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GLAMEROUS DESSERTS MADE WITH COMMERCIAL ICE CREAM

Several years ago I bought an ice cream machine. Flavoring with herbs was new and I wanted to try spices. I was also curious as to why commercial products came in so few fruit flavors. I lived in an area famous for blueberries, loved cranberries and had been mashing bananas in softened vanilla ice cream, then refreezing the mix in popsicle molds for ages.

Well….my efforts were successful, but the machine…not so much. The process was too time-consuming and the machine took more freezer space than was justified by the results-about 1 quart of ice cream. It took days to make enough for a full family dinner and no way could I have the choices I had planned always available. So the machine sits on a shelf, except for occasional request and I’ve gone back to the old, hand-made methods.

I wrote several posts on this last summer (See June 18 & 22, and Sept.1, or click the pictures on the Home Page panorama) covering frozen desserts and cold confections. However, this year I’ve taken a step further in the direction of convenience (or laziness) and been exploring converting commercial ice cream, as well as plain cream, into decorative, festive presentations. Most of the recipes below are adapted from TheThree & Four Ingredient Cookbook by Jenny white and Joanna Farrow, a few are old classics but they’re all easy and delicious—guaranteed to get you raves!

Don’t miss the special BONUS at the end of this post. It has 1 really current recipe and 1 which will make your ‘company’ desserts no-brainers in the future.

Truffle Bites: Yield 25
3 cups ice cream-flavor optional
7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 oz. milk or white chocolate
¼ cup chopped, toasted nuts-almonds, hazelnuts suggested
Place a large cookie sheet in the freezer for 10 min. Scoop balls of ice cream with a melon baller and line them on the cookie sheet; freeze for at least 1 hr. Line a second cookie sheet with parchment paper and freeze it as well. Melt the chocolates in separate pots. Transfer the ice cream balls to the parchment covered sheet, and, gently spoon a little dark chocolate over half of them to cover, one at a time, and immediately sprinkle with chopped nut. Cover the other half of the balls with dark chocolate and drizzle with the milk or white chocolate. Freeze them as you go to avoid melting and keep frozen until serving.

Fruit Gateau: Serves 6
3 ½ cups mixed berries or diced, skinned soft fruit-if using large strawberries chop to size
3 cups ice cream- flavor optional
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
4 oz. meringues = 1 small per cup of other ingredients or 6 here—See recipe below*
Dampen a 2 lb. loaf pan and line it with waxed paper. Put the fruit in a bowl with the sugar and toss until it begins to break up but don’t let it get mushy. Put the ice cream in another bowl and break it up with a fork. Add the broken meringues and the fruit. Fold the ingredients together until lightly marbled. Pack the mixture into the prepared pan and press down lightly to level. Cover and freeze overnight. To serve, invert on a plate, remove wrap and slice.
*NOTE: This is delicious with an interesting texture. However, it’s difficult to slice. I think I’ll make it in individual molds from now on, perhaps even use muffin cups

Peach Melba: Per portion
1 large scoop ice cream-vanilla is customary but peach or strawberry are options
2 meringues-see recipe below*
1 peach half- canned peaches can be used, but fresh, skinned ones are better.
3 Tb. raspberry sauce- see NOTE below**
Place the peach half in the bottom of a dessert dish, top with ice cream. Press a meringue into each side of the ice cream scoop and pour the raspberry sauce over.
**NOTE: Melba Sauce is sold in gourmet sections, but fresh berries tossed with sugar are better, so are frozen raspberries sweetened to taste.

*Meringues: Yield about 25 small or 12 large
Meringues are very useful . The only thing to beware of is that egg whites will not beat if there is even a trace of any other substance, including water but especially egg yolk, on the beaters or in the bowl. Tip: egg whites beat better at room temperature.
Cookie Sheet and Waxed Paper:
2 egg whites
½ cup sugar
2 drops cider vinegar
½ tsp. flavoring – – Vanilla is usual if used with other ingredients. I like Maple to serve alone
Cover the cookie sheet with the waxed paper. Carefully separate the eggs, putting the whites in a clean, dry bowl. It might be wise to break them separately, over another bowl, then transfer each white into the beating bowl. That way, if there’s a bit of yoke in the last white, you don’t have to start over. With clean, dry beaters, beat the eggs until they form soft peaks, @ 1 ½ – 2 min. Still beating, add the vinegar, gradually pour in the sugar, and continue beating until glossy peaks form when you lift the beaters. Add the flavoring, beat to mix.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Drop the meringue batter on the covered cookie sheet by the teaspoon or soupspoon depending on desired size, forming little mounds about 2 inches apart; cook 1 hour. While still warm, remove the meringues from the paper, and allow to cool on a rack.

*NOTE: Meringues are handy to have on hand. They can be eaten as cookies and are lower in calories. They keep in an air-tight tin for months. The batter can also be cooked flat or in shapes and used to replace pie crust or pastry shells.

Banana Popsicles: Makes 6 as per usual mold set*
2 cups softened vanilla ice cream
1 cup mashed RIPE banana=1 large or 2 small—dark spots from ripening don’t show after mixing
Mash the banana to a paste with a fork and stir into the ice cream until fully mixed. Freeze in molds. Rec
* Can substitute for the cream in the Torte recipe below

Brownie Torte: Serves 8-10
9 oz. chocolate brownies-crumbled
11 oz. white or milk chocolate broken in pieces
2 ½ cups heavy, whipping cream
Unsweetened cocoa for dusting
Line the base of a spring-form pan with waxed paper. Sprinkle the brownie chunks over the bottom and slightly up the sides pressing to form a dense base. Melt the chocolate gently with 2/3 cup of cream, stirring until smooth. Pour into a bowl and cool. Whip the remaining cream and fold into the chocolate then pour into the base. Tap gently to level, cover and freeze overnight. Remove from pan, plate and transfer to the refrigerator about 30 min. before serving. Just before serving dust top with cocoa.

Terrine: Serves 6
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
2 cups whipping cream
½ cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup chopped toasted nuts-pecans, almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
Boil the granulated sugar and 5 Tbs. water until sugar dissolves and turns golden. Remove from heat and allow pan to stand until syrup is brown. Pour 6 Tbs. of cream over the sugar and heat, stirring until it’s a smooth caramel sauce. Cool. Rinse and line a 1 lb. loaf pan with plastic wrap. In one bowl whip 2/3 cup cream with the powdered sugar to soft peaks. In another whip the remaining cream and stir into the caramel sauce with the nuts. Spread 1/3 the caramel mixture into the pan and top with ½ the sweetened cream. Repeat layers ending with the caramel. Tap to level the surface and freeze for at least 6 hrs. To serve, dip pan in hot water, invert onto a plate, remove wrap and slice.

Fruit Mousse: Serves 8-10
1 qt. berries or skinned, diced fruit
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Add sugar to fruit and let stand 1 hr. then mash or leave in very small pieces. Whip cream with salt and vanilla. Fold in fruit, do not stir more than necessary, pour into a rinsed but not dried mold, cover and freeze overnight. Unmold, plate and slice to serve.
General Rules for Mousse-There are many recipes for mousse, but the rules are the same.
1) The dish will be smoother if the cream is whipped only until the peaks are soft-stiff.
2) Fruit should be crushed or in tiny dice to avoid crystalizing when frozen
3) Fold the fruit in, don’t stir it or the mousse won’t freeze evenly.
4) To avoid separation, have all the ingredients the same temperature when combining
5) Cover the top of the mousse with plastic wrap, even if the container has a lid.
6) To unmold, dip the container in hot water before inverting onto a plate.

Bonus
Chocolate Cups: Serves 6
These are an elegant way to dress up a couple of scoops of ice cream. Just add whipped topping, some fruit or other decorations and you have a party dessert! Make them ahead and you’ll always be set.
8 oz. chocolate broken in pieces-dark, white or milk
Waxed paper
1 baking sheet
(1) 3 inch round cookie cutter—OR tuna fish cans, washed and open at both ends
Cover the baking sheet with waxed paper. Cut (6) 12 x 5 inch strips of waxed paper. Fold each in half lengthwise and roll to fit inside the cookie cutter when standing on the baking sheet and tape paper in circles. Stand the cookie cutter on the baking sheet, fit a paper roll inside it and, with a teaspoon, spoon a little chocolate inside, spreading it over the bottom to form a base and unevenly up the sides. Careful not to crack the chocolate shell, remove the cutter and go on to the next cup. This is where tuna cans make the job easier; they stay in place until the cups harden, allowing several to be made quickly.
Each cup holds 2 normal scoops of ice cream.

