By Barbara Beltrami
Times being what they are, I have chosen to more or less ignore the holidays specifically and tried to concentrate on comfort foods which often are the stuff of celebrations anyway. Because most of us are self-quarantined and keeping social distance even from extended family if they are not part of our household, I am focusing instead on the unique togetherness that we’ve come to experience these past few weeks.
The addition of a festive ham or matzo balls is nice, even if it’s just the immediate family, but it’s the idea of being together around the table, getting reacquainted with ourselves, each other, home cooking and mealtime ritual that supersedes even the most traditional and festive of dishes, that turns the cooking and partaking of even the most ordinary and mundane dishes into a special occasion. In that spirit I hope that you all will make this a time to not just eat together, but plan a menu and cook collaboratively because we can all forgo many things, but not food.
So if we’re all in this together, we might as well do it and enjoy it together. The following are a few of my favorite recipes that I think make any dinner special.
Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
YIELD: Makes 12 servings
6 large hard-boiled eggs
4 ounces Nova Scotia smoked salmon, minced
1/3 cup snipped chives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and minced
2 tablespoons minced fennel
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Halve eggs lengthwise; place on plate and gently scoop out yolks. Place yolks in a medium bowl and mash. Add salmon, chives, mayonnaise, onion, capers, fennel, lemon juice, lemon zest and pepper. With wooden spoon, vigorously beat to combine. Heap mixture in cavities of egg whites; sprinkle with dill; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with cocktails or wine.
Zucchini Ribbons with Artichoke Hearts and Cherry Tomatoes
YIELD: Makes 4 servings
2 pounds yellow and green zucchini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
One handful flat leaf parsley, and minced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Using a vegetable peeler cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons from all sides; when you get to the seeds, stop and either discard the core or save for another use. In a large nonstick skillet heat half the oil over medium-high heat. When it is nice and hot, add half the zucchini ribbons and some salt and pepper. Cook, gently stirring and tossing the zucchini, just until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside to keep warm; repeat with second batch. Lower heat to medium; heat remaining oil; add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and parsley. Stirring frequently, cook until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place zucchini ribbons in serving bowl; scatter artichoke hearts and tomatoes on top, and cheese, if using. Serve hot or warm as a main dish or side dish with fish or poultry.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped
8 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 pod espresso powder
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8” round cake pan; line with a round of wax paper, then butter paper. In double boiler melt chocolate with butter over barely simmering water; stir until smooth.
Remove top of double boiler from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture; add eggs and whisk well. Sift half cup cocoa powder and espresso powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Pour batter into cake pan and bake in middle of oven until top has formed a thin crust, about 25 minutes.
Cool cake in pan 5 minutes, then remove from pan and invert onto serving plate. Dust generously with remaining two tablespoons cocoa powder. Serve with sorbet, fresh raspberries or vanilla ice cream.