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cooking cove

Bran Muffins

By Barbara Beltrami

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

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

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

Bran Muffins

Bran Muffins

YIELD: Makes 12 muffins

INGREDIENTS: 

12 paper baking cups or cooking spray 

*1 1/2 cups Original Fiber One cereal

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup raisins, if desired

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

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, if desired

**1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

**1/2 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS: 

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

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

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

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

YIELD: Makes 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 

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

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup sliced scallion

1 garlic clove

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

One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup chopped parsley

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

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

1 teaspoon salt

**Freshly ground pepper to taste

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

**1 tablespoon olive oil

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

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

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

Tomato and Chick Pea Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

Pixabay photo

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

6 cups loosely packed chopped Romaine lettuce

2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced

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

One 14-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Penne with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2 quarts cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups torn basil leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound penne

Basil sprigs for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Elena’s Eggs from Hell

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

6 to 8 Roma tomatoes, pureed but still chunky

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

4 to 6 large eggs

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Barbecued Chicken. Metro photo

By Barbara Beltrami

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

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

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

Barbecued Chicken #1

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Barbecued Chicken. Metro photo

3/4 cup ketchup

1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar

1 heaping tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon za’atar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 garlic cloves, minced

One medium onion, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 broiler -fryer chicken cut into 8 pieces

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Barbecued Chicken #2

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon cucumber relish

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 generous dashes hot pepper sauce

8 chicken breast halves, bone in

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Barbecued Chicken #3

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

8 bone in chicken thighs or half-breasts 

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon cayenne

Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS: 

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

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

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

Pappa al Pomodoro Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

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

Salad Soup

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

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

1/4 Vidalia onion, peeled and chopped

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded

2 large red bell peppers, trimmed and chopped

2 garlic cloves, lightly bruised

1 cup cooked arborio or long- grain rice

2 cups water

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

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

Basil leaves or dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato and Bread Soup)

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

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large sprig sage, stems removed

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

1 2/3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, puréed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh sage leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Garlic Soup

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

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium onion, peeled and minced

8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup cream

2 tablespoons sour cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Snipped fresh chives for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

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

Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Stock photo

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

Paella

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut up into large pieces

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 large bell pepper, (any color) diced

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups long grain rice, (not instant)

Pinch saffron, dissolved in a little hot broth

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

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

1 pound cut up fresh tomatoes

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Herb-Poached Salmon with Dill Mayonnaise

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Poached Salmon

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh dill

2 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley

1 large shallot, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon black or white peppercorns

2 pounds fresh salmon, cut into 6 even pieces

Dill Mayonnaise

3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons cream

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup snipped fresh chives

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 fresh dill sprigs

6 fresh lemon slices

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

One 10-inch pastry crust

3 level tablespoons prepared mustard

1 1/2 pounds garden tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 large eggs

5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: 

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

Grilled Pizza Margherita METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

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

Grilled Pizza Margherita

YIELD: Makes two 12 to 14″ pizzas

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

• 1 teaspoon coarse salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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

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

• Fresh basil leaves

DIRECTIONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cilantro. Photo from Unsplash

By Barbara Beltrami

The world is divided into two groups of people: those who love cilantro aka coriander and use it in all sorts of dishes and those who cannot abide it and say it tastes like soap. If you belong to the first group read on. Cilantro lends its distinct flavor to salsa, marinades, sauces, pestos, salads and even coolers and cocktails.

Pico de Gallo

YIELD: Makes 2 1/2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

4 tomatoes, diced

1/2 onion, minced

1 serrano chile, minced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 heaping tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In medium bowl toss all ingredients together and let sit at room temperature for one hour or cover and refrigerate overnight, then bring to room temperature before serving. Serve with tacos, chili or grilled meat or poultry.

Cilantro Marinated Chicken or Pork

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste

4 boneless chicken breasts or 4 pork chops

DIRECTIONS:

In a blender puree the jalapeño peppers, garlic, cilantro, fish sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, salt and pepper flakes. Place meat in a shallow dish and coat it with cilantro puree. Cover and refrigerate for one to three hours. Bring back to room temperature.  Grill or broil meat for 5 minutes each side until no longer pink in center. Serve with rice and stir-fried veggies.

