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Barbara Beltrami

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

By Barbara Beltrami

There are certain magical combinations in the food world. Some are because their flavors or qualities complement each other, some are because they are what the earth and the barn and the sea provide, and some are because they grow and ripen simultaneously. And so it is with strawberries and rhubarb which are at their peak right now and abound at farm stands and in markets. The sweetness of the former and tartness of the latter form a perfect pair, particularly in desserts. 

While strawberry-rhubarb pie may be the most well known one, there are some others that are just as mouth-watering, maybe more so, than that old standby.  One is a strawberry-rhubarb custard pie where the creaminess of the custard is a perfect foil for the sweet-tartness of  the fruit. Another is a roll where cake and syrup create a perfect pair, especially when topped with whipped cream.  And finally, a strawberry-rhubarb crisp gives crunchiness to counter the soft fruit. They are all recipes that I remember from way back when.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

YIELD: Makes 8 servings. 

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup flour

2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar

Generous pinch salt

3/4 stick chilled unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or almonds

Finely grated zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled and halved

3/4 pound rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2” slices

DIRECTIONS:

In medium bowl, thoroughly combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar and salt. With fingertips or pastry blender, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Add oats and nuts and blend thoroughly. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease or butter an 8 or 9” square nonreactive baking dish. In a medium bowl combine the one half cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, strawberries and rhubarb. Transfer to prepared baking dish; sprinkle oat mixture on top. Bake until filling is bubbly and top is golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. Serve hot or warm with vanilla ice cream or yogurt or whipped cream.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Roll

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup water

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup milk

1 cup washed, hulled strawberries, halved

1 cup diced, trimmed washed rhubarb

1 /2 tablespoon cinnamon

 DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium saucepan combine one cup sugar with water. Boil 5 minutes,  until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into an 8” x 8” baking dish. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, one tablespoon of remaining sugar and baking powder. With fingertips or a pastry blender, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Stir in milk just until mixture is thoroughly moistened. Turn onto lightly floured board and knead 30 seconds. Roll into a 8” x 15” rectangle; spread with fruit; combine remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over fruit. Starting at the long end, roll like a jellyroll. Cut into 8 to 12 slices and place in syrup in baking dish. Bake until done, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or warm with whipped cream.  

Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Pie

Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Pie

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

Pastry for a 9” two crust pie

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved (or quartered) depending on size

2 cups washed and trimmed rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1  tablespoon unsalted butter

2 eggs, lightly beaten

DIRECTIONS:

Line pie plate with two-thirds of the pastry. Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine strawberries and rhubarb and place in pastry-lined pie plate. In a medium bowl combine, sugar, flour and nutmeg. Cut butter into tiny pieces and add, along with eggs, to flour mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture over fruit in pie plate. Roll out remaining third of pastry dough, cut into half-inch strips and arrange in lattice design over pie filling. Place pie in oven; immediately reduce heat to 350 F. Bake until rhubarb is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

By Barbara Beltrami

It’s spring! And that means getting out in the garden and planting things to please the palate as much as the eye. This year more than ever cultivating a garden has become a particularly popular pastime as we eagerly gravitate to the great outdoors after our long winter’s hibernation and isolation. There’s something so rewarding and satisfying about planting tiny seeds or sprouts and watching them grow into mature edibles. 

Early seasonals like spinach, peas and lettuce that don’t mind the cold weather are the first to gratify our efforts, and not far behind are herbs. Some are perennials and start peeking through the soil early on; a few are annuals and need to be replenished every year, but all are fragrant, flavorful and pretty edibles that keep on giving right into the fall and are welcome plants that can be used fresh or dried on their own or as additions and enhancements to other dishes.

Herbed Popcorn

Here’s something to happily crunch on while you’re binge-watching TV. You can even omit the butter and probably won’t even miss it.

YIELD: Makes about 4 quarts

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried dill

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

Finely ground sea salt to taste

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat for 30 to 45 seconds, until it starts to shimmer. Turn off heat, add herbs and pepper, stir and let sit about 20 minutes so the oil can absorb their flavors. Pop the popcorn in the microwave, an air popper or by your favorite method. Immediately transfer to a very large pot or bowl and combine it with the herb mixture, salt and melted butter. Serve immediately with soda, beer or wine.

Herb Salad I

Chop up some of these flavorful leaves for your next salad. Dress with a simple vinaigrette to enhance but not mask their flavors.

