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cooking cove

Lemon Bars. Photo from Pexels

By Barbara Beltrami

With Memorial Day just around the corner, we will finally be gathering without guilt or fear with family, friends and neighbors to whoop up together at picnics, barbecues and maybe even pool parties. It will be a time to remember not just those Americans who have fallen on the battlefield but the more than 600,000 who have succumbed to the coronavirus over the past year. Like so many large get togethers, this one will probably be a cooperative effort with each guest bringing some part of the meal. If the answer you got to “What can I bring?” was “dessert,” then I suggest you think about dessert bars. Easier than cookies and good travelers, they will delight both young and old. 

Maria’s Pineapple-Coconut Bars

YIELD: Makes about two dozen bars

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch salt

2 sticks unsalted butter

12 ounces softened cream cheese

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

One 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup finely chopped almonds

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 13x9x2” baking dish. In a medium bowl combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt. With pastry blender or fork, cut in 1 1/2 sticks of the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Spread over bottom of prepared pan and press into place with fingers; bake for 12 minutes. In medium bowl combine cream cheese, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and eggs. Spread over baked crust, then spread pineapple evenly on top.  Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter and let cool; In a separate bowl, combine coconut, melted butter and almonds; spread over pineapple — cream cheese mixture. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until coconut and almonds are nicely browned. Let cool 15 minutes, then chill until set. Cut into squares and serve with hot coffee or tea.

Mary Alice’s Golden Squares

YIELD: Makes about two dozen 2” squares

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, well-beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg white

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 13x9x2”pan. With electric mixer on low speed, beat butter until fluffy; gradually add sugar while continuing to beat until mixture is light in color Add eggs and vanilla; beat to combine. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder, then thoroughly blend with wet mixture. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Beat egg white until stiff; add brown sugar and continue to beat until stiff again. Fold in nuts, then spread over batter in pan. Bake 25 minutes, remove from oven and let cool to room temperature; cut into squares and serve with iced tea, coffee, or lemonade.

Stephen’s Mother’s Lemon Bars

YIELD: Makes about 20 squares

INGREDIENTS:

Two 8-ounce sticks unsalted butter, softened

3 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups flour

Pinch coarse salt

6 extra-large eggs at room temperature

3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Confectioners’ sugar, if desired

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In large electric mixer bowl cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar; add two cups of the flour and the salt and mix on low speed just until combined. Turn dough onto a floured board and gather into a ball; flatten and press into a 13 x 9 x 2” baking dish; build up a two-inch edge on sides; refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes, then bake 15 to 20 minutes until crust turns a light golden; remove, place on wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Whisk together the eggs, remaining sugar and flour, lemon zest and juice, then pour into crust; bake until set, about 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using, and cut into squares. Serve with raspberry sorbet.

Quinoa. METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

Lately I’ve developed a taste for quinoa which, according to Wikipedia, botanists classify not as a grain but as a pseudo cereal because it does not come from a grassy plant; rather the quinoa plant is more similar to beetroot or spinach. No wonder it’s become so popular. It is a remarkable source of protein, amino acids, fiber and antioxidants among many other nutrients, is cooked very much like rice and has a pleasant nutty taste that marries well with just about anything. The following recipes are merely suggestions because quinoa is one of those foods that you can adapt to whatever you have on hand or feel like concocting.

Quinoa Pilaf with Dried Currants and Apricots

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup dried currants

1/4 cup diced dried apricots

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 cup quinoa

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup toasted almonds

DIRECTIONS:

In small bowl, soak the currants and apricots till soft, about 30 minutes; drain.  In large saucepan heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until opaque and soft, about 10 minutes; add quinoa, salt, pepper, broth, currants and apricots; bring mixture to a boil, stir, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to bowl or dish and sprinkle almonds on top. Serve hot or warm with grilled chicken, lamb, pork or beef.

Quinoa Waldorf Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup quinoa

Freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon

2 apples, cored and sliced into half-inch wedges

2 celery ribs, trimmed and sliced into half inch pieces

2 scallions trimmed and sliced

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil; vigorously stir in quinoa and boil until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes; drain and let cool to room temperature. Toss apple pieces with lemon juice to prevent discoloring; drain any residual juice. In medium bowl, combine apples, celery, scallions, mayonnaise, oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Stir in quinoa, transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with walnuts. Serve at room temperature with fish, meat or poultry.

