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Barbara Beltrami

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad Photo from METRO

By Barbara Beltrami

I think pears are the forgotten stepchild of fall fruit. Apples seem to get much more attention even though pears seem to pair nicely with sweet as well as savory ingredients. The most popular varieties are Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice and Seckel, and each one has its own distinct flavor and texture. Pears are a terrific complement to cheese as in a Pear and Gorgonzola Salad, they’re perfect vehicles for the spiciness in a Ginger Pear Crumble and they make a lovely chutney to accompany pork, game, or poultry.

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch arugula, washed and stems trimmed

1 Belgian endive, sliced into rings

2 Bartlett pears, cored and cut length wise into 1/4” slices

3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

2 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese 

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegars, mustard, salt and pepper and oil until it forms a thick emulsion. In a salad bowl toss together the arugula and endive; add the dressing and toss again. Arrange pear slices on top, then sprinkle with nuts and cheese. Serve immediately with focaccia.

Pear-Ginger Crumble

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 pounds pears, peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Nonstick cooking spray

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and butter; toss with fork until well blended. In a large bowl combine the pears, lemon juice, ginger, sugar and flour. Spray bottom and sides of 8 or 9” square nonreactive baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; transfer the pear mixture to the baking dish, distribute evenly, then top with crumb mixture. Bake until pears are tender and topping is golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Pear Chutney

YIELD: Makes about 3 cups

INGREDIENTS: 

3 pounds pears, peeled, cored and diced

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 lemon, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried currants

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Pinch ground cloves

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot combine pears, brown sugar, vinegar, lemon, ginger, raisins, currants, cranberries, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, coriander, allspice, cinnamon, cumin and cloves over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until pears are so soft they start to fall apart. If mixture hasn’t thickened enough, raise heat to high and, stirring constantly, cook until liquid is evaporated and mixture has thickened to the point that you can drag a wooden spoon across the bottom and the trail it leaves remains. Let cool, place in airtight containers and refrigerate or freeze. Serve with brie or other runny cheese or with roast pork or poultry.

Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin. METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Ah, mustard…slathered on a hot pastrami on rye, squeezed on a hot dog, mixed with mayonnaise on a ham and cheese sandwich. But let’s think outside the box or rather the jar. A little dollop in a vinaigrette, blended with cream in a sauce or combined with brown sugar for glazing a roast gives mustard an equally important role. 

And then there are the different types of mustard — yellow, honey, spicy brown, Dijon, whole grain, hot, English, German.

According to Wikipedia the bruised or cracked mustard seeds are mixed with water, vinegar, wine, salt, and other liquids as well as spices to create a paste that ranges from bright yellow to dark brown and give us what we think of as prepared mustard. 

A common condiment in the cuisines of India, Bangladesh and the Mediterranean as well as northern and Southeastern Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa, it is one of the most widely used condiments world wide. 

There are several jars of mustard lined up on my refrigerator door, and although I’m sometimes not sure which one to use, it’s always an adventure for my taste buds.

Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette

YIELD: Makes a scant 3/4 cup

INGREDIENTS: 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 heaping tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, bruised

1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise

DIRECTIONS: 

In a small bowl combine all ingredients and whisk vigorously until mixture emulsifies. Let sit at least 15 minutes; before serving remove garlic. Serve with Romaine or Bibb lettuce for a green salad or boiled potatoes for a potato salad.

Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 1/2 – 2 pounds pork tenderloin

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 rounded tablespoons prepared grainy mustard

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

Pat meat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl combine the brown sugar, mustard, sherry and soy sauce. 

Add pork and turn well to thoroughly coat. Marinate at least 15 minutes or up to one hour. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until smoking; swirl olive oil in pan until it is completely coated, sprinkle pork with salt and pepper, then place it in pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, turning meat every 3 minutes or so until it is caramelized on all sides, about 20 to 25 minutes; remove, tent with foil and let sit 10 minutes. Carve into 1/4-1/2” slices and serve with rice and roasted root vegetables.

Creamy Mustard Sauce with Herbs

YIELD: Makes about 1 1/2 cups

INGREDIENTS: 

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh herbs such as tarragon, chives, dill, oregano or parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium saucepan, warm oil over medium heat; add shallot and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until shallot is opaque, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add cream, mustard, salt and pepper and herbs and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, about one minute. Serve with asparagus, Brussels sprouts, string beans, cauliflower, ham, pork, chicken or fish.