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups mixture of dill, mint, parsley, lovage, and basil

3 cups mixed baby salad greens

1 carrot, shredded

4 radishes, washed, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 scallion, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1 cup thinly sliced grape tomatoes

 DIRECTIONS: 

In large bowl toss ingredients with your favorite vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature with seafood, pasta, fish, poultry or meat.

Herb Salad II

Herb Salad II

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups torn butter or Bibb lettuce

3 cups fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

3 cups fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh snipped chives

1/2 cup fresh snipped garlic chives

1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves

1 cup fresh chervil, chopped

1 cup fresh nasturtium leaves

2 cups diced fennel bulb with leaves

Nasturtium and chive flowers for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In large bowl toss ingredients with vinaigrette. Just before serving, garnish with flowers. Serve immediately with seafood, fish, pasta, poultry or meat.

Mixed Herb Pesto

Herbed Pesto

If you like the traditional basil pesto, you’ll also like pestos made from other herbs. 

YIELD: Makes 3/4 to 1 cup.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups mixed tender herbs such as basil, cilantro, parsley, tarragon or mint

1 cup fresh baby spinach

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/4 cup shelled almonds or pistachios

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In bowl of electric food processor, puree all ingredients together to form a smooth paste. Serve at room temperature with pasta, meat, poultry, fish or seafood. 

Herbed Salt

Herbed Salt

Make this up in large batches so you’ll have some to give as gifts.

YIELD: Makes about 2 cups

INGREDIENTS: 

10 sprigs of a mixture of sage, oregano, rosemary and thyme

2 cups kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

Remove thick stems, then coarsely chop remaining leaves and small stems. Place in bowl of food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to medium bowl and thoroughly combine with salt. Transfer to airtight container. Store in a cool dry place. Serve with anything that requires salt.

Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Most likely, it’s not going to be a traditional Memorial Day barbecue this year. No backyard crowded with family and friends and neighbors bearing salad bowls and foil covered platters. No cooler filled with beer and soda on the deck. No trays of hot dogs and hamburgers. Just you and your family or maybe even just you. So … since it’s going to be a different kind of day anyway, why not dispense with the usual menu and go for something different but very easy? How about steak with butter and garlic sauce? Chicken under a brick? A watermelon, feta, arugula and tomato salad? Grilled potatoes and Vidalia onions? And to remember the red, white and blue, how about a strawberry, blueberry and vanilla ice cream tart for dessert?

Watermelon, Avocado, Feta, Arugula and Tomato Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

4 cups diced watermelon

4 ounces diced feta cheese

4 cups arugula, washed, dried and coarsely chopped

2 large tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, toss avocado with lemon juice; set aside. In a large salad bowl, toss together the watermelon, feta, arugula and tomato. Just before serving, add the avocado, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to the watermelon mixture. Toss to thoroughly coat with oil and vinegar. Serve with steak, chicken or any grilled meat or poultry and grilled potatoes and onions.

Steak with Garlic Butter Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

One 2-3 pound boneless steak

Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened

2 ounces unsalted butter melted

4 cloves garlic, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to hot. Rub steak generously with salt and pepper. Smear one side with two ounces of the softened. Grill, buttered side down, until browned on that side, about 5 to 7 minutes; turn and smear top with remaining softened butter; sprinkle with half the garlic and grill until meat reaches desired doneness. For medium rare, a thermometer should read 135 F, for medium, 140 F, for medium well, 145 F (4 to 7 minutes per side). Reheat melted butter with remaining two minced cloves garlic. Slice steak and drizzle with melted butter mixture. Serve hot with salad and grilled potatoes and onions.

Chicken Under a Brick

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 small chicken, split down the breastbone and pounded flat

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

1 garlic clove,  minced

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

4 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper to taste

1 ordinary brick wrapped in foil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to medium-low. Rub all ingredients well into chicken’s skin. Place chicken on grill, weight down with brick and cook until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes each side, or until juices run clear. Serve with grilled potatoes and Vidalia onions and salad

Grilled Baby Potatoes and Vidalia Onions

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

2 – 3  pounds baby potatoes, scrubbed 

2 Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced thin

1/2 cup olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Prick potato skins with a fork. In a large saucepan, parboil the potatoes in salted water until they’re still slightly hard in the center; drain. In a large bowl combine them with the onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes until they have absorbed all the oil. Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium-high. Transfer potatoes and onions to grill basket and grill until potatoes are cooked through and onions start to brown. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot or warm with steak, chicken or any grilled meat or poultry and salad.

