Seafood Brodetto

A lot of recipes for fish soups and stews can trace their origins to the coastal areas of Italy where seafood reigns. One such dish is cioppino, the pride of many find California restaurants, which was derived from an fish soup called ciuppin, from the province of Liguria, an important fishing area on the Italian Riviera.

(Cookbooks from Italy describe ciuppin as a rustic relative of bouillabaisse — minus the saffron, Provencal herbs and Pernod.)

Another such seafood recipe that’s caught my fancy recently is brodetto. I had the Olive Garden’s version of it the other night and it very delicious. (Olive Garden describes it as scallops, shrimp and delicate tilapia with spinach and mushrooms simmered in a light white wine and marinara-saffron broth.) The stew was served with toasted ciabatta bread.

Almost all brodetto recipes feature a tomato base and a lot of seafood. Upon doing some research, I discovered one of the oldest recipes for brodetto comes from the Le Marche town of Ancona and calls for 13 different types of fish.

Here’s a brodetto, though not as elaborate as the Le Marche version, which I may have to try.

Seafood Brodetto
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/6 cup vinegar
1 cup white wine
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
½ pound tilapia, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ pound scallops
½ pound shrimp
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
To the pot, add the tomato sauce, vinegar, wine, water, tomato paste, and parsley. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.  Let the mixture come to a boil to burn off the alcohol from the wine.  Return to a simmer, cover, and cook about 30 minutes.
Add the fish, followed by the scallops and shrimp.  Cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.  If you are using pre-cooked shrimp, don’t add the shrimp until the last 5 minutes or so.  You want the shrimp to meld with the other flavors, but not overcook.  Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 3 to 4.

Curried Buttercup Bisque

Buttercup is one of the most familiar — and most popular — varieties of winter squash. Along with acorn squash, it is a favorite of many cooks and gardeners in the Midwest.

I’ve grown my share of buttercups overs the years, but after cutting down to one garden from three a few years back, my space is somewhat limited. Fortunately, a friend of mine always plants buttercup seeds and usually has a bountiful harvest that he shares with me.

Apparently, Noelle Myers of Grand Forks is a buttercup fan, too. Myers’ Curried Buttercup Bisque is featured with recipes from a number of other cooks in the second edition of the “Real Women of Philadelphia” cookbook.

Real Women of Philadelphia was created two years ago by Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese as an interactive online community of cooks who “share recipes, develop friendships and compete for great prizes.”

Each year, a team of culinary professionals reviews all of the recipes submitted on the site and selects the “best of the best” to be included in the community-themed cookbook. (To purchase a copy of the cookbook, go to www.lulu.com and search for “Real Women of Philadelphia 44 Recipes from Season 2.”)

Myers, who I had the opportunity to interview in 2009, when she was one of 12 finalists in Taste of Home magazine’s Great American Pie Show, said “I love soups, and the Savory Garlic (Philadelphia) Cooking Creme goes so well with the flavors in this one. I love the sweet squash, spicy curry, and creamy savory garlic in this soup. If you like things spicy, add a little more curry powder. I love spicy foods so I usually double the curry powder.”

Since I’m a big fan of both spicy foods and soup, you can bet that this is a recipe we’ll be trying this fall.

Curried Buttercup Bisque
1 large buttercup squash
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup chopped yellow onion
2/3 cup chopped celery with leaves
1 teaspoon curry powder
3½ cups chicken stock
10 ounces tub Savory Garlic Philadelphia Cooking Creme
Using a sharp knife, poke several holes in the buttercup squash.
Place squash on a microwave safe plate and cook on high for 20 to 30 minutes, or until squash is soft.
While squash is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan.
Saute onion and celery in butter over medium high heat, until soft and translucent.
When vegetables are soft, stir in curry powder, and chicken broth. Allow to simmer until squash is cooked.
Scoop seeds out of cooked squash. Discard
Remove flesh of squash and place into simmering chicken stock. Discard skin.
Place soup in a blender and puree until smooth. Return soup to saucepan and place over medium heat.
Stir in Savory Garlic Cooking Creme. Stir until well-combined.
Heat through. Serve hot.

