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cooking cove

Baba Ghanoush

By Barbara Beltrami

Actually, eggplant comes in many more shapes and sizes than the large purple global variety with which we are all familiar. A member of the nightshade family, its flowers, not the eggplant itself, can be female or male. So the preference for one or the other is based on myth. What you should concentrate on when choosing an eggplant is the skin, the weight and the hardness or softness of it. A fresh, ripe eggplant has glossy, taut skin, feels somewhat heavy and can be depressed with the thumb with just a little resistance and then return to its form.

While most people think of eggplant as one of the basic ingredients in the popular Italian American dish, eggplant parmigiana, it is, in fact, a staple of many diets, particularly in the Near and Far East. From the Syrian baba ghanoush to the Indian bhurtha to the Thai pud makua yow, eggplant crosses most ethnic boundaries to remind us that we’re not very much different from one another. I don’t often feature Asian recipes in this column simply because I have little experience with them. However, research among some acquaintances for whom the following recipes are traditional has expanded my repertoire.

Bhurtha

Bhurtha

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium eggplant

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 large tomato, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Preheat broiler. Rub eggplant skin with oil. Place under broiler and turn frequently until skin is charred and inside pulp is soft and mushy. Cut eggplant in half, scoop out flesh, cut into cubes and set aside. In a medium-large skillet, heat the oil, then add the onion, ginger, tomato, garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, just until onion turns opaque. Add eggplant and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the moisture is evaporated. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with naan (oven-baked flatbread), jasmine rice and peas.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 large eggplants

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons tahini

One large clove garlic, finely minced

Coarse salt, to taste

¹/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: Wash eggplants and grill whole on gas grill over medium-low heat. Turn frequently until eggplant is cooked on all sides, skin is charred and pulp is soft. Remove from heat, place on a platter and let cool for one hour. Do not be alarmed if it collapses. Peel the eggplant, scrape any flesh that adheres to the skin and put that plus the remaining flesh into a bowl; immediately add lemon juice and mash it in with the eggplant. Add tahini, garlic and salt and mix well. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill. Transfer mixture to a shallow bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread and black olives.

Pud Makua Yow

Pud Makua Yow

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 serrano chiles, stemmed and minced

2 to 3 medium eggplants (preferably the long Japanese ones), cut into one-inch cubes

1 cup water

2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1½ cups Thai sweet basil leaves, packed

DIRECTIONS: Pour oil into a wok or large skillet; add garlic and chiles. Over medium heat, cook, stirring constantly, until garlic releases its aroma. Add eggplant and one cup water; stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary, until eggplant is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. If too much liquid remains, uncover and continue cooking until it is evaporated. Add soy and fish sauces and stir; then add basil and stir again. Serve immediately with rice, tofu or chicken.

Turkey Surprise Wrap

By Barbara Beltrami

I remember that when I was a kid, anybody who brought anything other than a bologna or PBJ sandwich in her lunch box was taunted and humiliated. Generally an apple or orange could pass muster, but heaven help the kid whose mom put carrot and celery sticks or dried apricots in her lunch box.

Now that the kids are back at school, the challenge of what to pack in their lunch boxes renews itself. I would love to think that nowadays no child gets ridiculed for what’s in his lunch box (or anything else for that matter).

With child obesity recently at an all-time high and hovering around 17 percent, it’s no longer advisable to slap processed meat and cheese between two slices of spongy white bread and slather them with mayonnaise. Likewise, cookies and chips, candy and cake may be what a kid prefers, but many of those goodies have little or no nutritional value, and the sugar in them serves only to wind the kids up and fill their tummies with empty calories.

With media attention on healthful eating habits and revised menus even in school cafeterias, it is becoming incumbent upon parents to observe and encourage those habits by providing nutritious alternatives to convenience and junk foods.

Here are some simple suggestions for yummy and healthful alternatives whose prototypes I’d like to hope will become what the “cool” kids bring in their lunch boxes, but they should be merely models to inspire your own concoctions.

