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SALMON- FAST, EASY RECIPES FOR ALL AGES

The morning after I set-up my last post on Ash Wednesday-Valentine’s Day fish dinners, (2/11/18), I heard a talk show guest describe her issues with the traditional ‘fish-on-Friday’ Lenten fasting schedule. She hated having to stop to buy fresh seafood after work and needed some easy, quick child-friendly recipes to avoid a battle over dinner.

I realized there must be many people with the same problems and want to offer help. I’ve chosen two globally known fish from the top 5 commercial favorites, salmon and tilapia. They’re very different in taste and texture, which gives variety, but they’re also 1) Available, all year, fresh and frozen, 2) Accessible, from individual frozen fillets in Dollar Stores, to frozen multi-packs and fresh in supermarkets to freshly cut in fish markets 3) Affordable, with such a range of outlets there is something to fit every wallet and 4) Sustainable, both are still plentiful in the wild and very successfully farmed.

I’m starting with salmon which is a bit more complicated to understand than tilapia, simply because they are often sold listing species. Salmon is native to the northern regions of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but there are some non-migratory species living in lakes in Europe, North America and Siberia. Unfortunately, the Western Atlantic Coast has been over-fished and the only commercial hauls from that region are in Nova Scotia, where most of the catch is smoked before sale.

Native to the Eastern Pacific coast are 1) the Chinook, also called King or Blackmouth salmon, the largest Pacific species reaching 30 lb. 2)The Coho, or silver salmon which ranges as far as Southern California, 3)The Sockeye, a lake-rearing species and plankton eater, often used for canning; 4)The Chum, also called the dog or calico which has the widest range of the Pacific salmon covering both coasts; 5) The Pink also has a wide, but more northern range and is the smallest species, 6) The Masu is exclusive to the western Pacific coast. There are other salmonoid species in several countries but marketing is strictly local.

Salmon is prepared in many ways, though I don’t recall ever seeing it deep fried or in batter. I know kids love fried food and there will be some suggestions next week but the recipes I’m giving in these two posts are for simple, fast presentations and will not include anything so complicated or potentially messy as deep frying.

As for the actual cooking I quote The Canadian Department of Fisheries, recommended by top chefs from James Beard to Steven Raichlen and Bobby Flay. “Regardless of method, the 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.

Salmon, especially fresh, may have skin. Personally, I don’t like the skin on a fish fillet nor do I like messing the presentation, by having to flip the fish to remove it, or enjoy having to scrape the meat off the skin as I eat.  I empathize with parents who are trying to teach their children healthy eating. Fish is a hard sell to begin with and serving it with that ‘ickey’ skin is no help.

Actually, removing the skin is an easy, if a bit delicate, task.  Lay the fillet, flesh down, on a flat surface, thick end front. A cutting board or waxed paper covered counter top is ideal. Place the fish at a slight diagonal to you, and gently lift one corner by the skin. It should start to separate from the meat, allowing you to slip a sharp knife between the two and carefully slice them apart. I usually use a 5 inch knife for this job, but knife size depends on the fillet and whatever you’re comfortable with. The important thing is that the knife is sharp.

Leaving the skin on may cause fish to curl when cooking because the skin contracts. The best way to prevent this is to slit the skin across several times and start the cooking skin side down.  Even with the skin removed, some types of fish, like Monkfish, may still have a tendency to curl. I have found that the only way to prevent this is by snipping the darker line of flesh that can be seen when the skin is removed. It runs lengthwise down the center of the fillet and several shallow cuts crosswise with a scissors seems to relax it enough to stay flatter during cooking.

RECIPES: Baked, broiled or poached salmon recipes can be prepared with frozen fillets. I’ve marked them with *.Just add 5-7 min. more to the total cooking time, according to size of piece.

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Poached Salmon with Sauce*: Serves 4
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: Can be made the night before-keep covered and chilled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream
1 ½ tsp. dill weed or to taste
Mix 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.

Grilled Balsamic Salmon*: Serves 4 (*Not valid if using a double-contact grill)
4 salmon fillets
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat grill or broiler, place rack about 4 inches from heat and lightly oil or place fish on a lightly oiled pan or piece of foil. Cook fish about 5-8 min. until lightly browned and it flakes easily. Brush liberally on both sides with vinegar; add salt and pepper to taste, plate and sprinkle with dill. Serve hot or room temperature.

Salmon Teriyaki*: Serves 4- From Eat Up and Slim Down by Jane Kirby and David Joachim
(4) 5 oz. salmon steaks or fillets
Sauce*
½ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
3 garlic cloves or ½ tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. chopped fresh ginger OR 1tsp. powdered ginger
1 ½ cups (12 oz.) thawed frozen apple juice concentrate
½ cup finely chopped scallions or onions
Puree everything but scallions and salmon. Refrigerate the fish and onion in the marinade at least 8 hr. or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 deg. and bake the fish in the marinade 8-10 min. until opaque and flakes.
* A good commercial Teriyaki sauce may be used instead. Use only enough to cover the fish and look for those labeled Marinade and Sauce preferably.

Salmon Yakitori: Serves 4-FromPtactical Low-Fat Cookery by Parragon Publishing
4 salmon filets-skinned
8 baby leeks*-trimmed -cut in 2 inch pieces
Sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1/3 cup white wine
2 Tbs. sugar
3 Tbs. cream sherry
¼ tsp. Garlic powder
Cut the salmon into 2 inch chunks. If very thin cut in strips and double over. Thread the salmon and leeks alternately on 8 skewers and chill. Bring the sauce ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 min. Pour about ½ the sauce in a dish and reserve for dipping at table. Place the skewers on an oiled grill rack or oiled baking sheet, brush liberally with the remaining sauce and cook about 10 min. turning once, basting frequently with the sauce. Serve with reserved sauce.
*Other vegetables than leeks can be served for children-lightly cooked carrot coins or sweet potato chunks, for example.

Salmon in Mustard-Orange Coating*; Per portion
1 salmon fillet
1 Tbs. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1/8 tsp. sugar-preferably brown
½ tsp. finely diced orange peel
Place the fish on a lightly oiled baking sheet or piece of foil. Spread the mustard evenly on top and sprinkle first with the sugar and then the orange peel. Bake in a 350 deg. oven about 15-20 min. until a light crust forms. Serve hot.

 

Maple Marinated Salmon*: Per portion
(1) 5-6oz salmon filet – skinned
1 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. maple syrup
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. bourbon
Whisk the oil, syrup and vinegar and bourbon to combine well.  Pour the marinade over the fish in the baking pan, and turn the filet over a few times to coat both sides. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hr. and up to 4 hrs.  Bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven for 15-17 min. basting occasionally with pan juices. Serve at once, with any pan juices that remain and garnished with a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper

Salmon with Leafy Greens and Tomatoes*: Serves 2
2 thick center slices of salmon
(1) 5 oz. bag spinach leaves or equal amount of Kale leaves, thick stems removed*
(1) 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbs. oil –optional
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Skin the salmon and bake on a non-stick surface at 350 deg. for 5 min, per inch of thickness or until flakes.  When fish is done, put greens in a flat-bottom dish, top with oil if using, tomatoes with juice and garlic. Microwave for 1-2 min. until greens are slightly wilted and tomatoes are warm.  Plate greens topped with tomatoes and place a piece of fish diagonally across each plate. Serve at once.
*Depending on the sturdiness of the kale, it may need pre-boiling or a bit longer in the microwave than the spinach, until it is crisp tender.

This is a general delicious fish recipe for all types. I’ll repeat it again next week because it’s also good with tilapia.Top of Form

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Southwest/Italian Seafood Packets*: Serves 4 Almost any fish is recommended for this- From Eat Up and Slim Down by Jane Kirby and David Joachim
(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.

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LENTEN DINNERS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY 2018

I have several posts with Valentine’s Day recipes in the site archives (2/9/12, 2/7/13, 2/11/14. 2/11/15, 2/10/16, 2/1/17) covering just about any type of dinner and every aspect of a dinner. However, this year requires some special recipes because the holiday is also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. For many Christians this signals the beginning of a period of fasting. Some will shun meat on certain days Ash Wednesday being one of them, others will renounce, or cut back on things like candy and carbohydrates in the weeks until Easter.

