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Barbara Beltrami

Setauket Clam Chowder. METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Dear Reader, I’m sorry to say that this is my last Cooking Cove column. Sharing my recipes and anecdotes with you and getting your enthusiastic positive feedback has made these past six years a labor of love. I will be continuing to write a cooking column independently and hope that you will join me by sending your name and email address to me at [email protected] so we can keep cooking together.  Meanwhile it’s only fitting and proper that I share my recipes for a few of my favorite things for a farewell dinner.

Champagne Cocktail

YIELD: Makes 2 cocktails


12 ounces Champagne or Prosecco

2 sugar cubes

10 dashes Angostura bitters

2 long thin curly lemon peels


Chill the champagne or Prosecco thoroughly. Place sugar cubes in glasses, add the bitters to the sugar cubes, drop in the lemon peel, then pour champagne. Serve immediately with fresh oysters, smoked salmon or caviar.

Setauket Clam Chowder

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings


2 dozen cherrystone clams, scrubbed, purged

4 ounces unsalted butter

1 leek, light green and white part only, washed and thinly sliced

3 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

1/2 cup dry white wine

Large sprig fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

2 cups half and half

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley


Place clams in a large pot and add one quart water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat about 10 to 15 minutes, until clams open. Discard any that don’t open after 15 minutes. Remove clams from liquid and set aside to cool. Strain broth through a sieve or strainer lined with paper towels or cheesecloth; set that aside too. Rinse out pot, dry, then over medium heat melt butter, add leeks and, stirring frequently, cook until they are softened but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes. 

Stir in potatoes and wine and continue cooking until potatoes start to soften and wine is evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes. Add enough clam broth to cover potatoes, plus thyme and bay leaf; partially cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, remove clams from shells and dice; add them along with the half and half and ground pepper to the pot, bring back to a simmer but do not boil. Stir in parsley, ladle into bowls and serve hot with oyster crackers and corn on the cob.

Sage-Stuffed Roast Chicken

YIELD: Makes 8 servings


One 5-pound organic roasting chicken

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large bunch sage

1 lemon, halved and seeded

1 head garlic, halved horizontally

1/4 cup unsalted butter

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

4-6 carrots, sliced diagonally into chunks

15-18 small sprigs sage

1/4 cup olive oil


Preheat oven to 425 F. Remove giblets, neck and excess fat from chicken; rinse inside and outside under cold water and pat dry. Generously salt and pepper chicken cavity, then stuff cavity with large sprig of sage, lemon and garlic. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips under the chicken. 

In a large bowl toss the onions and carrots with the small sage sprigs and olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread mixture on bottom of shallow roasting pan, then place chicken over them. Roast for an hour and a half, until a cut between thigh and leg yields clear juices; remove from oven and let rest about 15 minutes, then slice and serve with onions and carrots any liquid from pan spooned on top. Serve warm with roasted potatoes and a green vegetable such as Brussels sprouts or broccoli.

Purple cauliflower. Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Once upon a time, many years ago, the East End of Long Island was densely populated with farms that grew potatoes and cabbages and cauliflower. Even though most of them have become vineyards, there are still a few that continue to produce the original crops, and Long Island cauliflower, whether the familiar white common variety or the purple, green or orange ones that are the harbingers of autumn, tastes virtually the same, although some people say the purple has a slightly nuttier taste. All are members of the cruciferous family which makes them great sources of vitamin C, and purple cauliflower is especially good for the anti-oxidants it contains. Whatever color you choose, you’re in for a veggie treat and a good dose of healthy nutrients.

Roasted Purple Cauliflower

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


1 large head purple cauliflower

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2/3 cup grated Parmigiano cheese

1/3 cup toasted pignoli nuts


Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice cauliflower lengthwise through the core into 4 to 6 one-inch steaks. Brush both sides with olive oil, sprinkle with half the salt and pepper, then half the cheese. Bake about 15 minutes, until top is golden, then flip, sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper and cheese and bake another 15 minutes or so until that surface is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven, transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pignoli nuts. Serve with any meat, fish, poultry or vegetable protein.


YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 cups


1/2 head cauliflower cut into small florets

2 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/4” slices

2 celery ribs, trimmed and cut into 1/4” slices

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 cups white vinegar

1 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

Kosher salt to taste

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons celery seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 tablespoon dried marjoram


In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño pepper; pack into glass jars. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, bay leaves, celery seeds, fennel seeds and marjoram; stir well and bring to a boil. Once it boils, remove from heat, remove bay leaves and pour liquid over vegetables in jars. Let cool completely, place lids on jars, and refrigerate for up to one week. Serve with assorted salamis, prosciutto, and hard cheeses.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


1/4 cup unsalted butter

White part only of one leek, rinsed and sliced

1/4 cup flour

1 quart chicken broth

1 head cauliflower broken into bite-size florets

1 potato, peeled and diced

Freshly ground white pepper

2 cups cream

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives


In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, add leeks and saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Stirring constantly, add flour until mixture forms a paste, then, still stirring constantly, gradually add chicken broth, cauliflower, potato and  ground pepper. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15-20 minutes, until cauliflower and potato are very tender. Remove from heat and let sit to cool slightly. In small batches ladle into bowl of food processor and puree; return pureed mixture to saucepan. Stirring constantly, add cream and bring just to a simmer; reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Stir in herbs and serve hot, cold or at room temperature with focaccia.

Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

For me, the real inauguration of autumn is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish holiday when apples and honey signify a sweet New Year. This is when I tie on my apron and bake apple upside down cake, apple  Bundt cake or apple dumplings. Occasionally I’ll do an apple crisp or tart apple pie with honey instead of brown sugar.  Whatever I make, the combination of apples and honey is a delicious treat.

Apple-Honey Upside Down Cake

Apple Honey Upside Down Cake

YIELD: Makes 8 servings


1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced

1 cup +1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup honey

1 cup + 1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons orange juice


Preheat oven to 375 F. In a greased 9” x 9” baking pan. Arrange apple slices; sprinkle with the one tablespoon flour and cinnamon; drizzle with half a cup of the honey. In a large bowl thoroughly combine the cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together  remaining half cup of honey, egg, butter and orange juice; add to dry ingredients and stir just until thoroughly blended. Pour batter over apples and bake 30-35 minutes, until top is browned and cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes; invert onto platter and serve warm with crème fraîche.

Apple-Honey-Spice Cake 

YIELD: Makes 10 servings


1 cup + one tablespoon vegetable oil

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup honey

2/3 cup sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tart apples, peeled cored and shredded

1/4 cup warm water


Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease inside of Bundt pan with the one tablespoon oil. In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. In another large bowl combine  honey, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. With mixer on medium-high speed, beat until light and fluffy, about 3 – 31/2  minutes. With mixer speed on low, beat in dry mixture just until completely blended; with rubber spatula fold in apples, then transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan. Bake until cake tester comes out clean and top of cake is golden, about 45-55 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert onto cake platter. Glaze, if desired, and serve warm or at room temperature with a sweet dessert wine.

Old-fashioned Apple Dumplings

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


2 pie crusts

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups sugar

3 cups water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter a 9 x 13”  shallow baking dish. On a lightly floured surface roll the pie crusts to form a 16 x 24” rectangle, then divide into six 8-inch square pieces. Place one apple, stem end up, in center of each square, stuff the same end of each apple with 6 pieces of the butter and half the brown sugar. (This is best done by poking the brown sugar into the apple with your finger). Sprinkle remaining brown sugar around base of each apple; sprinkle top of each apple with cinnamon and nutmeg. 

With wet fingers pull one corner of pastry to top, then do likewise with diagonally opposite corner and pinch two corners together; repeat procedure with two remaining corners, then pinch all 4 corners together to completely enclosed in pastry. Place in prepared baking dish. 

In medium saucepan combine sugar, water, vanilla extract and remaining two tablespoons butter; bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Pour over dumplings and bake 55 minutes, until crust is light golden and apples are tender. Spoon sauce over apples and serve with vanilla ice cream.

By Barbara Beltrami

High in protein, relatively low in fat, versatile and inexpensive, a pork tenderloin gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It had been a while since I’d cooked a pork tenderloin, and I’d forgotten how easy and delicious it was. This time I was having company so I marinated it early in the morning, then slathered it with mustard and grilled it, refrigerated it, then sliced and served it cold with a salad. With what’s left over, I’m going to make pork tenderloin heroes. In the cooler weather I like to roast it and serve it with some kind of fruit. Here are three of my favorite recipes which I think will become yours too.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Salsa Verde

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


For the pork

2 pounds pork tenderloin

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic, bruised

1/2 cup chopped herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, mint, etc.

