April 20, 2017

Dear friends,

Not many local restaurants serve something so popular the proprietors are compelled to offer it commercially. Barberton Hot Rice and Whitey’s Chili come to mind. Another is the steak sauce served for 40-some years and now bottled and sold at Lanning’s Restaurant in Bath.

I hadn’t thought of that steak sauce or even the restaurant in decades, until last week when we celebrated Tony’s birthday there with a gift certificate from a friend.

“I love this steak sauce,” Tony said as he offered me a bite of his porterhouse drenched in the stuff. The brown brothy sauce was spooned onto the steak in the kitchen. It sparked a taste memory that was just out of reach, like a word on the tip of my tongue. I grabbed my spoon and took a taste unmuddled by beef. Ah, yes. Julia Child’s steak Diane.

I have made steak Diane several times, including once on a camp stove during an electrical outage. The dish is always made in the pan just before serving. Steaks are quickly browned, then set aside. In the same pan, shallots are sautéed in butter, and then beef bouillon, Dijon mustard, Madeira and fresh lemon juice are added and simmered to concentrate the flavors. The steaks are bathed in the sauce before plating.

Steak Diane is seriously good, an icon of a recipe that should not be forgotten. But who wants to stand over a stove while everyone is already at the table? Maybe that’s why the dish has waned in popularity.

Lanning’s apparently solved that problem, and I figured I could, too. It took a couple of batches, but I think I have come up with a decent make-ahead version of steak Diane sauce. It should keep in the refrigerator for at least a couple of weeks because of the acid it contains, so feel free to make a double batch.

The sauce may be used by itself over grilled steak, but it’s better when added to the pan after making pan-grilled steaks. Remove the cooked steaks from the pan, add the sauce and simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return the steaks to the pan and swirl in the sauce, then plate the steaks and pour the sauce over the meat.

Tony didn’t say whether my sauce tastes like Lanning’s, but I know he liked it. As he flipped steaks on the grill Sunday he shouted to me in the kitchen, “Got any more of that sauce?”
No, but in a matter of minutes I made some.

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STEAK DIANE SAUCE
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup Madeira
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup rich beef broth
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a small skillet or sauté pan. Sauté shallots until softened. Add Madeira and bring to a boil.

Simmer until liquid is reduce by half. Stir in mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Add beef broth and lemon juice and simmer for two minutes. Use immediately or cool, pour into a lidded container and refrigerate. Makes enough for 4 steaks.

TIDBITS

* Few chefs have embraced the farm-to-table movement as enthusiastically as Ben Bebenroth, who actually leased a farm to supply his restaurant, Spice Kitchen + Bar in Cleveland. Beginning in June he will share this year’s chef-grown bounty with us at a farm stand at his Spice Acres Farm, 9570 Riverview Road in Brecksville.

I mention this because even at the height of summer it’s a gamble buying fruits and vegetables at produce stands and stores. Many have no connection to a farm and get trucked-in stuff from wholesalers. Wise consumers ask.

You won’t have to ask at Spice Acres, where eggs, vegetables, honey and flowers — the overflow the chef doesn’t use at his restaurant — will be sold from 9 a.m. to dusk Thursday through Sunday this summer. It is one of 11 leased farms in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

* Pizza love: For years I disdained thin-crust pizza as the spoil-sport Puritan cousin of lush, wanton, thick-crusted pies. No longer.

First I tasted a few crisp-crusted, imaginatively topped pizzas on vacation last summer in Colorado. Then I developed a craving for the brick-oven beauties at Pizza Fire (with several locations in Northeast Ohio), where thin disks of dough are topped and cooked in a matter of minutes while you watch.

Now I’m in act three of my obsession. Earth Fare, I discovered, sells fresh, unbaked 12-inch pizzas that crisp up beautifully in your home oven in about 10 minutes. Best of all, they cost just $10 and serve two, compared to the still-reasonable $9 or so personal pies at Pizza Fire.

I still love Rizzi’s bubbling, cheesy, thick-crust pizzas, and will no doubt return to them in time. But for now I’ll save a few bucks and a bunch of calories with my new fave from Earth Fare. Are there any other thin-crust pizzas I should try?

By the way, the area of Florida I visited in January is dotted with Pizza Fire-type places that proudly advertise their coal-fired ovens. Is it just me, or do other Northerners feel that “coal-fired” flavor is nothing to brag about?

THE MAILBAG

From Sharon:
Have you ever used an Instant Pot? I am thinking about getting one but don’t know how useful it would be.

Dear Sharon: I haven’t but I plan to buy one soon. A fellow food writer swears by them. Mike Vrobel of Copley, who writes the popular Dad Cooks Dinner blog (see my list of favorites for the link), uses his Instant Pot as a pressure cooker to make quick after-work meals for his family. He even “baked” a cheesecake in one. l understand that the electric appliance also may be used as a rice cooker, slow cooker and steamer. They cost about $100 at discount stores.

April 13, 2017

Dear friends,

The burning question in my life since the finale of Top Chef on March 2 is how to get my hands on some of Shirley Chung’s drop-dead delicious rice pudding.

Shirley was not the winner (Brooke Williamson edged her out to become season 14 Top Chef), but Shirley’s pudding was the hit of the finale. It was Padma’s favorite dish of the evening. Tom said it was his favorite Top Chef dessert ever and may have been the best dessert he has tasted, period.

The rice pudding was ultra-creamy, not too sweet, and studded with tropical fruit and other goodies that the judges kept dredging up with their spoons. A scoop of lemon-lime “snow” that Shirley made with liquid nitrogen nestled on top of each portion.

So far neither the recipe or recipe guesstimates have been posted to the Internet. I got tired of waiting and made the pudding myself. Keep in mind that I have no clue what the ingredients are other than rice, so my pudding is definitely not Shirley’s. It is pretty good, though, and meets all the criteria: Intensely creamy — almost mousse-like – and not too sweet, with a variety of add-ins that vary in texture, flavor, temperature and even saltiness.

The add-ins: Cubes of ripe mango, cubes of frozen kiwi, salted whole cashews and sesame brittle.