So, it follows that the dinner recipes for this Valentine’s Day must be a bit different than other years. For inspiration, I turned to spa and low-cal cookbooks and researched ‘fish’ dishes, because they seem the ones most suited to general acceptance for this occasion.

I tried to select dishes which have a bit of glamour, without undo effort and require only ingredients readily available, in most areas, all year. To make shopping decisions easier, I’m printing a fish chart below to suggest substitutions.

I fully realize that Valentine’s Day is a Wednesday, as well as a day of religious observance, and most couples will postpone their celebration until the weekend but it still might be fun to mark the actual day. Perhaps you’re a couple who can enjoy a leisurely dinner, perhaps you want to give your children a treat to brighten the week. Whatever your situation, I’ve tried to gather a collection of recipes that will offer something to everyone, including children.

The recipes follow the fish chart. All of them allow you to mix fish from the same category. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!!

Occasionally a recipe asks for a fish that isn’t available that day. Substitutions can be made within the fish type. 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

RECIPES

Sole Veronique: Serves 4
4 sole fillets, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 cup dry white wine
1 ¼ Tbs. cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
½ cup milk or half-and-half

Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. seedless grapes- washed, stemmed in a flat dish.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the wine and milk. Melt the butter, with the lemon juice, in a sauce pan and sauté the fillets until they flake. Remove and keep warm. Saute the shallots in the pan until soft. Add the wine mixture and simmer, stirring, until thickened about 3 min. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile microwave grapes about 30 sec. in the microwave, just until warm. Plate the fish, spoon sauce over and serve grapes on the side.

Salmon with Chive-Mustard Butter: Serves 6-From The Everything Low-Carb Cookbook by Patricia M. Butkus
1 ½ Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 ½ tsp. orange zest
3 ½ Tbs. fresh lemon juice- divided
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper
8 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped chives-divided
3 lbs. salmon fillets-skin on
Preheat oven to 425 deg. In a small bowl combine butter, mustard, zest, salt, pepper, 1 ½ Tbs. lemon juice and 3 Tbs. chives, mix well to blend. Place the fish in a lightly buttered dish, skin side down, sprinkle with remaining lemon juice and spread about 2-2 ½ Tbs. butter over each fillet. Bake about 12 min. or until fish is opaque and flakes. Plate, pour over any pan drippings and top with any remaining butter. Serve hot garnished with remaining chives.

Fusion Tilapia: Serves 4
4 large Tilapia fillets
3 bunches scallions – also called green onions- trimmed of roots and course green stems
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. powdered ginger
3 Tbs. butter – divided
2 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. Soy Sauce
½ cup Cream Sherry
(1) 2lb. 4 oz. can sweet potatoes
2 Tbs. brown sugar
Salt and pepper.
Drain the sweet potatoes. Using 1 Tbs. butter and the brown sugar, and if needed a bit of their own syrup, candy them, either in a skillet on the stove, or in a cooking oil sprayed pan in the oven, as per directions on the can. (I have been known to do this in the microwave, by melting the butter, dissolving the sugar in it, coating the potatoes well, covering and cooking on high for @ 3 min .in one minute intervals) Cut white and light green parts of scallions on and angle in 1 ¼ inch pieces. Set aside.
Melt 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. oil over medium heat, and gently sauté Tilapia, until it becomes white, adding more butter as needed. You may need to do this in batches. Remove to a plate. Add the remainder of the butter and oil then the garlic and ginger to the pan and stir quickly to avoid clumping. Add the Soy Sauce, Sherry and scallion pieces. Stir for 30 sec. Reduce the heat to medium low. Return the fish to the pan and simmer until heated through, about 2 min. Apportion the potatoes on the plates, in the center of each. Serve the fish decoratively leaning slightly against the potatoes. Spoon the scallions and sauce over the fish.
**NOTE: Sweet potatoes can be used straight from the can, leftover, fresh baked or cubed and boiled, even replaced by squash. It’s a matter of preference and what’s on hand.

Fish or Scallop Kabobs Serves 4
These can be made using any firm white fish, flounder, tilapia, whitefish, trout or scallops.
1 lb. fish or 16 scallops (preferably sea scallops – halved if large but equal 16 pieces)
2 zucchini
2 lemons – 1 juiced the other quartered
12 cherry tomatoes
8 lemon balm or lemon thyme leaves (optional)
2 bay leaves crumbled
1tsp.chopped fresh thyme or ½ tsp. dried
½ tsp. lemon pepper
3 Tbs. oil
Cut the fish into 2 inch pieces or if easier into 2 inch strips, just be sure there are 16 pieces. Cut the zucchini or squash into 12 slices. Thread the fish onto 4 skewers using 4 pieces per skewer, alternating each with a tomato and piece of zucchini. Mix the other ingredients except for the quartered lemon. Use as a basting for the fish Cook under broiler or over medium-low coals basting frequently about 15 min. Serve with lemon quarters.

 Shrimp Kabobs: Serves 4
Cubes of Monkfish, Salmon steak, Swordfish, even Tuna steaks will work in place of shrimp.
2 lbs. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on – extra-large (26-30 count) recommended
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. Tabasco
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary or equal amount dried
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. allspice powder
2 lemons – one juiced one in quarters
Kosher salt to taste
Barbecue Sauce*
Skewers- soaked bamboo. (If using metal ones, double skewering makes turning easier.)
Mix all the ingredients but the salt and quartered lemon in a bowl large enough to hold the shrimp. Add the shrimp and marinate, covered at room temperature at least 1 hr. or several hours in the refrigerator. Thread shrimp head to tail on as many skewers as necessary – long metal ones require about 4. Preheat broiler or grill, and cook shrimp until pink and beginning to brown, basting frequently with the marinade. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with lemon quarters.
For grills and oven or stove top, cook shrimp until pink and opaque, 3-5 min in all.
*The Barbecue Sauce is for optional dipping. However the choice is open. Anything is acceptable-bottled favorites, home-made, even choices from different cuisines like this
Chinese Spicy Peanut Sauce.
2 tsp. ground mustard mixed with 2 tsp. water
3 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. creamy peanut butter
2 Tbs. soy sauce
¼ cup lime juice
2 Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
Mix first 4 ingredients until blended. Stir in remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.

Grilled (or Broiled) Halibut Steaks: Serves 2 –From Fish Cookery by James Beard
2 halibut steaks about 1 inch thick
1 large clove garlic- chopped
6 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. dried dill
1 Tbs. lemon or lime juice
1 tsp. EACH salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley
Marinate the steaks in the next 5 ingredients for about 2 hrs. Broil or grill-if grilling oil the grill- about 4 inches from heat source, 5 min. on each side, brushing with the marinade. Serve at once with pan juices poured over and garnished with parsley.

Cod with Lemongrass Sauce: Serves 4- From The Everything Low-Carb Cookbook by Patricia M. Butkus
4 skinless cod fillets
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. chopped chives for garnish
SAUCE
2 Tbs. EACH olive oil and butter
1 Tbs. EACH MINCED ginger and garlic
1 Tbs. chopped lemongrass
4 Tbs. EACH chopped shallots and lemon juice
2 cups chicken stock
4 large canned artichoke hearts
Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce: Heat the oil with the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and shallots and sauté until soft. Add the juice and reduce by half, add the broth and reduce by half again. Puree then add the artichoke hearts and butter, salt and pepper and heat through. Keep warm.
For the fish: Season with salt and pepper, then sauté in the oil about 5 min. per side until fish flakes. Serve hot with sauce poured over and garnished with chives.

Ocean Perch with Black Olives and Capers: Serves 4- From The Everything Low-Carb Cookbook by Patricia M. Butkus
2 lb. ocean perch fillets skin on
¼ cup oil
6 Tbs. butter – divided
2 Tsp. dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs. capers
2 Tbs. EACH sliced black olives, lemon juice and chopped fresh parsley
Salt
Heat the oil with 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat. Stir in the oregano and a pinch of pepper. Sauté the fish, skin side down first, then cook for about 3-4 min. on each side until it flakes. Remove to a heated platter. Add the remaining butter to the skillet, reduce heat to low and stir until butter turns amber, taking care not to burn it, add the capers and olives. Off heat stir in the lemon juice and parsley and adjust seasonings. Gently reheat, pour sauce over fish and serve hot.