Quinoa Porridge

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup fresh raspberries

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup quinoa

2 1/3 cups milk

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 pear

DIRECTIONS:

In microwave safe bowl heat honey with 1 tablespoon water; add raspberries and stir to coat; let sit at room temperature 10 minutes. In medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat; add quinoa and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to pop, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add half the milk, the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg along with one cup water, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer gently, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat, keep covered and let sit until any remaining liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes; fluff with fork. Stir in remaining half of milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. Pare, core and dice pear. Ladle mixture into individual bowls and top with raspberries and pear. Serve with breakfast juice, coffee or tea.

Creamy Curry Dip

By Barbara Beltrami

Light years ago when I was a young homemaker whose weekly culinary adventure was dreaming up creative nibbles for Tuesday’s night bridge club, I would spend afternoons while the babies napped experimenting with concoctions from the magazine clippings I hoarded. Our card game was, in retrospect, not so much a game of bridge as one of our flaunting our newly acquired culinary talents, and any one of the young marrieds who belonged to that elite sorority of four would rather have died than be caught serving the same snack twice, much less a Tupperware bowl of potato chips.  

How many dips I dreamed up for oven-warmed frozen potato puffs, how many combinations of sour cream and something I invented, how many slices of sandwich bread I trimmed and rolled and stuffed and sliced. Actually, I think I burned out early for I haven’t had as many good ideas, even given the food revolution that began in the 80’s or the advent of the internet since.

But now after a year of COVID isolation and quarantine and a few months of post-COVID immunization, our social life is getting back into gear and we’re inviting people over for drinks or dinner to get re-acquainted. In a burst of retro creativity and nostalgia, I find myself foraging through those yellowed files and pulling out the oldies but goodies (although I must confess I’ve tinkered with a few here and there).These many years hence, the thing that has really changed is that I’m the one who needs the nap.

Creamy Curry Dip

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Few dashes hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients; cover and chill. Serve surrounded by cooked shrimp, bite size raw cauliflower florets, raw carrot sticks, raw celery sticks and any other crunchy veggie suitable for dipping. 

Nutty Cheese Log

YIELD: Makes one large log or two small

INGREDIENTS:

6 ounces goat cheese

10 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

12 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup snipped chives

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS:

Soften cheeses to room temperature.  In a medium bowl combine cheeses, onion and wine. Blend in half the parsley, chives and nuts; shape into a log, enclose in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Combine remaining herbs and nuts in a small container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. One hour before serving spread reserved herbs and nuts on a sheet of waxed paper or cutting board and roll cheese log in them until it is well coated. Serve with crackers.

Hot Cheese Puffs

YIELD: Makes 12 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

3 slices sandwich bread

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 cup grated Swiss cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Remove crusts from bread; toast and cut into quarters. Preheat broiler. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold in baking powder, salt, cayenne, paprika and cheese. Spread mixture 1/4″ thick on each toast square; broil until browned, about 5 minutes. Serve with cocktails or wine

Strawberry, Spinach, Orange and Almond Salad

By Barbara Beltrami

Moms love salads. They order them in restaurants and for take out and carry them to work in plastic containers. They probably try to get you to eat them. So why not make Mom a special salad or two or three for her special day? It’s a project that accommodates lots of chefs and sous chefs and is fun to prepare and assemble. Here are some out of the ordinary salads that are sure to bring a smile to Mom’s face and lots of hugs to the kitchen crew.

Tomato, Watermelon, Cucumber and Feta Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup orange juice

Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon simple syrup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1” cubes

1/8 seedless watermelon, cut into 1” cubes

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1” cubes

3/4 pound cubed feta cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl whisk together orange juice, lemon juice, shallot, syrup, oil, salt and pepper till thoroughly emulsified. In a large salad bowl combine tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, feta and dill; when ready to serve toss with dressing and serve with toasted pita bread.

Strawberry, Spinach, Orange and Almond Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced red onion

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

7 cups baby spinach, washed 

1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1 large orange, peeled, cut into bite-size cubes

1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl whisk together the oil, vinegars, onion, salt and pepper. In a large salad bowl toss together the spinach, strawberries and orange. When ready to serve toss with dressing and top with almonds. Serve with sliced grilled boneless chicken breast, lamb chops or steak and baked potato.