I used Japanese rice for the pudding because I think it’s the best. It is sold in mainstream stores as “sushi rice,” although it is used for all purposes in Japan. The grains are plump and flavorful, a cross between long-grain and arborio. I made a standard stove-top rice pudding and chilled it until firm, then fluffed it up with a stick blender and folded in unsweetened whipped cream. Note that there is no vanilla in the recipe. The pudding doesn’t need it, and I didn’t want a dominant flavor competing with the add-ins.

All of the add-ins except the brittle are ready-made —just dice up some fruit and open a can of nuts. The sesame brittle takes a bit of time to produce but I think it’s worth it. I toasted sesame seeds and stirred them and some Asian sesame oil into melted sugar in a small saucepan, then poured it onto a buttered platter to cool. The broken shards of brittle, the fruit and the nuts are buried in each portion of rice pudding just before serving.

This dessert would be an unexpected treat after an Asian meal. It is more sophisticated and frankly tastes better than traditional Chinese rice pudding. Until Shirley coughs up her recipe, it may be the best rice pudding you’ve ever had.

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RICE PUDDING MOUSSELINE WITH TROPICAL FRUIT

Pudding:

3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup Japanese sushi rice or any firm long-grain white rice (not converted)
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup whipping cream

Add-Ins:

2 kiwi, peeled and in 1/2-inch dice
Sesame brittle (recipe follows)
12 to18 salted whole cashews
1 or 2 ripe mangos

For the pudding: Heat 1 1/2 cups of milk to a simmer in a medium-size saucepan. Stir in rice and salt. Return to a simmer. Cover and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes, until the milk has been absorbed. Stir in 1 1/2 cups more milk and the sugar. Return to a simmer and cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and creamy, about 15 minutes.

While pudding simmers, microwave remaining one-half cup milk until lukewarm in a glass measuring cup. Beat in the egg with a fork. Remove pudding from heat and stir a couple tablespoons into the egg mixture, beating rapidly to prevent egg from cooking. Very slowly pour egg mixture into pudding in pan, beating constantly. Return to low heat and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Do not allow pudding to boil. Remove from heat, cover and chill.

Just before serving, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. With a spoon or an immersion blender, beat pudding until fluffy. Fold whipped cream into pudding.

For the add-ins: Place diced kiwi on a plate, each cube separate, and freeze uncovered overnight or until solid.

For the brittle, toast 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a dry skillet on a burner, stirring often, until golden brown. Set aside. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil in a very small (2-cup) saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar melts. Continue cooking until mixture is cinnamon-colored. Stir in sesame seeds and immediately pour onto a well-buttered platter, tilting to thin the mixture. Set aside for up to 2 days or so unless very humid. Break into bite-size pieces.

To assemble the pudding: Place two spoonfuls of pudding in the bottoms of six goblets or on-the-rocks glasses. In each glass, layer a couple of pieces of fruit, nuts and brittle with pudding between each addition. Continue until glasses are filled. Decorate tops with more add-ins. Makes six servings.

HELP U COOK

We wash rice in water to remove some of the starch before cooking, to prevent it from becoming glue-like and sticky. Rice should not be washed before using it in pudding, however; because the starches help thicken the mixture.

Another rice pudding tip: Don’t worry if rice pudding seems soupy when you remove it from the burner or oven. Like tapioca, rice requires time to soak up the liquid. The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.

THE MAILBAG

From Jenny Kuenzi:
My husband’s parents live in Pittsurgh and are turning 90 and 91 years old this month and in July. They are still runing around like they’re our age, but we prefer them not to drive the distance to our home in Green. Therefore, we are traveling to Pittsburgh on a regular basis. I would like to take a complete meal for the four of us (already prepared). What would you suggest in the way of a non-casserole and non-pasta make-a-day-ahead main dish? They like chicken, pork and beef. I realize I will need to to prepare it the day before and keep it cold in a cooler while we travel and then reheat it at their home. They do not have any dietary restrictions other than they do not like heavy cream sauces.

Dear Jenny: I have a few ideas. Big entree salads would be easy to tote — grilled and sliced steak or salmon in one container, the salad in another and dressing in a third. Add some interesting bread for a filling meal.

You’ve probably already thought of soups, but how about a Pittsburgh sandwich specialty such as meatball splash? Tote homemade meatballs, spaghetti sauce and bread, and put together the open-faced meatball sandwiches on the spot. Another idea is to grill or bake meats such as chicken breasts or pork chops, and take a topping — fruity salsa, pesto — on the side. Serve it with a room-temp vegetable such as roasted green beans with lemon, pine nuts and shaved Parmesan.

You should slightly undercook meats you plan to reheat. Cool them quickly and chill, and keep them cold during the trip to your in-laws. They are lucky to have their health — and a thoughtful cook like you.

March 23, 2017

Dear friends,

Once when I asked chefs to reveal their favorite breakfasts, the answers ranged from burnt over-hard eggs with ketchup to cigarettes and coffee. One answer kept popping up, though: huevos rancheros. Yessss! That just happened to be my favorite, too.

Is it a coincidence so many food professionals crave this breakfast? Or is it indeed the apex of morning meals, and you should rush right out and eat some, too? If the latter is the answer you’ve probably indulged by now, but who knows what your huevos experience was like?

Back when I wrote the breakfast story huevos rancheros wasn’t lurking on every hip-casual menu. Unless you lived west of the Mississippi, you had to make your own. In light of the many not-so-splendored ways huevos rancheros are mutilated in Midwest restaurants, you’re probably wise to make your own now, too.

The exact ingredients of the dish are in dispute, so I just go with my palate. I usually warm up a couple of corn tortillas, grate some Jack cheese, heat some refried beans, get out the salsa and fry a couple of eggs over easy. Yes, it’s a bit more trouble than opening a container of yogurt. Recently, though, I figured out a way to not only streamline the prep but to make huevos easily for a crowd. If you ever entertain at brunch, print and save this recipe.

Little corn tortillas are fitted into muffin cups, filled with refried beans, salsa, cheese and an egg and baked. No muss, no fuss. More salsa and chopped avocado are strewn over the darling little huevos cups on the plate. The tortillas crisp up while the cheese melts and the egg whites set. When you cut into one, the yolk runs onto the plate, mingling with the salsa and cheese.