Coconut Ice Cream: Serves 6– This doesn’t belong in either of the above categories, but it’s a fun addition, especially with the current popularity of coconut.
14 oz. can coconut milk
¼ cup sugar
2 limes, zested and juiced
Toasted coconut shreds, toasted almond slivers and/or chocolate shavings for garnish
Boil sugar with 2/3 cup water to dissolve, stirring constantly; cool then chill well. Add lime and coconut milk. Pour into a freezer-proof container and freeze 4-6 hrs., beating or processing twice in between to break up ice crystals. Freeze until firm. Serve in scoops topped with choice of garnish.

HOW TO UNLOCK THE SECRET TO CONTROLING FOOD EXPENSES

A button at the top of this site’s Home Page links to my book How to Control Food Bills which teaches The Diet for the Food Dollar Plan. I’d like to talk a bit about the book and what prompted me to write it. We can’t control food prices, but we can learn to deal with them.

First of all, I want to be clear, I am not a classically trained chef. I have none of the professional chef’s ‘perks’; no fabulous equipment, no assistants, no ’connections’ for supplies or access to special prices. I am one of you, cooking alone, in a normal home kitchen, buying retail at the local supermarket, and above all, working on my own dime. None of these facts change whether I’m making a meal for my family or preparing an order for a client.

This is why I feel that I can discuss the problems of dealing with current food costs with you better than the ‘professionals’. They have an objective view of the situation, whereas we have a subjective one.

My one advantage, and the one I share in this book, is that my training with the U.S. Personal Chef’s Association is focused on the economic and organizational aspects of the business, more than the culinary side. The students know how to cook and follow recipes, and most meals are left to the client to finish and serve. What they really need to learn is how to create a viable business working with the food situation today. That includes how to use organized planning and to food shop in an informed, intelligent way to control cost.

Frustration with cooking for an empty nest prompted me to train and open a personal chef service. I knew from the training, I was in for some awakenings, but nothing compared to the change in my attitude toward handling food expenses. Understanding what a personal chef service is and the steps a chef takes to complete an order will explain how this happened and why following a chef’s example can save time and money for the average family.

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A personal chef service prepares a series of meals for a client to consume over a period of time, for which a price is quoted. The chef has a large recipe repertoire and can adapt family favorites or special diets, but individual requests are acceptable too. Although services have base prices, a personal chef service owner meeting with a client to draw up a menu, must be prepared for any requests. It can be a specific cut of meat, a change in number of entrees and/or servings, even adapting a meal from fresh to frozen. The chef has to be able to give the client a reasonable quote, on the spot, taking into consideration maintaining quality and meeting the bottom line while buying retail, much as the home cook should do when planning the weekly meals and calculating food expenses.

Of course, the chef has to be informed as to current market prices, and also be aware of all the ingredients needed to fill the order. This means keeping a running inventory of pantry supplies, staples, condiments, herbs and spices. This sounds harder than it is. Simply note supplies including amounts, and then each time you plan menus revise the amounts of the items used. Then you always know what you have, without constant searching.

When the menu is set and the day of delivery scheduled, the chef makes a master shopping list for the entire order, including every ingredient in the amount needed. Different market flyers are studied to determine which store has the best prices, especially on the meats and produce, for that particular order. Menu blanks, such as optional sides or choice of salads are filled in from the information in the chosen market’s flyer before shopping. Using one market saves valuable time especially on service day or, for the home cook, market day.

If an item is required from another store, then it is preordered to be ready for pick-up on service day. The same is true of the main order. The chef visits the chosen market in advance to place the order and be sure it’s waiting in designated amounts on the morning of the stipulated day. It’s important for quality and freshness that products go directly from store to client.

To facilitate this, the chef will have made it a point to meet the managers of the separate food sections of the supermarkets, especially the meat, fish and produce. Having worked together, these people understand what is needed and a phone call to each assures the order is correctly filled, packaged and ready on time. Many people don’t realize if they take the time to meet key people in the different departments of their favorite market, they can enjoy the same convenience and rely on being able to get sound advice.

The entire order is cooked in the client’s house and prepared in proportion sizes for freezing. The estimated time spent is one hour per entrée. This can be a good model for the busy home chef. Setting a time aside to cook some meals in advance, or cooking double amounts of a meal, which takes no extra time, is a great way to relieve stress. It’s nice to come home after a hard day and know something’s prepared.

The whole procedure is straightforward but requires time and attention to detail or it can bog down and derail. I needed a way to streamline it and a few short cuts to keep me on track. Otherwise, I would be spending far too much time on each order.

The plan I devised worked so well for the business, I applied it to my personal food shopping and preparation, saving both time and money. The best part is it’s individualized without being invasive so it adapts to all financial situations. To test it further, I shared it with some friends with the same results. One remarked that she wished she could shed pounds as easily as she cut dollars off her food bills and The Diet for the Food Dollar Plan was named.

It consists of 3 simple steps to alter your approach to food provisioning from planning through shopping and preparing. Experts say that habits are formed in three weeks. So if you can follow the steps for three weeks they will be well on the way to becoming habit and you will be on auto-pilot to saving time and money.

I had some fun with the steps, thinking up simple tips and incentives to keep on track. When I decided to write the book, I added more “bells and whistles” to pave the way and a lot more information, including a complete run-down of every type of store that sells food.

The steps are:

  1. BE DECISIVE— Don’t hesitate, press “Go” As with any diet, the first step is to set a realistic, obtainable, goal and start working toward it.
  2. BE DETERMINED – Once you have a goal in mind, and an idea of how to carve the path to get there, it’s going to take resolve to turn that path into a paved highway.
  3. BE DICIPLINED – In any diet this is the hardest step to follow because it requires ongoing effort, but the best paved road won’t get you into town if you keep taking scenic detours. If you are decisive and determined; all that’s needed is willpower.

In addition to the three steps in the plan, if you follow the personal chef’s schedule in your approach to menu planning and food shopping, you will find the tasks simplified.

1) Check your pantry inventory and supplies,

2) Make time to plan a week’s menus starting with the entrees,

3) Study the weekly market flyers, and pick the store which best fits your current needs,
4) Fill in any menu blanks using that flyer,
5) Write a detailed list of every ingredient, with amounts, needed for the week’s meals

6) Make a similar list for other food needs, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, pet food etc. and for household supplies, detergents, paper products etc. Anything bought in a supermarket.

7) Talk to the personal in the key departments of your favorite store. Get the name of one in each to call if you want to order ahead or inquire about an item.
8) Make ONE WEEKLY trip to market for everything

The book contains over 100 pages of charts and diagrams of meats, poultry, seafood cheeses, oils, grains and herbs and spices giving descriptions and suggested uses. There are lists of common ingredient substitutions, temperature conversions, pan measurement and calorie charts. These alone constitute a valuable kitchen tool

So click on the link at the top of the Home Page or the book cover in the Bookshelf panorama in the right margin, and take a closer look at the book and what it can do for you. I guarantee it will more than repay its $8.99 cost probably in the first shopping trip, but definitely in less than the time the plan takes to becomes a habit, or 3 weeks as stated above.

ICY DRINKS FOR HOT DAYS

I’ve been focused on cold food for several weeks now, but it’s been an unusually warm summer in much of the U.S. There have been several intense heat waves of longer than normal duration—often over a week rather than three to five days. This has given rise to awareness of the importance of hydration but it also raises the question of our choice of drinks. If we are to increase our fluid intake, we should guard against increasing our consumption of sweeteners in general, especially artificial ones and other non-natural ‘additives’ such as preservatives, coloring, flavoring agents etc.

Drinking plain water is the best way to stay hydrated and I’m a big fan, but it’s also boring. We need to be enticed to maintain our proper fluid levels, and that means a choice of a variety of cool, delicious drinks, preferably naturally healthy ones, not commercially bottled or canned products. I know the argument that making those beverages takes too much time, but not really if you make a pureed fruit base which can be stirred with, say, sparkling water, or a large pitcher of different flavored teas to be sweetened individually as poured. These concoctions can be kept chilled; the fruit purees can even made ahead with extras frozen, and be as quickly ready as a can of soda.

I’m offering nine recipes which will make staying hydrated a pleasure. Most are adaptations from The Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow. A few are old classics. Several call for, or can be altered by the addition of another liquid. I recommend sparkling mineral water, flavored, not sweetened, soda water, and ginger ale, better yet, ginger beer or sparkling cider. If a recipe asks for two separate juices, please use those, not a pre-mixed, bottled combination. The proportions will be different and alter the taste. A few of these recipes can be changed with the addition of liquor or wine, two actually are better known as bar drinks, but remember, alcohol reduces their ability to hydrate.