1 medium onion, chopped

Freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons prepared mustard

Coarse salt to taste

For the salsa

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup pignoli nuts

2 garlic cloves

4 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard

2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, mashed


For the pork, rinse tenderloins under cold water, pat dry. In a medium bowl, combine the wine, olive oil, garlic, herbs, onion, and pepper. Transfer to a shallow dish, add pork, turn to coat; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, turning once, for one hour. Remove pork from marinade and spread all over with the 3 tablespoons prepared mustard; sprinkle with salt, discard marinade. 

Heat grill to medium-high; place pork on rack and grill, covered, for 10 minutes; turn and grill for 5 to 10 minutes more until charred outside, pale pink inside and meat thermometer registers 145 F. Remove to platter and let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled; remove from refrigerator, cut into 1/4” slices and arrange on platter. 

For the salsa verde, place the extra virgin olive oil, parsley, pignolis, 2 garlic cloves, capers, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons mustard and anchovies in a blender or food processor; process a few times until they form a paste; refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving pork; let sit at room temperature. Serve pork at room temperature or cold with the salsa verde and a crisp Romaine and Bibb lettuce salad.

Pork Tenderloin Heroes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1 large baguette, split and cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound grilled or roasted pork tenderloin, sliced thin 

1 red onion, sliced thin

12  slices provolone cheese

1 large heirloom tomato, sliced thin

1 green bell pepper, sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1/2 English cucumber, sliced

2 cups baby arugula

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Drizzle cut sides of baguette with the oil and vinegar; arrange the pork, onion, provolone, tomato, peppers, cucumber and arugula on bottom halves of each section; sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cover with top section and press down hard to flatten. Slice hero in half and serve at room temperature with ice cold beer.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Bacon and Peaches

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings


One 1-pound pork tenderloin

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 slices bacon

4 tablespoons olive oil

8 shallots, halved

4 peaches, halved and pitted


Preheat oven to 400 F. Season pork all over with salt and pepper and wrap in bacon with slices overlapping. In a large iron skillet heat two tablespoons of the oil over medium heat; add pork and shallots and brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn pork browned side up; add peaches to skillet and drizzle them with remaining two tablespoons olive oil; place skillet in oven. Basting both pork and peaches once or twice with bacon drippings, roast 15 to 18 minutes, until meat thermometer reads 145 F. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes, slice pork and place on platter, surrounded by peaches. Serve hot with a green vegetable and a rice pilaf.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, Green Beans

By Barbara Beltrami

Now is the time to capitalize on summer’s bounty of veggies and herbs, and what better way to do that than to use them in pasta sauces. This is the time of year for a Pasta Norma with tomatoes, eggplant and ricotta salata, a pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans or pasta with grilled veggies. Any of these can be a first course served in smallish portions, a light summer entree or accompaniment to whatever is on the barbecue. Don’t skimp on the veggies and don’t hesitate to change up any of these recipes to accommodate the day’s harvest from your or your neighbor’s garden or the farm stand.

Pasta Norma

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound eggplant, peeled and diced

1 pound fusilli or cavatappi

1 large sprig fresh basil, leaves chopped

6 ounces ricotta salata, diced


In a large skillet over medium high heat, warm oil and whole garlic clove about one minute. As soon as the garlic begins to release its aroma, add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook about 10 minutes, until liquid from tomatoes has evaporated, then add eggplant to pan, cover and cook about 15 minutes over medium heat, until eggplant is tender. Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions; when pasta is almost ready, add basil to tomatoes and eggplant and stir; remove and discard garlic. Drain pasta and transfer to serving bowl; toss with sauce and ricotta salata and serve with a slightly chilled nero d’avola wine.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, Green Beans

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


2 cups basil leaves, firmly packed

1/3 cup pignoli nuts

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 – 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1 pound linguine or fettuccine

1/2 pound potatoes, peeled, cooked, diced

1/4 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1” lengths and cooked until tender


In bowl of electric food processor combine basil, pignoli nuts, salt, pepper and garlic until mixture achieves a coarse grainy texture; with motor running add oil in a slow steady stream, then add cheese and process just enough to mix thoroughly. Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions; drain and reserve about half a cup — one cup of the cooking water; transfer pasta to serving bowl, add pesto, then add reserved water, a little at a time, until sauce is a thick liquid but not runny, toss to thoroughly coat, then add potatoes and beans and toss again before serving.