If you’re the only one in the house who like huevos rancheros, no problem. Breakfast for one can be made as easily as brunch for a dozen. Buy the corn tortillas at a Mexican grocery that sells fresh tortillas or high-quality refrigerated tortillas, if possible. The quality difference from mass-produced tortillas will be noticeable.

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HUEVOS RANCHEROS CUPS

16 small corn tortillas
16 tbsp. refried beans
1 1/4 cups jarred salsa (mild, medium or hot)
16 eggs
Salt, pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced

Microwave tortillas two at a time directly on the turntable for about 20 seconds on high power, until very soft. Quickly fit them into full-sized muffin cups that have been coated with non-stick spray. Continue with remaining tortillas.

Spread one tablespoon refried beans in the bottom of each tortilla cup. Top each with one teaspoon salsa. Crack an egg into each tortilla cup. Sprinkle each with salt, pepper and one tablespoon cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until whites have set but yolks are still soft. Remove from pan and place two on each of eight plates. Top each with a ribbon of salsa and some diced avocado. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings of 2 cups each.

TIDBIT

A fruity and suave sauce from a high-end Ohio jam and sauce producer is a bargain buy right now at Sam’s Clubs. I found a 40-oz. jug of Robert Rothschild Roasted Pineapple Glaze & Finishing Sauce for just $7.68. That’s less than a small jar (12.7 ounces) costs on the Rothschild website. The sauce is sweet and chunky, with a mild sting from the hot peppers. It tasted great on pork and would be spectacular on baked brie or even ice cream.

The Rothschild farm near Urbana is one of the food treasures of Ohio. Since 1984 owners Bob and Sara have been making high-quality, small-batch preserves, vinegars, dips and other fruit-based condiments, most with the raspberries they grow themselves. I hope their Sam’s Club sales help them make it through another three decades.

THE MAILBAG

From Holli Mallak, Shanghai, China:
I just returned to Shanghai from a 10-day trip to Vietnam. I realize this recipe may wreak havoc on your preferred diet, but you must try it:
http://www.legalnomads.com/vietnamese-egg-coffee-recipe.

I hadn’t heard of the European egg coffee until I looked up this article. Maybe a coffee-off is in order?

Give Akron my love.

Dear Holli: Thai iced tea and Thai iced coffee would have to figure in any coffee-off, although I think Vietnamese egg coffee would win in terms of richness. All are made with sweetened, condensed milk, but the Vietnamese coffee is further enriched by beating the milk with an egg yolk until thick and fluffy. According to the article you shared, the mixture is poured over strong, bitter Vietnamese coffee, about half and half.

I used to love the Thai iced tea at the old Bangkok Gourmet restaurant in Akron back when I was young and active enough to burn off the calories. Your Vietnamese egg coffee would be a challenge for even my younger self, but it sounds heavenly. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience and the recipe.

March 15, 2017

Dear friends,

Coconut, ginger and lime may not sound like blizzard foods, but they are when combined in the creamy, rich Brazilian soup I stumbled upon recently while cleaning out a closet. The recipe for the soup was in a 20-year-old issue of Food and Wine in a box of stuff I was sorting. I almost pitched it along with a half-dozen Paris Metro maps and the floor plan of the Louvre. Thank goodness I paged through it, hoping to have a laugh at the foods we ate back then.

This soup — actually more of a bisque — is timeless. It’s unlike any I’ve tasted. In addition to the three ingredients I mentioned, it includes peanut butter, tomatoes, hot peppers and lots of onion and garlic, yet everything gets along. The peanut butter doesn’t bully the delicate coconut and ginger; there’s just enough of it to provide a warm undertone. I couldn’t separate out the flavor in the finished soup.

I could definitely taste the coconut and ginger, though, along with the lime that was added at the end. I would expect those flavors in a brothy soup, but they were surprisingly good in this richer cream soup, too. As it bubbled on the stove, it smelled too good for a family supper. I wished I had invited friends to share.

The recipe is supposed to serve six as an entree, although after Tony tasted it he said he intended to eat the entire batch. And he almost did.

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BRAZILIAN SHRIMP AND COCONUT SOUP

2 tbsp. butter
2 lbs. medium shrimp, shells removed and reserved
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small fresh hot chilies such as Thai or serrano, minced
2 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger (about a 2-inch piece)
1 quart chicken stock or broth
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt, pepper
Lime wedges for garnish

Melt butter in a medium-sized soup pot. Add the shrimp shells, onion, garlic, chilies and ginger and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes.

Strain the shrimp broth and return it to the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender combine the coconut milk and peanut butter and pulse until smooth. Stir the mixture into the simmering broth. Add the shrimp, lime juice and coriander and simmer just until shrimp turn pink and begin to curl, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with lime wedges. Makes 6 entree servings.

TIDBIT

Here’s your laugh for the day, a collection of epic food-related fails (www.pulptastic.com/im-only-bread-but-kill-me), sent to me simultaneously by two food-writer friends.

Note that two of them involve pan lids wedged in the ceiling, confirming my fear of pressure cookers.

THE MAILBAG

From Debbie:
I heard you have to rinse quinoa before you cook it to remove a chemical that could make you sick. Some of your recipes skip this step. Why?

Dear Debbie: Some quinoa on the market is pre-rinsed. If so, it will say that on the package.
Quinoa that is not pre-rinsed should be rinsed in a fine sieve with cool running water before using. Rinsing removes a naturally occurring substance called “saponin” that coats the seeds.

Saponin imparts a bitter taste to quinoa, but it also has many positive qualities. Among others, it protects the plant from insects and is an anti-oxidant and immune system protectant, according to researchers. It also can be toxic, however.

Researchers have found the saponins in quinoa can damage intestinal mucosal cells, according to a study in Britain’s Journal of Science and Food Agriculture. A lot of foods contains saponins, but the amount on quinoa is especially high. Even so, it’s just mildly toxic unless consumed to excess.