Turkey Surprise Wrap

Turkey Surprise Wrap

YIELD: Makes 1 serving

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole wheat tortilla wrap

¼ cup guacamole

2 thin slices low sodium deli turkey

¼ cup shredded carrot

¼ cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and stems removed

4 large taco chips, crushed

DIRECTIONS: Lay the tortilla wrap on a cutting board; spread with guacamole to one inch from edge of wrap. Lay turkey slices evenly over guacamole; sprinkle with carrots, spinach and crushed chips. Starting at one end or side of the wrap, roll it and tuck opposite sides in as you roll. With a sharp knife, slice the rolled wrap into 2, 3 or 4 pieces. The surprise? The chips that give lots of crunch. Pack with a crisp apple or seasonal plums, juice or milk and trail mix.

No Nuts Granola Bars

No Nuts Granola Bars

YIELD: Makes 4 to 8 servings depending on size of squares

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1½ cups raw sunflower seeds

½ cup wheat germ

½ cup honey

¼ cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¾ cup dried fruit, diced or minced

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-inch by 9-inch glass baking dish. On a small baking sheet, spread oats, sunflower seeds and wheat germ. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from oven, lower heat to 300 F and pour baked dry mixture into liquid mixture. Combine thoroughly; stir dried fruit into mixture. Pour into prepared baking dish, spread evenly, then press down to pack tightly. Bake 25 minutes, remove from oven and let cool. Cut into squares. Serve with yogurt, juice, milk or fresh fruit.

Apple Chips and Dip

Apple Chips and Dip

YIELD: Makes 2 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 teaspoons white sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 medium-large apples, cored and very thinly sliced

One 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt

½ cup applesauce

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 225 F. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Arrange apple slices on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with half the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake, turning halfway through and sprinkling with remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture, until edges curl and apple slices are dried, about 45 minutes to one hour. With spatula, remove slices from baking sheet and place on rack to cool. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt and applesauce. If any of dip is left over, it can be served on its own or used with other ingredients to make a smoothie. Serve with graham crackers, toast, granola bars, trail mix or anything else that goes into the lunch box.

Bread and Butter Pickles

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re not picky about your pickles, you should be because there’s no comparison between homemade and commercially prepared ones. Although you need an uninterrupted couple of hours and a few special pieces of equipment to “put up” a batch of pickles, once you’ve made the investment of time and supplies, you’ll be hooked and do it every year.

Two great moments of culinary satisfaction happen first when you hear the sound of the jar lids popping to release the air and vacuum seal the jar and later when you stand back and regard the row of pickle jars sitting like so many green soldiers on your pantry shelf.

Here is a list of canning supplies available in most local hardware and agricultural supply stores. You most likely already have many of these things in your kitchen.

Large enamel pot with canning rack

Large pot for boiling pickles

Glass jars with ring and dome lids

Large spoons and ladles

Sharp knives and vegetable peelers

Large colander

Kitchen scale

Measuring cups and spoons

Wide-mouth funnel to fit circumference of jar tops

Cheesecloth

Timer

Tongs

Pot holders

A few precautionary tips: Jars should be unchipped; veggies should be fresh and unspoiled; after processing, jars should be closed tight with a small dent in the middle of the lid; jars, domes and rings and implements must first be sterilized in a hot water bath or the dishwasher for at least 15 minutes. Now that you’ve got it all together, you’re ready to start making your own pickles!

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

YIELD: Makes 7 to 8 pints

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds medium or Kirby cucumbers, washed and cut into ¹/₄-inch slices

1 pound small white pearl onions (frozen are OK)

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thin

½ cup kosher salt

3 quarts ice water

5 cups sugar

5 cups cider vinegar

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon peppercorns

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, onions and peppers. Add salt, mix well and add three quarts ice water. Cover and let sit for 4 hours. Fill canning pot to indicated water level, cover and bring to a boil. In a large pot, mix remaining ingredients and bring to a boil; let boil 3 minutes. Meanwhile, drain the vegetables, rinse thoroughly and drain again. Add veggies to liquid and bring to a boil again. Remove from heat and pack into hot one-pint sterile jars; leave ¼ inch headroom.