If you have a juicer, you might want to use it for the drinks using fresh fruit. In testing them, I used my blender on’ liquefy’ and was pleased with the results, but I like some pulp in my fruit drinks. It gives them authenticity. However, if you like a clear syrup base for beverages, strain the fruit pulp through a sieve diluted with a little water to make its passage easier.

So—Cheers! Here’s to staying hydrated!

RECIPES

True Blue: Serves 2-4
2 cups blueberries
2 cups black raspberries
1 ¼ cups seedless red grapes
Put all the fruit through a juicer or blend on liquefy. Pour over ice in a tumbler, or add some raspberry flavored, unsweetened seltzer water, like Vintage, and serve in a tall glass. Garnish with reserved fruit,

Honeyed Watermelon Cooler: Serves 4
1 medium watermelon
1 quart sparkling water*
2 limes juiced*
Honey to taste
Cut away the rind and seeds and put the watermelon meat in a blender with enough of the water to liquefy. Add the rest of the water, the juice and honey. Chill thoroughly. Serve over ice.
*A shortcut is to substitute lemon-lime seltzer water for these two ingredients.

Strawberry-Apple Mist:-Serves 2
3 cups strawberries, hulled
2 tsp. vanilla syrup
Sparkling apple cider or apple juice
Blend or juice the berries with the vanilla. Pour into 2 tall glasses filed with crushed ice and fill the glasses the rest of the way with the apple juice or sparkling cider for a bit more kick.

Cranberry Spritzer: Serves 4
2 ½ cups cranberry juice
1 cup apple juice
4 cinnamon sticks
Chilled ginger ale or ginger beer
Freeze the cranberry juice in a flat pan for about 2 hr. until ice forms around edges. Mash with a fork and refreeze for 3hr.or until firm. Meanwhile, bring the apple juice and cinnamon just to a boil; remove from heat, cool and chill. Put the frozen cranberry juice and apple juice without the cinnamon in a blender. Process briefly until slushy and pile into cocktail glasses, topping with the ginger ale. Garnish with the cinnamon sticks.

Peppermint Icy: Serves 4 —This is for the kids
4 oz. peppermint candy
1 pt. milk
1-2 drops red or green food coloring-optional
Put the candy in a plastic bag and break into small pieces. Blend with the milk and food coloring if using, until candy is in small granules. Pour into a pan and freeze for about 2 hr. until edges are frozen. Using a fork, beat the nix until combined, return to the freezer and repeat twice more, until the mix is a slush. To serve, spoon into tall glasses

Pure Sea breeze: Serves 2
½ cup grapefruit juice
1/3 cup cranberry juice
Mix juices well and pour over crushed ice in highball glasses

Mango Royale: Serves 6
2 mangos
2 oranges-juiced
Sparkling lemon-lime seltzer
Blend or juice the mango with the orange, pour over crushed ice in highball glasses and fill with the seltzer.

N.Y. Egg Cream: Serves 2 –The famous old summer drink that contains no egg and no cream.
½ cup chocolate syrup
1cup cold milk
Plain, unflavored seltzer water
Divide the syrup between 2 tall glasses, but don’t drip on the sides! Add the milk and then slowly pour in the seltzer avoiding a ‘head’ while filling the glass. Serve with straws to stir well before drinking and sip through the straws, don’t drink from the glass.

Purple Passion: Serves 2- When I was in college, this was a special at the C.I. and it’s still the best thirst quencher I know.
Purple grape juice
Ginger ale
Fill 2 highball glasses halfway with cold grape juice and the rest of the way with cold ginger ale. Enjoy!

COLD SOUPS THAT BEAT THE HEAT

During warm weather, it’s great to have a selection of recipes for cold dishes in various cuisines handy to enjoy, as I pointed out last week. However, when there’s a real heat wave, especially an extended one or a succession of them, as there have been this year, our appetites take a hike. We’re not in the mood for a large meal and even less in the mood to stand over a hot stove cooking one, including me, and I love to cook!

Yet our bodies crave fluids, which are essential to stay hydrated and we need nourishment. What’s called for is a light, satisfying, easily prepared meal, and the perfect solution to that problem is chilled soup. These soups require minimal cooking time and mainly, based on vegetables, they don’t even need to be accompanied by salad, a plate of fruit will do. Add some artesian bread and optionally sliced meat, it’s a complete meal. Deli meat works well for this type of dinner, but, lately, I’ve bought a roast, usually chicken or pork, added a bit of water to the pan, sprinkled a few herbs on top, turned the oven on and let it cook-no fuss- no basting. When finished, I cool then chill it and slice what I need each night.

I list ten really delicious cold soups below. Reading them you’ll notice they follow a simple ‘formula’. Though they may call for flavor accents, onions, garlic, to be sautéed first and/or a smoothing dairy product to be added at the end, the body of the soup is a vegetable cooked in broth and pureed. So why not experiment with your favorite vegetables and herbs? Some great combos are peas with mint, cauliflower with dill and kale with garlic or nutmeg.

The recipes given here are not only easy to make but fast as well. Most can be done in 30 min. or less. (I’ve found using an immersion blender or ‘giraffe’ a real labor and time saver.) In fact, two of the soups don’t require cooking. The Gazpachio is my family’s version and isn’t pureed. Noticing the difference in textures while eating seems to make it more satisfying, more like a full entree. The Garlic and Almond Soup is a true classic though not well known in the U.S. The nuts may seem an expense, but almonds are most reasonable in July and August. I buy my Christmas supplies then, but not at supermarkets—try national pharmacy chains. Given the other ingredients, it averages to a reasonable meal

I have left the amount of crab in the Crab and Rice Soup vague. The recipe asks for the meat from only 1 medium crab. Nothing goes further than the contents of a tin of fresh crabmeat, so I’m not stating a definite quantity leaving that up to you. I don’t know if imitation crabmeat can substitute but I am sure that canned crabmeat from the store shelf won’t. Stick with the fresh.

One last tip: my favorite soup is the Cucumber Bisque with the poached salmon. Served with good bread and fresh fruit, it’s a satisfying, refreshing meal but I confess I often poach the salmon or shrimp in with the simmering cucumbers. It saves time, another pot to wash and adds flavor to the broth. In a nutshell, that’s the point of this post—cool meals for hot days that are simple and fast to prepare, requiring a minimum of cooking, but are delicious, nutritious and satisfying. So give them a try and stay cool and happy—-

Avocado Soup: Serves 4
2 large avocados
4 cups chicken stock
1 ¼ cups sour cream
2 mint sprigs
Small bunch cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel and chop avocados, blend with 4 Tbs. cream. Heat stock to very warm and stir in remainder of cream until mixture is smooth. Slowly blend stock mix into avocado mixture, return to pot, and warm through, then cool and chill. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves and freshly ground black pepper.

Bean, Tomato and Pesto Soup: Serves 4
(2) 14 oz. cans lima beans rinsed and drained-or a white bean, but no other colors
¼ cup tomato paste
1/3 cup pesto
3 ¾ cups chicken or vegetable stock
Sour Cream for garnish
Place all ingredients but cream in a pot and simmer gently about 8 min. Blend the soup until slightly chunky and chill. Serve swirled with dabs of cream.

Artichoke Soup: Serves 4
1 lb. 12 oz. can artichoke hearts drained and chopped in large pieces
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 Tb. oil
1 garlic clove-minced
1 small onion-chopped
½ cup light cream
2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves or 1 Tbs. dried
1 tomato chopped
Cook the onion and garlic in the heated oil until soft. Add artichoke then broth, stirring. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 min. Blend until smooth, return to the pot and stir in cream and thyme; warm through. Pour into a large bowl and refrigerate at least 3-4 hours. Serve chilled garnished with chopped tomato.

Tomato-Basil Soup: Serves 4
2 lb. tomatoes OR (1)1lb.12oz. can diced tomatoes-drained, juice reserved*
2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth*
28 Basil leaves-20 chopped and 8 reserved OR 1 Tbs. +1tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup plain yogurt-divided, 1/3 cup in reserve for garnish
1 Tbs. oil
1 small onion – diced
1 large garlic clove-minced
Sugar, salt and pepper to taste
*NOTE: The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes but they need to be skinned, before dicing, or the cooked puree must be strained to remove the skins. It’s simpler to use canned diced tomatoes. The 4 oz. difference in weight equals that of the skins and the cores, which must be removed before cooking. When using canned tomatoes, measure the reserved juice and add only enough broth to equal the 2 ½ cups liquid required.
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft; add the tomatoes and 1 ½ cups of liquid and simmer for about 15 min. Puree the mixture, (strain to remove skins now if necessary) Add all the non-reserved ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and chill. Serve garnished with a swirl of yogurt and a couple of basil leaves.