March 8, 2017

Dear friends,

While hunting up an old recipe for Asian slaw, I found another salad recipe I didn’t know was lost: Winter Quinoa Salad With Dates and Pomegranates. I made it, swapped blood oranges for the pomegranates, and loved it even more than I did the first time. I gobbled up the leftovers in two days, adding various toppings — pan-grilled chicken, stir-fried shrimp — to turn it into meals.

I have already made a second batch of the grain salad. I like the idea of having something delicious on hand that can be turned into dinner with the addition of protein. I plan to keep making the quinoa salad until i grow tired of it, as a friend does with the Asian slaw. In a note in January, he said he and his wife have eaten the slaw at least once a week since I printed the recipe. If he is taking about my recipe, that’s once a week since May 2007. I don’t think he is, though, based on ingredients he mentioned — miso and mayonnaise. I did find a Food & Wine slaw dressing with those ingredients, so I’m providing a triple-whammy of make-ahead dinners today.

The first recipe is for my reworked version of the quinoa salad. The warm spices give it a Moroccan flair. The second recipe is for my spicy slaw. Just add a bag of supermarket shredded cabbage for a super-quick meal. At the time I developed the recipe, I wrote, “It’s a great quick-fix dish to take to summer pot lucks. The most time-consuming part is making the dressing, which is a blend of soy sauce, peanut butter, rice vinegar, oil and Asian seasonings including fresh ginger and chili bean sauce.”

My friend’s slaw dressing sounds good, too. Miso gives it a umami backbone and that touch of mayonnaise emulsifies the sauce. Maybe I’ll alternate the salads in my fridge.

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QUINOA SALAD WITH DATES AND BLOOD ORANGES

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped dates
2 blood or cara-cara oranges

Dressing:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. each salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cumin
2 tsp. honey or Splenda to taste

Rinse quinoa well in cold water. Drain in a sieve. Place in a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until grains are al dente. Do not overcook. Drain any excess water.

While quinoa cooks, place onion and dates in a medium-size serving bowl. Make the dressing by combining the vinegar, oil, spices and honey or Splenda in a small jar and shaking well. Place the warm quinoa in the bowl and toss with the dressing, onion and dates.

Cut a thin slice from both the blossom and stem ends of the oranges. Place on a cutting board, one of the cut ends down. With a sharp knife, slice off the skin and white pith all the way around, following the shape of the orange. Then one at a time, slice next to one membrane and flick the bare orange section into the bowl. Do this over the bowl with the quinoa to catch any juices. Continue with second orange. Gently toss to distribute the orange sections.

Cover and chill salad. Toss again before servings. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

SPICY ASIAN SLAW

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 tbsp. Chinese chili bean sauce
1/4 tsp. (or more to taste) red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. peanut butter
1 bag (16 oz.) shredded cabbage (about 4 cups)
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts

In a small, deep bowl combine oils, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, hoisin sauce, sugar, ginger, chili bean sauce, red pepper flakes and peanut butter. Whisk until smooth. Mix together cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts and cilantro in a large bowl. Pour enough dressing over slaw to moisten, tossing gently. Garnish with peanuts. Makes about 6 servings. Unused dressing will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

ASIAN SLAW DRESSING:

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3 tbsp. white miso
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated ginger
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cup oil
Salt, pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

TIDBITS

While bumbling around the kitchen during my recovery from knee surgery last fall, Tony invented a new kind of spaghetti sauce. This one was actually edible. He dumped in a lot of spices from the cupboard and although the they shouldn’t have gone together, they tasted fine. His genius, though, was adding about a cup of walnut pieces.

I was reminded of how good nuts taste in red pasta sauce when we thawed the last of his sauce earlier this week. The walnuts add texture and flavor that do not fade in the freezer. Although Tony can’t remember everything he stirred into the sauce, we will remember those walnuts for future batches.

Bakery is back:
Holly Phillips of Stow is back to making custom gluten-free cakes after a brief hiatus. Check out her gorgeously decorated cakes on Facebook under Sweet P’s Custom Cakes (www.facebook.com/SweetP’sCustomCakes. The business formerly was known as Mrs. P’s Gluten Free Bakery. You can reach her at 216-906-2758.
THE MAILBAG
From Doris G.:
Regarding old darkened pans, I am still using 70- to 80-year-old pans that my mother used. I find that regardless of the way they look, they are superior to anything you buy today. Or maybe I think that because they are connected to my late mother.

Dear Doris:
I can relate. I have a couple of my mother’s old, banged-up, darkened baking sheets that I hang onto. I don’t use them often but when I do, I line them with parchment paper to help prevent baked goods from over-browning on the bottoms.

March 1, 2017

Dear friends,

After a couple of failed marriages and a string of doomed relationships, I gave up on love. I concluded romantic love never leads to happily ever after. That’s a myth. It leads to disillusionment and either a painful split or a long, soul-sucking marriage. I thought people who remained in marriages were either too lazy or too afraid to end them when the chemical attraction wore off.

I was pretty happy being single. I had lots of friends, an adorable dog and a great job. Then I met Tony. Bear with me. I’m getting to the Fontina and Prosciutto Soup.

At almost exactly this time 11 years ago, I walked into his sushi bar and began a terrifying romance. I was gun-shy. He was persistent. I fell hard. It was like stepping out of a plane with no parachute. I didn’t trust the feeling for a minute.

Next month will be our tenth wedding anniversary and I’ve learned that love can stay. You just have to do a lot of forgiving and stop expecting perfection. I read somewhere that a successful marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. That pretty much sums it up.

I was reminded of all this when I came across a soup recipe I developed in 2006. I created it after tasting a similar soup at West Point Market. It is a luxuriously rich Fontina cheese soup studded with bits of prosciutto. It’s the last dish I made for a gaggle of girlfriends just before I met Tony. The soup triggers memories of good times that were about to get even better. Much better.

FONTINA-PROSCIUTTO SOUP
1 head garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. butter
6 paper-thin slices prosciutto, chopped
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 cups whipping cream
1 lb. Fontina cheese, shredded
1 tbsp. Marsala wine
Salt to taste

Discard any loose outer skin from the head of garlic but do not separate the cloves. With a sharp knife, cut off the tips of the cloves (no more than 1/8 inch), leaving head intact. Place in a small oven-proof bowl or pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 1 hour, until brown and soft. Remove from oven and cool.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a soup pan and saute prosciutto until frizzled. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Melt remaining butter in pan and saute onion until soft and golden. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth. Squeeze garlic from the papery skins into the broth. Add bay leaf and cream, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until onion is very soft.