BEAN SOUPS ARE GOOD FRIENDS IN WINTER

I was a late-comer to understanding the bountiful benefits of beans. Reared in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., I knew Boston Baked Beans, occasionally Pasta e Fagioli and Senate Bean Soup appeared on menus, there was a small diner in town that served wonderful chili, but that was it. I never appreciated beans’ versatility or utility until I began chefing. Shortly after I joined, my U.S.P.C.A. chapter was asked to serve an expo for a health spa and I was assigned to provide a bean soup. My choice was a Weight Watchers recipe, see below.
Well, not only had the organizer overestimated attendance, but it rained that day, and there was a lot of leftover food. I was flattered when a team member, a former restaurant chef and C.I.A. graduate asked to buy my excess soup. When I remarked on the amount, he told me it would keep, chilled, for a week, freeze well and could be used as a sauce, spread and even a flavored thickening agent. Knowing I was new, he advised me to brush up on legumes, because they were going to become big, nutritionally and in connection to our broadening interest in other cuisines.
That was in the fall, and a nasty winter followed, but by spring, I knew I would never face another cold season without a bag of beans in the pantry. They were a go-to winter meal when a trip to the store was impossible. The only drawback was the soaking and cooking time. Then I saw directions that eliminated the overnight soak by boiling the beans for 2 min. and soaking for 1 hr. then rinsing and boiling for the normal 2 hrs.
Quite by accident, I discovered that boiling for about 6 min. soaking for 1 hr. before rinsing, reduced the final boiling time to 1 hr. This made a hearty soup doable in a morning. Extra ingredients, like onions, and garlic etc. can be sautéed in the cooking pot while the beans are being rinsed, before they’re reintroduced to the pot with the fresh cooking water.
However, several of the recipes below use canned beans, requiring only a brief cooking time, easily doable for a quick dinner. I also found that often the addition of a bit of vinegar, choice depending on recipe and cook’s option, can really boost the flavor help it meld, and improve over the next few days as well as keeping the soup fresh longer.
I’ve come to appreciate that chef’s foresight as beans have gained prominence in our diets, and to follow his advice, to be open to using the soup in other ways. My Mother mashed baked beans as a sandwich filling and we loved it. I use the soup as a spread or topping. It’s very good on hot dogs or ham, especially with barbeque sauce. With the current practice of incorporating the salad into the entrée, bean soup makes an excellent basis for a dressing, particularly if there are beans in the salad. A little in pan juices can turn them into a sauce quickly. Nearly every bean soup can do these tasks, but I would avoid those with prominent special ingredients such as the ones with shrimp and squash below.
So, if you aren’t familiar with bean soups, try them; if you are, try experimenting with new recipes or adding to your old ones. These soups are full of nourishment, very satisfying, can be real flavor treats but above all, they can be a cook’s or a mother’s best friend when it comes to menu planning and a valuable culinary tool.
RECIPES: For those marked with * see directions for reduced cooking times above.
Black Bean Soup: Serves 4-6-Adapted from Weight Watchers Favorite Recipes
2 large onions –diced
2 Tbs. oil
12 oz. bag of dried black beans OR (4) 15oz, cans of black beans
15 oz. can of plum tomatoes with juice
2 jarred Jalapeno peppers chopped
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. red pepper—optional
Water
Sour cream or plain yogurt—optional for garnish
If using dried beans, soak in water overnight*, drain and rinse well. In a large pot sauté the onion in the oil until soft. Add all the other ingredients, except the sour cream or yogurt, with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 ½ hrs. until beans are soft.- 30 min for canned. Allow to cool, and puree to a rough texture. Return to pot and adjust seasonings. Serve hot, but beware, the longer it’s kept heated the more fire it has.
NOTE: Jalapenos gain intensity with heating. Do not add more pepper until ready to serve.
Bean and Shrimp Soup with Pesto: Serves 4
12 oz. bag of dried small white beans
1 qt. container of chicken broth
1lb.salad shrimp—frozen is fine—slightly chopped
2/3 cup pesto sauce
Salt and pepper
Soak the beans overnight in water*. Drain, rinse and place in a large pot with the chicken broth and 1/3 cup pesto. Boil until soft, about 1 ½ hrs. Puree soup to a rough texture. Return to pot and add the shrimp and the rest of the pesto. Heat through and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes to meld flavors. Adjust seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed.
NOTE: Parsley pesto works well with this recipe as well as the classic basil.
2 cans water packed, white tuna can replace the shrimp— in a pinch
Baked Bean Soup: Serves 4-6-From American Cookery by James Beard
3 cups cold baked beans- canned is fine
1 ½ cups canned diced tomatoes-drained
6 cups –I use drained tomato juice + water
½ cup chopped celery
Salt and pepper
Crisp bacon- crumbled for garnish
Heat all ingredients but the bacon, to boiling then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 min. to reduce liquid a bit. Puree with a processer, blender, immersion blender or hand mixer to a rough consistency. Rewarm if needed, adjust seasonings, garnish with bacon and serve
French Lentil Soup: Serves4-6
1 lb. dried lentils
6-7 cups water
1 cup red wine
1 large onion-diced
1 Tbs. oil
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1/4-1/3 cup sour cream-for garnish
Saute the onion in the oil. Add the lentils, bay leaves and water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until tender about 45-60 min. adding wine as the liquid reduces. Cool a bit, remove bay leaves and puree soup to a coarse texture. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream.
Variations: 1) Replace the wine with water and add sherry or Madera to the soup before pureeing.
2) Add (1) 15 oz. can diced tomatoes to the soup, using tomato juice to replace an equal amount of water
3) Peel and slice a large carrot and add it half-way through cooking. Remove several slices before blending and put them back before reheating and serving.
4) Boil a ham hock in the soup, remove it before pureeing, pick off any meat and add to the soup before serving.
5) Split peas can be used in place of lentils. Replace the wine with half-and-half
Italian Bean Soup with Squash: Serves 6-8-From The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
(2) 15 oz. cans pinto beans – rinsed and drained
1 Tbs. oil
6 garlic cloves – minced
3 ½ cups chopped onions
1 celery stalk, with leaves, chopped
(1) 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 cups diced peeled butternut squash
1 quart broth-any flavor
1 tsp. oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Grated Pecorino Cheese for topping
Saute the garlic, celery and onions in the oil until soft, about 10 min. Add the tomatoes, broth, oregano and red pepper bring to a simmer and add the squash. Cook until soft, about 10-15 min. Add the beans and salt and heat through. Add the ground pepper; adjust taste and serve hot topped with the cheese.
Red Bean Soup-with Guacamole Salsa: Serves 6
½ Tbs. oil
2 garlic cloves-chopped
2 onions –chopped
2 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. oregano
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. paprika
(1) 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
(2) 14 oz. cans kidney beans- rinsed and drained
3 ¾ cups water
Salt and pepper
Dash Tabasco or other hot sauce to serve
Saute the onions and garlic in the oil until soft. Add seasonings and stir in the tomato paste, then add the tomatoes, beans and water. Simmer for 15-20 min. cool slightly and puree. Season and return to pan to reheat. Serve hot. with a dollop of salsa
Salsa
2 avocados
1 green chili
1 small red onion
1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime-juiced
Finely chop all ingredients and gently mix. Spoon a little on each bowl of soup and pass the rest.
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Black-Eyed Peas and Tomato Soup: Serves 4
(1) 14 oz. can black-eyed peas
1 Tbs. oil
2 onions- chopped
1 hot or 2-3 mild challis-chopped
2 garlic cloves-minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
9oz. canned diced tomatoes
2 ½ cups broth
1 oz. cilantro – chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
Saute the onions and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and half the cilantro and simmer for 30 min. Stir in the lemon juice and the rest of the cilantro. Serve at once.

 

SUPER PIZZAS FOR THE SUPER BOWL

It’s Super Bowl time again and anyone who has ever planned a Game Day party knows it’s different than any other. It’s not a celebration but an anticipation of a celebration. The guests aren’t there to socialize but to watch the game and the hosts are expected to join in, not focus on hospitality. The party isn’t the event, the game is and the memory of the occasion will be the final score.

Obviously, these circumstances affect the menu choices. This is a casual gathering of friends with a common interest in a sporting event, not in fine dining. Even if your party schedule includes the pre-game programming, people will be distracted and only graze until half-time. The favorites for this phase of the party are the traditional ‘junk’ snacks, Doritos,(of course) pretzels, potato chips, cheese straws, nuts and different flavored popcorns, which I’ve found popular; I’m listing some suggestions below. If your party is larger, it’s not a bad idea to offer different varieties of pretzels, chips and nuts but no more than two of each. You’ll only confuse yourself and make refills problematic.

Half-time circles dinner hour across time zones, from early bird in the west to continental in the east and by then your guests will have worked up an appetite, but again they’re distracted either by the show or the score. So finger food is the best answer. I’ve written several posts with menus and recipes for different levels of party, roasts and artesian bread to make sandwiches, ’neat’ casseroles etc. but they all share an avoidance of fluid dishes and have the ability to be consumed with plastic utensils from paper plates. (See the blog archives for: 2/9/12, 1/31/13, 2/2/14, 1/29/14) Early on, I learned this is an occasion where sudden moves are common, spills and dropped utensils frequently happen and the wise course is to stay away from foods that drip and stain and/or leave grease marks.

Pizza is the perfect solution. It’s moved into the gourmet class now, so you have a chance to show off some ‘chefly’ moves, if you like, while offering the down-to-Earth finger foods your guests want. Offer up a selection and you’ll probably score a place on their memory card along with the game. I recently came across a book, Pizzas and Snacks from Cole’s Home Library Cookbooks, which has a wonderful selection of easy, unusual pizza recipes. Better still, they suggest a variety of crusts and best of all, most recipes cook at the same temperature and time, so two can go into the oven at once.

The normal pizza serving estimate, for a 12 inch pie, is 4, allowing 2 slices per person. In this case I’d calculate a bit more, because people tend to continue snacking after half-time. It isn’t like a set course at a dinner. A nice touch is to include a platter of raw vegetables, celery hearts, carrot sticks, radishes and perhaps olives and/or pickles, by themselves, not with a dip.

Dessert isn’t necessary, except for a plate of cookies, a dish of mints or chocolate straws; again, something a bit different, but not lavish and, of course, coffee. Any Super Bowl party will have some booze if only beer and wine.

Before I get into the recipes, I’m going to offer a few tips I’ve found helpful over the years. Oh, and check the last recipe for a new twist on America’s favorite pizza!

  • Make sure everyone has a seat, even if you have to use folding chairs and arrange furniture so people don’t trip when moving.
  • Have plenty of paper plates, plastic cups, utensils and paper NAPKINS handy. Rolls of paper towels help too.
  • Set-up a bar for drinks away from food. It can get messy if they crowd the same space.
  • Put larger plastic lined trash receptacles in several strategic spots. Use laundry baskets, even boxes from the grocery store, with 30-gallon bags draped over the edges to conceal them. In this casual atmosphere it makes things easier on both you and your guests and could prevent a carpet or upholstery tragedy.

Now for the Recipes:

Flavored Popcorn-This is a wide open field for fun experimenting. Pretty much any powdered flavoring mix and/or herbs will do. I’ve used Taco Seasoning, Lemon Pepper and Basil and ground rye seeds. A friend of mine swears by Bouillon granules. She’s used chicken and beef, and wants to try ham with commercially grated Parmesan. Most seasoning firms make a powdered tomato bouillon. I’d like to try an Italian flavor with oregano and basil.
Simply add 1 Tbs. flavoring to a hot bag of microwaved popcorn and shake well. Adjust taste, pour into a bowl and toss with a wooden spoon and serve. Can be made about an hour in advance, depending on weather.

Pizzas: All recipes serve 4 and are baked at 425 deg. for 15 min. unless otherwise noted. The crusts are interchangeable, pizza dough commercially or home-made, puff pastry, a loaf of focaccia bread or pita breads split into rounds. Just adjust the cooking temperature for the puff pastry. Feel free to mix and match but notice the amounts of the topping ingredients for each pizza. You may have to double or halve some according to amount of crust chosen.
The best way to be ready for the party is to have the crusts covered and chilled, on the baking sheets or pizza rounds and the toppings measured and in separate bags or bottles, grouped by recipe. All you have to do is top the crusts and bake. Rmember to preheat the oven too. Serve the pizzas in the sheets or pans.

Tomato, Feta and Spinach Galettes
(1) 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach-thawed and lightly drained
1/3 cup prepared pesto sauce with sun-dried tomatoes
8 oz. crumbled feta
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
8 oz. cherry tomatoes- halved
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 sheets puff pastry*
Cooking spray
2 baking sheets
Spread a sheet of puff pastry on each baking sheet, folding edges up to make a ½ inch border, pinching edges to form corners. Spray lightly with oil. Spread each with ½ of the pesto, then with ½ the spinach, feta basil and tomatoes in that order. Top with the Parmesan and pepper.* Bake at 475 deg. for 15 min. until crisp and lightly browned.

Artichoke Pizza
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 medium onions- sliced
2/3 cup tomato paste
½ cup grated cheddar cheese +1 ½ cups extra
½ cup sun dried sweet peppers in oil-drained and sliced
1/3 cup black olives quartered
10 canned artichoke hearts drained and quartered
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup fresh basil
(2) 12 inch pizza crusts or (4) 6 inch pizza or pita rounds
Saute onion in oil until soft, drain on paper towels. Spread crusts with tomato paste and top with, in order, cheddar, onion, pepper, artichokes, olives, extra cheddar and Parmesan. Bake at 425 deg. for 15 min. until lightly browned. Serve hot garnished with basil.

Smoked Salmon and Spinach Pizza
½ cup tomato or Alfredo pasta sauce
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
10 spinach leaves – shredded or 20 of baby spinach sliced
1 small onion – sliced
4 oz. smoked salmon in 1 inch pieces
2 tsp. capers
½ tsp. dried dill
¼ cup sour cream
2 pita rounds-split or (1) 12 inch pizza round
Spread the pitas with the sauce top in order with ½ the cheese, spinach, salmon, onion, capers, remaining cheese and dill. Bake at 425 deg. for 15 min., remove from oven, dot with sour cream and return to oven for1 min. Serve hot.

Asparagus Pizza*
1 lb. asparagus
1 large red bell pepper – chopped
1 lb. mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 cup pesto sauce
2 pita breads-split or (1) 12 inch pizza round
Boil asparagus until crisp tender and diagonally cut in 2 inch pieces. Spread rounds with pesto and top with asparagus, pepper and cheeses. Bake at 425 deg. for 15 min.
*NOTE: ½ > 1 cup diced, cooked chicken is a great addition to this pizza.

Pizza Margarita Plus
2 1/3 cups tomato pasta sauce
½ cup packed fresh basil-half amount shredded
2 cups cooked chicken- shredded
7 oz. crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup coarsely grated mozzarella
1 loaf focaccia bread
Boil sauce until thickened slightly, about 5-8 min. Slice bread in half to make 2 rounds,. Spread cut sides of bread with, in order, sauce, shredded basil, chicken and cheeses. Place bread rounds on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 deg. for 15 min. or until cheeses melt and brown. Serve hot garnished with remaining basil.

Mexican Beef Pizza
5 oz. lean roast beef-halved
16 oz. can refried beans
1 ½ Tbs. Taco seasoning mix
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 small avocado- mashed
1tsp.lemon juice
1 medium tomato – chopped
½ small onion- chopped
1 ½ Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup sour cream
(1) 12 inch pizza crust or 4 split pita rounds
Mix taco seasoning and beans and spread on pizza crust. Top with beef and cheese and bake at 425 deg. for 15 min. Meanwhile, combine avocado and lemon juice in a small bowl. Combine tomato, onion and parsley in another. Top cooked pizza with avocado mix, then tomato mix and finally sour cream. Serve at once.

Tomato, Eggplant and Pepperoni Pizza: A nod to the traditional with a twist
1 medium eggplant-thinly sliced lengthwise
Salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic-crushed
3 small tomatoes –sliced
4 oz. sliced pepperoni
½ cup ricotta cheese1 ½ Tbs. pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts
2 Tbs. shredded fresh basil
(1) 12 inch pizza round
Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let stand for 20 min. Rinse well and dry on towels. Brush with ¼ cup oil and broil until lightly browned on both sides. Mix remaining oil with garlic and brush pizza crust. Arrange overlapping tomato and eggplant slices on crust. Top with pepperoni, cheese, nuts and basil. Bake at 425 deg. 15 min. Serve hot.

