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Barbara Beltrami

By Barbara Beltrami

I read someplace (don’t ask me where) some tips for this Thanksgiving when, if we follow the advice of experts on the pandemic, we should by all means celebrate the holiday but avoid large gatherings indoors and do a small intimate dinner with our immediate families and, in some cases, close friends or neighbors who we are sure are not contagious.

Difficult as it may be to forgo the usual groaning board feast, safety should be our primary consideration so that next year we can comfortably gather as we’ve always done. To make the day more celebratory and enjoyable we should first set a festive table. Even the smallest turkey may be too large so roasting a turkey breast or even a chicken might make more sense. The plethora of side dishes should be down-scaled so that it includes everyone’s favorite, of course, and dessert, rather than being an assortment of pies, could be individual tarts.

I’m taking a guess at what are likely to be everyone’s favorite dishes and giving you a little twist on each one. The rest is up to you.

Have a happy healthy and thankful holiday!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, pared and quartered

Salt to taste

1/2 -2/3 cup half and half, heated

1/4 cup softened unsalted butter

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

1/2 cup snipped chives

DIRECTIONS:

Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with cold water; add salt and over high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until fork tender but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and return to pan, then reduce heat to low and cook, tossing frequently, another two minutes to dry the potatoes out. Place them in a large bowl and using a ricer, food mill or masher, puree them. (Do not use a food processor or you will end up with a gluey mess!) Gradually stir in half and half and butter; add pepper and chives and stir again. Set aside to keep warm. Serve with turkey gravy and all the fixings.

Sausage and Walnut Cornbread Stuffing

YIELD: Makes about 5 cups

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups cornbread stuffing mix

1 pound sausage meat, crumbled and browned

1 large onion, diced and browned

1 sprig fresh sage, finely chopped

8 ounces unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup-1 cup hot chicken broth

1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly to combine. When mixture is at room temperature, place in a greased casserole or cavity of turkey which is also at room temperature, just before cooking, no sooner. Bake in 375 F oven for 45 minutes or until top is crispy if in casserole; if in turkey cavity, remove and serve with turkey and fixings.

Candied Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Pears

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 small-medium sweet potatoes, pared and quartered, lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 large Granny Smith apples, pared, cored and quartered lengthwise

2 medium Bosc pears, pared, cored and quartered lengthwise

3/4 cup brown sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place and space sweet potatoes in large shallow baking pan; season with salt and pepper. Place apples and pears in between sweet potatoes; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and dot with butter. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until tender and brown on top. Serve with turkey and fixings.

By Barbara Beltrami

Times being what they are with election and COVID-19 stress absorbing all our attention and impacting our peace of mind, with weather turning chilly and gray, it’s a good time to think about the number one comfort food, chicken soup. And depending on the candidate you voted for vis a vis the candidate who won, you may really need that comfort. I think we all love the basic chicken soup, the one with lots of noodles to slurp up, but there are so many variations on this theme too.

Lemon Chicken Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

8 cups chicken broth or stock

4 cups shredded roast chicken

1 small onion, chopped

2 to 3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery ribs, chopped

2/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 pound orzo

1/3 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Juice of 2 freshly squeezed lemons

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Salt and ground white pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot combine broth, chicken, onion, carrots, celery, and wine. Cook over medium-low heat until veggies are tender, about one hour; increase heat to medium-high, add orzo and cook at a steady boil according to package directions, until al dente. Stir in parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest; simmer 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot with a Greek salad and pita chips.

Asian Chicken Soup with Bok Choy

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

5 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 head bok choy, sliced thin

2 to 3 scallions, sliced thin

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot or saucepan bring chicken broth to a boil; add red pepper flakes, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and bok choy; simmer until the bok choy leaves turn dark green, about 10 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle scallions on top and serve hot with crispy fried Chinese noodles and pad thai.

Creamy Chicken Soup with Mushrooms

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

2 celery ribs with leaves, finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 cups sliced small Portobello mushroom

1/2 cup flour

8 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

3 cups shredded roast chicken

1/2 cup cream

1 tablespoon dry sherry

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat; add onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until veggies soften, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add flour and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook two more minutes. Add broth and, whisking constantly, bring to a boil; add herbs and simmer for 15 minutes. Add chicken, bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Discard bay leaf; whisk in cream, sherry and salt and pepper. Serve hot with soft rolls and a delicate green salad.