Red, White and Blue Tart

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pie crust, pre-baked

1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened

1/2 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

1/2 pint blueberries, washed and drained

1/2 pint raspberries, washed and drained

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Spread ice cream evenly in pie crust.  Cover and freeze. Twenty minutes before serving, remove from freezer. In a  medium bowl, toss berries with granulated sugar, then sprinkle or arrange them over ice cream; dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately with iced coffee, iced tea or lemonade.

 

Lobster Roll. Photo from METRO

By Barbara Beltrami

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

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

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

Quiche from a Picnic in Provence

Quiche

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

Nonstick cooking spray

Pie crust for 8-inch spring form tart pan

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 onions, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

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

2 tomatoes, diced

2 large eggs

1 cup cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dash nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:

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

Lobster Roll from a Maine Lobster Shack

Lobster Roll. Photo from METRO

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

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

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 inner celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

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

DIRECTIONS:

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

Apple Strudel from a Café in Budapest

Apple Strudel

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 1/4 cups apple juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

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

1/2 cup raisins

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

4 sheets phyllo dough

1/3 cup melted unsalted butter plus 2 tablespoons

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

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

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

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

 

Hollandaise Sauce. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

The five classic sauces that are often called  the Mother Sauces of French cuisine are béchamel, velouté, espagnole, hollandaise and tomate. From them are derived many other sauces that we’ve all most likely tasted at one time or another. 

The béchamel is that creamy white sauce made from a roux of butter and flour with hot milk and with cheese added becomes a Mornay sauce. A velouté is another creamy white sauce made from meat or fish stock, cream and egg yolks. That brings us to hollandaise, a blend of egg yolks, butter and lemon juice or vinegar. A sauce espagnole rarely used on its own but often as a base for other sauces is a rich emulsion of a dark brown roux, browned bones and meat, vegetables, brown sugar and various seasonings. And finally is the one we’re probably most familiar with, sauce tomate, which consists of pork, a roux, herbs and seasonings and of course, tomatoes. 

Why am I telling you all this? Because there’s nothing like a savory classic sauce to jazz up an otherwise ordinary dish. And because for Mother’s Day and every day, Mom deserves something jazzy and elegant crowned by one of the Five Mother Sauces. Fancy names aside, these pillars of French cuisine aren’t famous and popular for nothing. Here are three of those five sauces for you to try.

Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel Sauce

YIELD: Makes about 2 to 2 1/4 cups

INGREDIENTS: 

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk, then put over very low heat to keep it hot. In another medium saucepan melt butter over low heat and when it is bubbling, whisk in flour, nutmeg and salt and pepper and cook 3 to 4 minutes until golden. Whisking constantly, pour in milk slowly but steadily and keep whisking and stirring until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Use for creamed veggies, mac and cheese, lasagna, moussaka or anything that would taste better with a cream sauce.

For variation: Whisk in 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese to make a Mornay sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce

YIELD: Makes about 2/3 cup

INGREDIENTS: 

8 ounces unsalted butter

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon water

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Set a large saucepan with a few inches of water on low heat to simmer. Place butter in a glass measuring cup and set in simmering water until butter is melted, but don’t let water come to top or get inside cup. Carefully skim white residue off top, reserve clear yellow liquid and discard white on bottom of cup. In a small saucepan, using a wire whisk, vigorously beat egg yolks with a tablespoon of water. Place saucepan in a larger saucepan of simmering water, beating constantly, and, continuing to beat constantly, add clear yellow liquid from butter. Keep over simmering water and continue to beat until mixture thickens and has the consistency of a thick liquid. Stir in salt and pepper and lemon juice; combine thoroughly and serve immediately over poached eggs, steamed asparagus, cooked lobster pieces or crabmeat or poached salmon 

Sauce Velouté

Sauce Velouté

YIELD: Makes about 2 cups

INGREDIENTS: 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups hot chicken broth

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, two minutes. Whisk in chicken broth, half a cup at a time, until smooth.  Bring mixture to a low boil, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes, until thick and smooth. Serve over fish, shellfish, or poultry with a delicate green salad.

Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

By Barbara Beltrami

Virtual happy hours have become all the rage this season. And as we do for any social event we must ready ourselves. So we drape a scarf jauntily over our sweatshirt, finger comb our shaggy hair, put on a splash of bright lipstick for our imminent internet appearance and set a platter of hors d’oeuvres before us to share with absolutely no one but ourselves. 

There we are, swirling our wine or clinking the ice cubes in our glasses and raising them in a merry toast to whoever is on the screen of our tablet. But back to those hors d’oeuvres.

If we’re lucky enough to have procured a log of goat cheese and can spare an onion and a few slices of bread, we nonchalantly munch caramelized onion and goat cheese crostini. Or perhaps we’ve found a package of chop meat lodged in the freezer and have the makings for cocktail meatballs. Or maybe, just maybe, we’ve had the foresight to grab some mixed nuts while everyone else was in the paper goods aisle scrounging for you-know-what. 

So here are some recipes to not have to share at your virtual cocktail party. Many of the ingredients come right from your spice shelf or pantry and are eminently “substitutable.” Even if you don’t have the ingredients, well, the main thing is seeing the once familiar faces of friends and family and neighbors, so Here’s to You! 

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Crostini

YIELD: Makes 2 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

6 thin slices French baguette, toasted

2 ounces softened goat cheese, gorgonzola, cream cheese or any soft cheese

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm oil; add onions and stirring occasionally, cook until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, brown sugar and vinegar and then, stirring frequently, cook over medium heat until onions are soft and a deep golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Spread goat cheese on toasted bread slices, top with onions and serve immediately or at room temperature with a sparkling white wine such as prosecco.

Cocktail Meatballs 

YIELD: Makes 2 to 3 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 pound ground beef

1 egg

1/4 cup bread crumbs

4 fresh mushrooms, minced

1 shallot or 1/4 medium onion, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire or A-1 sauce

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard

2 tablespoons ketchup or tomato sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a medium bowl thoroughly combine the meat, egg, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, shallot, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and cayenne. Roll into one and half-inch meatballs, place on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, ketchup and brown sugar; brush onto meatballs. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes; sprinkle with chives. Serve with plain yogurt or sour cream. 

Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts 

YIELD: Makes 2 to 3 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

1 egg white

3 cups salted roasted cashews, walnuts, almonds or a mixture

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped dried rosemary leaves

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 250 F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk egg white until frothy; add nuts and stir to coat. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, curry powder, cumin, garlic salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper and cinnamon; sprinkle mixture over nuts and toss to thoroughly coat. Spread nuts on a baking sheet and place on center rack of oven. Bake about 35 to 45 minutes, until golden, crispy and aromatic. Remove from oven and cool completely. Break up any clumps and serve with ice cold cocktails or white wine.

Vegetarian Chili

By Barbara Beltrami

I feel like Old Mother Hubbard going to the cupboard and finding it bare or nearly so these days. As I sit and try to order groceries online and find “no delivery slot” or miraculously manage to order online but have to wait a week or so for delivery, I go to the fridge and find an expired container of yogurt, a bottle of ketchup and half a can of cat food. In the vegetable drawer I find a few slimy unrecognizable leaves, a lone scallion and a totally collapsed cucumber and the stark reminder that the fridge could use a long overdue cleaning. I go to the freezer to find nothing but an ancient package of phyllo dough and half a cake from my birthday a year ago. I turn in desperation to my pantry. 

I inherited from my mother the practice of stockpiling multiple cans and jars and packages of staple items so what I do have is lots of cans of beans, tomatoes and tuna, a couple of boxes of pasta, a box of rice and a whole shelf of pickles I put up last year. 

Now the challenge is: What can I concoct out of these few things? I could do a Pasta Puttanesca with the tomatoes and tuna. I could do a Tuna and Bean Salad or I could make a Vegetarian Chili. Here are the recipes I came up with. Things being what they are, all measurements are approximate, main ingredients are generic, and if you don’t have some of the secondary ingredients, no big deal. You’ve got more important things to worry about these days. Be safe, be well, be grateful.

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

Two 14-ounce cans beans, rinsed and drained

One 14-ounce can tomatoes with juice

Salt and crushed hot red pepper flakes to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In large heavy saucepan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat, add  onion, pepper and chopped garlic and cook over medium heat until slightly softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic chili powder, cumin and coriander and cook, stirring once or twice about one minute. Stir in beans, tomatoes, salt and pepper flakes. Serve hot with rice, tortilla chips and a salad or green vegetable.

Pasta Puttanesca

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pound pasta

1/4 cup olive oil

One 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon each dried parsley, basil, oregano

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup black olives, pitted and chopped]

One 7-ounce can oil-packed tuna, drained

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Put pasta water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat; add tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes; add capers, olives, tuna, salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a dry white wine.

Tuna and Bean Salad

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

One 7-ounce can tuna, drained

One14-ounce can beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons minced pickles

2 tablespoons minced onion or scallion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl mix all ingredients together. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Serve with lettuce or arugula and rustic bread. 

Dutch Baby Pancake

By Barbara Beltrami

When was the last time before the coronavirus quarantine that you and your family had breakfast together, except maybe on Sunday morning? How long has it been since everyone didn’t bolt out the door, coffee cup or bagel in hand and dash off? Late for work, late for school, just plain late and barely time for a goodbye. Along with the many togetherness opportunities afforded us by our domestic isolation, weekday breakfast has got to be the most novel. It’s a chance to whip up a batch of special pancakes, French toast or a savory breakfast hero; a time to let the aroma of sizzling bacon and fresh coffee waft upstairs or down the hall to lure the rumpled late sleepers to the table for conversation, monosyllabic as it’s likely to be, and to get to know each other in a relaxed morning mode.

Dutch Baby Pancake

Dutch Baby Pancake

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup milk

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 475 F. Place heavy 10” skillet in oven to heat. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until frothy; then whisk flour, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon into eggs. Lower oven to 425 F. Remove skillet and swirl butter to completely coat bottom and sides. Pour batter into hot skillet; place back in oven and bake 20 minutes or until golden and puffy. Remove from oven, slide pancake onto warm plate and sift confectioners’ sugar on top. Serve immediately with hot coffee and fresh fruit.

Oven-baked French Toast

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

6 jumbo eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 loaf challah, cut into 1” slices

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 250 F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, maple syrup and salt. Transfer to large shallow dish. Soak bread slices, as many at a time as will fit, in egg mixture, turning once, until both sides are well coated and soaked. In large skillet, heat one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon oil over medium-high heat; add bread and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes; transfer to cookie sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining butter, oil and bread. When all slices are cooked, serve immediately with maple syrup, honey, jam or preserves or powdered sugar.

Breakfast Hero Ranchero

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 fresh jalapeno peppers, cleaned and diced

1 loaf Italian bread or French baguette, sliced lengthwise and toasted

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/2 pound bacon, fried and drained

4 to 6 eggs, scrambled

3 breakfast sausages, cooked, drained, sliced

Half a 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup Manchego cheese, shredded

1 cup tomato salsa

1 cup sour cream

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add onion and jalapeno and sauté, stirring often, over medium-high heat until onion is opaque and pepper is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toast bread halves and assemble precooked ingredients. When bread is toasted, spread top half with butter, top bottom half with bacon, then eggs, sausage slices, beans, pepper and salt, cheese, salsa and sour cream. Place buttered top over fillings, press gently with heel of hand, slice into desired portions and serve immediately with citrus fruit and hot chocolate.

Chicken Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

Everybody knows that chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food, the ultimate panacea for those times when the body and soul need pure nourishment. I wish I could tell you that chicken soup will  prevent you from contracting the coronavirus. It won’t. I wish I could tell you that if you do get it, it will cure you. It won’t. All I can tell you is that cooking it, storing it in the fridge or freezer to have on hand and warm up, sipping and savoring it, sending some to a sick family member, friend or neighbor will make you feel better. 

And when your soup is done and you’ve picked all the meat from the bones, even after you’ve saved big chunks of it for the soup, there are so many things you can use the remaining chicken for. My favorite is a chicken chowder, just another kind of chicken soup, really, with a creamy base. So wash your hands for 20 seconds, make a vat of chicken soup, practice social distancing and stay safe and well.

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

YIELD: Makes 3 quarts

INGREDIENTS: 

One 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken

1 large onion, halved but not peeled

2 carrots, peeled  and chopped

2 to 3 celery ribs with leaves

1 sprig fresh dill

1 parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 quarts water

6 to 8 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds

DIRECTIONS:

In a large stockpot, combine first 8 ingredients. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer so liquid is barely bubbling. Cook until meat falls from bone and bones separate, about two hours. With slotted spoon remove meat and bones, place in large bowl and set aside. Into another large pot or bowl strain liquid, pressing all solids to extract as much juice as possible. 

Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Transfer liquid to container(s), cover tightly and refrigerate or freeze. Pull meat away from bones; discard skin, bones and gristle. Place meat in separate container(s), cover and refrigerate or freeze; once it is chilled, skim any hardened fat from top of liquid, strain again. 

One hour before serving, reheat broth, add the fresh carrots and cook, covered, over low heat. Serve with noodles or rice and some of the chicken meat, if desired. Reserve remaining broth and meat for other use or freeze in containers. Serve with noodles or rice.

Chicken Chowder

Chicken Chowder

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 to 4 cups diced cooked chicken meat

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 celery ribs with leaves, finely chopped

1 large sprig fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Coarse salt and pepper to taste

4 cups chicken stock

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

One-10-ounce package frozen corn

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 cup half and half

DIRECTIONS:

Place a large pot over medium – high heat; add two tablespoons of the butter and the oil. When butter is melted add chicken and stir frequently until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes; remove and set aside. Lower heat to medium; add onion, celery, thyme, bay leaf and salt and pepper; stir to coat with seasoning.  Sauté, stirring once or twice, until veggies soften, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot; add stock, potatoes and corn, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaf and discard. 

In a small saucepan; make a roux with remaining butter and flour. With the large pot still on simmer, stirring constantly with wire whisk, add milk, half and half and roux gradually to achieve thick smooth consistency. Serve immediately with oyster crackers or saltines and a tossed green salad.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

By Barbara Beltrami

Times being what they are, I have chosen to more or less ignore the holidays specifically and tried to concentrate on comfort foods which often are the stuff of celebrations anyway. Because most of us are self-quarantined and keeping social distance even from extended family if they are not part of our household, I am focusing instead on the unique togetherness that we’ve come to experience these past few weeks. 

The addition of a festive ham or matzo balls is nice, even if it’s just the immediate family, but it’s the idea of being together around the table, getting reacquainted with ourselves, each other, home cooking and mealtime ritual that supersedes even the most traditional and festive of dishes, that turns the cooking and partaking of even the most ordinary and mundane dishes into a special occasion. In that spirit I hope that you all will make this a time to not just eat together, but plan a menu and cook collaboratively because we can all forgo many things, but not food. 

So if we’re all in this together, we might as well do it and enjoy it together. The following are a few of my favorite recipes that I think make any dinner special.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 large hard-boiled eggs

4 ounces Nova Scotia smoked salmon, minced

1/3 cup snipped chives

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and minced

2 tablespoons minced fennel

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: 

Halve eggs lengthwise; place on plate and gently scoop out yolks. Place yolks in a medium bowl and mash. Add salmon, chives, mayonnaise, onion, capers, fennel, lemon juice, lemon zest and pepper. With wooden spoon, vigorously beat to combine. Heap mixture in cavities of egg whites; sprinkle with dill; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with cocktails or wine.

Zucchini Ribbons with Artichoke Hearts and Cherry Tomatoes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds yellow and green zucchini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and diced

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

One handful flat leaf parsley, and minced

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Using a vegetable peeler cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons from all sides; when you get to the seeds, stop and either discard the core or save for another use. In a large nonstick skillet heat half the oil over medium-high heat. When it is nice and hot, add half the zucchini ribbons and some salt and pepper. Cook, gently stirring and tossing the zucchini, just until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside to keep warm; repeat with second batch. Lower heat to medium; heat remaining oil; add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and parsley. Stirring frequently, cook until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place zucchini ribbons in serving bowl; scatter artichoke hearts and tomatoes on top, and cheese, if using. Serve hot or warm as a main dish or side dish with fish or poultry.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped

8 ounces unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 pod espresso powder

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8” round cake pan; line with a round of wax paper, then butter paper. In double boiler melt chocolate with butter over barely simmering water; stir until smooth. 

Remove top of double boiler from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture; add eggs and whisk well. Sift half cup cocoa  powder and espresso powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Pour batter into cake pan and bake in middle of oven until top has formed a thin crust, about 25 minutes. 

Cool cake in pan 5 minutes, then remove from pan and invert onto serving plate. Dust generously with remaining two tablespoons cocoa powder. Serve with sorbet, fresh raspberries or vanilla ice cream.