Arugula and Blue Cheese Soup: Serves 4
8 oz. arugula leaves—any heavy spines removed
5 oz. blue cheese
2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
2/3 cup light cream
Heat stock and add arugula until leaves wilt about 3 min. Crumble the cheese into the pot and stir until it starts to melt. Blend the mixture until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the cream, heating only until well incorporated. Remove from heat and chill. Stir well and serve cool, garnished with chives or paprika. Don’t refrigerate long or cheese will congeal and change the texture.

Spinach and Mascarpone Soup: Serves 4
2 Tbs. oil
6 scallions- trimmed and chopped
2 celery stalks- chopped
12 oz. spinach
3 cups vegetable broth
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
Salt and pepper
Caraway seeds
Croutons—suggested rye bread
Saute the scallions and celery in the oil until softened. Add the broth and the spinach and simmer until spinach wilts; blend to puree; return to pan and add cheese, stirring until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve garnished with croutons and seeds.

Cold Crab and Rice Soup: Serves 6
4-6 oz. cooked crab meat +optionally, a bit more according to taste
½ cup long grain rice
2 ½ cups skim milk
2 ½ cups clam juice
1 Tbs. anchovy paste or 2 anchovies
2 Tbs. lime or lemon juice
3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Sour cream and chopped chives to garnish
Separate the large pieces of crab and reserve. Cook the rice in the milk until tender, about 20 min. Cool, add the smaller pieces of crab, anchovy paste and blend until smooth. Return to pot, add the reserved crab meat, clam and lime juice; heat through and stir in the parsley. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and chill. Serve garnished with a dab of sour cream and chives.

Cucumber Bisque: Serves 4
3 large cucumbers, seeded and sliced but not peeled
1 small onion-diced
4 cups chicken stock
(4) 4-5 oz. salmon fillets or 16 large shrimp-optional
Salt and pepper
Sour cream for garnish-optional
Chopped chives for garnish
If using, poach the salmon or shrimp in boiling water until cooked-the salmon about 8 min. and the shrimp about 4min. Peel the skin off the salmon or clean the shrimp, leaving tails on and chill. Boil the vegetables in the broth until soft, about 15 min. Blend until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with seafood on top, garnished with sour cream and chives or, if not using seafood, just cream and chives.

Gazpacho: Serves 6
4 cups tomatoes-in small dice
1 ½ cups finely chopped green bell pepper
¾ cup finely chopped onion
1 large garlic clove-minced OR 1 tsp. garlic powder
2 ½ cups beef bouillon-I like to use 1 can madrilène + 1 envelope bouillon granules with water to equal
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbs. paprika
½ cup thinly sliced cucumber
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Place all ingredients in a bowl and let stand for 1 hr. Add the cucumber, rinsed, and chill for at least 2-4 hrs. Adjust seasonings and serve with artesian bread.

Garlic and Almond Soup: Serves 4
14oz. stale French bread
4 cups ice water +cool water for soaking
4 large garlic cloves-halved lengthwise
6 Tbs. olive oil
¼ cup sherry vinegar
2 cups ground almonds=about1 lb. whole nuts
Salt and pepper
16-20 chilled white grapes-sliced
Tear the bread into pieces and soak in water to cover for 10 min. Squeeze excess water from bread and blend with garlic, I cup ice water and 3 Tbs. vinegar; add almonds and oil, blend briefly then add the remaining 3 cups ice water and blend to a smooth mixture. Adjust seasonings, adding salt, pepper and remaining vinegar to taste. Chill at least 4 hrs. before serving. Garnish with a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper and the white grapes

CHANGING ‘WINTER’ RECIPES INTO SUMMER ONES

Writing the last two posts about the popularity of fish in summer, got me thinking about seasonal dishes. During my training with the U.S. Personal Chef Association we were asked in one class, if we designated recipes to winter and summer. I was surprised how few people did. I had always considered hearty stews and gravy cloaked roasts as too heavy and filling for hot days, just as I regarded tuna salad and gazpacho off mark for a snowy evening. Yet, when one person spoke up saying that the season didn’t change her tastes and preferences, I was reminded of a friend of my Father’s who are at the same restaurant every Tuesday for years, because that was corned-beef-and-cabbage day.

Then, I had a personal flash-back. My Mother’s vegetable soup is one of my favorite winter meals, as much for the chilled left-overs the next day as for the dinner. I was elated to find a trattoria close to my apartment in Italy that made minestrone very similar to mother’s soup recipe and even happier to learn they served it chilled in summer as a matter of course.

Remembering the incident, I realized there must be many other seasonal adaptations, especially among basic ethnic dishes, and began to look for a few. After all, people don’t give up flavor orientation because of the temperature. Cuisines have to adjust to endure. So I looked around for some other examples.

The first to come to mind is Spaghetti Pie, which I’ve mentioned several times and recently seen in other publications. It’s a centuries old dish for peasant farmers in Italy. Sauced, cooked pasta is left to cool overnight, then tossed with a lightly fork-whipped egg, about 1 egg per 1-2 portions, topped with Parmesan and fried in a little oil over medium-low heat until the bottom forms a crust and the ‘pie’ solidifies. When cool, it’s cut in wedges, wrapped and sent out with the men as they go to the fields to work—or simply served on a plate at table.

The Bolognese raise this preparation to an upscale level to enjoy their famous Ragu all year. Below is a recipe for Ragu Torte, an elegant dish, perfect for summer entertaining, usually served at room temperature. This is Elizabeth Davis’ recipe. She’s British, and still considered the best authority in ‘transitioning’ traditional Italian recipes to the English or U.S. kitchen and/or table.

Ragu Bolognese: Serves 6

8oz. lean ground beef
4 oz. chicken livers- chopped
3 oz. bacon or country ham, preferably unsmoked*-minced
1 onion-chopped
1 carrot-chopped
1 small celery rib- chopped
3 tsp. tomato paste
1 wineglass of white wine
2 wineglasses of stock
‘Nut’of butter = 2-3 Tbs.
Salt to taste and black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

Brown the bacon or ham gently in about 1/2 Tbs. butter; add vegetables and brown well; add beef and turn constantly until evenly browned; add the livers, and after 2-3 min. the tomato puree and then the wine. Taste for salt; add that with pepper, and nutmeg, then the stock. Cover and simmer very gently for 30-40 min. Add the rest of the butter before serving to smooth the sauce. A variation is 1 cup cream at the end to smooth the sauce even more. Pass grated Parmesan. Normally served over flat pasta.

.*Pancetta(Italian bacon) may be easier to find. Remember the saltiness of this ingredient determines the amount you’ll add during cooking.

Torte: Serves 6-8
Substitute 2lb. cooked, cheese filled tortellini for the flat pasta: line the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan, or  9-10 inch torte pan with removable bottom, with pie crust. Fill with ragu covered tortellini mixed with 2 lightly beaten eggs. Bake at 350 deg. 25-30 min. until pastry is done. With a spatula or dinner knife cut around pan sides and remove them. Serve torte on pan bottom, warm, room temperature or cold.

Fun Fact: The Italian language is very precise. A sauce, or salsa is liquid based, but a gravy or sugo, is based on meat, vegetable or animal. Hence Italo-Americans often call Tomato Sauce, Tomato Gravy, because it’s based on crushed tomatoes. A ragu actually roughly translates as ‘stew’, and reading the recipe you can see why.

Paella Salad: Serves 6
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts- cut in strips
1 lb. shrimp-cleaned-tails on
2 Tbs. oil
1 medium onion – chopped
1 clove garlic- minced
1 ½ cups uncooked, extra-long grain rice- brown preferred
¼ tsp. saffron
3 ½ cups chicken broth
1 Tbs. lemon juice
3+ cups torn green leaf lettuce
Optional garnishes-green olives, grape tomatoes, avocado, kiwi slices
Cook chicken in oil over medium- low heat until juices run clear; add shrimp and cook until pink and opaque. Remove to a plate. Saute onion in same pan until tender; add garlic and warm through. Add rice to pan and stir until opaque; add saffron, broth and juice. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 min. Remove, add chicken and shrimp and chill several hours. Serve on greens with garnishes of choice.