Run a fork around the perimeter of the cooked spaghetti squash to release the strands. Photo from Pixabay

By Barbara Beltrami

Spaghetti squash is that pale yellow oval variety that takes its name from its textured flesh that very much resembles spaghetti.  It is delicious with all sorts of sauces and seasonings, but spaghetti it is not. It’s an acceptable substitute for those who are carb or calorie conscious, but I repeat, it is not spaghetti. All that being said, I enjoy cooking and eating it and have found and tweaked some interesting recipes that take it to a couple of ethnic facsimiles. Spaghetti Squash Carbonara, Spaghetti Squash Sauerkraut with Kielbasa, and Spaghetti Squash Chili are particularly tasty. Nothing but spaghetti is spaghetti but spaghetti squash is still a very nice veggie.

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 large spaghetti squash, 2 1/2  to 3 pounds each

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 large egg

Coarse salt to taste and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper

6 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

Pinch crushed hot red pepper flakes

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: 

Cut squash in half lengthwise. With a sharp spoon, scrape out the seeds and discard. Cover halves tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high until flesh is very tender, then using a fork, scrape the spaghetti-like strands of flesh into a bowl. Meanwhile in a medium bowl mix together the grated cheese, egg, salt and pepper. 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the pancetta until slightly brown, about 5 minutes; add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until garlic release its aroma, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in cream, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and stir in squash strands. Add cheese mixture and gently toss with squash mixture. Transfer to bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve hot or warm with an arugula salad.

Spaghetti Squash Sauerkraut with Kielbasa

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 large spaghetti squash (about 2 1/2 -3 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded

2 large eggs, well beaten

1 1/3 cups sauerkraut, squeezed dry and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups seeded rye bread crumbs

4 kielbasa sausages, cooked and sliced as desired

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

DIRECTIONS: 

Place squash cut side down, uncovered, in a microwave safe dish with 1/4 cup water and cook on high until flesh is tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a large bowl combine eggs, sauerkraut, salt and pepper, bread crumbs, and kielbasa slices. When squash is cool enough to handle use a sharp spoon to scrape the flesh into the bowl with the sauerkraut mixture. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Place an ovenproof skillet over medium high heat to warm the oil; turn squash mixture in skillet and spread evenly; reduce heat to medium and cook without stirring until bottom is golden. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until top is golden, about 5 minutes. Serve with hash browned potatoes.

Spaghetti Squash Chili

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 large spaghetti squash, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out and discarded

1 medium onion, diced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

One 14-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded Manchego cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup sour cream

DIRECTIONS: 

Cover cut side of squash with plastic wrap and microwave on high setting until soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. With fork, scrape into strands. Remove half of onion, place in cold water and cover tightly. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat; add remaining onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 3 minutes. Add beef, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until meat is brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. 

Add tomatoes with their juice and about 3/4 cup water to mixture, raise heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, add beans and cook until mixture is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Transfer chili to bowl, top with spaghetti squash, drained remaining onion, cheese, cilantro and sour cream. Serve hot or warm with tortilla chips.

Spaghetti Squash. Pixabay photo

Oysters Rockefeller. Photo by Brittany Steiner/Unsplash

By Barbara Beltrami

There are some of you out there who know how I feel about oysters. I’m crazy about them, so much so that one of the items on my bucket list is to learn how to open them.  And so serious am I about this challenge that I’ve ordered the appropriate utensils from Amazon and am now the proud owner of an oyster knife and gloves. 

And there are some of you out there who also know how accident prone I am so what remains now is meeting not so much the challenge of opening the oysters but doing so without impaling myself on the oyster knife! 

My favorite oyster preparation is no preparation … just opening them and slurping them raw from the shell with maybe a squeeze of lemon and/or a raspberry mignonette. In second place are fried oysters, preferably in a traditional po’boy sandwich. And then, let’s not forget Oysters Rockefeller, that elegant appetizer on a bed of spinach, doused with Pernod and baked on a bed of rock salt.

Raspberry Vinegar Mignonette

YIELD: Makes about 1/3 to 1/2 cup

INGREDIENTS: 

1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Fried Oyster Po’ Boy

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

3 eggs

1 quart shucked oysters, drained

2 1/2 – 3 cups cornmeal

1/4 cup flour

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 /2 teaspoon cayenne

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

1 long baguette, cut cross-wise into 4 pieces, then sliced horizontally

1/2 cup mayonnaise or remoulade sauce

1 1/2 cups shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced 

12 dill pickle slices

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, add oysters, stir to coat and let sit 10 minutes. In a gallon size resealable plastic bag, combine cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper and cayenne. With a fork, remove oysters, one at a time, from bag. Let excess egg drip off, then shake and toss, again, one at a time, in cornmeal mixture. 