Berry Bars

Summer is a time of celebrations. And no matter if it’s a barbecue or picnic for a family get-together or just the occasion of friends gathering for a little repartee, things always go better with a delicious dessert.

Summer also is the tastiest time of the year when it comes to desserts because of all the seasonal and sweet fresh fruit that is available.

Here’s a light and easy summer dessert recipe from pastry chef and author, Paula Shoyer, which features raspberries and blueberries, two fruits that are readily available in this neck of the woods.

Shoyer, author of “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy,” says “Summer brings occasions when you may be baking for many people and need to whip up a tasty dessert with little more notice than your neighbor saying to come on by for a last-minute cook-out. Summer dessert baking does not have to mean spending hours in a hot kitchen.  As a busy wife and mother, I know how valuable time can be. I have created a fast and easy recipe that uses fresh seasonal summer fruits that pack and travel with ease for a picnic or party — if they last that long.”

Berry Bars
This easy recipe turns classic bar cookies into handheld two-bite pies that can be easily packed into a picnic hamper.  They hold up well, perfect for an afternoon in the sun or an evening concert.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) parve margarine, frozen for 15 minutes, plus extra for greasing pan and parchment
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh raspberries
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with some margarine. Place a piece of parchment in the pan that is large enough to go up the sides and hang over a few inches. Grease the top and sides of the parchment.
To make the crust: Place the flour and sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process for 10 seconds. Cut the margarine into pieces and add to the bowl. Process or use your hands to mix for another 10 seconds. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and then process or mix until the dough just comes together.
Divide the dough in half, making one piece a little bigger. Wrap both pieces in plastic; flatten and place the smaller one in the freezer. Take the larger piece and break it into pieces and scatter over the parchment. Press the pieces into the pan as evenly as you can. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile place the raspberries and blueberries into a large bowl and squeeze with your hands to break up the raspberries.
Add the sugar and flour and squeeze together. This part is fun, but you may still want to use plastic gloves as I did.  Remove the other dough piece from the freezer and, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining dough over the filling.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top starts to look golden brown. Let cool. Trim off about ¼ inch of the sides, if desired, and eat them immediately, and then cut into squares or long bars. Serve warm or cold.
Yield: 35 square bars.
Note: To learn more about Paula Shoyer, visit her website, www.PaulasPastry.com, and  www.kosherbaker.blogspot.com.

Bacon Lover’s Salad

Ask just about any meat lover and they’ll say it’s hard to go wrong with bacon. Combine it with some freshly picked spinach and two other seasonal bits of produce — strawberries and rhubarb — and you have the makings of a pretty delicious salad. And adding some cider vinegar and feta cheese really puts it over the top.

That’s what I thought after coming across the following recipe today, which also could be kicked up a couple of more notches by adding some hard-boiled eggs, Cheddar cheese and a little Dijon mustard.

Spinach Salad
10 cups young, tender spinach leaves, washed and dried
6 strips bacon
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and chopped
1 cup chopped rhubarb
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 ounces crumbled feta or goat cheese (optional)
Place spinach in a large bowl. Heat bacon in a skillet over medium-high until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool before crumbling.
Add shallot to skillet with bacon fat and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add strawberries, rhubarb, water and sugar, and bring to a boil. Stir in vinegar, lower heat and simmer until fruit is soft and falling apart, about five minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor and season with salt and pepper.
Toss about ½ cup of the warm dressing with spinach. Divide among serving plates and sprinkle with bacon and cheese, if desired. Serve immediately with extra dressing on the side.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Peach-Raspberry Cobbler

Raspberries — to many people — are the first true sign of summer. They start showing their colors in late spring and by the time the solstice rolls around, they’re already finding their way into dishes such as crumbles, crisps and cobblers. And that’s not to mention the bowls of breakfast cereal that are bespeckled by those ruby-red beauties.