Southwestern Chopped Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup  freshly squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons grated lime zest

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 teaspoon chopped fresh jalapeno pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, chopped

One 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained

1 medium-large tomato, chopped

1/2 cup peeled chopped jicama

1 cup fresh, frozen or drained canned corn kernels

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1 avocado

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice and zest, oil, honey, garlic, jalapeño, coriander, salt and pepper; let sit and before using, remove and discard garlic. In large salad bowl toss the lettuce, beans, tomato, jicama, corn, onion, bell pepper and cilantro. Immediately before serving, peel avocado and dice, add to salad and immediately toss with dressing. Serve with tacos, nachos, hamburgers, pizza, steak or anything grilled.

Asparagus, Pea, Radish and Bibb Lettuce Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons honey

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 head Bibb lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 pound snap peas, cut into 1” slices

1 bunch radishes, washed, trimmed, sliced

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Steam asparagus until barely al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes; immerse in cold water to stop cooking. When cooled, place in large salad bowl and toss with with lettuce, peas and radishes. When ready to serve toss with dressing, sprinkle with chives and serve with meat, fish or poultry. 

'Midnight Pasta'

By Barbara Beltrami

Even if you are not one of those people who insists on anchovies for their pizza topping, please read on because those tiny, salty little fillets that come in that hard-to-open tin can be judiciously included as an ingredient to enhance taste in many recipes. 

While most anchovy recipes that I’ve tried are Italian ones, it logically follows that they can be found in any Mediterranean cuisine. Think of them as part of an antipasto platter, in a “midnight pasta” with olive oil and garlic, as a focal ingredient in bagna càuda, on a crostini, adding zing to otherwise bland sautéed greens or as a topping on flatbread. 

Still not convinced? Then try anchovy cream or paste which comes in a tube and squeeze a little on a piece of grilled Italian bread anointed with olive oil or try the recipes below. And don’t forget, it’s anchovies that make a classic Caesar salad one of your favorites.

‘Midnight Pasta’

‘Midnight Pasta’

YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, mashed into a paste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

One 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, mashed into a paste

4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter

1/2 pound thin spaghetti

1/4 cup chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes and anchovy and with back of wooden spoon incorporate into garlic and oil. Cook, constantly stirring, one to two minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in butter. Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil, add salt to taste, add spaghetti and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer to skillet, add parsley, toss with garlic-anchovy mixture and serve immediately with a tomato salad.

Bagna Càuda

Bagna Càuda

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 stick unsalted butter

12 anchovy fillets

6 garlic cloves, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

3 celery ribs, cleaned and cut into sticks

12 bite-size cauliflower florets

1 green bell pepper, seeded, cut into 12 strips

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips

12 wedges fennel bulb

1 crusty French baguette, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor or blender make an emulsion of the oil, butter, anchovies, garlic, salt and black pepper; transfer mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Pour into fondue pot or flame proof casserole over alcohol burner. Place veggies on a large plate encircling pot and have guests dip them into the oil mixture, being sure to scrape the bottom and hold over bread slices to catch the drips. Serve with a dry white wine.

Anchovy and Egg Crostini

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

16 half- inch thick slices French baguette

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

16 anchovy fillets

Scant tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup freshly snipped chives

1/4 cup chopped dill

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat broiler or grill on high setting.  Brush one side of each slice of bread with a little of the oil and place, oiled side down, on baking sheet or grill and toast on one side, until golden brown, about one minute. Remove from heat, place grilled side down on a platter. In medium bowl, mash anchovies with back of a fork and combine with the remaining oil, lemon juice and pepper; add egg slices and gently toss them with the mixture, then spread them on toasted bread slices. Scatter chives and dill on top. Serve with prosecco.

Lemon Chicken

By Barbara Beltrami

Mrs. Betty Haynes who lived next door to us when I was a kid, was a nice lady and a terrific cook. Short and rather rotund, she would shuffle about her kitchen in slippers into the rocking chair in the corner and fan herself. “Honey, I ain’t no spring chicken,” she’d exclaim after she’d  put a chicken into the oven or pot or frying pan. It seemed that all she ever cooked was chicken (In fact, much to our parents’ consternation, we kids used to secretly refer to her as Mrs. Chicken). Eventually, she moved to Florida, and when we visited her, she would regale us with her chicken as she always had, but it had taken on new twists…twists of lemon and orange and lime from the trees in her tiny backyard. Here are my takes on her citrus-y chicken dishes, perfect for spring taste buds. 