Pour one inch of oil or more into a deep skillet; heat over medium-high setting till a pinch of flour mixture sizzles; place oysters, with spaces in between, in oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes. (You may have to fry them in two batches); drain on paper towels. Spread top halves of bread with mayonnaise or sauce; on bottom halves arrange lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, then oysters; add sandwich top. Serve with fries or potato chips.

Oysters Rockefeller

YIELD: Makes 8 appetizer servings

INGREDIENTS: 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs

1 shallot, minced

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 cups fresh spinach, washed and drained

1/4 cup Pernod

Salt and pepper to taste

Generous dash hot red pepper sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

24 oysters on the half shell

Rock salt

Lemon wedges

Fennel leaves

 DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 450 F. In a small-medium saucepan melt butter, add garlic and cook over medium heat just long enough to infuse butter, 2 minutes or less. In a small bowl, place bread crumbs and half the garlic butter; toss and set aside. To the remaining garlic butter in the skillet, add shallot, scallions and spinach and cook just until spinach wilts, about 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze pan with Pernod, add salt and pepper and hot red pepper sauce, then continue cooking over medium heat until liquid evaporates, about 2 to 3 minutes.  

Add oil and parsley to bread crumbs, season again with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Put one teaspoonful of spinach mixture on top of each oyster, then top with a teaspoonful of the bread crumb mixture. Generously sprinkle a large baking pan with rock salt; arrange oysters in the salt crystals to keep them from tilting; bake until golden, about 10 to15 minutes. Remove from oven, top with fennel leaves and serve with lemon wedges and chilled champagne.

Bran Muffins

By Barbara Beltrami

Sometimes when I really want to know how to cook something, I go to the store-bought container the main ingredient comes in. I figure the producer isn’t going to steer me wrong and give me a recipe that doesn’t work or isn’t any good because then their product will look bad. 

That being said, I usually can’t help fiddling around a little bit with the recipe and seeing if I can give another dimension or slightly different taste. It might just be the addition of nuts to a muffin recipe or garlic or onion to a stew recipe or maybe even just a pinch of an additional spice or herb, and because it’s never anything radical, so far this habit hasn’t caused disaster. 

So here are a couple of recipes I’ve tweaked successfully. The featured product or ingredient bears an asterisk. My addition or substitution bears a double asterisk.

Bran Muffins

Bran Muffins

YIELD: Makes 12 muffins

INGREDIENTS: 

12 paper baking cups or cooking spray 

*1 1/2 cups Original Fiber One cereal

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup raisins, if desired

**1 teaspoon vanilla (instead of 1/2 teaspoon)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, if desired

**1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

**1/2 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat oven to 400 F. Place a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups or spray just the bottoms of the cups with cooking spray. Place the bran is a resealable food storage plastic bag; seal the bag, and roll over it with a rolling pin or bottle, or press with bottom of small saucepan to crush cereal into fine crumbs. 

In a medium bowl, stir the crushed cereal, milk, raisins and vanilla until well mixed.  Let stand about 5 minutes or until cereal has softened. Beat in the oil and egg with a fork.  In another bowl, stir the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and walnuts until well mixed. Stir flour mixture into cereal mixture just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Spoon the batter into the cups, dividing batter evenly.  

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If muffins were baked in paper baking cups, immediately remove from pan to a cooling rack. If muffins were baked in a sprayed pan, leave in pan 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cooling rack. Serve warm.

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

3 large bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup sliced scallion

1 garlic clove

**1 cup frozen peas, thawed (instead of corn)

One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup chopped parsley

**1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (instead of dried rosemary)

*1 cup Ben’s Original Long Grain White Rice, cooked

1 teaspoon salt

**Freshly ground pepper to taste

**1/4 cup unflavored breadcrumbs (instead of cornflake crumbs)

**1 tablespoon olive oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9″ x 13″ x 5″ rectangular baking dish and place pepper, cut side down, in the oven while it preheats. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; add onion, celery, scallion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes; remove and discard garlic. Add peas, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, rice, salt and pepper and stir frequently until heated through, about two minutes. Remove dish with peppers from oven, turn peppers over so cut side is up and fill each one with rice mixture. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and drizzle 1/2 teaspoon olive oil over crumbs. Bake uncovered 12 to 15 minutes until heated through. **Serve with a bean salad.

Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

My cooking is largely governed by the seasons. Of course, appetite and occasion figure into it, but it’s mostly all about what’s fresh and abundant. Hence, this column about tomatoes. If you’re like me, you’re wondering what you were thinking when you planted all those cute little tomato plants in May. Or your neighbor is leaving tomatoes on your doorstep daily. Or you just came back from the farm stand and couldn’t resist that basket of tomatoes when you went  just to pick up a few ears of corn. Personally, I can’t think of a better thing to have too much of.

So tonight it’s going to be a tomato and chick pea salad; for tomorrow I’m thinking maybe some pasta with blistered cherry tomatoes and goat cheese; and for Sunday brunch I’m going to cook up a pan of what my friend Elena calls “eggs from Hell”which are actually eggs cooked atop a smooth but spicy tomato sauce. All this having been said, there’s nothing quite so fine as a just-picked, sun-warmed tomato sprinkled with salt and pepper and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Tomato and Chick Pea Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

Pixabay photo

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

6 cups loosely packed chopped Romaine lettuce

2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced

1 1/4 pounds cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved, depending on size

One 14-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the oil, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper, vinegar and mustard. Just before serving add the lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and chick peas; toss well. Serve at room temperature with toasted pita bread and feta cheese.

Penne with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2 quarts cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups torn basil leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound penne

Basil sprigs for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large pot or skillet heat half the oil; add garlic and cook over low heat until it is soft and releases its aroma, about one minute.  Raise heat to medium and add tomatoes, pepper flakes, basil, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring to coat all the tomatoes and mashing some with the back of a wooden spoon, until they start to burst, about 4 or 5 minutes. Continue to cook until a thick sauce starts to form and about half the tomatoes remain intact, about 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is al dente drain and transfer to pot with tomatoes; stirring constantly over medium heat. Transfer to serving bowl and drizzle with remaining oil. Garnish with basil sprigs and serve hot or warm with an arugula and mesclun salad.

Elena’s Eggs from Hell

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

6 to 8 Roma tomatoes, pureed but still chunky

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

4 to 6 large eggs

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat warm the oil, then add the garlic and cook until it releases its aroma and is soft, about 30 to 45 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and parsley and cook over medium heat until the excess liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. While it is hot carefully break the eggs over the tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and cook until whites are no longer runny and yolks are still soft. Serve with toasted Italian bread.

Barbecued Chicken. Metro photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Labor Day is more or less the official farewell to summer. It’s a bittersweet holiday marking the end of lazy, languorous days poolside or at the beach with time being some abstract notion governed more by light than by the hands on the clock. In our reluctance to let go of all that summer connotes, we hang on, in wishful perpetuity, to whatever we can salvage despite the back-to-school, close-the-pool regimen. 

One thing that endures far beyond the season is cooking on the grill. So what better way to celebrate this holiday than with a barbecue in the great outdoors with all the traditional dishes that we love and crave. It can be anything from a clam bake to a hot dog roast but it must include barbecued chicken too, spicy and sticky and charred. Here are three different ways to do that chicken. Sauces can be thinned out with a little water if they get too thick.

All 3 versions would be great served with any one or combination of the following: tossed salad, garlic bread, corn on the cob, iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing, coleslaw, potato salad, sweet potato fries, corn bread, baked beans, macaroni salad.

Barbecued Chicken #1

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Barbecued Chicken. Metro photo

3/4 cup ketchup

1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar

1 heaping tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon za’atar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 garlic cloves, minced

One medium onion, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 broiler -fryer chicken cut into 8 pieces

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl combine ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, za’atar, cayenne, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.  Place chicken parts in bowl and toss to thoroughly coat. Transfer contents of bowl to a large resealable bag, seal and refrigerate for two hours. Prepare a grill on medium heat and place chicken on grill over indirect heat, turning once and basting with any remaining sauce, until it is lightly charred, cooked through and an instant read thermometer reads 165 F, about 25 to 30 minutes. 

Barbecued Chicken #2

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon cucumber relish

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 generous dashes hot pepper sauce

8 chicken breast halves, bone in

DIRECTIONS: 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then add garlic and cook, constantly stirring, 30 seconds, until it releases its aroma. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, tomato sauce, relish,Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper and hot pepper sauce; stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove from heat and set aside. Prepare grill on medium heat; season chicken with salt and pepper, then grill, covered, turning and basting frequently with sauce, until charred on both sides and cooked through, about 30 minutes. 