In batches, puree the soup in a blender. Return to the pan. Add cheese a handful at a time, stirring until melted. Stir in Marsala and season to taste with salt. Return prosiutto to the soup and simmer a couple of minutes. Ladle into bowls. Makes about 10 servings.

TIDBITS

The new West Point Market is starting to look like the store we knew and loved. After a spartan opening before the holidays, when about the only things on the shelves were chocolate and wine, the store has begun to grow into its new space at 33 Shiawassee Ave. in Fairlawn.

There is already a large, full-service cheese department and an extensive seletion of teas and coffees. The wine department, which looks almost as large as the one in the old store, has settled into a separate room adorned with West Point’s iconic British telephone booth. Another room holds cafe tables and the fully staffed wine bar. Although a cafe is not planned, customers eventually willl be able to buy prepared salads and sandwiches in the deli and eat them at the cafe tables, says manager Jovanna Gionti.

“We’re growing every day,” she says. “We’re adding to it.”

A meat department should be up and running in a couple of weeks, she says. Ditto for the soup bar. A gift shop and full-service chocolate shop were being installed last week.

The black wire shelves that hold dry goods are still emptly in spots, but products are arriving daily, Gionti says. Already customers can find such gourmet essentials as snail shells, Maille Dijon Mustard and Maldon Sea Salt.

The store looks roomy, although at 10,000 to 12,000 square feet it is only about one-third the size of the former store in Wallhaven. There’s no on-site kitchen, so the deli items and soups are made in a leased kitchen in the Merriman Valley and transported to the store.

The store is closed Mondays. The website is http://www.westpointmarket.com.

THE MAILBAG

From S.H.:
I got rid of my old cookie sheets and replaced them with dark ones. I noticed that when I used them to bake (lined with aluminum foil) the underside of the baked item turned dark very quickly. I always watch when I bake without the foil and remove the cookies, etc. when they are lightly brown on the edges; but now I believe I either should turn down the temperature and/or decrease baking time even when I line with foil. Am I right?

Dear S.H.: Your first mistake was buying dark-colored baking sheets. They absorb heat and can burn the bottoms of your baked goods. The solution is not foil, which also conducts heat a bit too well. Instead, line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Parchment does not require greasing, and you can reuse the paper until it begins to turn brown.

Reducing the heat is not a good idea because that would not only prevent the undersides from browning too quickly, but also prevent the top and interior of the item from baking at the ideal temperature for proper rise, etc. Instead, even when using parchment, you may have to shorten the baking time. Watch carefully and remove the item from the oven when it appears to be done.

February 22, 2017

Dear friends,

Pimento cheese is having a moment. The classic Southern sandwich spread has begun showing up on menus of upscale Southern restaurants, and even made a recent episode of the Bravo TV series Top Chef (although the judges hated John Tesar’s version with crab).

I thought my moment with pimento cheese had come and gone in the 1950s, until recently the last time I ate a sandwich filled with the stuff. My mother, an Ohioan all her life, bought the spread in little glass jars and doled it out sparingly. I thought Kraft had invented it. I had no idea it could be made at home by amateurs.

Southerners have known better all along. In decades past, many a cook’s reputation was made or broken by his or her skill with — and secret recipe for — pimento cheese. Although arguments abound about ingredients and technique (grate versus puree?), the version I like consists of sharp and extra-sharp Cheddar stirred together with mayonnaise, grated onion, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and cayenne pepper. The chopped pimentoes are added at the end. My basic recipe, minus the horseradish, is from Southern Living magazine.

I began looking into pimento cheese after the Top Chef appearance, and am amazed at the flavor variations and the ways the spread is being used. So far I’ve used it as a dip with crackers and for grilled cheese sandwiches (delish). I’ve also seen it melted over fries, dolloped on burgers, stirred into grits, in mac and cheese, and shaped into balls, breaded and deep fried.

Chefs are treating the basic cheese spread as a blank canvas and pumping up the flavor with a multitude of add-ins such as crumbled bacon and chili paste and tamari (think Asian). Personally, I’m thinking of using it as a base for cloning some of West Point Market’s late, great cheese spreads such as my favorite, Coyote.

But first I’ll spoon some of it into a crock and surround it with crackers to snack on Sunday while I watch the Oscars. Lowbrow meets highbrow. You tell me which is which.

CLASSIC PIMENTO CHEESE

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1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. finely grated onion
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce
8 oz. block sharp Cheddar, grated
8 oz. block extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
1 tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 jar (4 oz.) chopped pimento, drained

Combine mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, onion, cayenne and hot pepper sauce in a bowl and mix well. Stir in cheese, horseradish and pimento. Cover and chill several hours before using. Makes about 4 cups.
THE MAILBAG
From Marcia:
I’m hoping you have a reasonable version of lobster bisque in your archives, something akin to the soup at Beau’s on the River in Cuyahoga Falls. That is the best lobster bisque in town, I swear. Chunks of lobster, thick slices of mushrooms, sliced green onions and an extremely flavorful broth loaded with cream.

I cannot find a good recipe in the half-dozen cookbooks I use for research, nor can I find Beau’s version on the Internet and I’m afraid to adapt, say, a mushroom bisque recipe because I don’t know what the umami is. I would appreciate your help.

Dear Marcia: I think the umami — meaty depth of flavor — of all seafood soups is rich seafood stock. Without hesitation, I reached for a copy of the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne for his classic version of the soup. It doesn’t call for mushrooms, but you can add them when you sauté the carrots and onions.

Claiborne suggests you ask the fishmonger to kill and split the live lobster for you. Good luck finding someone to do that for you today. I take the coward’s way out and gently steam a live lobster just until it expires before splitting and continuing with a recipe. Depth of flavor is added by simmering the lobster shell in the unthickened soup for an hour, then draining and thickening. This isn’t Beau’s recipe, but I bet you’’ll like it.