Cilantro-Pistachio Pesto

YIELD: Makes about one cup

INGREDIENTS:

2 garlic cloves

3 serrano chiles, seeded and charred

2 tightly packed cups fresh flat leaf parsley

2 cups fresh cilantro

2/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Peel the garlic cloves; coarsely chop the chiles. Transfer garlic, chiles, parsley, cilantro, pistachios, oil and salt and pepper to bowl of electric food processor or jar of blender. Puree until fairly smooth; transfer to small glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one month. When ready to serve bring to room temperature.  Serve with pasta, scrambled eggs, grilled veggies, meat, fowl or fish.

Cilantro-Lime Sauce

YIELD: Makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk or cream

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl vigorously whisk together all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours until ready to use. Serve with tacos, chili or grilled beef.

Cilantro Margarita Spritz

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 cocktails

INGREDIENTS:

4 ounces Triple Sec

6 ounces tequila

6 ounces prosecco

15 cilantro leaves

1 1/2 cups pureed peeled and seeded cucumber

2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice

2 ounces simple syrup

3 ounces chilled sparkling water

3 cilantro sprigs for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a cocktail shaker, vigorously shake all ingredients except sparkling water. Fill tall chilled glasses one-quarter up with crushed ice. Pour mix over ice into glasses, then add sparkling water and give a stir. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve with cocktail nuts.

Blueberry-Pecan Bread. Photo from Unsplash

By Barbara Beltrami

Blueberries! Blueberry pie, blueberry fool, blueberry buckle, blueberry crisp, blueberry crumble, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, blueberry tarts and cakes, smoothies, coolers, and just plain blueberries that leave stains on your teeth and fingers. What recipes shall I choose? I can’t decide! So I’m going to share with you some spin-offs on a few of them and hope you like them as much as the traditional ones.

Blueberry-Pecan Bread

YIELD: Makes one loaf

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup sugar

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 eggs well-beaten

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 x 5 x 3” loaf pan with waxed paper. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar; add berries and nuts and stir to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and oil; add to dry mixture and stir just enough to moisten; pour into prepared loaf pan and let sit about 20 minutes. Bake one hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve with iced coffee or iced tea.

Blueberry Skillet Pancake

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup half and half

1 large egg at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 pint blueberries

Confectioners sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Place oven rack in upper third of oven; preheat oven to 375 F. Place 10” cast iron skillet in oven. In large bowl combine flour, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl whisk together the half and half, egg and two tablespoons of the butter. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture until just moistened. With a potholder carefully remove skillet from oven; swirl remaining tablespoon of butter to coat bottom and sides of pan; pour batter in pan and smooth top; sprinkle evenly with blueberries and remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake 20 to 30 minutes until cooked through and golden on top; sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with blueberry syrup, fresh blueberries and whipped cream.

Blueberry Custard Tart

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 large eggs, well beaten

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 2/3 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 unbaked 9” pie shell

1 cup blueberries

2 tablespoons orange juice

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a medium bowl combine eggs, sugar, salt, milk, nutmeg and vanilla; stir until smooth; pour mixture into pie shell and bake 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 F and bake 30 minutes more, until knife inserted about one inch from edge of pastry shell comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool; refrigerate if not serving immediately. In a medium bowl toss the blueberries, orange juice and confectioners’ sugar; spoon over cream filling just before serving. 

Chicken Kabob. Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

This is the third in a series of columns about easy summer dinners, and because it’s about meat and poultry, it’s mostly about grilling. One of the great things about these recipes is that they make tasty leftovers which pay forward for less time in the kitchen. Slice or chop them up for salads or sandwiches, but on second thought, they’re all so good that I doubt you’ll have any leftovers.

Saffron Chicken Kabobs

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/2 cup boiling chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2” cubes

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl stir together the saffron and chicken stock and let steep for half an hour. Add the wine, oil, cardamom, salt and pepper; add chicken; toss to combine, cover, and stirring occasionally, refrigerate for 3 hours. Prepare grill: oil grill rack with an oil saturated crumpled paper towel and place rack 4 to 6” above fire. Remove chicken from marinade but reserve the liquid; pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then thread it onto skewers and arrange them on the rack. Grill, turning frequently and brushing with reserved marinade, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve with rice pilaf and sliced tomatoes with olive oil and fresh herbs.