With a damp paper towel, wipe the top and side rims of the jars; with tongs place domes on jars, then screw on rings just to the point of stopping; do not tighten. Using tongs or pot holders, carefully set jars on raised rack of canning pot, then gently, being careful not to topple any jars, lower the rack into the hot water, cover and return to boil. Process (boil) for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat.

With tongs or pot holders, raise rack and remove jars onto heat-proof surface. As you lift them out, you will probably hear them popping, which means they’re sealed. With your finger, poke any that do not have a slight indentation in the middle. If they still have a slightly raised surface in the middle after several attempts to depress them, put them aside, and when cooled, refrigerate and use within a week or two.

Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles

 

YIELD: Makes about 7 pints

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup sugar

½ cup kosher salt

1 quart white vinegar

1 quart water

3 tablespoons mixed pickling spices

2 cloves garlic

35 medium Kirby cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise or cut into spears

7 to 8 heads fresh dill

DIRECTIONS: Have canning pot and rack ready with boiling water reduced to simmer. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water in medium pot. Tie pickling spices and garlic cloves in a cheesecloth bag and add to mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes; remove and discard bag. Meanwhile, pack cucumbers into hot sterilized pint jars and add one head dill to each jar; leave half an inch headroom. Bring vinegar mixture to a vigorous boil and ladle hot brine over cucumbers; leave ¼ inch headroom. Proceed as in italicized part of previous recipe.

Tomato-Poached Eggs

By Barbara Beltrami

If we had a family crest, it would surely be the tomato. No matter the season, hardly a day goes by without tomatoes playing a role in one of our daily meals. Even in the winter we cook with good canned tomatoes and use campari tomatoes in salads and other dishes that call for fresh tomatoes.

Granted there’s nothing like a summer tomato, plucked still warm from the sun, sprinkled with salt and consumed on the spot. From tiny cherry tomatoes to the traditional Big Boys and beefsteaks to the ever more popular heirlooms, summer tomatoes are the true treasures of the garden. Although the cool temperatures this season have delayed their ripening, they’ve finally appeared in all their glory and I, for one, can’t get enough of them.

Sliced and doused with extra virgin olive oil, salt and fresh basil, they make an ideal lunch or side dish. Cut into wedges and tossed with cucumbers, red onion, an herb or two and feta or Gorgonzola cheese, they become the perfect salad to complement just about anything. Between slices of crusty bread and slathered with good mayonnaise, they make a tasty sandwich.

If you have any left over, here are a few unusual but simple Italian recipes in which they star along with their culinary mates, garlic and basil.

Tomato-Poached Eggs

Tomato-Poached Eggs

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups lightly pureed fresh tomatoes

Handful basil leaves, torn

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 to 6 large eggs

DIRECTIONS: In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and cook only until it begins to color and release its aroma. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until excess liquid has evaporated, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Spread tomato sauce evenly over bottom of pan. Carefully break the eggs over hot tomato sauce, cover and cook until whites are set and yolks are still runny. Gently slide the eggs and tomatoes under them onto a large serving platter and serve immediately with polenta or crusty bread.

Tomato–Garlic Bread

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 to 3 plum tomatoes

6 large slices rustic bread

1 garlic clove, peeled

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: Slice the tomatoes in half; squeeze them to remove the seeds and juice. Toast the bread until light brown. Rub the garlic over the toasted bread, then rub the cut side of the tomato over the same side of the bread. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over each slice of bread; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with cocktails, wine, beer or as accompaniment to any meal.