LOBSTER BISQUE

1 1/2 lb. live lobster
5 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup finely diced carrot
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 bay leaf
Pinch of thyme
2 sprigs parsley
3 tbsp. cognac
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup seafood stock
1 tbsp. sherry or Madeira
1/4 cup flour
3 cups boiling milk
3 tbsp. heavy cream (about)

Split and clean the lobster (after gently steaming just until dead, if desired). Crack the claws and cut the body and tail into four or five pieces.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan. Sauté the carrot and onion until the onion is transparent. Add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley and lobster. Sauté until the lobster turns red, or about 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons of the cognac and ignite. When the flames die down, add the wine and seafood stock and simmer 20 minutes.

Remove the lobster, cool and remove the meat from the shell. Finely dice the meat, sprinkle with sherry and set aside. Reserve the shell and broth.

Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan, add the flour and blend with a whisk. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add all at once to the butter-flour mixture, stirring vigorously with the whisk. Grind or crush the lobster shell and add to the sauce. Add the reserved broth with the vegetables and simmer, covered, about 1 hour. Strain through a fine sieve.

Bring the soup to a boil and add enough cream to achieve the desired consistency. Stir in the reserved lobster meat. Correct the seasonings and add the remaining cognac. Makes about 5 servings.

From Anne M.:
For linguini carbonara, try Geraci’s Restaurant in Cleveland heights. It’s not Akron, but at least it’s on the south side of the metro Cleveland area.

The family restaurant is cash only. We stop by a couple of times a year. It has been featured on the Food Channel’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The website is http://www.geracisrestaurant.com.

Dear Anne: Thanks for the recommendation.

From M.A.:
Fran asked if carbonara is served in our area. Yes, dba at Northside has it on the menu as one of its four regular pasta offerings. Fran can have a full serving ($21), a taste ($7) or as one of three tastes including green spaghetti and Bolognese for $21. Now I’ve got my mouth watering…..

Dear M.A. Me, too.

From Sura:
In our younger days, my husband and I ate spaghetti carbonara at least once a week. I made it with bacon and used the rendered fat, a really good Parmesan and heavy cream for the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste and whatever herbs or chopped scallions added after. I used no eggs at all, and always used linguine for the pasta.

Dear Sura: Oh, for our younger days when we could eat foods like spaghetti carbonara with abandon.

From Amber, Florida (formerly Bath):
Regarding carbonara my late husband taught me to reserve a bit of the water the pasta was cooked in to add creaminess to the sauce. We always use bacon and bacon grease.

Dear Amber: Yep, good ideas all.

February 16, 2017

Dear friends,

You didn’t think I was going to go cold turkey on Cuban food, did you? After a month of mojo roast pork, spicy empanadas, fried plantains and Cuban sandwiches in Florida, I returned to Ohio with a gorgeously tanned husband (he won’t heed my warnings about skin cancer) and a serious craving for Cuban food.

My Cuban cookbooks don’t address the kind of slow-cooked mojo-marinated pork roasts made at my favorite Florida Cuban restaurant, Pipo’s, so I looked on line and found the ultimate recipe at — of course — Serious Eats. I wish I could stop stealing Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipes, but they are so good and so “last word” that to create my own version would be silly.

Perfection doesn’t come easy, of course. The roast must cook a total of six hours, although the hands-on work is done in minutes. Time must be allowed for marinating, too, so I suggest you start the recipe the day before serving, as I did.

For the garlicky marinade, unless you have access to sour Seville oranges, buy a couple of oranges and limes and juice them yourself to get that sweet-tart citrus flavor. The marinade also includes ground cumin, lots of garlic and fresh oregano, which I didn’t have and didn’t want to buy. I provide directions for substituting dried.

The roast is wrapped in foil and baked at a low temperature for three hours. Then the foil is pulled back, the temperature raised slightly and the roast cooked three more hours to crisp the exterior. Make this on a day when you settle in for a marathon TV or reading session.

At our house, while the meat cooked Tony studied for his citizenship test which, post-election, he decided he should finally take. (He calls Woodrow Wilson “Woody,” and at one point I heard him mumbling rapidly under his breath, “Who’s the daddy, who’s the daddy, who’s the daddy.”)

Me: Are you saying, “Who’s your daddy?”
Tony: No, who’s THE daddy. Of the United States.
Me (after a long pause): You mean the father of our country?? George Washington?
Tony: Yes, the daddy.

Later, wiser and starving, we tucked into the pork roast, cilantro rice and a side of sautéed broccoli rabe. The meat was…well, I’ll let Lopez-Alt describe it: ”Juicy, succulent with garlic and citrus, intensely porky, and melt-in-your-mouth tender.”

Exactly.

CUBAN ROAST PORK WITH MOJO MARINADE

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For the mojo:

8 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh oregano leaves (I used 2 tbsp. dry)
1/2 cup fresh juice from 1 to 2 oranges
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or 3/4 cup blood orange juice instead of the orange and lime juices)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

For the pork and to finish:

1 (6- to 8-lb.) boneless pork shoulder roast, rind removed (I used a 4-lb. roast)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves (I substituted fresh cilantro)
3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano leaves (I subbed 2 tsp. dried)
Lime wedges for serving
Steamed rice

For the mojo, combine garlic, cumin pepper, oregano, orange and lime juices and olive oil in a small bowl of lidded jar and mix well. Season to taste generously with salt. Pour half of the mojo over a pork roast in a zipper-sealed plastic bag. Squish with hands to coat meat evenly. Refrigerate to marinate at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. Refrigerate remaining mojo.

For the pork and to finish: When meat is finished marinating, reheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of heavy-duty foil. Place pork and juice on top and fold up foil, crimping to seal loosely but making sure there is room for air to circulate inside. Place in oven and roast for 3 hours.