White Fish and Coconut Loaf: Serves4-6
8 oz. snapper or any other firm, white fish-skinned –See posting 7/6/17 for selections
2 tomatoes seeded and in finely chopped
1 small jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
1 onion in fine dice
2 green bell peppers in fine dice
2 ½ cups coconut water
2 ¼ cups bread seasoned crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional garnishes-twists of lemon or sprigs of cilantro
Sauce
½ cup ketchup
2 tsp. or to taste siracha or Texas Hot Sauce
¼ tsp. hot mustard-Chinese or Coleman’s Mustard Powder
Finely chop the fish and add to the vegetables, Stir in the bread crumbs, coconut water and seasonings. Line a 5x 9 loaf pan, fill with the mixture and bake in a preheated 400 deg. oven for 1-1 ½ hours until set. To serve cut the loaf into slices and serve hot or cold on greens, garnished as wanted, with sauce passed on the side.
To make sauce simply whisk the 3 ingredients together until smooth

Tuna Fish Sauce for meat: Serves 6
A classic Italian dish; The meat can be warm or cold but the sauce is room temperature. Originally always served with veal, it now is more often made with turkey or pork.
I list 2 recipes because the authentic one is made with raw eggs and there is concern with salmonella. The alternative is my family recipe for mayonnaise. Not only are the eggs cooked but there is no oil, making it ‘lite’.
2-3 lb. ‘Hotel’ turkey breast, a ½ loin of pork, or 2 turkey or pork tenderloins
(1) 5-6 oz. can tuna-in oil for original recipe, water for modified one, chunk style is best
Original sauce recipe: Serves 4
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. salt
8 oz. olive oil
Beat the eggs slowly; add the salt after about 1 min. Begin to stir in the oil drop by drop until mixture begins to attain characteristic mayonnaise consistency. Constantly stirring, increase amount of oil added gradually until it can be poured in a thin stream. If the mixture begins to lose its shine-stop, it has enough oil. A drop of lemon juice can be added at the end for flavor, but is optional. Chill. Drain the tuna well and mash it with a fork to a puree; add half to the mayonnaise first then more if desired. Stir well to make smooth sauce the consistency of heavy cream, but slightly thicker.
Lite Mayonnaise: Serves 6
2 eggs well beaten
3 Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. paprika
1 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. butter
½ cup water
½ cup vinegar
Mix the dry ingredients and in the upper part of a double boiler, bring to a boil with the water, vinegar and butter. When the butter melts, pour in a thin stream into the eggs, and then add the eggs to the pot. Cook, stirring constantly over medium-low heat until mixture thickens to the point where a spoon dragged across it leaves a trail. Cool and chill, Add tuna as described above.
For the Finished Dish
Roast the meat as per any cookbook direction. I like to rub it with 1 Tbs. dried tarragon first. When cool, slice the meat, plate, cover with half the sauce and chill overnight. Serve as plated with sauce and pass the rest.
Optionally add 2 tsp. capers or 2 chopped anchovies.to the sauce before chilling

Tex-Mex Fajita Salad: Serves 4
1 lb. lean ground beef or 1 ½ cups diced cooked chicken
15 oz. can kidney beans- rinsed and drained
1 Tbs. oil
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 large onion cut lengthwise in julienne-strips 2 inches long
1 green bell pepper cut in julienne-strips 2 inches long
1 red bell pepper cut in julienne-strips 2 inches long
2/3 cup corn kernels
½ tsp. each cumin and coriander
Salt and pepper
4 cups torn Romaine
1 cup shredded sharp cheese
Tortilla chips
1/3 cup salsa
1/3 cup guacamole
1/3 cup sour cream
In a skillet, cook the beef in the oil until brown-omit this step with chicken. Remove meat and cook onion, corn and pepper with the garlic in the same skillet until just crisp tender. In a large bowl, toss the first 12 ingredients with the lettuce. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and just before serving spread the salsa, guacamole and sour cream in lines across the top. They will be the dressing when tossed into the salad at table. Optionally, toss some broken tortilla chips into the salad at serving and pass the rest on the side.

Classic Vegetable Soup a Freddo: Serves 4-6
This is my family recipe, but any found in cook books will do. There’s a version in every cuisine. The important thing is the consistency when chilled. It should be very thick, not fluid enough to drip off the spoon. This is achieved by the addition of (or more of) rice, orzo or in my Mother’s recipe, oatmeal.

1 qt. beef broth
1 lb. trimmed lean beef in ½ inch cubes
1 large potato diced
1 large onion diced
1 large stalk celery sliced
1 large carrot sliced
2/3 cup of EACH baby lima beans, cut green beans, peas, corn, sliced okra
Optional-1 ½ cups trimmed, torn spinach leaves
½ tsp. EACH dried marjoram, thyme, oregano and rosemary
Salt and pepper
1/3-1/2 cup oatmeal or rice—1/2-3/4 cup orzo
Simmer the beef in the broth until tender, about 40 min. Add, in order of ingredient listing the next 4 vegetables at 4 min. intervals, then add the rest of the vegetables with the seasonings. Finally add the pasta or grains and cook directed times for each, adding more to get the right consistency if needed. Adjust seasonings and serve warm or chilled. When cold, the soup is often topped with Parmesan shreds.
NOTE: Add vegetables as you please, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, beans, fennel are all present in different recipes.

The Bobbie: Serves 1-2
In Delaware there’s a Deli famous for this sub. Fondly called ‘Thanksgiving on a Roll’, people come from the surrounding states just to get it. I wouldn’t feel I’ve done a full job without including it!
Slit a roll of French bread lengthwise and begin layering from the bottom, slices of cold, roast turkey(NOT Deli sliced) cold bread stuffing, cranberry jelly, lettuce and spread the top piece of bread with mayonnaise. Close it up, cut it in half and enjoy!

THE MOST POPULAR WAYS TO COOK FISH

Last week I mentioned that fish is an increasingly popular summer food and speculated the reason was it provides the ‘fast, easy, fresh’ meal cooks/chefs seek in warm weather. Also, the flaky textures and subtle flavors combined with its ability to quietly ease hunger make it the light, satisfying food we crave on hot days. I suggested grilling for a quick, attractive presentation but fish can be prepared in many different ways.

In fact, few of the many seafood-focused restaurants that open seasonally, especially in resort towns feature grilled dishes. Restaurant kitchens are generally small and grills, particularly ’line grills’, aren’t spacially compatible. Yet these places are known for excellent food, some even famous and they rely on dishes based on traditional cooking methods.

These traditional methods of cooking fish are easy to master, elegant in their simplicity and invaluable to know because they, not the fish cited, are the stars of most recipes. Fortunately, fish is classified by type, fine-flake, oily, full-flavored etc. since market availability of specific species varies daily. (See list below)By encompassing a type of fish rather than a particular species, these preparations allow for substitutions, guaranteeing that a recipe can always be made. If you’re in doubt, just tell the fish monger how you plan to cook the fish and he/she can direct your choice.

Although the type of fish can be changed and the recipes modified or embellished by adding, subtracting or varying ingredients, I strongly advise against substituting key factors. If a recipe stipulates butter-use butter. The same is true of vegetables, fruits, fruit juices and herbs. If the recipe states fresh –use fresh. Not to do so can really impact the taste.

As stated, preparation methods can be used for different fish within the same categories. Acceptable substitutions would be for example:

A. Full flavored with firm meaty texture and high in omega-3 fatty acids: tuna, marlin, swordfish, shark
B. Mild tasting, lean, fine flake and sweet flavor: sole, flounder, tilapia, halibut, orange roughy
C. Mild tasting, lean, large flake, and sweet flavor: cod, haddock, bass, rockfish, ocean perch,
D. Firm, moderate flavor and medium oil content: snapper, catfish, monkfish (can also be substituted for lobster in some recipes)
E. Rich oily fish, firm flake and medium to strong flavor depending on species: salmon, wild or farmed, trout, arctic char, steelhead

The following recipes are examples of the most popular ways to cook fish. Each makes a complete dish, but at core, each also illustrates the preparation method it represents

Saute
Trout Meuniere
: Serves 4 – This is also good using fillets, and advised for any fish in categories B&E
4 medium trout
2 lemons juiced-rinds reserved
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tb. oil
¼ cup butter
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup fresh parsley minced
Rub trout with lemon rinds, adding a bit of juice if needed. Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute trout turning once, (fillets don’t need turning) until both sides are slightly tan and edges of meat are opaque and curl, about 5 min. per side. Remove fish to a warmed platter. Wipe pan and add the last 3 ingredients. Swirl to melt and combine. Pour sauce over fish and serve.

Bake
Mexican Snapper
: Serves 4 This procedure works for almost any fish, but the recipe favors category D
1 ½ lb. snapper fillets
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup toasted, chopped pistachios
¼ cup butter
Lime juice to taste + 1 lime quartered
Salt and pepper
1 large avocado – diced
Preheat oven to 350 deg. Place fish in a baking dish. Melt butter with lime juice and salt and pepper to taste in a sauce pan. Pour over fish and sprinkle fillets with nuts and cilantro. Cover and bake for 30 min. Serve garnished with avocado and a lime wedge.

Broil
Fish in White Wine with Parsley Butter
: Serves 4.This is recommended for fish in categories A, B, D&E
1 ½ lb. fish in 1 inch thick steaks, thick fillets or center slices
1 Tbs. butter
½ -3/4 cup dry white wine-vermouth is fine
½ cup butter- room temperature
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp. garlic powder
Mix last 4 ingredients together and chill. Place fish in a baking dish and pour over enough wine to come 1/3rd up the sides; dot with 1 Tbs. butter. Broil 4 inches from the heat source 3-5 min. per side for steaks or until fillets flake easily with a fork. Serve with pan drippings and topped with a dollop of parsley butter. Pass any remaining butter.

Simmered
Poached Salmon with Sauce
: Serves 4 This can be made with salmon or any of the fish in category A
1 ½ lbs. of salmon fillets or steaks
1 Tbs. lemon juice
Bring water to cover and lemon juice to a boil and reduce to an even simmer. Slide fish in gently and cook about 8-10 min. per pound until the flesh turns pale pink and flakes easily. Remove from heat, run fish under cold water to stop cooking and remove skin, and spine bone, if still there in steaks. Serve warm or chill on a covered plate at least 1 hour.
Sauce 1:
½ large onion- diced
¼ cup oil
1/3 cup white wine
1cup sour cream
2 Tbs. capers
¼ tsp. lemon pepper or to taste
In a sauce pan, sauté diced onion in 1 Tbs. oil until soft, add balance of oil, capers, wine and ¼ tsp. lemon pepper, allow to simmer gently to warm. Check if more lemon pepper is needed, sauce should be very lemony but not bitter. Remove from heat, cool slightly, whisk in sour cream to blend while still warm. Serve warm over hot fish or cool to room temperature and serve over chilled fish. This is best made shortly before serving. Drizzle sauce over fish and pass remainder.
Sauce 2:
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ tsp. dill weed or to taste
Blend all ingredients well and allow flavors to meld several hours in the refrigerator. Add more dill to taste if needed. Serve dolloped over chilled fish.

Steamed
Southwest/Italian Seafood Packets
: Serves 4 Fish from categories A,B&C are recommended for this
(4) 1 lb. fish fillets
½ cup thick salsa OR ¼ cup crushed tomatoes seasoned to taste with dried basil, dried oregano and garlic powder
8 large shelled shrimp
8 Cilantro, parsley or oregano sprigs or basil leaves
1 Lemon or Lime in wedges
Preheat oven to 400 deg. Cut foil or parchment paper into 8 pieces 1 inch longer than fish. Shapes, triangles or hearts make a nice presentation. Place a fillet on each of 4 pieces, top with 2 Tbs. sauce, 2 shrimp and 2 sprigs or leaves of herb. Cover with another piece of foil or paper and crimp edges to seal. Bake 10-12 min. Plate packets immediately and serve hot with fruit wedges. Cut an ‘X’ in the top of each packet to eat.

Fried
Fish should be cut into fillets to be fried and then into strips, size dependent on type of fish. The pieces are then 1) Dipped into flour then milk then crumbs; 2) Dipped into milk then flour;3) Dipped into milk, then flour, then egg then crumbs; 4) Dipped into flour then a batter*. Finally, it is fried to golden in hot fat or oil, either several inches in a pot or in a fryer. The crumb size is a matter of preference.
*There are countless recipes for batter but a simple one is: Beat 1 egg until fluffy, blend in ¾ cup water and 1 ½ Tbs. lemon juice. Stir in and mix lightly 1 cup flour and 1 tsp. baking powder.
NOTE: Years ago a chef told me that for mollusks #3 is the best coating, but a tip to have them retain flavor yet be crispy is to place them ready for frying on a waxed paper covered baking sheet in the freezer for about 20-30 min. Then fry at once and serve as soon as done.

Oven Fried Fish: Serves 4-Again any fish, cut into filets, will do
Standard recipe ( From Light Menus by Louisa Mariano)
1 lb. fish fillets cut –about ½ inch thick
1 egg beaten
2 Tbs. milk
2 Tbs. cornmeal
2 Tbs. flour
¼ cup fine bread crumbs
Salt, pepper , seasoned salt
6 Tbs. melted butter
Preheat oven to 500 deg. In a shallow dish combine egg and milk. In a second dish combine everything else but butter and lemon. Dip fish first in egg mix then dry mix. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with butter and cook 4-6 min. until fish flakes with a fork. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
TIP:A sprinkle of paprika on top before cooking gives a lovely color.

Coconut Tilapia: Serves 4 This is my own recipe and lighter than the standard. The coconut can be removed, the panko used alone or mixed with seasonings or replaced by crumbs. It’s the method that counts.
4 Tilapia filets – about 1lb
1 cup plain Panko
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes – toasted
½ cup + mayonnaise
Lemon pepper
Step I- Preheat oven to 350 deg. Toast coconut on a piece of foil until golden, about 4 min. watching that edges don’t burn. When cool mix with Panko.
Step 2 – Place fish on a lightly oiled cooking surface, a pan or baking sheet. Completely cover the tops with a thin sheet of mayonnaise, more like a veneer. Dust lightly with lemon pepper.
Step 3 – Sprinkle with Panko-coconut mix, and bake 8 min. per 1 inch width of filet, until top is golden, fish puffs slightly and edges bubble. Serve at once
Note: I put the breading mix in an empty herb bottle with a shaker top. It’s easy to apply, and any extra can simply be stored in the capped bottle.

BE COOL–GRILL FISH

Growing up in a coastal resort, I learned to appreciate fresh fish at a young age. It wasn’t long before I realized that seafood, in general, is more featured on menus in summer than winter. It seems logical that a town which depends, seasonally, on the ocean for its economy and entertainment, would rely on the sea as a major food source at that time of year, and most seaside communities still do.

However, with modern transportation and freezing methods, fresh fish is available anywhere at any time nowadays and in quantity too. Our growing interest in healthy eating, and awareness of seafood’s nutritional values have made it very popular, but there is still more sold in warm weather than cold. So there must be another reason why seafood is considered a good summer food.

My guess is that it’s the epitome of the “fast, easy, fresh” meal everyone wants, especially in summer. It’s certainly easy; the pieces are sold ready for cooking without needing additional cleaning or trimming. Since it must be cooked within a day of purchase, or as soon as thawed, it’s the freshest of meats served. As for ‘fast’, although seafood can be cooked in every possible way, in all of them the required time is measured in minutes not hours, no matter the cut. There’s no leaning into a hot oven to baste, or stirring a stew pot in hot weather. In fact, depending on the choice of sides, little time need be spent in the kitchen, particularly if outdoor grilling is an option.

However, if it isn’t, the following recipes are acceptable for indoor or outdoor grilling, which includes contact grills and grill pans. Of course, if you can’t or don’t grill, oven broiling is another option. The recipes are also adaptable for use with different types of fish. The point is that fish is a quickly prepared choice for a summer meal, particularly so when grilled.