Penne with Uncooked Tomato Sauce

Penne with Uncooked Tomato Sauce

 

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound penne

1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

¹/₄ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 handful Italian flat-leaf parsley, basil or arugula leaves, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: Cook penne according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large pasta bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add hot drained cooked pasta to bowl; toss to combine with tomato mixture (the heat of the pasta just barely cooks the tomatoes). Serve immediately, warm or at room temperature with a green salad, bread and cheese.

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

By Barbara Beltrami

Labor Day may be the official marker for the end of summer, and while the living may not be as easy, the rest of September certainly promises more warm weather for the beach, the backyard and barbecues.

After the hectic shopping for school supplies and new clothes, after those first hectic days of back-to–school, after the practices and lessons and homework it’s still possible to catch an hour or two of daylight to heat up the grill and pretend that just for a little while longer it’s still summer.

Here are three salad recipes for prolonging summer’s pleasures and accompanying whatever you’re grilling. A bonus is that the leftovers are ideal for lunch boxes.

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 bruised clove garlic

1 pound Rotelle pasta

1 pound mozzarella cheese, diced

2 to 3 cups diced fresh cherry tomatoes

1 firmly packed cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS: In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic. Let sit to absorb garlic flavor at least 30 minutes, then remove and discard garlic. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain thoroughly. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the dressing, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature as an accompaniment to grilled veggies, meat or poultry.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed

3 scallions, trimmed and sliced

One large cucumber

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley, rinsed and chopped

1 scant handful fresh mint leaves, rinsed and chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Juice of one small to medium lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Cook the quinoa according to package directions. In a large bowl, toss cooked quinoa with remaining ingredients. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes so it can soak up the flavors of the herbs and dressing. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold with grilled meat, fish or poultry.

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salad

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salad

 

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Two 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

4 ears cooked fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium red onion, diced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 4 fresh limes

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon lime zest

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, peppers, garlic and onion. In a separate smaller bowl, thoroughly mix the oil, lime juice, sugar, zest, cilantro, parsley, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Pour over bean and corn mixture and toss to coat. Cover and let sit for at least an hour. Serve at room temperature or cold with grilled meat or poultry, tomato salad and taco chips.

Sauteed Zucchini Parmesan

By Barbara Beltrami

Zucchini. They come in all sizes from Neanderthal club to tiny thumb size and everything in between. There’s not much you can do with the former except peel it, scoop out the seeds, cut it into chunks and make a soup or stew. But any small or medium zucchini are excellent stuffed and baked, in a ratatouille, in muffins or tea breads, or just sautéed, all excellent disguises for veggie-phobic eaters.

And then there are zucchini flowers, also delicious stuffed with ricotta or batter fried. If the blossom grows on a regular stem, pick it. If it has a little squash starting on its other end, don’t pick it — it’s going to grow up to be a zucchino. Frankly, I don’t think they have much flavor and are cumbersome to cook, but if you want to go to the trouble, they do look pretty when you serve them. Here are three recipes that use the zucchini bounty of the season in a bread, sautéed and in soup.

Sauteed Zucchini Parmesan

Sauteed Zucchini Parmesan

YIELD: Makes four servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced shallots

Four 8-ounce zucchini, julienned

Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, thyme or oregano

4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: In a large skillet over low heat, heat butter and oil. Add shallots and sauté until opaque and soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add zucchini and cook, tossing frequently, until just soft and starting to turn brown. Add salt, pepper and herbs. While zucchini is still hot, sprinkle grated cheese over it. Serve immediately with meat, poultry, fish or eggs.

Zucchini-Carrot Bread

Zucchini-Carrot Bread

YIELD: Makes one loaf

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

¼ cup white granulated sugar

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup grated zucchini

1 cup grated carrot

¾ cup finely chopped walnuts

1 egg, well beaten

Scant ¹/3 cup oil

½ cup milk

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan. Stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, zucchini, carrots and nuts. Mix egg, oil and milk together, then combine with dry mixture. Do not overmix. Pour into prepared loaf pan; bake for one hour or more, until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for five minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with cream cheese, butter, jam or honey.