Cajun Chicken Rice Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 to 5 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound boneless chicken breasts, grilled, diced

1 onion, diced

2 celery ribs, sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

3 garlic cloves chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted Cajun seasoning

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1 quart chicken broth

2/3 cup rice (not quick-cooking)

One 10-ounce package frozen okra, thawed

DIRECTIONS:

In large pot over medium heat warm oil; add onion, celery and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes; add garlic, Cajun seasoning, paprika, cayenne and salt and pepper; cook and stir 30 seconds. Add lemon juice, tomatoes, chicken broth, and one cup water, bring to a boil, then add rice, chicken and okra, cover and simmer until rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with sourdough bread and a green salad.

A hearty stew is the ultimate cold weather meal. METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

The way things look, it’s going to be a long, isolated winter indoors. So, determined to extend our outdoor life even as the weather gets chilly and the garden goes brown, we’ve treated ourselves to a fire pit for the patio and are hoping we can bundle up, hunker down and keep warm long into the season as we fortify ourselves with lots of hearty stews and soups. Here are three unusual and delicious stews to try.

Chicken and Chickpea Stew

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 celery ribs, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 medium onion, diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

One 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes w/ juice

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

4 chicken breast halves, bone in

One 15 ounce can chick peas, rinsed/drained

DIRECTIONS:

In an approximately 6-quart saucepan or pot, warm oil over medium heat. Add celery, carrots and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is opaque, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add tomatoes, broth, parsley, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, and chicken breasts; be sure the chicken is submerged in the liquid. Bring liquid to a simmer, stir occasionally, and turn breasts once until they are almost cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes. With tongs, remove chicken and set on work surface till cool enough to handle, 5 to 10 minutes; discard bay leaf. Meanwhile add chick peas to mixture and simmer until liquid is reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove skin and bones from chicken, cut meat into bite-size pieces and return to pot; bring stew to a simmer, then serve piping hot with crusty bread and a Caesar salad.

Pork and Sweet Potato Stew with Prunes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chicken broth

2 large onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 bay leaf

3/4 cup dry white wine

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

1 cup chopped pitted prunes, soaked in hot water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Season pork with salt and pepper. In Dutch oven or large enameled cast iron pot, heat half the oil over medium-high heat, add the pork and stirring occasionally, brown it on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. remove and set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile in small saucepan, over high heat, boil chicken broth until reduced by half, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add remaining oil to Dutch oven, then onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are opaque, about 5 minutes; stir in garlic, cumin, pepper and bay leaf and cook over medium heat about one minute, until ingredients release their aroma; add wine and boil until reduced by half, then stir in tomatoes, broth and pork; bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to oven; cook for one hour. Return pot to stove top, add sweet potatoes; cook over medium heat until they are tender, about 20 minutes; drain prunes and add to pot; cook 5 more minutes; discard bay leaf. Serve hot with a side of cauliflower.

Sausage, Cannellini Bean and Broccoli Rabe Stew

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, cut into bite-size pieces

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

Three 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained,

1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems removed, then washed drained and sliced into 1” pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until opaque, about 5 minutes. Add sausage and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add broth, bay leaf, beans, broccoli rabe, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, then cook, covered, over medium-low heat about 10 to 15 minutes, until broccoli rabe is tender. Discard bay leaf. Place in soup tureen and drizzle with oil and grated cheese. Serve hot with orzo.

METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Like so many things these past months, Halloween is not going to be very traditional.  My thought is that since we’re homebound for the most part, why not make Halloween dinner a festive one? Make a  spooky centerpiece with black candles and small pumpkins, set the table with black and orange or Halloween-themed disposable tableware, put candy favors at each place and cook up any or all of the following recipes featuring black or orange ingredients.

Nothing is more orange than a carrot-ginger soup, and squid ink pasta or poultry, meat or fish with black rice (even though it may turn a little purple in cooking), is great for the occasion. So go rig up a costume, tie an apron over it and have a Happy Halloween.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Carrot-Ginger Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 to 9 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot or saucepan, warm oil over medium heat. Add carrots and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add broth, water, salt and pepper and ginger; bring to boil, then simmer until carrots are very soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes, then puree until very smooth in a blender, food processor or with an electric wand. Garnish with raisins or currants if desired and serve hot with dark pumpernickel and yellow cheddar cheese.

Squid Ink Pasta with Orange Tomatoes and Garlic

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One pound squid ink pasta*, cooked according to package directions

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2  teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 orange tomatoes or one pound orange grape or cherry tomatoes

Coarse salt to taste

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

*Available at local specialty markets.