Around our house, it’s a given that some of the raspberries will be combined with oatmeal. And in recent times, Therese has loved to mix them with Greek yogurt, a real taste treat for those who’ve never tried that combo.

I just finished picking my second small bowl of raspberries from this summer’s crop from one of our two patches. (Yes, summer is officially here as of Tuesday.) So far, I’ve just been eating them all by themselves, but a recipe for a peach-raspberry cobbler that I came across today probably will get one of the next pickings.

As for the peaches I do have a fresh one from left from a half-dozen that a friend gave me the other day, and if that isn’t enough, several pints of the canned variety line my pantry shelf.

Peach-Raspberry Cobbler
4 cups peaches, in 1-inch pieces
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons. fresh lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup flour
¼ cup fine cornmeal
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
½ cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with butter or baking spray, or divide among individual dishes.
In a bowl, gently mix together peaches, raspberries, lemon juice, brown sugar, ginger and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix the butter into the flour by pinching with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is evenly distributed. Add the buttermilk and stir until just mixed.
Top the fruit with dollops of the dough, letting the fruit show through.
Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the biscuits are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 230 calories, 7 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 485 milligrams sodium, 42 grams carbohydrates, 120 milligrams calcium, 3 grams protein, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams dietary fiber.

Portabella Blue Cheese Burgers

Burgers on the grill might be the one food that people most associate with summer. But not all burgers are created equal. In fact, not all burgers are made with meat.

Granted, there’s something about a meat burger, be it beef, venison, elk or a combination of any or all them, that makes them very appealing. Right now, the burger meat in our freezer is a combination of elk and ground beef. All in all, it’s about 90 percent lean, with just the right amount of fat to hold the burgers to together.

I’m not averse to having a burger that doesn’t contain meat. I’ve eaten my share of turkey burgers and have found them quite tasty. But my favorite meatless alternative is the portabella mushroom burger, which is naturally low in calories and can be grilled or broiled.

The portabella looks like an overgrown version of a button mushroom. The best ones for burgers are about 5 inches or so in diameter. We’ve had them occasionally on the Foreman but never on our gas grill. And we’ve found them great when they’re cooked with a little balsamic vinegar.

Here’s a recipe in which the “gills” are removed from the portabellas so they won’t darken the blue cheese topping. A few caramelized red onions enhances the burger even more.

Portabella Blue Cheese Burgers
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled, pressed
4 large (about 4 to 5 inches in diameter) portabella mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed
1 large red onion, peeled, thinly sliced (2½ to 3 cups)
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup ruby port or favorite sweet red wine
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns or favorite bun or roll
1 cup arugula
4 thick slices tomato
In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar and garlic. Brush the mixture all over the mushrooms and let stand for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add red onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add water and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is browned and very soft, about 15 minutes. Add port and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat and cover.
Preheat grill to medium.
Sprinkle the mushrooms with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Grill, gill side down, for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn over and top each with 2 tablespoons cheese. Grill until the mushrooms are tender, 4 to 5 minutes more.
Toast buns. Divide the onions among the mushrooms. Serve (cheese side up) on buns with arugula and tomato slices.
Note: Gorgonzola is a good substitute for blue cheese. You can also use a milder cheese such as fontina or asiago.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 339 calories, 45 percent of calories from fat), 17 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 37 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 702 milligrams sodium, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.

Smoky Skirt Steak Fajitas

There’s no doubt that a bit of smoke in the grill can add a lot of flavor to an ordinary piece of meat. It can turn a simple skirt steak into mouthwatering fare. And if you add some veggies to the mix . . .

Smoking meat has been around a long time. Some say it started with the cavemen, who as their name suggests, lived in caves. Of course, there were no chimneys back then, so whenever a fire was built inside their abode, the smoke invariably was absorbed by meat that had been hung to dry and cure. (See related story at www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/239123/.)

I’m a big fan of smoking meat, fish and such. I’ve even purchased an electric smoker because of my fondness for anything “smoked.” My most recent foray into smoking was some pheasant thighs and legs, which were transformed into a delicious appetizer after soaking overnight in a kosher salt/sugar/paprika/black pepper brine followed by three to four hours in the smoker.