Zucchini-Arugula Soup

Zucchini-Arugula Soup

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cups minced onion

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 pounds zucchini

1 bunch arugula (4 to 5 loosely packed cups)

Salt, freshly ground pepper and fresh lemon juice, to taste

½ cup cream

DIRECTIONS: In a medium-large pot, melt butter; add oil and onions, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until onions are slightly browned and soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, wash and scrub zucchini, trim and coarsely chop. (If the zucchini are very large, it’s best to remove the seeds too.) Add zucchini to broth, reduce heat, cover and simmer until zucchini are mushy. Wash arugula and trim stems.

Remove pot from heat and add arugula: cover and let sit until slightly cooled. Pour soup through a strainer; reserve liquid. In an electric processor puree the solids and one cup of the liquid until smooth. Return pureed mixture to pot. Gradually add 2 to 3 more cups reserved liquid until soup reaches desired consistency. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Ladle into soup dishes and just before serving swirl a tablespoon or so of cream in each one. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or cold with crusty bread, sliced tomatoes and corn or as a first course.

Beef Marinade

By Barbara Beltrami

“Come on over … we’ll throw some steaks on the grill” — famous last words heard often among friends and neighbors as summer’s penchant for the impromptu gains momentum. Whether you’ve run into each other at the mailbox by the street, at the kids’ ball game, the beach or cruising the supermarket or hardware store, summer is the perfect time for spontaneous socializing.

So you throw a couple of steaks on the grill — easy enough. You toss together a salad of the garden’s bounty, and while you’re at it, plunk some potatoes into a pot. And presto! You have a dinner of delicious summer favorites.

Such a basic, easy meal is fine just the way it is, but if you want to add a little extra pizzazz, here are three recipes that I recommend for doing just that. One is a marinade, one is a rub and one is a paste; each lends a taste that doesn’t interfere with the steak’s own flavor but enhances what’s already there.

And here’s another good thing — these three recipes can also be used on potatoes or veggies. In fact, when using the marinade, I like to pare and parboil the potatoes until not quite tender, let them cool to room temperature, immerse them in the marinade with the steak and grill the two together. Veggies should not be precooked and in large enough slices that they can go straight on the grill until slightly charred and tender. Eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and Vidalia onions are especially good.

So by all mean throw some steaks and some potatoes along with them on the grill and enjoy these beautiful summer evenings.

Beef Marinade

Beef Marinade

YIELD: Makes 2 to 2½cups

INGREDIENTS:

³/₄ cup dry red wine

½ cup red wine vinegar

¹/3 cup beef broth

¼ cup olive oil

¹/3 cup tomato juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 small onion, chopped

4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 torn bay leaf

Ground pepper and course salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper. Place mixture in a large, shallow nonreactive dish and immerse steak. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours; turn halfway through. When ready to grill, discard marinade and sprinkle meat on both sides with coarse salt and pepper. Cook to desired doneness.

Dry Rub for Beef

Dry Rub for Beef

YIELD: Makes about ½ cup

INGREDIENTS:

¼-½ cup oil

3 tablespoons cracked peppercorns

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil, sage, oregano

Coarse sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS: With a paper towel, pat meat dry; brush both sides generously and thoroughly with oil. In a small bowl combine peppercorns, herbs and salt. While grill is heating, vigorously rub steak on both sides with mixture and with fingertips, press into all surfaces. In order to disturb the rub as little as possible, carefully lower steak onto grill. Cook to desired doneness.

Herb and Garlic Paste for Grilling

Herb and Garlic Paste for Grilling

YIELD: Makes ½ cup

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons olive oil or softened butter

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as mint, basil, thyme, oregano or marjoram

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a small bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients. While grill is heating, spread paste over both sides of steak; with a dinner fork, press the paste into the steak. Cook to desired doneness.