BREAD PUDDING-A CURE FOR THE COLD

Last week’s post was about Clafoutis, the fruit filled custard which, served warm, is a great, ‘lite’ winter dessert. But this winter, with its prolonged frigid spells and frequent snows covering most of North America, even parts of Florida, seems to demand hardier dishes. People who want or have to be outside, frequently with shovel in hand, need filling, nourishing food for energy. Bread Pudding, a staple in colonial menus and favorite of the pioneers, is perfect for the task. One could even say, it’s Clafoutis heftier cousin, because it too is custard based.

Actually Bread Pudding maintained a visible profile until the 1960s, when the bread and amount of butter in the traditional recipes raised red flags to the weight and cholesterol conscious. Now, I’d bet there are Millennials who haven’t heard of it, much less eaten it.

However, Bread Pudding hasn’t been totally forgotten, a quick web search reveals that. What’s more it’s moved with the times and out of the ‘purely dessert’ box. Labeled as Bread and Butter Pudding in older cookbooks, most modern recipes have also dropped the butter, removing that obstacle to its inclusion in a healthy diet. Only one recipe below calls for it, and that’s just ¼ cup= 4 Tbs. or ½ Tbs. = 1 ½ tsp. per serving. To further ‘lighten the load’ half-and-half or evaporated milk can be substituted for the cream in those recipes which call for it. One quick tip first; ’Firm bread’ as stipulated in these recipes refers to the texture and does not mean ‘dry’ as called for in stuffings.

The first two recipes below show the new forms of Bread Pudding as entrée casseroles suitable for any of the three meals. They offer excellent opportunities for experimentation and personalization. Substitute any vegetables with a similar texture for the stated ones, and change the herbs and/or seasonings to suit your choice and you can even shift cuisines.

I note after the second recipe that meat could be a welcome addition, but only offered a few examples. This would be an excellent way to use leftovers. Browned ground meat could also be added. Portions of Bread Puddings are great for brown bagging too. They can be eaten at room temperature or warmed in a few seconds in a microwave.

I haven’t ignored Bread Pudding desserts either, but tried to include a variety of good ones, as well as a basic easy recipe, and thrown in several sauces to top them off. There’s still a lot of winter left, so give this old favorite in new clothes a try. You’ll be glad you did!

Savory Bread Pudding:

Serves 8 –From Bon Appetit on line recipes
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 large eggs
1½ cups milk
1 tsp. hot sauce
½ tsp. salt
4 cups diced stale bread
1 lb. spinach, well rinsed and wilted
1 cup corn kernels, preferably scraped from cob
1 cup chopped scallions
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly oil bottom and sides of high-sided 9×13 pan or soufflé dish.
Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add milk, hot sauce and salt, and mix. Pour in ½ of milk mixture into pan, add ½ of bread cubes, and push down into milk mixture. Layer in ½ of spinach, then corn, scallions, bell pepper and 1 cup cheese. Repeat layering, reserving 1 cup cheese and some milk mixture. When complete, pour last of milk mixture over top, making sure it soaks all bread. Bake 1 hour. Top with remaining 1 cup cheese, and return to oven to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve while hot.

Savory Squash and Leek Bread Pudding:

Serves 8-From epicourious.com
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for pan
12 cups (1″ pieces) brioche (from about 2 loaves)
1 small butternut squash (about 1 ½ lb.), peeled, seeds removed, cut into ½ ” pieces
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut into ½ ” pieces
1 tsp. thyme leaves
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
4 large eggs
3 cups heavy cream
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp. sugar
1 ½ cups coarsely grated Emmenthal cheese, Comté, and/or aged Gouda, divided
Crème fraîche or sour cream and fennel fronds (for serving)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13×9″ glass or ceramic baking dish; set aside. Spread out brioche on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake, tossing halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, 25–30 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to a large bowl. Heat remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium. Cook squash, leeks, and thyme, stirring occasionally until squash is tender, 10–12 minutes. Mix in a pinch of cayenne; season with salt. Transfer to bowl with brioche. Whisk eggs, cream, milk, sugar, 2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of cayenne in a large bowl to combine. Add 1 cup cheese to bowl with brioche and toss to evenly distribute. Transfer to prepared baking dish and pour 5 cups egg mixture over; gently press bread into liquid to coat. Pour remaining egg mixture over and let sit 15 minutes. Scatter remaining ½ cup cheese over bread pudding and bake until puffed and custard is set in the center, 60–75 minutes. Let cool at least 10 min.
My Variation-Substitute tomatoes for the squash, and use shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese. Optionally, add ½ cup crumbled bacon or slivers or small cubes of ham


Basic Bread Pudding Dessert Recipe:

Serves 8
1 lb. French bread (the firmer the better)
3 ¼ cups milk
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ to ½ cup pecans
Optional: ¼ to ½ cup raisins
Heat the oven to 350 deg.
Butter a 2 ½ -quart baking dish.
Tear bread into medium pieces. Put the bread in a large bowl and add the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Mix milk, lightly beaten eggs, and vanilla. Add to bread mixture. Spoon half of the mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle with the pecans and raisins, if used. Top with the rest of the mixture. Bake in a preheated 350deg.oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Tips and Variations: Use dried cranberries or blueberries, currents or other dried fruits instead of raisins, or make it with chocolate chips. Replace the pecans with chopped walnuts or slivered almonds. You can also experiment with other types of bread, cinnamon, honey wheat or other grains, but beware of whole grains which could alter the texture of the pudding

Pumpkin Bread Pudding:

Serves 8- From Epicurious.com
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
¾ stick unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, and spices in a bowl.
Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes.

Eggnog Bread Pudding:

Serves 8 –From About .com
4 large eggs (slightly beaten)
½ cup brown sugar or granulated sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups milk (warm)
8 slices white bread (crusts removed if desired)
Dash nutmeg
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla; add the warm milk. Cut bread in half diagonally, forming triangles. Arrange 2 layers of bread slices in a lightly buttered 8-inch square baking dish. Pour the custard mixture over the bread. Place the 8-inch baking dish in a larger baking dish containing about ½ to 1 inch of very hot water. Bake at 325° for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or cool with dessert sauce, syrup, or fruit.

Cinnamon Custard Bread Pudding Variation: Use cinnamon swirl bread and omit the nutmeg. Sprinkle the custard mixture with cinnamon sugar just before baking.

Easy Peach Bread Pudding:

Serves 8—Recipe by jowolf2 at allrecipes.com
2 cups fresh, frozen or canned peaches*
(1) 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs-lightly beaten
1 ¼ cups hot water
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup butter- melted
4 cups French bread –torn into small pieces
Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Chop the peaches and lightly mash them in a mixing bowl. Combine the sweetened condensed milk and the eggs; add them to the peaches and mix well. Stir in the hot water, melted butter, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir the French bread into to the custard mixture until the bread is completely moistened. Turn the pudding into the prepared baking dish. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
*Frozen peaches may need a bit of extra sugar.

Jam Bread Pudding:

Serves 6-8
2 eggs-separated
½ cup sugar + 2 Tbs.
1 cup milk
1 cup light cream
1 cup 1 inch bread cubes
1cup marmalade or all fruit preserves or jam
½ cup toasted slivered almonds
Beat egg yolks, add ½ cup sugar, milk and cream, stir well and pour over bread in a lightly greased ovenproof dish. Bake at 350 deg. for 45 min. or until firm. Remove from oven and spread with marmalade or jam and sprinkle on the nuts.
Meanwhile make a meringue by beating the egg whites until slightly stiff then continue beating while gradually adding the 2 Tbs. reserved sugar until glossy peaks form. Spread the meringue over the jam and nuts on top of the pudding and return to the hot oven to bake for another 12-15 min. until top is slightly brown. Serve hot at once.


SAUCES: Remove the pudding from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Serve warm with the sauce. Cool and cover any leftover pudding and store it in the refrigerator.

Classic Hard Sauce
1/3 cup butter
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. rum, brandy or other liqueur
1 Tbs. vanilla or other flavoring of choice to taste
Cream butter and sugar add salt. Beat with cream and flavorings until fluffy. Pile lightly in a serving dish and chill until serving. Pass with pudding.