Ziti with Grilled Vegetables

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


2 medium zucchini cut lengthwise into thirds

2 bell peppers, seeded, cored, quartered

1 large red or Vidalia onion, cut crosswise into half inch slices

8-10 plum tomatoes, halved

Olive oil for brushing

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 pound ziti or penne

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup minced mixed fresh basil, oregano and thyme

4 ounces crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese


On a large rimmed baking sheet arrange the zucchini, peppers, onion and tomatoes; brush on both sides with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Preheat grill to medium, then arrange veggies on it, cover and cook, turning once, until tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side; cut veggies into bite-size pieces and set aside to keep warm. Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions, drain and place in large serving bowl; toss with veggies and herbs, then sprinkle with crumbled cheese and toss lightly before serving.

Tomato Quiche

By Barbara Beltrami

That’s right. At this time of year it’s all about tomatoes. So exalted are they that everybody is talking about them, writing about them, slicing and dicing them, dressing them, cooking them and eating them in all sorts of dishes. From  sauces to salads to summer soups and savory snacks, tomatoes rule! I know I write about them every year at this time, but I have a feeling that new ways to prepare them are not unwelcome.

Tomato Quiche

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


3 heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/4” slices

One 9” pie crust

4 large eggs

1 cup milk or half and half

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

5 ounces shredded Emmentaler cheese

3/4 cup diced and sautéed prosciutto

1/2 cup sliced scallions


Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until brown at edges, about 30 minutes. Set aside; leave oven on. On a lightly floured work surface roll out pie crust and place in an 8-9” deep-dish pie or quiche pan; press dough to cover bottom and sides of pan and crimp as needed. Place in freezer until crust is cold and filling is ready.

For filling, in a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, red onion, salt and pepper, half the cheese and half a cup of the prosciutto; pour into cold crust and bake until partially set, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove from oven and top evenly with tomato slices, remaining cheese and prosciutto. Bake until top and crust are golden and filling is set, about 20 minutes or when a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Place on wire rack and let cool 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and serve warm with a green salad.

Linguine with Scallops in a Creamy Cherry Tomato Sauce

YIELD: Makes 2 to 3 servings


8 ounces linguine, cooked according to package directions

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup minced shallots

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound sea scallops, halved, rinsed and patted dry

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves


In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter; add cherry tomatoes and stirring constantly, cook until they start to release their juices and burst, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add minced shallot and garlic and stirring constantly, cook until fragrant, about one and a half minutes; add scallops, stir and cook until they are just opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle mixture with salt and pepper and add cream, stirring frequently, until it thickens a little, about one to two minutes. Stir in tarragon and cooked pasta and serve immediately with green beans vinaigrette.

Heirloom Tomato, Corn and Herb Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


6-8 ripe heirloom tomatoes, assorted varieties

2 ears corn, kernels removed and chopped

4-6 scallions, sliced thin

3/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped

1/4 cup garlic chives, snipped


Cut the tomatoes into thin wedges, place in large bowl and add corn and scallions. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, mustard, and salt and pepper; add to tomatoes and scallions, then add herbs; toss to coat evenly. Serve at room temperature with rustic bread.

Baba Ghanoush

By Barbara Beltrami

Can anyone forget sour cream and onion dip, spinach and artichoke dip or clam dip? They all were party staples in my youth, and hackneyed party fare that they are, I still can remember their taste and never turn down a chance to go down memory lane and binge on them whenever they appear at a party. In those days we scooped them with potato chips that inevitably broke and left pieces languishing in the dip, but today there are so many kinds of new chips plus crudités beyond celery and carrots to choose from that I think it’s time to riff on some new dips too. Here are a few somewhat different concoctions.

Goat Cheese with Fresh Herbs Dip

YIELD: Makes 1 1/2 cups


1/2 pound fresh soft goat cheese

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro 

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


In a food processor, blend goat cheese, oil and yogurt until smooth; add herbs, salt and pepper and pulse a few times. Transfer to a bowl and serve with bagel chips, toasted baguette slices or crudités.

Baba Ghanoush (Charred Eggplant Dip)

YIELD: Makes 2 cups


1 head garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 medium eggplants

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup light tahini

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


Place oven rack in top third of oven and preheat broiler. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice off top of garlic head and drizzle with a teaspoon of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then wrap in foil. With a fork, pierce the eggplants all over; place them and the garlic on the foil-lined baking sheet. Broil, turning occasionally, until garlic is soft and eggplant is charred on the outside and very soft on the inside all the way through to the center, about 35 minutes. When cool enough to  handle, cut the eggplant open and scoop out the flesh; place in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes; discard skin; finely chop eggplant if  any strands remain. Pinch or scoop garlic cloves out of their skin and mash them. 