Corn, Pepper & Manchego Quiche

By Barbara Beltrami

If the bins at a farm stand in August were a stage, corn would surely be the star. Occupying a massive spot in the produce limelight, freshly picked ears of corn tumble over each other vying to be selected after ruthless ripping of their husks, a procedure, by the way, that is useless for determining an ear of corn’s soundness and useful only to render it exposed and passed over. More effective is to run one’s hand or fingers lightly up and down the ear of corn to feel for indentations, a symptom most likely of an earworm or borer having gotten to it.

Nothing beats a freshly picked ear of corn, boiled for 3 to 5 minutes, then slathered with butter, salt and pepper. Want something a little different? Read the recipes below for some ideas for cooking with the queen of summer produce, corn.

Fresh Corn Pancakes

Fresh Corn Pancakes

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 to 4 ears fresh-picked corn

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

½ cup whole milk

¼ cup heavy cream

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons canola, sunflower or vegetable oil

½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

DIRECTIONS: Cut kernels from cobs. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, oil and butter. Add flour mixture and corn kernels to liquid mixture; stir to thoroughly blend. Heat a greased griddle or heavy skillet until hot enough that water sprinkled on it produces dancing bubbles. Ladle batter onto skillet, by one-third cupfuls. Cook over medium heat until edges start to brown and bubbles form in batter. With a spatula, turn pancakes and cook about one minute more, until undersides are golden brown. Serve hot with blueberry or maple syrup and bacon.

Corn, Pepper & Manchego Quiche

Corn, Pepper & Manchego Quiche

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

One 9-inch pie crust

1 cup shredded manchego cheese

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cups half and half

¼ cup melted butter

Kernels from 2 ears fresh-picked corn

1 small onion, minced

1 small green pepper, diced

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a pie plate or quiche pan with pie crust. Sprinkle cheese evenly over crust. In a food processor, combine eggs, flour, salt, half and half and melted butter until well blended. Stir in corn, onion, green pepper and ground black pepper. Pour over cheese in crust. Bake 45 to 50 minutes until top is golden, filling is slightly puffed and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with tomato and arugula salad and crusty French bread.

Grilled Corn with Cilantro-Lime Butter

Grilled Corn with Cilantro-Lime Butter

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

12 ears fresh-picked corn in the husk

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1½ teaspoons coarse sea salt

¾ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

½ to ¾ cup melted unsalted butter

¹/3 to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS: Pull back corn husks but leave attached at bottom. Discard silks; pull husks back up around ears. Prepare grill for cooking on medium-high heat. In a blender, puree garlic with lime juice, salt, and red pepper flakes until smooth. Add melted butter and cilantro and puree again until well blended. With cover on grill, cook corn, turning frequently, until kernels are tender, 15 to 20 minutes; let stand until cool enough to handle. Completely remove husks and discard. With a sharp knife remove kernels from cob. In a medium-large bowl toss kernels with butter mixture. Serve hot or warm with grilled eggplant, sliced garden tomatoes with olive oil and scallion and crusty bread.

Basil Pesto

By Barbara Beltrami

Have you ever known anyone who didn’t like the classic basil pesto? Easy to prepare in a matter of minutes, pesto is a no-fuss-no-cook-no-mess-no-fail concoction that is the invention of some ancient culinary genius in Genoa.

Pesto means sauce in Italian and although basil pesto is by far the best known and most popular version, it can actually be made from a variety of herbs and other ingredients. There are six basic ingredients to making pesto. There is the main ingredient such as basil or something with an intense distinctive flavor along with nuts, cheese, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. How much? Good question. It’s one of those things that you do by eye and taste. Although once in a while I tweak the amounts a little. I generally use a handful of the main ingredient, a handful of the nuts, a handful of the grated cheese, one clove of garlic, enough oil to give the pesto the right silky consistency and salt and pepper, to taste.

That being said, I will nevertheless provide you with a few recipes I like. In addition to the classic basil pesto, there are arugula and walnut pesto and sun-dried tomato and olive pesto, to name but a few I’ve tried. Though there’s no space to write about them all here, you might like to use the following recipes as models and also try mint and almond pesto, cilantro and pumpkin seed or spinach and hazelnut. Traditional old-fashioned Italian cooks claim the only real way to make pesto is to pound and grind it together with a mortar and pestle and would be mortified to know that I puree it all in my electric food processor. And while pesto is best loved when paired with pasta, it is also a fabulous embellishment for chicken, fish, omelets, crostini, vegetables and soups.

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups fresh basil leaves

½ cup pignoli nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

One garlic clove

Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In an electric food processor puree all ingredients except the salt and pepper. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, then continue pureeing until mixture reaches a silky consistency. Remove from processor bowl and stir in the salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with spaghetti, gnocchi or a pasta that has a lot of grooves to hold the pesto; crostini, grilled fish, chicken, pork or veggies or as a garnish to soup.

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

YIELD: Makes 2 cups

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups arugula leaves

½ cup walnut pieces

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In an electric food processor, scraping sides of bowl often, puree all ingredients except salt and pepper. When mixture has achieved a slightly bumpy texture, remove from bowl and stir in salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with grilled beef, veggies, fowl or pork, on rye bread crostini, over wide noodles or rigatoni or as a garnish to soup.

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Pesto

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Pesto

YIELD: Makes 2½ cups

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

½ cup pitted oil-packed black olives

½ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¹/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

One clove garlic

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In an electric food processor, scraping sides of bowl often, puree all ingredients until mixture achieves a finely ground consistency. Serve at room temperature over pasta, on crostini or crackers, on grilled chicken, fish or veggies or as a garnish to soup.

By Barbara Beltrami

Like the weather this season, peaches have been remarkably good. If you read my column last week, you’ll remember that I talked about peaches and what ideal desserts are wrought from them. And I also promised you another column about them this week. Well, you’re in for a treat because I’m going to tell you about what wonderful ingredients or complements peaches are for savory dishes.

I’ll bet you’re thinking, “No thanks, I think I’ll just stick with the those peachy desserts.” That’s what I said the first time I was introduced to peaches in a savory dish. But then I became a convert, and you will too after you’ve tasted refreshing peach, arugula, Gorgonzola and pecan salad; peach salsa; and ginger-peachy pork chops.

And by the way, none of this means you can’t have peach dumplings, peach crisp, peach shortcake, peach pie, peach cobbler, peach ice cream or just sliced fresh peaches in wine for dessert. Hey, when they’re this good, you have to go for their gold.

Peach, Arugula, Pecan and Gorgonzola Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS: 1 small head radicchio, washed and shredded or chopped

1 bunch arugula, washed

1 large peach, sliced

¼ cup chopped pecans

¹/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, toss together the radicchio, arugula, peach and pecans. In a small bowl, vigorously whisk together the oil, vinegars, cheese, salt and pepper. Just before serving drizzle liquid mixture over radicchio mixture, toss to thoroughly coat, and serve immediately at room temperature with grilled chicken, beef, pork or shrimp.

Peach Salsa

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large peach, pared and chopped

1 medium tomato, chopped

½ cup seeded chopped jalapenos

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon fresh lime zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Salt and ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: Toss all ingredients together; serve at room temperature. Best if served immediately but can be prepared a couple of hours in advance. Serve with taco chips, crackers, grilled beef or chicken.

Ginger-Peachy Pork Chops

YIELD: Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or peanut oil

4 medium pork chops

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup broth

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 large firm peaches, sliced

1 tablespoon candied ginger, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS: In a medium skillet heat the oil. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. With the heat on medium high, brown the meat, about 2 minutes per side. While the chops are browning, in a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, orange and lemon juices and set aside.

Remove the pork chops from the pan and set aside. Add the broth, grated ginger, garlic, liquid mixture and peaches to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, over high heat until the sauce is thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pork chops, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until meat is cooked through and peaches are soft, about 10 minutes. Place chops on a platter, spoon sauce over them and sprinkle with candied ginger and peanuts. Serve with rice and stir-fried bok choy, broccoli and snap peas.