There are a few general rules for cooking fish including grilling. The most accepted are those set by the
Canadian Department of Fisheries, recommended by top chefs from James Beard to Steven Raichlen and Bobby Flay.
1) Regardless of method, cooking time should be 10 min. per inch of thickness of the fish at its thickest point. If you have a whole fish 4 inches thick, you will cook it 40 min.; a steak 1 ½ inches would take 15 min. or 7 ½ min. per side and a thin fillet ½ inch thick would be 5 min. or 2 ½ per side. (I tend to be more cautious here and allow 3 min. per side.) Tongs are great to turn fish steaks but if I’m doing thin fillets on an outdoor grill, I use a ‘fish holder’; a grill accessory with a long handle, which holds the fish between two rectangular pieces of metal mesh, making flipping them during cooking without breaking them easy.
2) Preheating is required. The element should be hot, and for outdoor grilling the grill surface should be 3-5 inches from the heat, with a 2-3 Mississippi fire. Contact grills and pans take about 3-5 min.to reach the desired temperature.
3) Lightly oil the surface just before you put the fish on to cook, not when you start the grill.
4) Remember contact grills take half the time because they cook both sides at once.
5) To get cross-hatch marking, rotate the fish ¼ turn half-way through cooking each side

As stated, grilling recipes can be used for different fish within the same categories. Acceptable substitutions would be for example:

A. Full flavored with firm meaty texture and high in omega-3 fatty acids: tuna, marlin, swordfish, shark
B. Mild tasting, lean, fine flake and sweet flavor: sole, flounder, tilapia, halibut, orange roughy
C. Mild tasting, lean, large flake, and sweet flavor: cod, haddock, bass, rockfish, ocean perch,
D. Firm, moderate flavor and medium oil content: snapper, catfish, monkfish (can also be substituted for lobster in some recipes)
E. Rich oily fish, firm flake and medium to strong flavor depending on species: salmon, wild or farmed, trout, arctic char, steelhead

Grilled Swordfish with Peppers: Serves 4
(4) 1 ¾ lb. swordfish steaks or others in ‘A’ as well as halibut about 1 inch thick
1 large red bell pepper in julienne strips
1 large green bell pepper in julienne strips
1 small onion thinly sliced
2 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. lemon juice
¼ cup grated Parmesan
2 Tbs. shredded basil
2 Lemons in wedges for serving
Salt and pepper
Set grill rack about 5 inches from heat and preheat. Generously sprinkle pepper over fish. Melt butter and sauté pepper strips and onion until tender and golden, remove from heat, add salt if needed and reserve. Oil grill and cook fish 5 min. on first side, sprinkling with ½ the lemon juice before turning. Sprinkle the rest of the juice over the fish and cook 5 min more or until it flakes easily. Top fish with peppers, then garnish with cheese and basil before serving with lemon wedges on the side.

Grilled Whole Fish in Beurre Blanc Sauce: Serves 8
3 ½ lb. cleaned fish with head and tail left on, salmon or trout
3 Tbs. canola oil
1 small onion in small dice
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
½ cup butter
¼ cup white wine
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
Place grill about 5 inches from heat and preheat. Lightly oil a wire broiling basket. Place fish in basket and drizzle with oil and cook about 5 min. then turn, cook 5 min. more, repeating until fish has been cooked the required time-about 20 min. total. To prepare sauce, place vinegar, onion and wine in a saucepan and simmer until onion is tender and liquid reduces slightly. Gradually blend in butter to make a smooth sauce. Serve fish hot, with sauce drizzled over, garnished with parsley.

Grilled Salmon with Watercress Sauce: Serves 4
4 salmon steaks ¾ inch thick
1 tsp. dried marjoram
Salt and Pepper to taste
Watercress Sauce
Sprinkle salt, pepper and marjoram on both sides of fish steaks. Preheat grill, place 4 inches from heat and lightly oil. Grill fish about 3-5 min. per side, until lightly browned and it flakes easily. Serve with sauce.
Watercress Sauce: Yield 1 cup
½ cup packed watercress leaves
½ cup packed fresh parsley
2 medium shallots-diced
1 small onion – diced
½ Tbs. wine vinegar
1 ½ Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. tomato juice
Place vegetables and herbs in a processor and process 3 times with on/off . Scrape down bowl sides and pour oil over mixture, add vinegar and puree 3 sec. Pour juice in through tube and puree until smooth. Chill before serving with fish.

Grilled Tuna with Rosemary-Caper Butter: Serves 4
(4) 1 inch thick tuna steaks
Oil to coat grill rack
1/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 Tbs. chopped capers
¼ tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. dried, powdered rosemary + fresh sprigs for garnish
1/8 tsp. Dijon mustard or spicy brown
Mix last 5 ingredients together and chill. Preheat grill and lightly oil rack placed about 4 inches above heat. Grill tuna steaks 5 min. per side. To serve, top steaks with a portion of the butter and optionally, garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs.

Grilled Scallops with Creamy Corn Sauce: Serves 4*
1 ½ lb. sea scallops
1 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tbs. finely chopped, toasted walnuts
Rinse he scallops well and pat dry. Thread sidewise on double skewers to prevent twisting. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat on a preheated, oiled grill rack 2-4 min. per side, depending on grill until just golden. To serve, remove from skewers and serve sitting on corn sauce.

Corn Sauce: Yield about 2 cups
(1) 15 oz. can creamed corn
1 small onion diced
¼ tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro
1Tbs. cornstarch
Put all the ingredients but the cornstarch in a blender and puree until fairly smooth. Place mixture in a saucepan, add cornstarch and simmer gently until sauce thickens. Taste for salt, pepper and sugar adjusting if necessary. Can be made ahead and stored cool, but should be rewarmed before serving. To serve, spoon sauce on plates and place scallops on top. Garnish with finely chopped, toasted walnuts
*Adapted from ‘Grilling’ by Steve Raichlen

Barbecued Shrimp: Serves 6
24 large shrimp-cleaned, tails on
12 slices of bacon – halved crosswise
24 pieces of onion 1 ½ inch x 1 ½ inch
2 Tbs. EACH brown sugar, soy sauce and dry sherry
½ tsp. EACH chili powder, powdered ginger and salt
3 cloves chopped garlic OR 1 tsp. powdered garlic
Wrap the bacon pieces around the shrimp and skewer shrimp sidewise to secure bacon, alternating with the onion pieces. Combine the rest of the ingredients for the marinade and pour into a baking sheet with sides or broiler pan. Lay skewered shrimp flat in the pan and marinate, turning regularly for at least 1 hr. Cook over high heat about 3 min. per side, until bacon is crisp. Pour marinade into a saucepan and heat to a simmer, then cool to serve as a dipping sauce.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE July 4TH DESSERTS

America’s three national, patriotic, summer holidays all prominently display the flag, but only on the Fourth of July is the red, white and blue festively draped everywhere. That includes everything from clothing to decorations, especially table decorations, to the actual food served. Of course it’s pretty hard to plan an entrée in those colors. The red and white are easy, but a blue item is a tough one. On the other hand, devising a red, white and blue dessert is easy.

Magazines and T.V. shows are filled with recipe ideas for brightly colored sweet treats. The white frosted, berry decorated ‘Flag Cake’ always makes an appearance, as do colored ice creams and ices but you don’t have to depend on searching for recipes. It’s simple to convert many of your favorite desserts into suitable holiday offerings.

To illustrate my point, I’m changing some of the desserts I offered in my post on Father’s Day Desserts, 6/15/17 and then adding a few more to show that getting the color scheme right is just a matter of choosing the right ingredients. I have several dessert posts on the Home Page panorama as well. Just click on the photos there, such as 5/12/16, or search the Archives for suitable posts.

RECIPES

Lilly’s Ice Cream Cake: Serves 8-10 Our family favorite is spice cake, with coffee ice cream and caramel sauce but many flavor combinations will work. For July 4th I suggest vanilla Ice cream and red or blue velvet cake**with a sauce of strawberries or blueberries*See NOTE below.
(1) 2 1/2 quart freezer proof mold or large round, deep mixing bowl
Layer pans, tube pan or sheet cake pan to bake the cake
1 box of cake mix, cooked according to directions, cooled and removed from the pan(s)
½ gal—Or 1.5 qt. container ice cream.
1 pt. strawberries or blueberries for sauce
Bake the cake according to box directions, remove from pans and cool.
Soften ice cream to consistency of whipped topping.
Rinse bowl or mold with water and shake out excess but do not dry. The film of water freezes and forms a protective coating on the container that makes it easier to unmold the finished dessert.
Smear a dollop of softened ice cream over the bottom of the mold. If it has a decorative top be sure to fill it all in. Then begin to fit chunks of the cake into the mold in layers. Be sure to separate the layers of cake, the pieces of cake in the layers and the cake pieces from the sides of the mold with enough ice cream that they don’t stick together or become exposed when the dessert is unmolded.
Also, have a thick enough layer of ice cream on the bottom of the mold to form a firm base when plated for serving. Both cake and ice cream should be used up.
Freeze the mold for several hours or overnight.
Remove from freezer and dip the mold in a larger bowl, or pan, of hot water, for the count of ten (10). Cover the bottom with a serving plate and invert to unmold.
Serve at once or store in the freezer until needed.
Pass appropriate fruit sauce on the side.
*NOTE: To make a strawberry sauce, slice the berries, sprinkle with sugar and allow to sit for 20-40 min. Store chilled. For blueberries, sprinkle with sugar, add 2 Tbs. water and simmer over medium low heat until berries begin to break apart. Cool and store chilled.
** Red Velvet cake is available in mix form. Some recipes for Blue Velvet cake are:
1) If your Red Velvet Cake recipe calls for 2 oz. of Red food coloring, you would substitute 1 ounce Royal Blue gel paste food color, PLUS 2 drops violet gel paste food color. This will give you the proper color for a Blue Velvet Cake.