DIRECTIONS:

Whatever size tomatoes you are using, cut them into half–inch pieces. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil; add crushed red pepper flakes and garlic and, as soon as garlic begins to release its aroma, add tomatoes and salt. Stirring occasionally, cook until they release their juice and skin starts to separate. Deglaze pan with white wine; as soon as it begins to bubble, add pasta and basil to skillet, toss with mixture and transfer to a large warm bowl. Serve hot with fish or scallops.

Chicken Thighs with Black Rice and Orange Peppers

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups black rice*, cooked according to package directions

12 ounces green cabbage, thinly sliced

1 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips

2 oranges, peeled and chopped

1 onion, diced

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 large chicken thighs

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

*Available at local specialty and  supermarkets. Sometimes called

forbidden rice.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Set rice aside to keep warm. In a large bowl toss the cabbage, bell pepper, oranges and onion with two tablespoons of the oil and salt and pepper; spread on two-thirds of the bottom of a large shallow roasting pan. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken thighs with two tablespoons of oil and salt and pepper and arrange on remaining third of pan.

Roast, stirring veggies occasionally and turning chicken thighs halfway through cooking time, until veggies are tender and lightly browned and chicken is cooked through and browned, about 20 to 30 minutes. In a small bowl  whisk together the remaining two tablespoons oil, the vinegar, salt and pepper and mustard; drizzle over rice. Place rice on platter, top with veggies and place chicken thighs around it. Serve hot with a carrot and raisin salad.

METRO PHOTO

By Barbara Beltrami

METRO photo

One of the best things to do this season is go apple picking. Even though you still have to wear a mask and social distance (even from the limb of a tree!), it’s outdoors and the air is fresh. But after you unload your trunk with your harvest and stagger inside with those apples, then what do you do with them?

For most of us, the first thought is to munch them as we scuffle through leaves during an autumn walk or faithfully shove them in the lunch bags. If we’re feeling ambitious we might bake an apple pie or make applesauce. Those are all fine, but there are so many other things to do with apples. What about cooking them with cabbage and serving them with pork chops? A spicy apple cake? An apple-fennel salad? Take your pick! (pun intended)

Apple and Cabbage-Smothered Pork Chops

The apples and cabbage give a whole new dimension to the pork chops.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Flour for dredging

4 thick pork chops

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 Granny Smith apples, pared, cored and sliced into 1/4” wedges

2 large onions, chopped

1 medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced

1 cup beef stock

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh sage, leaves removed and chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a shallow dish combine salt, pepper and flour; dredge pork chops in mixture. In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat; add pork chops and cook, turning once, until lightly till lightly browned on both sides; remove and set aside.

Add apples and onions to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and apples are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add stock, wine, caraway seeds, bay leaf, sage, and more salt and pepper to taste.

Cook, uncovered until mixture comes to a boil, add pork chops, cover and simmer 1 to 1 1/4 hours until chops are fork tender. Remove bay leaf. Serve with pan juices, boiled potatoes and pickled beets.

Apple–Walnut Cake

This cake couldn’t be easier and will keep for days if everyone doesn’t gobble it up.

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

2 level cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, pared, cored and diced

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

2 eggs, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13’ baking pan with the one tablespoon butter. In large bowl lightly whisk together the stick of butter, flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, apples, walnuts and eggs. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan. Serve with pumpkin ice cream.

Apple-Fennel Salad

This is a spin-off of what used to be called Waldorf salad way back when. It’s full of crunch, texture and flavor.

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 Gala or Fuji apples. cored and diced

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

1 fennel bulb, diced

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 endives, leaves separated

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice. In another large bowl combine the fennel, almonds, grapes, apples, mayonnaise and black pepper. Arrange endive leaves on salad plates, then scoop mixture onto them. Serve at room temperature with meat, poultry or fish.

Classic Meatloaf

By Barbara Beltrami

I know someone who is very sophisticated, has traveled all over the world and dines in the finest restaurants. She recently reached a milestone birthday and guess what she requested for dinner? Meatloaf! I suspect many of us would do likewise because I can’t think of another dish that’s more a comfort food. I know that most recipes call for a generous inclusion or slathering of ketchup. However, the best meatloaf I’ve ever had was made by my Aunt Ginny who used to lace hers with torn pieces of wet white bread and then drenched the meat loaf in tomato sauce part way through the baking. For many years I’ve been trying to recreate it, but haven’t been able to quite duplicate it. In my attempts I’ve come up with some pretty good meatloaf recipes, and the ones I like best do use tomato sauce. And by the way, not only is meatloaf a wonderful dinner entree but it also makes a great sandwich.