Lemon Chicken

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves chopped

1/3 cup dry white wine

Freshly grated zest of 1 large lemon

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram leaves

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 boneless half-pound chicken breasts with skin, washed and patted dry

1 lemon cut into 8 wedges

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small saucepan heat two tablespoons oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook briefly, about one minute; remove pan from heat before garlic turns brown. Next add wine, lemon zest and juice, marjoram, thyme and a little salt; pour mixture into ovenproof baking dish. Place chicken breasts, skin side up, in baking dish; drizzle with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper; tuck lemon wedges among chicken pieces. Bake 30 to 45 minutes until skin is light golden and chicken is done. Remove from oven, cover tightly with aluminum foil and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with fresh asparagus and new potatoes.

Lime Chicken

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

8 large chicken thighs with bone and skin, washed and patted dry

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pinch ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken stock or broth

Freshly squeezed juice of two limes

4 garlic cloves, chopped

Chopped leaves from 1 bunch of cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Rub thighs on both sides with spice mixture (be sure to smear it under the skin as well). In a large cast iron skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Brown thighs, turning once, until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes per side; remove from skillet and set aside. Stirring with back of wooden spoon, deglaze pan with white wine, reduce liquid to half the volume, then add broth.Bring to a simmer and add lime juice and garlic. Return chicken to pan, bring to strong simmer, and add cilantro; simmer 5 minutes. Cover pan, transfer to oven and bake until cooked through, about 40 to 45 minutes; remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes or so. Serve hot with couscous or pilaf.

Orange Chicken

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 large orange

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 chicken thighs

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grate zest of orange; remove pith and cut orange into 6 wedges. In a small bowl combine the zest, one tablespoon of the oil, the paprika, rosemary and salt and pepper. Rub chicken (including under the skin) with mixture, transfer to shallow nonreactive baking dish and tuck orange wedges among chicken pieces. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 165 F, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit 5 minutes and serve with broccoli or coleslaw.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin. Photo from Pexels

By Barbara Beltrami

If you’re like us, I’ll bet that  while you’ve been out there doing your spring cleanup. You’ve also uncovered the grill and spruced that up, too. Maybe you’ve been trudging out there all winter; if so, you’re braver than we are. We’re fed up (pun intended) with soups and stews and hearty fare simmering on the stove. Time for drafting that old grill into service and charring our way into spring fare … seafood, veggies, chops, chicken, burgers, baby back ribs and of course, steaks. Beyond the regular old faithfuls, here are a few recipes that are perfect for sliding scrumptiously into spring and the great outdoors.

Grilled Scallop Kabobs with Asparagus

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

36 sea scallops, washed and patted dry

24 thick asparagus spears, cleaned and cut into 3” pieces

24 large cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to medium-high (350 to 400F). On barbecue skewers, alternately thread the scallops, asparagus and tomatoes. In a small bowl, vigorously whisk together the oil, salt and pepper, garlic and lemon juice, then discard garlic. Brush the scallops, asparagus and tomatoes with mixture, place on grill, close lid and grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, just until scallops turn opaque and everything starts to brown. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apricot Glaze

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

Two 1-pound pork tenderloins

1 generous tablespoon coarse salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Oil for grill

3/4 cup heated apricot jam

DIRECTIONS:

Rub tenderloins all over with salt and pepper, then let sit for an hour to come to room temperature. Brush pork with half the preserves, then grill and turn every 4 minutes and brush with remaining preserves until dark brown on all sides and meat thermometer inserted in thickest part reads 130F, about 11 minutes. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into half-inch slices. Serve with a mixed salad.

Grilled Potato Salad with Arugula

YIELD: Makes 5 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 pounds baby new potatoes, scrubbed

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 bunch arugula, washed and torn into bite-size pieces

1 small red onion, finely diced

DIRECTIONS:

Halve potatoes or leave whole, depending on size; place in pot and bring to a boil. Cook until barely tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly. Prepare grill on high heat. Brush potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; place on grill and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender and slightly charred, about 5 to 7 minutes. 