2) Really simple Velvet cake (use any color(s) you prefer)
using boxed white cake mix and chocolate pudding mix:
–1 (18.25 ounce/517 g) package white cake mix
–1 (3.5 ounce/99 g) package non-instant chocolate pudding mix
Directions
–Preheat oven to 350* F (175* C).
–Prepare cake according to package directions, substituting half of the water called for with buttermilk (approximately 1/2 cup/118 cm).
–Stir in pudding mix and food coloring.
–Pour into cake pan(s) and bake according to package directions.

3) Velvet cakes are the same, except different food colorings are used. The only thing that sets a “velvet” cake apart from a traditional cake is that it contains buttermilk, food coloring and (typically) a darker chocolate/cocoa powder but it doesn’t have to, see recipe#2 above using pudding. If one is out of buttermilk, using a Tbsp. of white vinegar and regular milk will be the same.
NOTE: The easiest option will probably be best here, since the cake is part of the dessert, not the focus.

Summer Berry Pudding – Serves 4-6
2 lbs. mixed berries-strawberries sliced if large
8 oz. raspberries
¾ cup sugar
8 slices white bread
Topping of choice to serve
Cut the crusts off the bread and use it to line the bottom and sides of a 4 ½ cup sized bowl, making sure there are no gaps between slices. Bring the mixed berries and the sugar to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 8 min stirring once. Spoon the fruit into the lined bowl, add in as much juice as it will hold, making sure some gets around the sides of the bowl. Cover the top of the bowl with the remaining bread and place in a pan to catch juice overflow. Put a plate on top of the bowl and weigh it down with cans. Refrigerate overnight. Puree the 8 oz. raspberries with enough of the remaining berry juice to have a sauce consistency. Strain and chill. When ready to serve, unmold the pudding on a serving plate and pour some sauce over. Garnish with a dollop of topping and offer the rest and the sauce in bowls to add. Cut in slices to serve.

A RUSTICA, or GALETTE, is the easiest type of pie to make. This is a short version of the recipe from my book Dinners with Joy:
If making the crust: mix 1 ½ cups flour, ¼ cup sugar, cut in 1/3 cup shortening, add 3 to 4 Tbs. ICE water to form dough, and roll to a 12 inch round.
If buying the crust: roll only to 10 inches. *
Transfer to a parchment or foil covered cookie sheet, or bake in a pizza pan.
Depending on size, fill the center with a 1 lb. to 1 ½ lb. fruit, leaving a 2 to 3 inch margin. (Apples pears and peaches should be peeled and sliced. Plums can be halved and stoned.)
Dot fruit with ½ Tbs. butter.
Sprinkle with 1 Tbs. cornstarch, 1 Tbs. sugar and ½ tsp. lemon juice.
Carefully fold edges of pastry up around filling, pleating as you go. The edges can be brushed with cream or egg white and sprinkled with sugar as decoration.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 min. Cool on sheet; preferably on a wire rack.
This can be moved to a plate for serving, but as the name implies, it’s a “rustic” or casual pastry. I like to bake it and serve it in a pizza pan.
* Whole berries rend more juice than other fruits sliced. It’s advisable to bush the inside of the pie shell with beaten egg to prevent it’s becoming soggy. Another and perhaps more decorative solution is to roll the pastry into a rectangle and crimp the corners to make 1inch>1 ½ sides. Then arrange the fruit in rows, top as recommended and bake at 425 deg. for 15-20 min. and 325 deg. for an additional 15-20 min. until crust is golden and fruit bubbles.

FRUIT PIZZA:
Make dough as instructed above, increasing sugar to ½ cup and shortening to 2/3 cup.
If buying; purchase a roll of sugar cookie dough, not pie dough. Roll dough to fit a pizza pan, prick several times with a fork and bake as for cookies, 350 degrees for 10 to 12 min. until lightly browned, or as directions on package state.
Cool completely in pan.
Decoratively arrange raw fruit over the crust. The amount you will need depends on the chosen fruit, roughly about 1 ½ lbs. For July 4th use a combination of strawberries and blueberries. Top with a glaze made from a clear jelly, apple or current, melted with 1 Tbs. water per ¼ cup jelly. For a thicker glaze dissolve ¼ tsp. cornstarch in 1 Tbs. water per ½ cup jelly, which is the amount I use for one of these. Boil until clear and spoon over the fruit. Chill until completely set. To complete the color scheme pass whipped cream, or ice cream.

Strawberry-Blueberry Buckle: Serves 8
½ cup butter or margarine-at room temperature-1/4 cup reserved
1 cup sugar-1/2 cup reserved
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups flour-1/2 cup reserved
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ cup milk
1 cup blueberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
Whipped cream or ice cream for topping
Cream non-reserved butter and sugar; blend in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl stir together non-reserved flour, baking powder and salt, Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with milk and stir to blend. Pour batter into a prepared 9 inch square pan, arrange fruit over top. Combine remaining flour, sugar and spices, cut in butter until mix is crumbs. Scatter the fruit over and bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven 35-45 min. until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or room temperature with topping.

Puff Pastry Tower:
2 sheets of puff pastry – 1 box
(1) 1 pt. strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a mixture
1 tub whipped topping, 1 can whipped cream or 3 cups vanilla ice cream
Powdered sugar
Cut each puff pastry sheet into 4 equal squares and bake as directed. Cool. Put 2/3 cup of the ice cream or equal proportion of the cream or topping on each of 4 squares. Top with some of the berries, and cover with another square at a tilted angle. Put a small dab of the creams or topping on the upper squares and add the rest of the berries. Garnish with sprinkled powdered sugar.

Wrapper Fruit Cups: Makes 12
24 Wonton Wrappers
2 cups raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or strawberries sliced
2 cups yogurt- vanilla or lemon Or 1 pkg. instant pudding and pie filling – flavor optional*
2 Tbs. melted butter
Cooking oil
Powdered sugar
With a little oil on a paper towel, lightly coat the inside of each muffin cup in two 6 cup pans. Lay one wonton wrapper on a diagonal in each cup and lightly butter it. Butter the remaining 12 wrappers and lay them on top of the first in the cups on an opposite diagonal making sure the points form sides to the cups. Bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven for 10 min. Cool and remove from pan. Mix I cup berries into the yogurt or pudding and spoon into the cups. Top with remaining berries and garnish with sugar. Serve at once.
*To keep with the color scheme of the occasion, pick a white or off-white colored flavor-vanilla or coconut for example.

Finally two old favorites of mine:
Angel Berry Nest: Serves 6-8
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla or almond flavoring.
2 drops of white or cider vinegar
Beat the egg whites into peaks, adding the vinegar to temper them half way through, then add the
flour and the cornstarch, finally the sugar in 3 parts while beating until stiff glossy peaks form.  Draw an 8 or 9 inch circle on parchment or waxed paper. Put the paper on a cookie sheet and fill the circle, with the beaten whites, using the back of a fork to indent the center and raise the sides to form a nest.  Bake at 250 deg. for 60 min. Leave in oven for 30 min. then cool on a wire rack and store airtight. To serve, fill the center with sliced fresh fruit or berries.

Easy Berry Cake: Serves 4-6
1 purchased pound cake
8 oz. tub of Whipped Topping
1pt. box of strawberries
1pt. box blueberries
Save several nice strawberries and blueberries for decoration. Put the blueberries to the side. Slice the rest of the strawberries and sprinkle with sugar. Allow to rest for a few hours for the juice to extract itself. Just before serving, cut the cake into 3 layers. Spread first with 1/3rd of the whipped topping, spoon ½ the sliced strawberries over it allowing the juice to drip down the sides, sprinkle with some blueberries. Repeat with 2nd layer. Finish with 3rd layer topped with the rest of the whipped topping and the reserved decorative berries arranged over the top.