Barbecued Chicken #3

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

8 bone in chicken thighs or half-breasts 

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon cayenne

Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl whisk together half a cup of the oil, vinegar, salt, sugar and red pepper flakes. Place chicken pieces in gallon size resealable plastic bag, then pour marinade in, seal bag and tilt and rotate to be sure chicken is thoroughly coated. Refrigerate, turning bag occasionally 4 to 8 hours. 

When ready to grill remove chicken from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. In a small saucepan combine the remaining tablespoon oil, ketchup, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic, cayenne and salt; over medium heat; stirring frequently, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool 10 minutes. 

Set a grill on medium-low heat to 300 F. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Place chicken pieces on grill, cover and cook for 10 minutes, turning once. During last 15 to 20 minutes or so of cooking, baste with barbecue sauce and turn frequently. When chicken is charred, sauce is thickened and sticky and a thermometer reads 165 F, it should be cooked through after a total of about 30 minutes.

Pappa al Pomodoro Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

It seems like just yesterday but it was actually last year that I wrote about summer soups. And I’m doing it again not just because it’s perfect weather for them, but also because I keep coming up with new concoctions and discoveries. Here are my three most recent favorites. I came up with the salad soup one night when we had a vegetable drawer full of salad ingredients and not much else. The pappa al pomodoro came from what else? A bumper crop of tomatoes. And the garlic soup? Well, that’s a long story that I don’t have room for here.

Salad Soup

This is sort of like a gazpacho but is a little tamer.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

1/4 Vidalia onion, peeled and chopped

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded

2 large red bell peppers, trimmed and chopped

2 garlic cloves, lightly bruised

1 cup cooked arborio or long- grain rice

2 cups water

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably from Liguria

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

Basil leaves or dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large bowl combine all ingredients and stir well; cover and refrigerate for at least four hours; remove garlic and reserve for another use: adjust seasoning if necessary. Place ingredients in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped but not pureed. Return to bowl, cover and refrigerate another hour. Ladle into stemmed glasses of dishes, garnish, and serve with focaccia on the side.

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)

This is a great way to use those tomatoes that seem to ripen all at once and stale bread.

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large sprig sage, stems removed

1 2/3 pounds stale Italian or French bread, sliced thin

1 2/3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, puréed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh sage leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

In a deep skillet heat oil over high heat; add garlic and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds. Add sage leaves and bread, and, turning once, sauté until bread turns golden; add tomato puree, salt and pepper and, stirring frequently, boil for 5 minutes. Add just enough cold water to cover mixture, then over low flame bring to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook for 30 minutes until mixture achieves a mushy consistency that is neither too thick nor too runny. Serve chilled, lukewarm or at room temperature with fresh corn on the cob.

Garlic Soup

This is not your usual garlic experience; creamy and smooth, it actually has a rather mellow flavor.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium onion, peeled and minced

8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup cream

2 tablespoons sour cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Snipped fresh chives for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, briefly sauté the onion until it becomes opaque and the garlic until it releases its aroma, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add potato and chicken broth, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer about 20 to 30 minutes, until potato and garlic are soft and mushy. In a blender or food processor, puree mixture until smooth, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls or mugs, stir in cream and sour cream, add salt and pepper and garnish with chives. Serve with crusty bread and cheese.

Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Stock photo

Whether it’s on the village green or in a local park, at a band shell or the beach, reggae or rock, classical or country, an outdoor concert accompanied by an elegant picnic is as good as it gets. One especially savory main dish cooked ahead, then served at room temperature or chilled, accompanied by a salad, some crusty bread and a bottle of good wine works well, and bringing along some nice dishes, table linens and even some candles makes it really special. Dessert can be cheese and fruit to nibble while you’re listening or something incredibly sinful if you prefer. A paella is especially good as is a tomato and goat cheese tart or poached salmon with dill mayonnaise.

Paella

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut up into large pieces

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 large bell pepper, (any color) diced

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups long grain rice, (not instant)

Pinch saffron, dissolved in a little hot broth

3 1/2 to 4 cups broth, white wine, water or a combination

1 pound seafood (mussels, clams, shrimp, lobster, squid)

1 pound cut up fresh tomatoes

DIRECTIONS: 

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper and cook, turning chicken until nicely browned on both sides (about 3 to 4 minutes each side) and stirring onion and pepper until a little soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice and saffron, stir, then add liquid and stir again; add seafood and stir once more. Cook over medium heat, but do not stir any more because a good paella forms a nice crust on the bottom. Continue to cook, adding a little more liquid if the rice still seems hard after all the liquid has been absorbed. Ten minutes before serving sprinkle tomatoes on top. Serve warm or at room temperature in pan with a sangria or chilled fruity white wine.

Herb-Poached Salmon with Dill Mayonnaise

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Poached Salmon

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh dill

2 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley

1 large shallot, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon black or white peppercorns

2 pounds fresh salmon, cut into 6 even pieces

Dill Mayonnaise

3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons cream

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup snipped fresh chives

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 fresh dill sprigs

6 fresh lemon slices

DIRECTIONS: 

In a wide deep skillet combine the broth, wine, thyme, dill, parsley, shallot, lemon juice, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a simmer; gently add salmon (if liquid doesn’t completely cover fish, add boiling water just to cover); partially cover skillet and simmer until salmon is cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spatula, gently remove salmon to platter, let sit 10 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, cream, chopped dill, chives, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Cover and chill. Serve cold or at room temperature; garnish with dill sprigs and lemon slices and serve with dill mayonnaise and sliced cucumbers.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

One 10-inch pastry crust

3 level tablespoons prepared mustard

1 1/2 pounds garden tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 large eggs

5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a tart pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line bottom and sides with pastry crust; run a rolling pin over the top edges to even out the crust; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Spread mustard evenly over bottom of crust, then arrange tomatoes in overlapping pattern over mustard; sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs. While crust is chilling, in a medium bowl whisk or beat together the eggs and goat cheese, pour over tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven and bake 30 to 40 minutes until top is dark golden. Remove from oven, let cool 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a crisp arugula and Belgian endive salad.

Grilled Pizza Margherita METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Don’t bother sending out for pizza because you’re going to make your own pizza … right on the grill. Actually, first, it’s all about the crust. Then once you’ve got the crust nice and charred and bubbly, it’s all about the topping, and the trick is to not load the pizza with too much topping or it will get soggy.

Grilled Pizza Margherita

YIELD: Makes two 12 to 14″ pizzas

INGREDIENTS:
• 2 2/3 to 3 cups flour
• One 1-ounce package rapid-rise yeast

• 1 teaspoon coarse salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1 cup warm (105 to 115 F) water
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Nonstick cooking spray

• 1/4 cup corn meal
• Extra flour for coating
• Extra olive oil for preparing grill and coating dough
• 1/3 cup tomato sauce
• Shredded mozzarella as desired

• Fresh basil leaves

DIRECTIONS:

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, yeast, salt and pepper; add the water and oil and process until dough pulls together into a ball. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the ball of dough in it; cover bowl with a damp linen towel or plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably several hours to rise.

When dough has doubled in size, remove from bowl, invert onto a wooden board and divide in half; shape each half into a disc and lightly coat with flour and/or cornmeal. Press down on disc with the heel of your hand and fingertips to gently stretch and pull the dough outward until it has reached the desired size; place on baking sheet or pizza peel that has also been lightly dusted with flour and cornmeal.

Prepare a hot grill. Dip a wadded paper towel in olive oil and with long tongs wipe hot grill racks with it. Next to the grill have ready a bowl of olive oil and a long handled basting brush. Gently slide pizza dough onto hot grill, close lid and vents and cook for two minutes. Lift the lid

and, with the tongs, gently lift the pizza crust to see if it is evenly browning; if not, rotate it; the top should be bubbly; keep a close watch to see that it doesn’t burn (it’s ok if it’s a little charred in some parts). When the crust is evenly browned, use tongs or a long spatula to remove it and slide it back onto the peel or baking sheet.

Close lid. Being sure that there is enough flour and cornmeal on the peel, gently flip the crust so that the uncooked side is on the bottom and brush top sparingly with olive oil. Smear the crust with tomato sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella; reduce heat to medium-high and slide pizza back on grill; close lid and cook 2 to 3 more minutes or until cheese is melted. (If crust starts to get too dark, remove the pizza to a cooler part of the grill, but keep lid closed.)

Remove from grill, place on cutting board and top with basil leaves, then slice. Serve with ice cold beer and a crisp green salad.