Bourbon Sauce:
1 cup sugar
6 Tbs. butter
½ cup buttermilk |
1 Tbs. bourbon (or more)
1 Tbs. white corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the 1 cup of granulated sugar with 6 tablespoons of butter, ½ cup of buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of bourbon, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of white corn syrup, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Bring the sauce mixture to a boil. Continue boiling for 1 minute. If desired, strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Serve the sauce warm drizzled over the bread pudding.

Carmel Sauce
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 Tbs. rum-optional
While the pudding is baking, combine the brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, corn syrup, and rum in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until just slightly thickened. Let cool slightly.

Baked Apple Topping:

Serves about 4
2 crisp apples, cored and diced in 1 inch pieces
2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
¼ cup apple juice
Pinch cinnamon
½ tsp. cornstarch
Sliver of butter-optional
Dissolve the cornstarch in the juice and stir with the apples. Place in a microwave proof dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Microwave 3 min. stirring after each. Add butter after 2
nd. Serve as a sauce warm or room temperature.

CLAFOUTIS-THE SUPER EASY, PERFECT, WINTER DESSERT

Clafoutis (Cla-foo-tee–sing. & pl. spelled and pronounced the same) is a classic French dessert that really perks up a winter meal. A hybrid of baked fruit custard and pudding cake, it’s easier to make than either, requiring only one bowl and needing no scalded milk or strained batter to prepare. Originally a country dish, it loves parties, even formal ones, as well as family meals, and depending on the setting, can be served hot, room temperature or chilled.

Nutritious and lighter than pastry, Clafoutis is great for those still recovering from the holidays or trying to eat less in the new year and the perfect end to a hearty winter meal. If you haven’t tried one before, the dish can put some “spring” in your winter menus and a smile on the faces of your family.

Although developed to showcase the fresh cherries of the Limousin region, as Clafoutis’ popularity spread, it was learned that cherries in their skin were fine, but most larger cut fruits released too much juice for the custard to set, so cooked fruit was substituted. Nowadays, the nicest thing about Clafoutis, at least for a cook in winter, is that they can use canned, fruit. Very few desserts, suitable for entertaining, can say that!

Another great feature of Clafoutis is that the same simple batter recipe is used for all varieties, only the fruit is changed, with, optionally, a few minor flavorings added to them first. In fact, very little can be done to spoil this dish, other than burning it. So it’s a novice cook’s dream and as a bonus, it smells delicious too, especially as it bakes, really boosting the confidence.

I first made Clafoutis on a cold, grey January afternoon. Soon after putting it in the oven, some PTA friends drove up with a load of material I’d agreed to store for a school project. I helped them move the boxes onto the garage, then offered coffee. Entering the house, we were greeted by the most heavenly aroma, everyone just stopped and inhaled!

So read on and learn how simple it is to make Clafoutis. Then give it a try and see how wonderful one smells while it’s cooking and finally, how delicious this dessert tastes.

RECIPES: The recipe format is different this week, because, as mentioned above, the variety of Clafoutis is decided by the choice and treatment of the fruit, not alterations to the batter or ‘master recipe’. In fact, this dish is an oddity. French chefs like to put their fingerprint on their version of a classic recipe, but having checked several books by prominent chefs, several by newer ‘ Bistro chefs’, a translation of an antique classic and one from Le Cordon Bleu, I found this recipe surprisingly unchanged. The only differences were suggestions to substitute heavy cream or half-and-half for part of the milk. I’m going to rely, chiefly on Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, but include the other suggestions in parentheses.

Clafoutis-Master Recipe: Serves 6-8
1) Have ready a greased ovenproof container equal in capacity to a 9 inch round cake pan. For a larger quantity double the size of the pan or use 2 pans.
2) Preheat oven to 350 deg.
3) You will need 3 cups, or 1 ¼ -1 ½ lb. fresh, prepared fruit, pitted and/or cored, peeled and sliced if large or equal amount of canned, well drained.
4) NOTE-Store leftovers chilled—if you have any

Batter
1 ¼ cups milk (or ¾-1 cup milk and ¼-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half)
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sifted flour
————————–
1/3 cup sugar
Powdered sugar to sprinkle as garnish
If using a blender, add first 6 ingredients in order listed and blend 1 min. at top speed. If using a mixer, beat the eggs first, then add the solids and finally the liquid. Beat until smooth.
Pour about ¼ of the batter into the pan and bake 3-5 min. until set. Arrange fruit on top of the baked batter, sprinkle with the extra 1/3 cup sugar, and pour the rest of the batter over all. Bake in the center of the oven for about an hour, until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Garnish with sprinkled powdered sugar just before serving.
The Clafoutis will fall a bit as it cools and is best served warm.

Cherry Clafoutis
Fresh pitted cherries or canned, drained Bing cherries.
¼ cup kirsch or cognac
1/3 cup sugar
Marinate cherries in above ingredients for 1 hr. Replace equal amount of the milk with the marinating liquid, omit the second 1/3 cup sugar sprinkled over the fruit in the master recipe and proceed as directed.

Pear Clafoutis
Fresh pears peeled, cored and sliced or drained, canned pear halves
¼ cup sweet white wine, kirsch or cognac
1/3 cup sugar
Proceed as directed for Cherry Clafoutis above

Peach or Plum Clafoutis
If using fresh fruit, drop them in boiling water for 1 min. to peel, otherwise use drained, canned halves
¼ cup orange liqueur, kirsch, cognac or peach brandy.
1/3 cup sugar
Proceed as directed for Cherry Clafoutis.

Apple Clafoutis
Cut prepared apples in ¼ inch slices-Choose crisp cooking apples
¾ Tbs. butter
¼ cup Calvados, rum or cognac
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
Saute the apples in the butter until brown. Add the liqueur, sugar and spice and allow to stand for ½ hr. Proceed as directed for the Cherry Clafoutis above.

Blueberry Clafoutis
3 cups stemmed, washed and dried blueberries
Increase flour to 1 ¼ cups
¼ cup kirsch, orange liqueur or brandy
1/3 cup sugar
The increase in flour is needed to compensate for the extra juice in the blueberries. The resulting dessert will have a consistency resembling a Pudding Cake.
Otherwise follow the recipe for Cherry Clafoutis.

Almond Clafoutis-Usually done with Cherry or Pear recipes, but is good with Peach and Plum as well
½ cup blanched almonds
1 tsp. almond extract
Puree the almonds with the batter and add the extract. Proceed with the recipe.

ADD ZEST TO WINTER MEALS

With today’s fast transportation and developing agricultural methods, many fruits are now in markets all year, berries and summer melons for example, but the stars of mid-winter are still the traditional citrus fruits, chiefly grapefruit and oranges. I think they maintain this status because, like summer’s stone fruits, they come from trees which yield only one crop per year limiting their availability but mostly because they play increasingly visible roles in the our evolving tastes and dietary concerns.
For decades there has been increased interest in healthy eating and weight control. Grapefruit has figured prominently in many diets. At the same time, our taste preferences have expanded as we’ve explored new cuisines, mostly Asian, where oranges and their relatives, the mandarins and/or tangerines, often appear in recipes. Clementines, a hybrid orange-tangerine, have become popular December produce. Actually, oranges have been a Christmas treat for centuries, because they were durable enough to survive the sailing voyage from Asia to Europe, giving them a unique link to the season.
These are good reasons to take advantage of grapefruits and oranges while they’re here but the basic fact is that their bright, sweet-tart, slightly acidic flavors can do wonders to perk up a winter meal on a cold, drab day. I’ve come to rely on their help to the point that I freeze the zest in ice cube trays and the peel in wax paper separated layers to use all year.
The recipes below are a mixed bag. Some are old, some new, some Asian, some Asian inspired and some definitely ‘fusion’ but all are relatively simple, taste terrific and great pick-ups for winter spirits.

RECIPES:

Please check ‘Tips’ after the recipes for more ideas
Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Oranges: Serves 4-Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit Magazine 2/17
4 chicken thighs
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbs. lemon juice
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 oranges-one sliced the other quartered
2 Tbs. rosemary
(1) 15 oz. can chickpeas-rinsed
½ cup pitted Greek oil-cured olives-sliced or in pieces
1 small head Romaine
½ cup feta cheese
Salt and ground pepper
Brine chicken in salted water 15 min. Rub with 1 Tbs. oil and place in a pan skin side up. Cook under a preheated broiler until skin starts to bubble, then turn over. Continue broiling until underside is well
browned. Put the orange slices in the pan, or on a piece of foil and broil until peel is tan, remove to a plate. Turn chicken again, add 1 Tbs. oil and 1 Tbs. lemon juice and sprinkle the skin with the garlic powder. Broil until skin is almost black, turn off broiler and turn oven to 350 deg. add rosemary and cook chicken about 15-20 min. until done. Meanwhile prick potato and microwave 3-4 min. until soft, set aside. Toss Romaine, olives, chickpeas and feta in a large bowl with the remaining oil lemon juice, salt and pepper. Plate chicken, add the pan juices to the salad, plate the salad alongside the chicken, squeeze the quartered orange over the greens, tear or cut the sweet potatoes in chunks and scatter over the salad and garnish with the orange slices. Serve.
Chicken in Soy- Marmalade Sauce: Per serving-A quick, elegant dinner
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh-pounded to even thinness
1 Tbs. orange marmalade
¼-1 tsp. soy sauce-depending on taste
1 Tbs. oil
Brown the chicken on both sides in the oil until done, about 8-10 min. total, remove to a plate. Lower the heat and stir the marmalade and soy sauce into the pan juices. Return the chicken to the pan, cover and cook for 3-6 min. to warm though. Serve at once.
Lamb with Orange and Ginger: Serves 4-From One-Pot Cooking by Mary Reader
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. dry sherry
2 Tbs. orange juice
2 minced cloves garlic
½ inch piece of ginger root grated
1 lb. lamb cut in strips*
2 Tbs. oil
4 oz. broccoli flowerets
8oz. carrots in matchsticks
1 red bell pepper sliced
1tsp. brown sugar
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
Place the first 5 ingredients in a bowl for a marinade, add the lamb and chill for 2-4 hrs. Heat oil, add lamb, reserving marinade, cook until browned well and cooked, at least 8-10 min. Add vegetables and cook, stirring 5 min. Add marinade and sugar, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 5 min. Serve hot garnished with cilantro.
* Ground lamb can also be used. Form it into patties and proceed as above.
Ginger-Orange Pork with Vegetables: Serves 2/4-depending on amount of vegetables added
½ lb. lean pork in cubes
2 Tbs. oil
1 large orange – zested and juiced + orange juice to equal ¼ cup*
2 Tbs. vinegar
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. orange zest
½ tsp. grated ginger root
Hot pepper flakes to taste-optional
Sugar or honey-optional to taste
6 baby carrots-halved lengthwise
6 oz. broccoli flowerets
Sliced water chestnuts or mushrooms
Brown the meat in the oil, in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add next 7 ingredients and stirring, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and stir in vegetables, coating well, cover and cook until vegetables and meat are done. Serve hot over rice.
* I shave 2 thin slices from the center of the orange and brown them with the meat to use as garnish.
Beef with Orange: Serves 4
12 oz. lean beef, thinly sliced
2 tsp. soy sauce + 2 tsp. extra
2 tsp. dry sherry
1 tsp. chopped ginger root
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbs. oil
¼ tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. orange zest
1 ½ tsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
1/3 cup beef broth
Mix the beef with the next 4 ingredients and marinate for 15 min. Dissolve the cornstarch in the both. Heat the oil and stir fry the beef over high heat until it changes color, about 2 min. Remove to a plate. Add the next 3 ingredients plus the extra soy sauce and stir briefly; add the broth mix and stir until the sauce thickens. Pour over the meat and serve at once.

Poultry Stuffing: Will serve for a 7-8 lb. bird-excellent for duck
2 large cooking apples-cored and diced
2 slices raisin bread- toasted and torn in 1 inch pieces
1 celery rib-diced
1 small onion –diced
2 large oranges
1egg-lightly beaten
1tsp. sage
Salt and pepper
Remove the peel and meat from one orange. Finely slice the peel, Juice the second orange. Lightly toss all the ingredients with the juice. If it seems dry add a bit of milk. Stuff the bird and roast as directed.
Halibut with Orange: Serves 4- From One-Pot Cooking y Mary Reader
(4) 6oz. Halibut steaks*
½ cup flour
½ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbs. butter
6 scallions-sliced
¾ cup orange juice
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Mix the flour and nutmeg and coat fish. Melt butter in a skillet and sauté scallions until soft, about 3 min. Add fish and cook over medium-low heat 5-6 min. until done, remove from pan and keep warm. Add remaining ingredients to pan and boil until slightly reduced and thickened. Pour over fish and serve at once.
*Any mild, sweet, large flake white fish firm enough to stand up to pan frying will do bass, perch, cod etc.
Flounder with Rosemary and Orange: Serves 2
(2) 5 oz. flounder fillets*
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. oil
2 tsp. dried, crushed rosemary
1 orange – zested and meat removed
1/3 cup orange juice
Lemon pepper
Melt the oil and butter in a pan and turn the fish over to coat both sides. Sprinkle tops very lightly with lemon pepper, then with rosemary and then the zest. Cook fish in a preheated 350 deg. oven until done, about 8-10 min. Remove to a plate, mix orange juice with pan juices and pour over fish, then garnish with orange pieces. Serve hot at once.
* Any mild, lean small flake white fish will do-tilapia, fluke, sole, roughy etc.
Shrimp-Avocado Salad: Serves 4
1 lb. cooked large shrimp
2 avocados-peeled, each half cut in 4 slices
(1) 8oz. bag spinach leaves
1 small cucumber thinly sliced
2 large oranges – sections removed and ½ tsp. grated peel
2 oz. watercress
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 Tbs. olive oil
1Tbs.lemon juice
1 ½ Tbs. orange juice
¼ tsp. honey
1 tsp. chopped parsley
Place the last 5 ingredients in a jar and shake well to make the dressing. Arrange the spinach on plates or a large platter, top with watercress, tossed with the quinoa, if using, then onion rings. Place the avocado slices and orange segments in a circle and pile the shrimp in the center. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the zested orange peel.
This salad should be served as made, but all the components can be prepped ahead and kept chilled.
TIPS:
1. The combination of garlic and ginger gives many Asian dishes the signature flavor. It also adds heat so be careful when altering amounts ‘to taste’.
2. Asian cuisines have gained some popularity because they don’t rely heavily on dairy or include elaborate desserts, or in fact, many desserts or sweeteners at all, other than fruits and honey. However, they don’t ‘get a pass’ from several weight-loss programs because they do contain saturated fats. This sauce is a compromise from Betty Crocker’s Chinese Low-Fat Cooking. It can be used with any meat for a quick meal. Just sauté raw meat and add the sauce or simply warm up leftovers in it.
Orange-Ginger Sauce: Yield ½ cup
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
1 tsp. orange zest
2 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. honey
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes-optional
1/3 tsp. grated ginger root.
Shake all ingredients in a sealed container. Keeps about 2 weeks chilled. Can also be used as a dipping sauce.
NOTE: I often reverse amounts of juice and vinegar, eliminating the honey. I also substitute canola oil and cider vinegar for the ones in the recipe. I sometimes use powdered garlic in place of fresh and ground ginger for the root, but take care on this last because the root has a different taste than the ground. One is easier, but if you want ‘authentic’ keep some root in the freezer-it’s easy to grate.
3. This is a great area of cooking for experiments, whether creating your own ‘Fusion’ dishes or just perking up the regular ones. It doesn’t require many extra supplies, much effort, equipment or time and what better time to do something different than in deep, drab winter?

NEW SALSAS BRIGHTEN MEALS

‘Sauce’, no matter its translation, sos, coyc or zhong, in most cuisines, refers to a class of smooth liquids served under or over a solid food, enhancing its flavor. However, ‘Salsa’ in the Spanish cuisine, and all its New World off shoots, is an exception. It’s not smooth. Its ingredients are left in chunks and it’s not just a finishing accent, but often used as a marinade or glaze or served as a ‘side’ or a dip.

Probably, it’s salsa’s firmer consistency, allowing it to be spooned onto a plate rather than poured, which accounts for its evolution over the past few decades. Once it began to be considered more a separate condiment than an accessory to another food, the possibility of using a wide range of ingredients opened up.

A salsa can be cooked or raw and its ingredients need enough contrast in texture to be interesting but not jarring. It’s vegetarian and, generally, composed of one main ingredient, a vegetable or a fruit, as a base with one or more milder items to provide body and one spicy or hot ingredient to give zing. Sometimes herbs are included for flavor contrast and finally a bit of citrus juice or vinegar is added for an acidic ‘bite’ and as a melding agent. Often, a bit of oil, as a finishing touch, smooths the flavor.