Here’s a tasty-looking recipe from Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe, Florida-based barbecue guru, serial cook-off champion and author of the new book “Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Barbecue” (Chronicle Books, $22.95, 176 pages) that’s sure to make just about anyone a believer in smoke — even a caveman!

Smoky Skirt Steak Fajitas
2 pounds skirt steak
2 limes, divided
Fired-Up Fajita Rub (recipe follows)
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
1 green and 1 red bell pepper, halved and sliced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
10 8-inch flour tortillas
Sour cream, salsa, garnish
Cut the steak into 6 pieces. With a heavy meat mallet, pound the steak well to tenderize it. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over 1 side of the meat. Season with fajita rub — heavily for rich, spicy meat, or lightly for milder meat. Let rest 5 minutes.
Flip the steaks and repeat with the second lime and the rub. Place steaks on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill up to 2 hours.
Prepare your cooker to cook indirectly at 235 degrees, using medium oak wood for smoke flavor.
In a medium aluminum foil pan, combine onion, bell peppers and jalapeno. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss with salt and 1 tablespoon fajita rub. Put the pan in the cooker and cook for 1 hour.
Wrap the tortillas tightly in foil and set aside.
Toss onions and peppers with tongs. Add the steak to the cooker in one layer. Cook 30 minutes more.
Toss the onion-pepper mixture again and flip the steaks. Put the tortilla package in the cooker. Cook for 30 minutes more.
Remove everything from the cooker. Tent steaks loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Slice steaks thinly, against the grain, and add to the onion-pepper mixture. Toss well and serve with the warm tortillas, sour cream and salsa.
Yield: Serves 10.

Fired-Up Fajita Rub
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. The rub may be stored in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 6 months.
Note: This big, bold, spicy rub is great for fajita and taco meat, where the tortillas will help mellow things out.
Yield: About 1 cup.

Strawberry Shortcake

What’s the most popular dessert that contains  strawberries? If you guessed strawberry shortcake, there’s a good chance that you might be right. On the other, it’s hard to find any polls or surveys confirming that.

Undoubtedly, though, strawberry shortcake is among the top summertime desserts. In fact, some people celebrate June 12 as National Strawberry Shortcake Day.

For those of you who don’t know, strawberry shortcake is a popular scone or biscuit-like pastry that is made from milk, flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs as well shortening or butter.

The origin of this delicious dessert dates back as early as the 1500s in Europe, but it wasn’t until a few hundred years later that it became popular in the United States. However by 1850, strawberry short cake parties were the rage in the U.S., especially while welcoming the summer every year.

With a small crop of strawberries in our little garden this year, we might have enough for a dessert or two besides some for our morning breakfast cereal.

Here’s a recipe that I may try, courtesy of Los Angeles Times writer S. Irene Virbila. She adapted it from one in author Lindsey Shere’s “Chez Panisse Desserts.”

Strawberry Shortcake
STRAWBERRIES:
3 16-ounce pints strawberries
About 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
Two to four hours before serving, wash and hull the berries. Roughly slice or quarter two-thirds of the berries into a large bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the berries and, using a wire pastry blender, smash the berries so they begin to juice. Halve or slice the remaining berries into the bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
SHORTCAKES:
2 cups (8.5 ounces) flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream, divided
Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like cornmeal with a few larger pieces of butter in it. Use a pastry blender or two knives, if you like. Mix in three-fourths cup of cream, just until most of the dry mixture has been moistened. Turn out on a board and knead a few times until the dough just comes together. Divide into six portions and lightly pat into flat rounds about one-half-inch thick.
Place on an unbuttered baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream, and bake until the tops are lightly browned and the dough is set, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack.
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup (more if desired) heavy whipping cream
Pinch superfine sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
While the shortcakes are cooling, whip the cream. Using a balloon whisk, whip the cream in a large bowl until it is thick, but not stiff. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract.
To serve, split the shortcakes in half. Ladle lots of strawberries on the bottom half, cover with the top half and spoon the whipped cream over.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 629 calories, 7 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 44 grams fat (27 grams saturated), 143 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams sugar, 471 milligrams sodium.