In a small bowl, whisk together salt and pepper, oil, vinegar and lemon juice. In a large bowl, toss together the grilled potatoes, arugula, onion and oil mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature with meat, fish or poultry.

Pasta Primavera

By Barbara Beltrami

Having celebrated Spring’s two major religious holidays, it’s time to honor Persephone, ancient queen of the underworld who returns to the surface of the earth each spring as the goddess of vegetation and the symbol of immortality. Like vegetation, she descends back into the underworld each autumn and returns each spring. And so goes the cycle of the seasons. 

As I patrol my garden and keep a daily vigil for new sprouts of greenery, I like to think of her and the prominence she held, by one name or another, in ancient agrarian cults. To celebrate her, I am proposing a spring menu that I hope does her justice. It starts with a salad of tender young spinach and strawberries, moves on to a pasta primavera (Italian for spring) and finishes with a lovely daffodil cake.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

10 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed and patted dry

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar

Scant 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl layer the spinach and strawberries. In a small bowl whisk together the shallot, vinegars, oil, poppy seeds, honey, mustard, salt and pepper until thoroughly emulsified. Drizzle mixture over salad and toss gently. Serve immediately with bread sticks and butter.

Pasta Primavera

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium yellow zucchini, diced

1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and stalks halved horizontally

1 onion, thinly sliced

One 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and halved

One 10-ounce package frozen sugar snap peas, thawed

1/4 cup olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon

Salt and white pepper to taste

18 fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 pound pasta cooked according to package instructions

Extra extra virgin olive oil, if desired

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 F. In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini, asparagus, onion, artichoke hearts, snap peas, oil and lemon juice. Spread veggies evenly on one or two cooking sheets (depending on size), sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, turning them after 10 minutes, until they begin to brown (about 20 minutes).Remove from oven, set aside to keep warm and toss cherry tomatoes on hot baking sheet with veggies. 

Drain pasta, reserve one cup cooking liquid; place pasta in large bowl and toss with veggies, tomatoes, dill and parsley. Gradually drizzle in reserved cooking liquid and continue tossing; add more extra virgin olive oil, if using. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a cold, crisp dry white or rose wine.

Daffodil Cake

YIELD: Makes 10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

6 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

6 egg yolks

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon ice water

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. In large bowl sift together 1/2 cup cake flour and 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar four times. In a separate large bowl, beat egg whites just until frothy, then add cream of tartar, vanilla and salt and continue beating until soft peaks form; gradually beat in 1/2 cup granulated sugar; sift and gently fold in the flour mixture, a little at a time. 

In a third large bowl sift together four times the remaining 3/4 cup cake flower with baking powder four times. In another large bowl beat together the egg yolks, lemon juice and water, till mixture becomes thick, about 6 minutes; gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Alternately drop large dollops of white and yellow batter into 9 or 10” tube or bundt pan, but do not mix them together. 

Bake until cake tester inserted in center of ring comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove cake from oven, invert and let cool. Unmold and turn cake right side up, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm or at room temperature with raspberry or pineapple sorbet.

Peach and Mustard-Glazed Baked Ham METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

What’s a holiday dinner without a roast of some kind as the piece de resistance?  For Easter it’s usually ham or lamb, but I remember many an Easter dinner where turkey made a spring comeback or pork, roast beef and once even a “gourmet” meatloaf took center stage. If you don’t have traditional family recipes for Easter, maybe the following ones will help you.

Peach and Mustard-Glazed Baked Ham

YIELD: Makes10 to 12 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 8 to 10 pound smoked fully cooked bone-in half ham

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup peach jam

1/2 cup country-style Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300 F. Place ham cut side down in roasting pan. With sharp knife score tough skin top to bottom in several places; cover with foil and bake 1 1/2 hours. In medium bowl vigorously whisk together the sugar, jam, mustard and cayenne pepper; reserve one cup of mixture, cover and set aside. Brush remaining mixture all over ham; bake approximately another hour, until glaze is nice and brown. Brush reserved glaze over ham and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until second glaze turns brown and a thermometer reads an internal temperature of 140 F. Let sit 20 minutes before carving. 

Roast Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic

YIELD: Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup red wine

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

5 to 6 pounds bone-in leg of lamb

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large nonreactive flat dish, whisk together the garlic, rosemary, oil, wine, lemon zest and juice and mustard. Add lamb and turn well to coat; cover tightly and refrigerate at least 8 hours. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove lamb from marinade, place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and with the tip of a sharp knife pierce slits in several places over the outside. 

Strain garlic, rosemary and zest from marinade and with a small spoon poke them into the slits; rub remaining liquid all over lamb and poke some into slits as well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast uncovered in a 375 F oven, turning once to crisp on all sides, 1 1/2 hours. Serve with roasted potatoes and fresh asparagus.

Roast Prime Rib of Beef

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One bone-in 6 to 7 pound prime rib, at room temperature

1 large shallot, cut into 8 wedges

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups red wine

4 cups beef stock or broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. With a sharp paring knife make 8 slits all over the top fatty side of the roast and press a shallot wedge into each one. Season with salt and pepper; place roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast two hours for rare, 5 to 10 minutes more for other increments of doneness; an instant read meat thermometer should read 125 to 135 F for rare. 

Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil and let sit on carving board. Place roasting pan on cooktop over high heat; add wine and stir, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon; add broth and parsley and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half. Slice roast, arrange on large platter and pour liquid over slices. Serve with sautéed shallots and mushrooms and Yorkshire pudding.

Fig, Orange and Almond Passover Cake. Photo from Pexels

By Barbara Beltrami

Because Passover excludes the use of leavening, eggs play a major role in many dishes. And because with all those eggs the cholesterol police are going to get after you anyway, you might as well use them in some scrumptious Passover desserts. Many are easier than you would imagine and tantalizing to your sweet tooth. So take your pick from the following recipes and enjoy every bite.

Fig, Orange and Almond Passover Cake

YIELD: Makes one cake

INGREDIENTS: 

10 eggs separated

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups matzo cake meal

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Zest of 1 medium orange

1/3 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 cup chopped almonds

12 dried figs, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 10” tube or bundt pan with vegetable oil. In medium or large bowl beat egg yolks with sugar until lemon-colored; add cake meal, cinnamon, zest, orange juice, allspice and almonds. In large bowl beat egg whites till peaks are stiff; fold into batter, then fold in figs. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50 minutes. Unmold cake and let it cool. Serve with coffee, tea or sweet wine.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Passover Torte

YIELD: Makes one torte

INGREDIENTS: 

5 large eggs, separated 

3/4 cup sugar

8 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate

8 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled, 

1 cup skinned hazelnuts, very finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line bottom and side of greased 9” spring form pan with aluminum foil. Place pan of water on bottom shelf of oven. In large bowl beat egg yolks with sugar until they turn pale yellow; add chocolate, butter and hazelnuts and mix well. In large bowl beat egg whites until stiff, then fold into chocolate mixture. Pour batter into pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes; remove from oven and let sit a few minutes in pan, then unmold, invert onto a plate and peel off foil. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired and serve with fresh berries.

Passover Sponge Cake with Strawberries

YIELD: Makes one cake

INGREDIENTS: 

Matzo flour

8 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup sifted matzo cake meal

Dash salt

Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

3 cups heavy cream

2 quarts fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 9” cake pans and dust with matzo flour. In large bowl beat egg yolks until pale yellow; add sugar and beat again. Stir in matzo cake meal, salt, lemon zest and juice. In large bowl beat egg whites until stiff, fold into batter and distribute evenly between two prepared cake pans. Bake 45 minutes, set on a rack to cool, then remove from pan. While cake is cooling, whip cream, then coarsely chop one quart of the strawberries and mix them into half the cream. Spread mixture over one of the cake layers; top with second cake layer and use remaining cream to frost top and sides of cake. Halve remaining strawberries and use to decorate top of cake. Serve with hot tea or coffee.

Passover Pistachio Macaroons

YIELD: Makes two dozen

INGREDIENTS: 

3 cups shelled unsalted pistachios

1 cup sugar

3 egg whites

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. In a food processor grind the nuts but don’t puree them. In a medium bowl combine the ground nuts and sugar; fold in the egg whites; refrigerate about 10 minutes. Leaving an inch or so in between, drop batter by the tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake 11 to 14 minutes or until macaroons start turning golden brown. Serve with fresh fruit or sweet wine.