Barbecued Beef Brisket

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 4 – 5 pound brisket

4 garlic cloves, cut into slivers

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3/4 cup ketchup

3/4 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Make slits all over surface of meat and poke garlic slivers in them; rub brisket with two tablespoons of the oil. In a small bowl combine salt and pepper, thyme, paprika and cayenne and smear over meat; let sit at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the barbecue sauce: In a medium saucepan over moderate heat warm the remaining two tablespoons oil, then add the onion and chopped garlic and heat, stirring frequently, until onion starts to turn golden, about 5 minutes; add ketchup, tomato sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, chili powder and hot sauce; stir to combine, then reduce heat to simmer and cover partially; cook until sauce thickens, about 15 to 25 minutes. 

Prepare fire for indirect heat cooking and position an oiled rack 4 to 6 inches above fire; place brisket so it is not directly over heat, cover grill and cook for one hour; brush meat with about a third of the sauce and cook another hour, turning occasionally and brushing sparingly with more sauce. Remove from grill and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Slice across the grain and serve with coleslaw and fresh corn on the cob.

Spicy Pork Chops

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup grainy Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons orange zest

2 tablespoons whiskey

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Six 6-8 ounce boneless 3/4” pork chops

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl combine mustard, orange juice , orange zest, whiskey, Worcestershire sauce, sage and pepper. Smear over both sides of pork chops and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Oil grill rack and heat grill to medium-high. Cook, turning once, until chops are barely pink inside, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with sweet potato fries and salad.

Pixabay photo

By Barbara Beltrami

If you read my column last week, you know that I wrote about easy summer dinners with fish. This week I’m focusing on veggies and using all that bounty from farm stands, supermarkets and best of all, your own garden. Or maybe you don’t have a garden but your neighbor does and generously shares her harvests with you. Whatever the source, whatever the veggies, (and they’re  likely to include tomatoes!) it’s a perfect set up for you to take it easy in the kitchen. 

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber, Peppers and Corn

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups semi-pearled farro

Salt to taste

1 English cucumber, peeled and diced

4 tomatoes, diced

1 small red onion, peeled and diced

2 ears of corn, kernels removed, separated

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 medium lemon

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 basil sprig for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a large heavy pot or skillet toast farro over medium heat for about 4 minutes; remove pot from heat and pour in cold water and salt to cover farro by one inch. Over medium-high heat bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, give it a good stir and, skimming foam occasionally, cook until al dente, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain farro, transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add cucumber, tomatoes, onion, corn, lemon juice, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper; toss to thoroughly combine. Just before serving garnish with basil. Serve with crusty bread and extra virgin olive oil.

Tomato Eggplant and Goat Cheese Tart

YIELD: Makes one 10 to 12” tart

INGREDIENTS:

10 to 12” pastry crust

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/4 pounds eggplant, peeled and diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 medium plum tomatoes, sliced

4 to 6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 sprig basil, leaves torn

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

DIRECTIONS:

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out pastry to a circle one to two inches larger than pan using. Press into pan and leave overhang; fold overhang back and press against inside of pan sides to make them thicker than bottom. 

In medium-large skillet over medium-high heat warm 3 tablespoons of the oil; add garlic, eggplant, and salt and pepper; stir to coat evenly with oil and saute until eggplant is golden brown and tender, about 15 minutes; remove and let cool to room temperature. 

Brush bottom crust of pastry with remaining tablespoon of oil, distribute tomato slices evenly on crust, season with salt and pepper, then spoon eggplant over tomatoes. Place goat cheese and herbs on top and bake until crust and goat cheese are golden, about one hour; remove from oven and let sit about 10 minutes on wire rack.  Serve with a garden lettuce salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

Coconut Curried Veggie Soup

YIELD:  Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 ounces rice noodles, cooked

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 cup chopped carrots or yellow summer squash

One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 14-ounce can coconut milk

1 cup fresh or frozen peas, chopped green beans, bok choy or green pepper

1 lime

4 sprigs fresh cilantro for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium pot over medium heat, warm the oil; add the carrots or squash, ginger, garlic onion, curry paste, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to brown and stick to bottom of pan; stir in coconut milk, peas, beans, bok choy or green pepper, season again and cook about 6 minutes, until first cup of veggies is tender and second cup turns bright green. Squeeze juice from half the lime over mixture and stir. Place noodles in 4 bowls, spoon veggie mixture over them, add juice from other lime half, if desired, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with ice cold beer.