Classic Meatloaf

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 onions, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup beef broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 pounds ground chuck

2/3 cup unflavored bread crumbs

3 eggs, beaten

Nonstick cooking spray

1/2 cup ketchup

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In medium skillet, warm olive oil over medium low heat; add onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are wilted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, add Worcestershire sauce, broth and tomato paste, stir and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine the meat, bread crumbs and eggs; stir and toss to thoroughly combine. Spray a shallow baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer mixture to center of pan and shape into a loaf; spread ketchup on top. Bake until cooked through, about 60 minutes. Slice and serve hot with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Aunt Ginny’s Meatloaf

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

One 14-ounce can tomato sauce

2 pounds ground chuck

1 pound ground pork

1 cup unflavored bread crumbs

3 slices white sandwich bread

2 eggs, beaten

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In medium skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add onions and salt and pepper, and stirring frequently, cook until onion is transparent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Soak bread slices in cold water just until soggy, remove but do not squeeze dry; tear into bite-size pieces. In large bowl combine onions, half a cup of the tomato sauce, the meat, bread crumbs, bread pieces and eggs; toss lightly. Transfer mixture to shallow baking pan. Shape into rectangle and bake 40 minutes, until brown on top; pour remaining tomato sauce over loaf and continue baking until sauce is bubbly and meat is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Slice and serve hot with buttered broad noodles and a salad.

My Meatloaf

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 onions, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

1 Italian frying pepper, seeded and minced

6 to 8 fresh mushrooms, cleaned and minced

3 pounds ground beef

1 cup unflavored bread crumbs

3 slices white sandwich bread

3 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

One 8-ounce can tomato sauce

Nonstick cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Soak bread slices in water just until soggy, remove but do not squeeze dry; tear into bite-size pieces. In large bowl combine onions, tomato, pepper, mushrooms, beef, bread crumbs, bread, eggs, salt and pepper. Spray a nonstick shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; transfer mixture to pan and shape into rectangle. Bake 40 minutes, until brown on top; pour tomato sauce over top and continue baking until sauce is bubbly and meat is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Slice and serve hot with baked potato and winter squash.

Acorn Squash. Metro photo

By Barbara Beltrami

The minute I see mums and pumpkins and squash piled in pyramids I start to think autumn.  The sunflowers and geraniums are still prolific, there’s a little basil and a few tomatoes left in the garden, but I’ve gone fickle, have lost interest in them and am now focused on things autumnal. In come those earthy veggies, out come the recipes. Acorn squash is my favorite because it’s delicious baked with just butter, salt and pepper or stuffed with a variety of concoctions. Preparation is simple: Wash it, halve it stem to end, and scoop out the seeds.

Sausage, Apple and Fennel- Stuffed Acorn Squash

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 acorn squash, washed, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound Italian fennel sausage

2/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped fennel

2 Granny Smith apples, pared, cored and diced

1 tbsp. minced fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 large egg

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place squash halves, cut side up, in shallow baking pan, brush with butter and season with salt and pepper. Bake 50 to 60 minutes until tender but not mushy. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides; remove and set aside; place onion, fennel, apple and sage in skillet and, stirring frequently, sauté until tender. Remove sausage from casing and crumble; in medium bowl, combine with sautéed veggies; stir in bread crumbs and egg. Scoop filling into baked squash halves, return to oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes until heated through and a little bit crisp on top. Serve hot with poultry or pork.

Curried Quinoa and Raisin- Stuffed Acorn Squash

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 acorn squash, washed halved, and seeded

Scant 1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Scant 1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 large shallot, chopped

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/3 cup raisins, soaked in warm water and drained

1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts

1 cup finely chopped Italian flat parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place squash halves, cut side up, in a shallow baking pan. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, brown sugar and two tablespoons of the oil; brush squash with mixture, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until flesh is tender, about 50 to 60 minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat; add shallot and, stirring occasionally, cook about 5 minutes, until browned. Add quinoa, spices, and salt and stir until they are browned and release their aroma, just a minute or so. Add 2 cups hot water, bring to simmer, cover skillet and continue simmering until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes, then stir in raisins, pistachios and half of parsley. Scoop into squash halves and sprinkle with remaining parsley. Serve hot with lamb, beef or poultry.

Wild Rice, Mushroom and Spinach- Stuffed Acorn Squash

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions

4 acorn squash, wash, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped celery

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

One 1-pound package fresh spinach, washed and chopped

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Brush cut sides of squash with half the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place cut side down on baking sheet and roast 20 to 30 minutes, until tender.

In large skillet heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat, add onion and celery and sauté, stirring frequently until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté another 3 to 5 minutes; add garlic, thyme and spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, just a minute or two.

Stir in cooked rice and lemon juice, adjust seasonings and scoop mixture into squash halves. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve hot with poultry, meat or fish.

Lemon Pound Cake

By Barbara Beltrami

What’s in a name? Pound cake gets its name from the fact that it was originally made from a pound each of flour, sugar, butter and eggs (at about two ounces each there are 8 or 9 large eggs in a pound). So if you’re watching your cholesterol, don’t read any further. But if you’re a huge fan of pound cake as my husband is, then get out your loaf pan and read on to check out my recipes for old-fashioned pound cake, chocolate pound cake and lemon pound cake. The last two are really just loaf cakes, but they have the texture and taste of pound cakes, and that’s what really counts.

Old-fashioned Pound Cake

YIELD: Makes 2 loaves

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound butter

1 pound sugar

9 large eggs, separated

1 pound cake flour, sifted

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Cream butter until soft; gradually beat in sugar until combination is light and fluffy. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored, then beat into butter and sugar mixture until whole mixture is light and fluffy. Beat egg whites until stiff; add flour alternately with egg whites; beat until very smooth and light after each addition. Line two 8” x 5” x 3” loaf pans with waxed paper and butter it; turn batter into loaf pans and bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Chocolate Pound Cake

YIELD: Makes 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2  cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat with the quarter cup of flour. In a large bowl beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. With mixer on low speed add the salt, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa and blend thoroughly; add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each one. With mixer still on low speed, add the flour and milk alternately a little at a time, but do not overbeat.

Pour batter evenly into prepared loaf pan and bake one hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack about 10 minutes; then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack before serving.

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake

YIELD: Makes 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened plus more for greasing pan

Parchment paper

3 lemons

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 2/3 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS:

Place rack in center of oven; preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan and, allowing 2 to 3 inches to hang over top, line with parchment. In large bowl, finely grate zest of lemons but reserve one-third; add butter and sugar and with mixer on high speed beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next, then continue to beat about two minutes until mixture is even fluffier.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the dry ingredient mixture to first mixture and beat until just combined; add milk and beat on low speed just until smooth, then add remaining dry ingredients and beat on low speed just until combined.

Scrape batter into loaf pan, sprinkle remaining lemon zest on top and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on cake rack 10 minutes, then using overhanging parchment, carefully lift out of pan, place on wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.; remove parchment and serve with lemon sorbet or vanilla ice cream.

Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises/Pixar Animation Studios

By Barbara Beltrami

Although many of us fondly think of Ratatouille as the Disney movie with the eponymous cute little rat, it is actually a French vegetable stew of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers and fresh herbs that originated in Provence. It’s the best way I know of to enjoy late summer’s bounty all together in delicious mouthfuls of garden goodness. As with most regional dishes, each cook has her own adamant way of preparing her ratatouille.

Because it’s one of my favorite veggie dishes,  whenever I’ve visited France, I’ve managed  to come home with another recipe for ratatouille. Please note that these first two very traditional recipes call for cooking each veggie separately; that’s what makes them so colorful and preserves their distinct flavor and texture. The third recipe is a spin off of ratatouille, but equally savory. All recipes can be served hot, warm, at room temperature or cold. I think ratatouille goes well with almost anything!

Giselle Renouard’s Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound eggplant, sliced into 1/2” rounds

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Olive oil

1 pound zucchini, diced

1 pound mixed red and green bell peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 pound onions,  finely chopped

1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Leaves from several sprigs thyme

Leaves from one large sprig basil, julienned

DIRECTIONS:

Place eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let drain 30 minutes. Pat dry and cut again into small chunks. In large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil; add eggplant, stir occasionally and when brown on all sides remove and drain on paper towels. Add a little more oil and cook the zucchini just until soft; remove and drain. Next, add a little more oil, if needed, and cook peppers; remove them when tender; add onions, cook until soft but not brown, then add tomatoes, garlic, sugar, parsley and thyme and simmer for about 30 minutes. Return the rest of the vegetables to the pan and, stirring frequently but gently, simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add basil, salt and pepper.

Mme. Marie Ouvrard’s Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and diced

1 1/2 pounds small zucchini, cut into 1/2” cubes

3/4 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2” cubes

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

5 medium tomatoes, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

In large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat; add onions and garlic and, stirring often, sauté, for a minute or two until onion softens and garlic releases its aroma. Stir in red pepper and cook over medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add zucchini and eggplant and simmer briefly. If mixture starts to stick to pan, add a little more oil or hot water. Stir in thyme and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper; simmer until all vegetables are soft but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Just before serving, add basil.

Lucie Durand’s Ratatouille

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 large onions, sliced thin

2 pounds eggplant sliced 1/2” thick

2 orange or yellow bell peppers

2 red bell peppers

4 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 slices

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 garlic cloves, halved

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray bottom and sides of a casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Make a layer using  half each of the onion rings, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and garlic in that order. Repeat and drizzle with olive oil. Place in oven and bake about 50 to 60 minutes, until bubbling and tender. Occasionally, using the back of a wooden spoon, press down on the vegetables to make sure they are cooking evenly. Remove from oven, garnish with parsley and basil before serving.

Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

So you love pizza. Who doesn’t? And you say you wish you could eat it 24/7 three times a day. Well, the pizza genie has granted your wish. Beyond the basic pizza margherita with tomato sauce and cheese, there are so many versions of that uber popular pie that it’s hard to count them.

However, if you’re serious about having pizza for every meal or maybe you think you might like to spread the wealth around over a few days or weeks, I’ve got three pizzas for you: The first, of course, is for breakfast and has, among other ingredients, eggs; the second takes inspiration from a lunchtime favorite, tuna salad; and the third is a dinner pizza that has so many ingredients and toppings that you’re going to need extra napkins.

Breakfast Pizza

YIELD: Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 tablespoons cornmeal

One 12-inch pizza crust

3/4 pound bacon

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 cup diced potatoes

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 to 6 large eggs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450F. Spray a rimmed pizza pan or baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with cornmeal and spread pizza crust to edges. In a large skillet over medium-high heat fry bacon until it just starts to shrivel and turn golden, about 5 to 10 minutes; remove and drain on paper towels. In another large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat; add onion and potatoes and sauté, turning often, until both are soft but not mushy.

Sprinkle cheese over crust, then tomatoes, then onions and potatoes; season with salt and pepper and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until everything turns light brown. Remove from oven, place on rack and carefully break eggs evenly over top; place partially cooked bacon slices in between eggs, return to oven and bake another 8 to10 minutes until eggs are set and bacon is crisp. Remove from oven, drizzle with olive oil, cut into slices and serve immediately with hot coffee, Bloody Mary’s or mimosas.

Lunch Pizza

YIELD: Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 tablespoons cornmeal

One 12-inch pizza crust

Two 7-ounce cans water-packed tuna, drained

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon pickle juice

1 shallot, minced

1 celery rib, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray rimmed pizza pan or baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle cornmeal evenly over it. Spread pizza crust to edges of pan; bake until crust is slightly crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile in medium bowl thoroughly combine tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice, shallot, celery salt and pepper. Spread evenly over partially baked crust, top with cheese and bell pepper slices and bake 8 to 10 minutes until crust is golden and filling is heated through and bubbly. Serve hot or warm immediately with a mixed green salad.

Dinner Pizza

YIELD: Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 tablespoons cornmeal

One 12-inch pizza crust

2/3 cup marinara sauce

3 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni

2 ounces prosciutto, coarsely torn or chopped

6 anchovies, diced

1 medium Portobello mushroom, thinly sliced

3 roasted red pepper halves, julienned

1/2 cup oil-packed artichokes, chopped

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

12 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

1/4 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 475 F. Spray a rimmed pizza pan or baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle with cornmeal and place the pizza crust on top, stretching it to the edges. Slather sauce over crust; evenly scatter pepperoni, prosciutto, anchovies, mushrooms, roasted pepper, artichokes, olives, salt and crushed red pepper flakes over sauce; top with mozzarella and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until vegetables are soft and start to brown a little and edge of crust is golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, slice and serve hot or warm with sautéed broccoli rabe or spinach.