Increase oven temperature to 325 degrees. Fold back foil and continue roasting, basting pork with pan juices occasionally, until pork shows almost no resistance when a metal skewer or knife is inserted and the surface is crackly and brown 2 to 3 hours longer. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Pour one cup of accumulated pork drippings into a bowl, discarding any left over. Add the reserved mojo and whisk with into, oregano and salt to taste. Slice or shred pork and arrange on dinner plates with the lime wedges and rice. Moisten the meat with some of the mojo sauce, passing the rest at the table. My 4-pound roast made at least 6 servings.
THE MAILBAG
From Fran F.:
Several years ago we spent a week in Rome and had a to-die-for spaghetti carbonara with pancetta. I have been looking ever since returning home for a good restaurant in the Akron area that makes a great spaghetti carbonara.

I have tried to make it at home and cannot get that same intense, creamy Parmesan flavor that we had, despite using Parmesan Reggiani and pancetta purchased from DeViti’s. What would make the difference in flavor? If any of your readers knows of a great place that makes the dish, I hope they will share.

Dear Fran: I can’t think of any restaurants that have spaghetti carbonara on the menu. It is such a simple but wonderful dish. I hope someone has a suggestion.

Meanwhile, I consulted an old, authentic Italian cookbook recommended to me years ago by chef Roger Thomas, who studied in Italy. Could the secret to great carbonara be lard? That’s what Ada Boni uses in her recipe in “Italian Regional Cooking.” Boni also makes the dish with streaky bacon, although that may have been a sop to Americans, and uses the drippings in the sauce. She makes the dish with rigatoni but notes any pasta shape may be substituted. An interesting fact: She calls carbonara “charcoal-burner’s style.”

RIGATONI ALA CARBONARA

4 tsp. lard
5 oz. streaky bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt
1 1/4 lbs. rigatoni
5 eggs
5 tbsp. freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
5 tbsp. freshly grated imported Pecorino cheese
Pepper

In a small sauté pan, heat the lard and sauté the bacon and garlic. As soon as the garlic is browned, discard it. Bring a large pan of salted water to a bubbling boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until tender but still firm.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs thoroughly in a large, shallow skillet with a pinch of salt, the cheeses and plenty of fresh-ground pepper. Do not heat.

As soon as the rigatoni are tender, drain them and add to the pan with the egg mixture. Add the bacon with its cooking fat, then cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes to heat the eggs through. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

From Nancy S.:
I know I read some time ago that you buy your seeds locally and I’m thinking it was someplace in the Valley? Please share!

Hi, Nancy: I buy heirloom plants — not seeds — at Crown Point Ecology Center’s annual sale on the farm in Bath. Check the website (www.crownpt.org) for details. The sale is usually held in May.

A couple of years ago I discovered an interesting seed store in Amish country. Berlin Seeds (no website; Google the store name) in Millersburg has fair prices and a wide basic selection of seeds. A plus is free planting advice from the clerk/owners.

For heirloom vegetable seeds, I have ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com), although many other great mail-order sources exist. I’d like to know which companies others have used.

February 9, 2017

Dear friends,
I need cuddle food. I am back from a month-long stay in Florida and huddling under blankets to keep warm. I’ve eaten a lot of hot soup since we returned five days ago. In the evenings I sip hot tea and bundle up in a fluffy pink onesie Tony bought me years ago and that I vowed never to wear.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear your hoots and catcalls. I know whining about the cold weather after a trip to Florida elicits about as much sympathy as a billionaire complaining about a dip in the stock market. So I’ll shut up and share a recipe that warmed me up, Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken.

Because it took 36 hours for our furnace to raise the temperature in our home from 50 to 70 degrees (whining again), I turned on the oven but didn’t want to spend time away from my blankets actually cooking. So I found a soulful, flash-fast recipe that requires merely dumping ingredients in a slow cooker and turning the switch.

About four hours later we spooned hunks of falling-apart chicken and a caramel-y sauce over rice and feasted in the living room, wrapped in blankets. Tony loved the dish, athough it was more sweet than sour. The next time I make it I’ll add a splash of vinegar.

The sauce was delicious anyway. Soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, ketchup, water and garlic are poured over a whole frying chicken in the slow cooker. The ingredients combine with juices from the chicken to make the deeply flavored sauce that is is thickened with cornstarch just before serving.

The recipe is from my favorite slow-cooker book, “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. Try it when you need some cold-weather cosseting.

SLOW COOKER SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN

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1 broiler-fryer chicken, 3 to 4 lbs.
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dry sherry or apple juice
1 tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 green onions, trimmed and halved
1 cloved garlic, pressed
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Wash and dry the chicken, saving giblets for another use. Cut off any lumps of fat. Place chicken in the slow cooker, breast side up.

Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, water, sherry, ketchup, red pepper flakes, green onions and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on high about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh registers 180 degrees.

Transfer chicken to a platter. Pour sauce remaining in slow cooker into a saucepan, discarding green onions. Combine the cornstarch with water. Bring the sauce to a simmer and slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Spoon over chicken. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired. Makes 4 servings.
TIDBIT
Thank you all for responding to my plea for more email. As I mentioned before, I found all that email I wasn’t getting on a new email server my provider switched to. Now I’m up to my ears in unanswered email. I will eventually get to all of it. Thank you for your patience.

To bypass all my forwarding woes, email me directlly at janesnowcooks@gmail.com.

THE MAILBAG

From Susan M.:
I have a question. My recipe calls for the zest of one orange. I have a zester and can manage this but if I want to use the bottled orange peel, how much would equal one orange? I am aware that this can be very expensive.

Dear Susan: I would never use bottled orange peel in a recipe that calls for fresh because the volatile oils — the flavorful element — dissipate as the peel dries. lnstead of using a zester, which can dig too deep and be time-consuming in my opinion, grate off just the outer orange part of the peel with a rasp grater such as a Microplane. It will really speed up the process. Take a couple of swipes, turn the orange; a couple of swipes, turn the orange. Continue until the zest is on the counter and the orange is a naked and white. If your recipe calls for juice from the orange, zest before you squeeze.

From George, Akron:
I’ve lost your re-creation of Pho Hoa’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Can you help?

Dear George: That recipe was from a 2006 Second Helpings newsletter, written before Mimi Vanderhaven gave my column a new home. Here’s how I described the salad I ate at the Cleveland restaurant: “Fine shreds of Chinese cabbage were heaped on a platter with shredded chicken, fresh mint and cilantro. The salad was sprinkled with chopped nuts and doused with a refreshing lime and rice vinegar dressing spiked with fish sauce.”

