembering and fantasizing must suffice. And so I become not quite an armchair traveler but a kitchen chair traveler as I sit at the table, poring through and longingly ogling the photos and reminiscing their provenance. Sooner or later I zero in on a recipe, then try to approximate it and time travel back to its memory and taste. Here are a few I was reasonably successful with.

Quiche from a Picnic in Provence


YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


Nonstick cooking spray

Pie crust for 8-inch spring form tart pan

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 onions, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 bunch asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces

2 tomatoes, diced

2 large eggs

1 cup cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dash nutmeg


Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray tart pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line with pastry crust and trim. Set on baking sheet. In a medium skillet warm oil over medium heat; add onions, garlic, parsley, thyme, asparagus, and tomatoes. Sauté, stirring frequently, until onions are opaque, asparagus is tender, and tomatoes are mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to pie crust. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper and nutmeg. Pour over sautéed veggies. Bake until knife inserted in center of quiche comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a delicate green salad.

Lobster Roll from a Maine Lobster Shack

Lobster Roll. Photo from METRO

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings


1 pound fresh lobster meat, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 inner celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 to 4 top-split hot dog rolls, lightly toasted


In medium bowl, thoroughly combine lobster, mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, parsley and salt and pepper. Brush insides of rolls with melted butter; heap with lobster mixture. Serve immediately with iced tea and potato chips.

Apple Strudel from a Café in Budapest

Apple Strudel

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


1 1/4 cups apple juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1/2 cup raisins

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

4 sheets phyllo dough

1/3 cup melted unsalted butter plus 2 tablespoons

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Confectioners’ sugar


Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, whisk together one-quarter cup of apple juice with cornstarch. In large saucepan over medium heat combine the remaining cup apple juice, apples, raisins, sugar, cinnamon and walnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until apples are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until smooth; simmer until apple mixture thickens, about one minute. 

Remove from heat; cover and cool. Meanwhile  lay out one sheet phyllo dough, brush with one-third of the butter( not counting the two tablespoons), then sprinkle with one-third bread crumbs; repeat procedure with 2 more sheets phyllo dough; top with fourth sheet phyllo dough, spread with cooled apple mixture, leaving half an inch border on all sides. Tucking in ends, roll into log and brush with remaining two tablespoons butter. 

Carefully transfer strudel, seam side down, to baking sheet; bake until light golden, about 15 minutes; remove from oven and let cool before slicing into two-inch pieces. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream and hot coffee.