In a large bowl, combine them with the remaining olive oil, eggplant pulp and lemon juice and stir vigorously to further break up the pulp as much as possible. Add tahini, lemon juice and more salt and pepper, if desired. Stir vigorously again, transfer to serving dish and garnish with parsley, red pepper flakes and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita chips and crudités.

Muhamarra (Roasted Red Pepper Dip)

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


2 red bell peppers

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces chopped toasted walnuts or almonds

1 garlic clove chopped

2 – 3 tablespoons tomato paste

2/3 cup unflavored bread crumbs

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sumac

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly oil a shallow baking dish. Brush peppers with one tablespoon olive oil, place in prepared dish and roast, turning once or twice, until skin is puckered and centers blacken, about half an hour. Place in bowl and cover for 5 to 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, pull and scrape off skin and remove seeds and discard. In bowl of food processor combine pepper pieces, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, nuts, garlic, tomato paste, bread crumbs, molasses, sugar, sumac, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate but serve at room temperature with flat bread and crudités.

METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Backyard barbecues are fine, but there are times, particularly on a hot summer evening, when even the most dedicated grill meister doesn’t want to stand over a hot grate and flip and baste, no matter how cold the beer or how chilled the martini in their other hand. This is the time to turn to cold sliced meat or poultry or maybe some poached fish. Preceded by a cold soup and accompanied by homemade potato salad, coleslaw or a crisp green salad laced with fresh herbs it’s a dinner that will please your family as well as company and keep you from the heat of the grill and the kitchen.  

Marinated Grilled Steak

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


One 3-pound flank or boneless sirloin steak

1 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup sweet vermouth

1/4 red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup tomato sauce

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat grill to high; brush steak with a little of the olive oil; grill, turning once, until it reaches an internal temperature of 140-145 F and is pink inside for medium rare; cook longer for more well done. Transfer to a shallow nonreactive dish. In a medium nonreactive saucepan combine wine, vermouth, vinegar, oil, onion, tomato sauce, garlic, bay leaves, ginger root and salt and pepper; bring to a low simmer for 5 minutes, then pour over hot steak. Let cool completely, then cover tightly and refrigerate, turning occasionally, at least 6 hours. When ready to serve, slice, arrange on a platter and spoon marinade over it. Serve with rice salad, snow peas and scallions.

Wine-Poached Salmon with Dill-Cucumber Sauce

Wine-Poached Salmon with Dill-Cucumber Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


3 cups dry white wine

1 small onion, chopped

3 celery ribs with leaves, chopped

3 flat leaf parsley sprigs

Four 6-8 ounce salmon fillets, skin on

1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt

1/3 cup minced peeled and seeded cucumber

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 tablespoons minced fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


In a deep skillet combine the wine, onion, celery and parsley; add 3 inches water and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Carefully place the salmon fillets in the liquid (be sure they are fully submerged) and bring liquid back to a simmer. Cover and cook gently until salmon is the same shade of pink on the inside as the outside, about 5 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spatula, carefully remove the fillets, peel off their skin and place them on a platter, dab off any white bits and let sit 15 minutes to cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. In a medium bowl combine the yogurt, cucumber, onion, garlic, lime juice, dill, and salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate. 

Nutty Grilled Chicken Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 cups diced grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup finely diced celery ribs

2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup fresh snipped chives

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet pickles

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup halved seedless green grapes

1 cup cooked fresh or frozen peas 


In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper. In a medium bowl toss together the chicken, celery, shallot, dill, parsley, chives and pickles; add mayonnaise mixture and toss to evenly coat, then fold in the walnuts, grapes and peas. Cover and place in fridge until chilled. 

METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

It used to be that melon was melon.  Period.  My mother used to halve or quarter a cantaloupe or honeydew, scoop out the seeds, plunk the salt shaker on the table, and that was melon the only way I knew it. Watermelon got a little different treatment; it was halved or quartered and sliced into triangles, but there was no salt.

But now melon has become a whole new phenomenon. Used in an amazing variety of preparations and dishes, it’s all grown up and no longer a loner, but an actual ingredient in myriad recipes. 

You are probably familiar with cantaloupe or honeydew with prosciutto and watermelon with feta cheese, two winning combos that are testimony to sweet and salty being ideal complements to each other. Maybe you’ve even had melon gazpacho or soup or salad where it’s enhanced by savory herbs, spices and veggies. My mother would be incredulous!

Melon Salad with Shrimp, Prosciutto and Feta

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

3 pounds melon, seeded, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

8 slices prosciutto, torn into bite size pieces

1/2 cup crumbled feta


In a large bowl, toss together the shrimp, lemon juice, and melon mixture with onion, jalapeño and bell pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, honey, oil, salt and pepper. When ready to serve, toss shrimp and melon mixture with lime juice mixture and top with prosciutto and feta. Serve immediately with corn bread. .

Melon Salsa

YIELD: Makes about 3 cups


Zest from 1 small lime

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

3 cups seeded and minced cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon or a combination 

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced

1 mango, peeled and finely diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 small onion, peeled and minced

Leaves from one sprig fresh basil, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced


In a small bowl combine the lime zest, juice, sugar and pepper; add remaining ingredients, toss, cover, and refrigerate up to 4 hours. Serve with tortilla chips as an hors d’oeuvre or with grilled beef, pork or chicken

Green Gazpacho with Honeydew

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1 ripe honeydew melon, seeded, removed from rind and coarsely chopped

1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 ripe kiwi, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup seedless green grapes, washed, halved

1 cup packed arugula 

1/4 cup chopped basil leaves

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

4 scallions, white and green parts sliced

1 serrano chili, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Freshly squeezed juice of one lime

1 tablespoon sugar

1 ripe avocado, peeled and coarsely sliced or chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup sour cream


In the bowl of an electric food processor, puree the melon, cucumber, kiwi, grapes, arugula, basil, cilantro, scallions, chili, oil, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, avocado and salt and pepper; stop to scrape bowl often. When smooth, transfer to large bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least one hour.  Ladle into four soup bowls, top each with a dollop of sour cream and serve with a corn, bean and tomato salad.

Whole Roasted Branzino

By Barbara Beltrami


Branzino sounds so much more continental and interesting than sea bass, but in fact, it is the same fish.  Found in the waters off southern and western Europe, branzino has garnered great popularity on restaurant menus and in fish markets. Its flaky sweet meat pleases many palates and renders it adaptable to many preparations and cooking methods. Although it is often cooked and served whole, when filleted it’s also quite delicious. If you are buying the whole fish, look for clear eyes, taut skin and red gills which all indicate freshness. And cooking surfaces should always be well oiled to prevent skin from sticking.

Sautéed Mediterranean Branzino

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


4 branzino filets, bones removed, skin on

Coarse sea salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

Finely grated zest from one lemon

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves


Rinse the fillets in cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. With a sharp knife score the skin with 3 diagonal slashes on each fillet, then season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil, then carefully lay fillets, skin side down, in the oil (Be careful of spattering oil). Cook 3 minutes, then carefully flip and cook another 30-60 seconds. 

Remove fish to a platter, tent with aluminum foil and set aside to keep warm. To remaining oil add the tomatoes, lemon zest, capers and olives; cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, then add white wine and cook another two minutes, until wine is reduced by half; stir in butter, parsley and basil and serve immediately with orzo or couscous.

Whole Roasted Branzino

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Coarse sea salt and pepper to taste

4 whole 1 – 1 1/4 pound each branzini, cleaned

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs

Freshly squeezed juice of one large lemon

1/3 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley leaves


In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic, salt and pepper; set aside. Preheat oven to 425 F. Wrap the tail of the fish in aluminum foil; season fish inside and out with salt and pepper and rub inside cavity with half the thyme; brush all over with 3/4 of the garlic-oil mixture and place the fish, evenly separated, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast fish until they are cooked through and flake easily with a fork, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining thyme, bread crumbs and oil mixture. Coat top of fish with mixture and return to oven one minute, just until bread crumbs start to darken; remove fish from oven, sprinkle with lemon juice and parsley and serve immediately with lemon wedges and tiny roasted potatoes.

Grilled Branzino Fillets with Fennel

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


2 teaspoons za’atar

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon fennel powder (fenugreek)

Four 8-ounce branzino fillets with skin on

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 garlic clove, bruised

1 fennel bulb cleaned and finely diced

1/2 cup chopped fennel leaves

1 orange, peeled, pith removed and diced


Preheat grill to medium. In small bowl combine half the olive oil, salt and pepper and fennel powder. Brush fish with mixture, then grill, skin side down, 3 – 4 minutes until skin is crisp; carefully turn and grill one more minute, just until it is white and flakes easy with a fork. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, orange juice, lemon juice and garlic. Let sit a few minutes so garlic flavor can infuse mixture, then remove  and discard garlic. Toss diced fennel, fennel leaves and orange with mixture, then spoon over cooked fish. Serve immediately with rice pilaf.