As with any food that gains popularity, salsa recipes have advanced beyond the ‘basic’. I’ve seen some that contain 15 ingredients with 3 more as optionals but one condition remains constant; salsas, if not commercial products, should be fresh. The best are custom created for the meal they accompany and that is the main point of this post. Nothing adds bit of spice to a traditional dinner or can rejuvenate leftovers like a fresh salsa. Picture a platter of slices of cold roast with a big bowl of gleaming fruit salsa in the center or a plate of meat with crisp greens topped with equally crisp salsa. Beats a casserole of meat in gravy whether for week night dinner or entertaining. (For other quick entertainment ideas, check my post 12/29/16, click ‘Archives’ on the right margin of the blog page and select the month.)

The old concepts of salsas are red-tomato- and green-chili-ones. I want to focus on newer recipes that make your meal shine, not mimic Mexican night, (although if you’ve never had Pico de Gallo or Salsa Verde freshly made, try them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.) The recipes below reflect the current trend in cosmopolitan salsas which compliment any cuisine.

You will notice a similarity of ingredients in the recipes that allows for interchangeability-chives, onions, scallions, Bell pepper colors and jarred jalapenos for fresh. Some recipes can be modified, perhaps only two or three fruits are needed not five, grapes or melon can replace more exotic ones, substitute walnuts for pecans, or add raisins to an apple based salsa. This leaves you room to experiment, to make the recipe fit your needs or even create a salsa from your pantry supplies. Be sure to check the ‘Quick-Fix’ solutions at the end of this post for ideas.

RECIPES
My Melon Salsa
: Serves 2
1/3 large cantaloupe- meat in 1inch cubes
½ Green Bell pepper-in ½ inch dice
2 small scallions- white part only- sliced thinly on diagonal
2 tsp. lime juice
¼ tsp. oil
1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves
Combine everything in a bowl allow to sit for 30 min. to marinate and chill for 30 min. Pair with poultry, pork or stronger flavored fish.

Pacific Rim Salsa: (6) ¾ cup servings
1 cup EACH chopped fresh pineapple, mango and papaya
½ cup EACH peeled, chopped kiwifruit, red bell pepper and red onion
2 Tbs. EACH chopped fresh cilantro and green chilies
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp. lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and allow 1 hr. to marinate–chill if to be held longer. Serve with any white meat or ham.

Cucumber-Orange Salsa: Yield about 4 cups-From Everything Low-Carb Cookbook by Patricia M. Butkus
4 oranges-zested- 1 ½ Tbs. reserved
4 medium cucumbers
2 Tbs. oil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes-or to taste
½ cup rice vinegar-or white wine
Whisk the last 3 ingredients to make a dressing. Peel 2 cucumbers and halve all 4 lengthwise, remove seeds and cut in ¼ inch slices. Cut the oranges in half and scoop out the meat in segments. Combine cucumbers and oranges with 1 Tbs. zest in a bowl. Pour over dressing. Stir gently, cover and marinate chilled at least 2 hrs. Serve garnished with reserved ½ Tbs. zest. Goes well with all seafood.

Salsa Margherita: Serves 6 Adapted from 501 Recipes for a Low-Carb Life by Greg R. Gillespie & Mary E. Johnson
2 large, ripe tomatoes preferably Beefsteak—cored and diced
1 cup = 1 small bunch basil washed and torn in small pieces
2 shallots peeled and diced
¼ cup EV olive oil
1 lime zested and juiced
2 Tbs. crumbled Feta or Gorgonzola cheese-in reserve as garnish—optional
Mix everything but the cheese in a bowl thoroughly. Serve soon after making, optionally garnished with cheese. Serve with all forms of beef, especially grilled.

Apple-Nut Salsa: Serves 2-From Steven Raichlen’s Indoor Grilling
1 large, crisp apple- sweet-tart such as Fuji—skin on-cored and in medium-small dice
2 Tbs. finely diced onion
1 jalapeno pepper in fine dice-or more to taste
3 Tbs. chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
2 Tbs. lime juice
1 Tbs. finely chopped candied ginger*
3 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
1 Tbs. brown sugar-optional
Toss the apple with the lime juice in a bowl to prevent browning. Then add the other ingredients, but don’t mix until ready to serve. Can be made several hours ahead and kept covered, refrigerated. Serve with ham, pork, sausage, good with barbeque.
*If you don’t have candied ginger, mix powdered with a little brown sugar to taste.

Sweet Potato and Apple Salsa: Serves 4-6** Adapted from 501 Recipes for a Low-Carb Life by Greg R. Gillespie & Mary E. Johnson
1 large sweet potato baked and diced into cubes
1 apple cored and diced-skin on
1 medium onion diced
1 bell pepper-any color—seeded in large dice
1 jalapeno diced
1 clove garlic-minced
1 lime-juiced
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup EACH fresh parsley and sage-chopped
2 tsp. coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Toasted pumpkin seeds or sharp cheese for garnish—optional
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill until serving, at least 6 hrs. or overnight. Serve with ham, pork, sausage or poultry.
**(1) 15 oz. can = 2 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained-Will increase servings to 8-10
NOTE:
By mashing half the sweet potato first this becomes a dip or pasta sauce, with or without the beans.

Grapefruit Salsa: Serves 2-4
1 grapefruit, halved meat removed in segments and pulp juiced
½ green bell pepper-in medium dice
4 red radishes-thinly sliced
1 Tbs. oil
Cracked black pepper to taste
Lime juice to taste as needed
Chopped chives for garnish-optional
Put first 5 ingredients in a bowl, toss gently, add lime juice as needed and correct pepper. Toss again, cover and chill well before serving. Garnish with chives or a bit more ground pepper. Serve with a firm white fish like Mahi Mahi, Opah or event Tuna.

My Easy Cranberry Salsa: Yield a bit over 1 cup with recipe, over 2 cups using canned sauce —all measurements are approximate and can be adjusted. (1) 14 oz. can whole berry sauce can be substituted for the *marked ingredients, making this super easy

1 cup cranberries*
¼ cup packed brown sugar*
¼ cup finely diced onion
½ green bell pepper diced
Meat of 1 orange
1/3 cup orange peel in fine Julianne no more than ½ inch long
½ tsp. finely diced jarred jalapeño pepper- optional and to taste OR freshly ground black pepper
Mix everything together, adjust flavors and allow to sit, covered, in the refrigerator for several days before serving. Excellent with poultry, pork, ham and veal.
NOTE: Keeps chilled for several weeks

Fresh Peach and Mint Salsa: Serves 8 Adapted from 501 Recipes for a Low-Carb Life by Greg R. Gillespie & Mary E. Johnson
2 Tbs. oil
1 shallot – finely chopped
1 large clove garlic-sliced
2 limes-zested and juiced
4 ripe peaches-blanched peeled, pitted and chopped*
1 large tomato-blenched, peeled, seeded and diced*
1 jalapeno – finely chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. chopped chives
Handful chopped fresh mint leaves
Salt and ground pepper to taste
* Peaches and tomatoes can be easily peeled by immersing them in boiling water for about 30 sec. then, under cold running water, simply pull the skin off with a paring knife.
Soften the garlic and shallot in the oil, either in a sauté pan or by placing them in the microwave on high for 2 min. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Toss gently, taste to adjust seasonings. Chill well, covered. This is a good hot weather salsa.

QUICK TIPS:
Quick Nectarine Salsa: Serves 4*
1 cup good, commercial chunky salsa
1 cup chopped nectarine
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno finely chopped
1 clove mashed garlic
Lime juice to taste or lime wedges for garnish
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and chill well.
NOTES:
1)* This quick custom salsa can be done with any fresh fruit, pineapples, mangos, oranges etc. you choose to compliment your meal.
2) Many salsas can be altered to fit another cuisine by changing the herbs and seasonings. For example exchange the cilantro and cumin etc. in Mexican cooking for basil and oregano to suit an Italian kitchen. For French, substitute marjoram, thyme or Herbs de Provence.
3) The serving yield of several salsas, even commercial ones, can be increased with the addition of beans-preferably black for Hispanic dishes and white for most others. See the Sweet Potato Salsa above as an example.