My version is very similar to the restaurant’s but with half the fish sauce, which is an acquired taste.

VIETNAMESE CHICKEN SALAD

1/2 rotisserie chicken
4 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small head napa cabbage, sliced very thin (about 6 cups)
1 tbsp. minced fresh hot pepper, such as serrano
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves, chopped (optional)
1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced very thlin
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
2 tbsp. minced dry roasted peanuts

Pull the chicken meat into shreds, discarding skin and bones. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Toss and set aside.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine remaining lime juice, vinegar and soy sauce with the fish sauce, sugar, pepper flakes and garlic. Set aside.

In a large bowl toss together the cabbage, hot pepper, herbs, red onion and carrots. Pour dressing over slaw. Top with the shredded chicken and sprinkle with peanuts. Makes 6 servings.

February 1, 2017

Dear friends,

The produce clerk tried to steer me to the California navels.

“Don’t you have any Florida oranges?” I asked. “Just juice oranges,” he shrugged, pointing to a heap of gorgeous, thin-skinned beauties.

I pounced on them. When my late mother and I visited Florida, we ate an orange a day per Mom’s direction. She would roll our oranges on a counter and cut a plug from the blossom ends. We would suck out the juice and then eat the pulp.

I bought a bag of the sweet juice oranges and thought about Mom each time I ate one. I have been thinking about her a lot anyway because Tony and I are camping at the same KOA Mom and I used on our annual week-long treks. Tony and I are just a short walk from the bayou shoreline where Mom fed a heron her grouper dinner and we watched sunsets and played games of Rummikub at a picnic table. Until now I’ve been back just once since those trips in the 1990s, to scatter her ashes in the salt water from the shore.

For the last month I’ve made new memories with my husband, and they’ve been wonderful. We swam, biked, kayaked, hot tubbed and ate lots of seafood, cuban food and oranges. By the time you read this, we will be on our way home. No more fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood. No more Pipo’s Cuban sandwiches But we will still have plenty of oranges to hand-juice in the mornings ala Mom, and to use in salads such as this one from eatingwell.com.

ORANGE AND ARUGULA SALAD

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2 tsp. fresh-grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 oranges
4 cups lightly packed arugula
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk together orange zest and juice, balsamic vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil until well blended. Remove the rind and white pith from the oranges with a very sharp knife and discard. Slice oranges thinly, or remove the individual segments by slicing between the membranes. Halve the orange slices if they are large. Toss the arugula and romaine together in a shallow salad bowl. Separate the onion slices into rings. Scatter the onions and oranges over the greens. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss.

From http://www.eatingwell.com.

TIDBIT

Is your memory slipping with age? Do you misplace recipes as often as you lose your keys? Welcome to my club. Hey, I created the most of the recipes in this newsletter and even I can’t find them.

You are out of luck for years one through six, but you can find recipes from the last four years of See Jane Cook on my blog website, janesnowtoday.wordpress.com. Just to confuse you, this is different from my actual website, janesnowtoday.com.

The WordPress site has archived newsletters from January 2013 to the present. Thanks to Morgan Lasher, my editor at Mimi Vanderhaven, it also has a search function.

Type in “green beans” and you will get a column I wrote about planting green beans with a recipe for green beans with rosemary, feta and walnuts.

At the bottom of each newsletter on WordPress are buttons to share it on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t advertise this newsletter at all, so mentions are appreciated. Please share my recipes and photos on Pinterest at will. Thanks for helping to spread the word.

THE MAILBAG

From Mary Jane, Albuquerque, N.M.:
Jane and Tony, what fun that you are having an adventure in a camper and enjoying St. Pete. Hubs and I are having an adventure in a motor home for the next year in Albuquerque, so I too am learning how to cook in a small space after having a commercial kitchen in my home which used to be my tea room. I have adapted and can now produce almost any dish I have cooked by using an electric pressure cooker, pressure oven and microwave/convection oven. We don’t even have to use the propane oven or stove top because I brought along an electric hot plate. It sounds like you are feasting on some great seafood and I am having serious foodie envy. Lucky you!

We lived in St. Pete for several years and I wanted to tell you about some of our favorite places to visit. For dessert, the gelato at Paciugo is the best and they have a great variety of flavors — rose, green tea, salted caramel. http://www.paciugo.com/gelato/flavors/.

If you love Greek food, a visit to the Greek Village Restaurant in Seminole is a must. They have the best Greek salad and they add a scoop of potato salad to it, which I had never seen before and it makes it more special. Try anything on the menu and I’m sure you will put it on your list of favorites. Here’s the menu: http://www.locu.com/places/greek-village-seminole-us/#menu.

For a fabulous Italian market stop by Mazzaros Market in Clearwater. Handmade pasta, exceptional selection of cheese and amazing bakery. http://www.mazzarosmarket.com.

For seafood our favorite is Guppy’s in Indian Rocks Beach. Best Grouper Sandwich and blue crab burger EVER.

Crepes, French macarons, quiche, and best breakfast in Indian Rocks Beach: http://www.cafedeparisbakery.com/.

Ceviche Tapas Bar is a good place for an early bite or a great dinner. The braised oxtail is a must-try. Flamenco dancing some evenings. http://www.ceviche.com/st-petersburg/gallery/.

Dear Mary Ann: You are so kind to take time to steer me to your favorite places. I saw your email just two days before we left for home, so I’ll have to wait until next year to try your picks. I am running the full list (minus a few minor edits) for those who are traveling to the Clearwater/St. Pete area — and judging by my mail, that’s a lot of people. I have one place to add: MD Oriental Market, the biggest Asian food store I’ve ever seen. None of the employees could tell me the square footage, but it is as large as a major supermarket.

The market is one of three in the Tampa area. The one Tony and I visited, in Pinellas Park, has a sushi bar, a hot buffet line, and live fish and seafood in stacked aquariums.

Good luck to you with your year-long camper experience. At least you’re in a great food area for your adventure.