Buttermilk Pie

Do you remember a time when you could find thick, rich buttermilk — the kind that would make a spoon stand up straight and have the tang of yogurt but was just a bit thinner? If your answer is yes, there’s a good chance you are as old or older than me.

One of my fondest memories of my youth was when Dad would bring buttermilk home in a half-gallon glass container from a dairy in Twin Valley, Minn. He would pour some in a big glass and season it with a bit of salt and pepper before gulping it down. My brother, Kevin, and I soon were following in his footsteps.

These days, it’s hard, if not impossible, to find that kind of buttermilk, which probably was fermented by natural bacteria. Now, with the rise of large commercial dairies,  much of the buttermilk today is made with reduced-fat milk instead of the old-fashioned way of adding active cultures to regular milk or “sweet” milk.

I learned a bit about this from reading a Chicago Tribune article by food writer Bill Daley. He quoted author Debbie Moose, whose book “Buttermilk” soon will be published by the University of North Carolina Press as part of its “Savor the South Cookbook” series. Moose said that small dairies are the likely best sources for thick buttermilk, but finding one of them and buying their products can be a challenge.

Daley did find one outlet, a company in Kalona, Iowa, selling organic buttermilk and a variety of other products under the Kalona SuperNatural label. I don’t know if it’s available around here. But I plan on doing a little research to see if it or something similar is available. And if successful, I may try it in the following recipe for buttermilk pie.

Buttermilk Pie
2 unbaked pie shells
2½ cups sugar
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup flour
1 pint buttermilk
2 eggs beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs, add sugar and flour. Stir in buttermilk and flavorings. Add melted butter. Divide evenly between two 9-inch unbaked pie shells. Bake for 45 minutes. Top should be golden brown, and center firm. Cool on wire racks before serving.
Yield: 2 9-inch pies.

The Perfect Burger

Grilling season is well under way, and nobody knows this better than the millions of backyard barbecuers across the country. And with Father’s Day just around the corner, you can be sure that grills will be getting a good workout in the next few days.

As most will agree, there is nothing better than a nice burger the grill. And with that in mind, here’s a burger recipe from the “Good Housekeeping Grilling” cookbook that’s available now through the end of June for $5 from Kohl’s Department Stores. (The cookbook can be purchased at all Kohl’s stores or online at kohls.com.)

The cookbook deal is part of the company’s Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program, which gives 100 percent of the net profit from the sale of featured books to plush toys to benefit kids’ health and education initiatives in communities nationwide. Since the program’s inception more than 10 years ago, Kohl’s has raised more than $208 million to help kids.

The Perfect Burger
4 12-inch bamboo skewers
1¼ pounds ground beef chuck
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 large sweet onion (12 ounces), such as Vidalia or Maui, cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
4 hamburger buns, split
4 green-leaf lettuce leaves
2 ripe medium tomatoes (6 to 8 ounces each), thinly sliced
Soak skewers in hot water to cover at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare outdoor grill for covered direct grilling over medium heat, or preheat ridged grill pan over medium heat until very hot.
Shape ground beef into 4 ¾-inch-thick patties. Sprinkle pepper and ¾ teaspoon salt on both sides of patties. Thread 1 skewer through the center of each onion slice. Sprinkle onion with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.
Place burgers and onion on hot grill; cook 8 to 10 minutes for medium or to desired doneness, turning over once. Onion should be browned and tender. About 1 minute before the burgers are done, add buns, cut sides down, to grill. Grill just until toasted. Serve burgers on buns with lettuce, tomato, and onion.
Yield: 4 burgers.
Note: This recipes is reprinted with permission from “The Good Housekeeping Grilling” cookbook (copyright 2011) by Hearst Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing.