August 17, 2017

Dear friends,

I dug myself out of a rut last week by vowing to try a new Chinese stir-fry recipe that doesn’t start with my homemade spicy-hot stir-fry sauce. I love the gutsy flavors of Chinese chili-garlic sauce, sweet soy sauce, hoisin and all the other stuff I put in my sauce, but I wondered what I’ve been missing.

Here’s what: Crunchy Chinese noodle cakes. Yeow.

While I’ve been stir frying with my sauce, the noodle-cake recipe has been hiding out in my row of Chinese cookbooks. Last week I used the recipe from Nina Simonds’ “Asian Noodles,” in which she tops the crisp cake with thin ribbons of beef in a garlic-oyster sauce stir fry.

Nina’s recipes are both reliable and reliably streamlined, although the whole thing in this case did take a couple of sessions in the kitchen. I boiled the noodles and made the marinade and sauce one day, and cooked it all the next. It’s summer and I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen.

I liked the garlic-oyster sauce stir fry (although I missed the kerpow of chiles) but I loved, loved, loved the noodle cake. Wheat noodles (thin spaghetti can substitute for the Chinese round, yellowish wheat noodles I used) are boiled until al dente, then drained very well and tossed with sesame oil. While warm, they are packed into an oiled, 9-inch-round cake pan. They are refrigerated until the cake is cool and the noodles stick together in a disk. Then they are fried on both sides until brown and crisp on the outside but warm and soft inside.

I see many noodle cake variations in my future. I could pack the noodles into individual flan pans for single-serve noodle cakes. I could toss the boiled noodles with snipped fresh herbs such as chives before packing them into the cake pan. I could season the boiled noodles with at bit of, yes, my homemade Szechuan stir-fry sauce. See, I’m willing to climb out of my rut — but not too far.

GARLIC BEEF WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS ON GOLDEN NOODLES

 

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(from “Asian Noodles” by Nina Simonds)
Panfried noodle cake (recipe follows)
  • 1 lb. beef flank or flatiron steak
Marinade:

  • 3 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine or sake
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 5 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 3/4 lb. snow peas
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine or sake
Oyster sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups rich chicken broth
  • 6 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. rice wine or sake
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
Make the noodle cake and keep warm in a low oven.

Trim any fat from meat and cut into 1/6-inch slices. Make the marinade and the oyster sauce. In a bowl, combine the beef with the marinade, tossing to lightly coat.

Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and heat until almost smoking. Stir-fry the beef slices until they lose their pink color and separate. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Wipe out the pan.

Reheat the pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add the mushrooms, garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the snow peas and rice wine and stir fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Give the sauce a stir. Add to the pan and cook over high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Add the beef and toss gently in the sauce. Spoon over the noodles and serve.

PAN-FRIED NOODLE CAKE

  • 3/4 lb. thin, round Chinese wheat-flour noodles or angel hair pasta
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Cook the noodles in boiling water according to package directions, until just al dente. Drain well. Add sesame oil and toss. Transfer noodles to an oiled, 9-inch-round cake pan and let cool.

Heat a well-seasoned skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the vegetable oil and heat until almost smoking. Invert the noodle cake into the hot pan. Fry over medium-high heat, shaking occasionally so noodles don’t stick, until a deep golden brown on the bottom, 5 to 8 minutes. Using a large spatula, flip the noodle cake and brown the other side. Transfer to a heat-proof platter and keep warm in a low oven until ready to eat.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week: Egg salad sandwiches.

What I ate in (and from) restaurants last week:
Shrimp sunomono (vinegared seaweed salad) from Sushi Katsu in Akron; fried chicken salad and one jo jo potato from Huck’s gas station in Mt. Vernon, Ill.; pork and green chile stew with flour tortillas, sour cream and guacamole at Michoacanos Mexican Restaurant in Chandler, Okla.; scrambled eggs and a biscuit with blackberry jam at the Cherokee Trading Post Restaurant near Oklahoma City, Okla.; sopapillas stuffed with carne adovada at Sadie’s in Albuquerque, N.M.; migas (scrambled eggs, tortillas and cheese), black beans, and a whole-wheat tortilla at Cafe Fina in Santa Fe., N.M.; chicken teriyaki sub from Subway somewhere in Colorado.

THE MAILBAG

From Carol P.:
I have given up buying fish. It all seems to come from China or thereabouts. Where do you buy fish? I have seen wild-caught fish labeled country of origin “China.” Even Alaskan-caught fish is questionable. And farm raised? Forget it after the feeding videos I have seen. I miss fish terribly. Once in a while a friend will bring us some from Lake Erie, but not often enough.

Dear Carol: You make some very good points. I can’t recommend most farm-raised fish, either, and as someone who has sent supermarket seafood away for bacterial testing, I am leery of a lot of stuff in stores. The key is to find purveyors you trust. That’s why you wrote to me, right?

Unfortunately, I have not bought much seafood in years because I’ve been eating pristine stuff Tony bought from a trusted sushi fish company. It does not sell to consumers, and our freezer supply is waning so I’ll have to address the issue soon.

Pre-Tony, I trusted Mustard Seed Market and Bay Lobsters Fish Market, which has now moved to Wooster (baylobsterswooster.com). I would like to know where else people shop for seafood.

Note I did not say “fresh” seafood. We who live in the nation’s midsection cannot expect to buy “fresh” seafood unless we know someone who drives to the coast, buys seafood off a day boat, ices it down and speeds back home. What I look for is fresh-frozen — that is, fish frozen on the boat right after it is caught, and transported still frozen to the hinterlands. Most stores thaw the fish before selling it, in which case you should use it the same day you buy it. If you must keep the seafood for even a day, try to buy stuff that is still frozen.

By law, anyone who sells fish must have inspection tags with origin and safety information available for anyone to look at. So when you ask where the fish came from, you can also ask the merchant to prove it. The tags don’t have to be on the premises, but the must be made available.

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August 9, 2017

Dear friends,
My major crops this year are Chinese eggplants and tomatoes. I planted about 12 tomato plants and have harvested at least a dozen ripe beauties, with many more on the way. I planted a dozen eggplant seedlings, too, and the plants are gorgeously robust. But the slackers have not produced a single flower yet, let alone an eggplant.

The ratatouille cannot wait any longer. I crave the sunny flavors of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes simmered with garlic and finished with fresh-ground black pepper. This year I gilded the lily by drizzling homemade pesto over the platter of vegetables just before serving.

Even without the pesto, my ratatouille probably would not be recognized in southern France, the area of its birth. In the original, the vegetables are stewed until they softly melt into each other. I prefer more stand-offish vegetables that soften but keep to themselves.

The following recipe is a riff on Patricia Wells’ version from “At Home in Provence.” I like her trick of adding liquid (in this case, tomatoes) to sautéed garlic to stop the cooking and keep it from burning.

Long, thin Chinese eggplants are beginning to show up in farmers’ markets and even mainstream supermarkets. If you can’t find them, try an Asian market. They are worth searching out because they are not bitter, like globe eggplants can be. Even the skin is edible.

RATATOUILLE WITH PESTO

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Trim eggplant and zucchini and cut in halves lengthwise, then into 1 1/2-inch lengths. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir fry eggplant until it begins to brown on edges. Add zucchini and stir fry until almost tender. Add salt and garlic and stir fry until garlic begins to brown. Add tomatoes and vinegar and cook over high heat until tomatoes are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in pepper. Remove from heat and stir in pesto. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.
  • 4 Chinese eggplant, about 6 to 8 inches long
  • 4 zucchini, about 6 to 8 inches long
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp. pesto (homemade or purchased)

HELP U COOK

Peeling and seeding tomatoes is not a chore I enjoy, but knowing the proper technique reduces the hair-pulling tremendously. There are two ways you can do it. If you have a bunch of tomatoes to peel, drop them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. The skin will slip right off.

For one or two tomatoes, cut an “x” in the stem end of a medium-size tomato and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. When the tomato is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin.

To seed a tomato, cut it in half horizontally and gently squeeze out the seeds.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Homemade pizza with sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and Parmesan; pan-fried noodles with beef stir fry; grill-smoked prime rib, baked new potatoes, sliced ripe tomatoes with mayonnaise and hot sauce; meatloaf, corn on the cob, little tomatoes eaten like apples.

What I ate out last week:
A crab cake slider, meatloaf slider, greens and beans at Arnie’s Public House in the Wallhaven area of Akron; fried fish fillet, coleslaw at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; beef kibbee, meat fatayer at Our Lady of the Cedars’ Lebanese food festival in Copley; an Original Cuban Sandwich (pretty good) at Mi Casa Mexican restaurant in Hartville; a Southern Slaw Dog (Coney sauce and slaw) at the Copley Heritage Festival.

THE MAILBAG

 
From Cindy W.:
Re: Jo Jo potatoes — I first encountered the thick, wedged, skin-on, deep-fried potatoes named “Jo Jos” at a Moscow, Idaho pizza joint while in law school at the University of Idaho in 1971. They were offered as an appetizer or side and served with sour cream (often with chives) for dipping. So no, Debbie C., they aren’t unique to Akron, my hometown, where I’d never seen them on any menu before 1971.

Dear Cindy: Idaho?! Isn’t it enough that the state lays claim to baking potatoes? Must they steal our Jo Jos too?

From Barb Hipsman-Springer:
You mentioned line-caught salmon last week. The following group is out to educate consumers on where to buy fish. Mostly West Coast, but the video was put together by my daughter, Kyla Springer Yeoman for EdoTrust and Local Catch.

Dear Barb: Congratulations on having such a talented daughter. The organization, Local Catch, educates consumers about the eco superiority of “wild, sustainable, traceable, healthy” fish. The video (and the site) is worth a look. So far, no retailers in Ohio, but the list is sure to grow.

 
From Martha K.:
I, and my dining companion, loved the Vietnamese meatball taco (at Bombas)! It’s hardly taco fare, but I enjoyed the flavors and the fresh crunch of the jicama slaw. To each his own, eh?

Dear Martha: I am happy to print opposing views. I thought the flavor was OK, but my meatballs had an unpleasant, mushy texture. Sure you didn’t have a couple of mojitos before tasting?
(Just kidding, my friend).

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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August 3, 2017

Dear friends,

In my former life as a privileged food editor, I once got to taste salmon fresh off the boat, line-caught and served by a fisherman in Oregon. He laid four huge sides of briefly cooked salmon on a table. No seasonings, no sauces. As my cohorts and I tasted, he explained the differences in taste and texture between king (chinook), sockeye, coho and pink (and between line-caught and net dredged, wild and farm-raised). So when I say I prefer wild sockeye salmon, you can bet I have thought a lot about it.

Not that my opinion is the last word; many salmon lovers prefer king, which usually is the most expensive because of its high oil content and silken texture. But I prefer the meatiness and mild but distinctive flavor of sockeye. With its brilliant reddish-pink flesh, it looks great on a plate, too.

I was thrilled when I saw wild sockeye fillets in Sam’s recently. I bought an 18-incher, ate it, and went back a few days later for another. I was so happy I turned each salmon into an occasion. The first salmon was charcoal-grilled, drizzled with basil vinaigrette and served atop a Nicoise-like salad. The second was also grilled and served with a few lashings of horseradish mayonnaise and some ratatouille.

Grilling may be the ultimate way to cook salmon. The smoke contributes to the flavor, and the bottom heat cooks the fish beautifully. You don’t need a fish basket or foil or anything else to cook salmon. Don’t worry about flipping it — that step is completely unnecessary. Just place the fish skin-side down over the coals, cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Most fillets will be under an inch thick, so subtract time accordingly.

When the fish is done — to check, insert the pointed tip of a sharp knife vertically into the fish, pull aside some flesh, and see if the interior is opaque — simply slide a big spatula between the fish and the skin and lift it off the grill, leaving the skin behind. You may need two spatulas, working from each end, if the fillet is large and your spatulas small.

I like salmon slightly underdone. I think the texture and flavor are best when it is not quite cooked through. Suit your own taste, but don’t overcook salmon or it will be dry and tasteless.

Use sockeye if you can find it for the following recipe, or if not, any large salmon fillet that weighs about 1 pound. A piece of fish that size, with the accompanying vegetables, will be enough to serve four.

GRILLED SALMON NICOISE

 

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Basil vinaigrette:

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Drop the garlic cloves through the feed tube of a food processor while the motor runs. When finely chopped, remove lid and add vinegar, basil, salt and pine nuts. Cover and process, slowly adding oil through the feed tube, until dressing is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a lidded jar and set aside.

Salad:

  • 6 oz. green beans, trimmed
  • 1 lb. tiny new potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Nicoise olives (small, black, wrinkled)
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

In a medium saucepan, bring about 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Add beans and cook about 5 minutes, until just tender. With a slotted spoon or long-handled strainer, transfer beans to a strainer and refresh under cold water. Drain well.

Add the potatoes to the same boiling water and cook until tender. Drain. Cut in half and add to the bowl with the beans. Add olives and tomatoes. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the basil dressing. Set aside.

Salmon:

  • 1 large (1 lb.) salmon fillet, preferably sockeye
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt

Build a charcoal fire in a grill. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Place on a baking sheet, skin side down, and lightly oil top of fish with the olive oil.

Season well with sea salt. When the coals have ashed over, spread them n a swath the size of the fish. Place fish, skin side down, over coals, adding soaked wood chips if desired.

Cover grill, leaving vents open. Grill until salmon is barely cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes depending on the heat of the coals and the thickness of the fish.

While the salmon cooks, transfer the salad to a platter. With a large spatula (or two), transfer fish to the platter, placing it on top of the salad. Drizzle 2 or 3 tablespoons of the basil dressing over the fish.

Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked at home last week:
Sloppy Joes, potato salad, corn on the cob; avocado toast with two eggs over hard and hot sauce; pesto; grilled sockeye salmon with pesto ratatouille; high-protein chocolate ice cream; mojo-criollo pan-grilled shrimp in shells, gazpacho; warm leftover ratatouille with a poached egg on top; tomato and pesto sandwich; hamburgers on toasted, buttered ciabatta buns with Swiss cheese and sliced tomatoes.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A chicken taco and a Vietnamese meatball taco (yuk) at Bomba Tacos & Rum in Montrose; fajita salad with beef at Tres Potrillos in Medina; Southwest chile-lime salad with smoked chicken at Panera; prosciutto and melon salad, mussels in a spicy tomato-caper sauce with grilled bread at Wolf Creek Tavern in Norton.

TIDBITS

The Saturday morning Seville Farm Market is one of my favorites. It doesn’t have the selection of a Countryside Farmers Market or Medina Farmers Market, but it is still worth the drive. It is small but mighty.

The 10 or so booths set up in Maria Stanhope Park on Main Street last Saturday had so many treasures I came home loaded down. The purveyors, from either proclivity or necessity, are generalists. They each offer an array of items — say, a bag of three red-skin potatoes dug the day before, several heads of hard-stem garlic and a few baskets of peaches. Or a half-dozen turkey eggs, homemade tortillas, baggies of pizza dough, a couple of coffee cakes and an array of jams.

The women purveyors are artisans. The jams I bought were brandied sour cherry and sugar plum with ice wine. I bought fresh homemade tagliatelle pasta, homemade English muffins, a homemade bagel and crusty bread. The women (there were no men) are mostly backyard farmers, and bring ripe produce picked or dug just before going to the market. I spotted an almond-shaped greyhound cabbage, and the two big heirloom tomatoes I bought were summer-sandwich worthy. Also, the prices are relatively low.

If you have a great recipe for zucchini, the Aug. 12market is the one to visit. That’s when the annual Zucchini Smackdown will be held. For details about the contest and the market ( 9 a.m. to noonSaturdays), see sevillefarmmarket.blogspot.com.

 

Oops

Thank heavens I didn’t have to take the citizenship test along with Tony. The U.S. Constitution was not written in 1837, as I wrote last week. It was written in 1787, a little more than a decade after we declared our independence from Great Britain. Thank you to Chris Myers for pointing that out, and a big thanks to everyone who sent congratulations to Tony for passing the test and becoming an American citizen.

 

THE MAILBAG

From Judy:
Thank you for the link to the list of authentic olive oils (not adulterated with seed oils or masquerading as extra virgin). Nice to see that the Carlini brand from Aldi is good!

Dear Judy: Thanks for pointing that out. Now I know where to buy reasonably priced, authenticated olive oil.

 
From Tom N.:
After looking at the NAOOA link you published in your last newsletter, it got me thinking about the olive oil I buy, a California-based EVOO from California Olive Ranch. The label on the bottle has a seal on it from the COOC, or the California Olive Oil Council. On the surface, it would appear to be a similar certification body, but for California oils. The organization’s site has information on the seal and the certification process, and a list of brands that sport the seal is athttp://www.cooc.com/seal-certified-oils/.

Dear Tom: Yes, that is a certification offered just for California oils. I mistakenly omitted it when I wrote the item last week. Thanks for correcting my oversight.

From Debbie C.:
Darren B., how about spreading the Jo Jos word, too? It seems that Northeast Ohio is the only place you can find these little pieces of heaven.

Dear Debbie: Hey, we have to keep some things all to ourselves.

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July 26, 2017

Dear friends,
Two days before Tony became an American citizen, he plopped a 3-pound, long-bone prime rib in our grocery cart at Sam’s Club and announced, “This is what I want for my citizenship dinner,” then added, “can you cook it?”

“Are you kidding?” I scoffed. “It will be so delicious you’ll weep.”

I went about planning the dinner the next two days, ignoring Tony’s references to the meat as “my steak.” I realized he wasn’t kidding when, a couple of hours before the meal, Tony assured me he would share a bit of it with me. A bit?

By this time Tony had arranged the caveman-like hunk of meat on the kitchen counter in front of his naturalization certificate, with a little American flag stuck in the meat. He was photographing it when he made the offer to share his “steak.”

“That’s not your steak,” I finally snapped. “It’s a 3-pound rib roast!”

I was sorry to disappoint him on one of the happiest days of our marriage, but the guy was insane if he thought I’d sit on the sidelines while he ate an entire prime rib. I had my eye on that baby, too. It would be a luxe finale to a difficult process that began in February at the International Institute of Akron.

For four months, three evenings a week, Tony attended citizenship classes in preparation for an exam at the Immigration and Naturalization Services offices in Cleveland. For four months he also studied every day at home learning such arcane facts as the date the Constitution was written (1837) and the purpose of the Federalist Papers (to sell the Constitution to the colonies). For four months I drilled him with flash cards and tried to answer questions about how our current Congress works (or doesn’t work.)

Tony passed the test in late June and took his oath Friday at the Federal Court House in Cleveland. We were both so proud. In the hallway outside the judge’s chamber he signed up to vote and we chatted with fellow Akron-area honoree Quinn Lee. It was a moving experience, but the glow didn’t last long. On the way home, all Tony could talk about was his “steak.”

I knew exactly how I would prepare it. After I removed it from the photo tableau, I patted it dry with paper towels and cut away a bit — not much — of extraneous fat. I seasoned it lightly, coated it with olive oil and plopped it on one side of the charcoal grill over a drip pan, the other side loaded with ashed-over coals.

While the meat roasted I made a simple horseradish sauce of mayo, lots of prepared horseradish, and some milk to thin it. Tony and I cut corn kernels from some of the first ears of summer (from Graf Growers) and I sautéed them in a skillet with butter and a handful of sliced green beans, with coarse sea salt at the end. Grape-sized new potatoes were boiled until tender, halved and tossed with a spoonful of basil vinaigrette left over from an earlier meal.

My way of cooking grill-smoked prime rib is elemental. Not much stands between the flavor of the meat and your tastebuds. I have seen more-complicated recipes and one day I may slather the meat with mustard, dust it with flour and coat it with olive oil before grilling.

Or maybe not. While Tony didn’t weep, he ran out of superlatives for the smoky, juicy, tender hunk of meat. He dug into it like a true American.

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GRILL-SMOKED PRIME RIB
WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE

 

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  • 1 beef rib roast, bone in, about 3 lbs.
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. prepared horseradish sauce
  • Milk to thin
  • Soaked wood chips (hickory or apple preferred)

Remove roast from wrapping and pat dry with paper towels. Trim away some of the surface fat, leaving enough to moisten and flavor the meat. In a custard cup, combine the salt, pepper and rosemary. Rub all over the meat. Rub the meat with olive oil to moisten and prevent it from sticking to the grill.

Place a foil pan on one side of a charcoal grill. Mound about 40 charcoal briquettes on the other side. Light the coals and let burn until completely ashed over. Scatter a handful of soaked wood chips over the coals. Place the roast on the grill grid over the foil pan. Close the grill lid, vents open fully.

Roast meat for 30 minutes without removing grill lid. Remove lid, add a few briquettes if necessary and a few more wood chips. Turn meat front to back and side to side so that the part that was closest to the coals is now farthest away. Cover and roast about 30 minutes more, checking after 20 minutes with an instant-read thermometer shoved into the thickest part of the meat. For rare, remove when thermometer registers 140 degrees. For medium rare, 150 degrees. The meat will continue to cook after it is removed from the grill.

Let meat rest for 20 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise and horseradish to taste in a small bowl. Thin with milk to a desired consistency. The sauce should be thinner than mayonnaise but still cling to the meat.

Serves four amply.

GUT CHECK

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato sandwich at the Harp in Cleveland; crispy spring rolls with duck sauce and shrimp and chicken summer rolls with a weird peanut sauce at Taste of Bangkok in downtown Akron (eh).

What I cooked last week:
Ciabatta pizza with fresh-chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, mozzarella and prosciutto; scrambled egg and avocado on toast; grilled salmon Nicoise; grill-smoked prime rib with horseradish sauce, sautéed fresh corn off the cob and green beans, and baby potatoes with basil vinaigrette; salami and tomato sandwiches with basil leaves; cornbread, hot dogs and baked beans.

Note: We have been eating a lot of salami lately because Tony lugged home a 4-inch-round, foot-long dried salami.

THE MAILBAG

From Darren B.:
Thanks for being one of my links to Akron. I live in Chicago now and have on lived in Akron since 1994 but like to stay in touch with my hometown and you make this possible. My parents still live in Bath Township and my mother is always saving articles from the Beacon to send me but I still look forward to my weekly dose of Jane. Please know that I am spreading the word about sauerkraut balls here in Chicago and gaining loyal followers of this amazing NE Ohio hors d’oeuvre. Now if we could just get someone to give up the recipe for Yanko’s Beachcomber!

Dear Darren: Thank you for the kind words, and keep spreading the sauerkraut balls gospel. Has enough time passed that someone is finally wiling to share the Beachcomer recipe? Anyone?

 
From Betty C.:
We know now that most olive oils on the grocery shelves are fake. I want the “real” stuff that promises health benefits. What olive oil is authentic? Please help.

Dear Betty: The olive oils on grocery shelves are not all fake, although some advertised as “extra virgin” may not be, and some may be adulterated with other kinds of oil. Admittedly, it is a bit of a mess. A 2010 study by the University of California at Davis (and several subsequent studies) found that not all of the oils advertised as “extra virgin” meet the legal standard (historically, oil from the first cold pressing; legally, oil that passes a battery of chemical and sensory tests.)

Luckily, olive oil doesn’t have to be extra virgin to provide the health benefits of consuming monounsaturated fat. All consumable grades of olive oil may help ease hypertension and reduce the risk of heart disease.

But worse than the extra-virgin scandal, “60 Minutes” reported last year on a German study that found many olive oils were adulterated with seed oils such as sunflower and Canola oils. According to an article in Forbes, pure olive oil has historically been cut with less expensive oils, and it’s difficult to tell by taste, look or smell. The only way to be sure is to test it chemically, which the North American Olive Oil Association does.

If you care about getting what you pay for, check out the list of olive oil brands certified for authenticity by the North American Olive Oil Association atwww.aboutoliveoil.org/qualityseal.html.

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Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then click here to sign upunder your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about this blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

July 20, 2017

Note: A publishing glitch held up last week’s newsletter until Monday, July 17. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Dear friends,

I surely ate well last week, considering I didn’t cook a shred of food. Nothing. Nada. Some of the blame goes to my shoulder (I tore the rotator cuff in a fall and now need a shoulder replacement). But mostly, I couldn’t resist all the barbecue, hot chicken, biscuits and Coney dogs flung in my path.

Tony thinks we went to Asheville, N.C. to see the Smoky Mountains and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. The real reason, of course, was the food. With the exception of New Orleans, North Carolina is probably my favorite food region in the United States. Western North Carolina, where we went, is even better than my usual haunts along the coast because a bit of Tennessee cuisine bleeds across the border, giving us the best of two states. Yes, I’m talking about hot chicken.

We couldn’t believe our luck when we spotted Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack just a couple of miles from our campground on the western edge of Asheville. Tony made a U-turn, parked, and we queued up at the ordering window. Yup, this is the stuff, we agreed as a tray of meals sailed past. The cayenne-red fried chicken was crunchy-crisp, spicy hot and faintly honey-sweet. I think it was even better than the hot chicken we had in Memphis a couple of years ago. It was so good we ate there twice in five days. The biscuits were world-class, too.

We would have eaten at Rocky’s more often but we had barbecue to find and hush puppies to snarf down. We did both at Hawg Wild Bar-B-Que in Pisgah Forest, N.C. We had to really hunt for a good barbecue place. Barbecue doesn’t seem to be as plentiful in the western part of the state as in the east. Also, restaurants make a big deal of the difference between the regional styles. All of the good stuff is whole-hog, naturally, but western style comes with ketchup-based sauce while eastern style has vinegar-based sauce. Hawg Wild’s barbecue was so smoky and juicy I couldn’t see covering up the flavor with red sauce. I had eastern style along with creamy coleslaw and a clutch of hush puppies.

I ate hush puppies everywhere I could, from the Hot Dog King (great Coney dogs packed with relish) to the barbecue place. I love those little cornbread nuggets, especially when they are laced with jalapeños as they were at the Hot Dog King.

The one place I didn’t get hush puppies and didn’t miss them was Rhubarb, an upscale Asheville restaurant helmed by chef John Fleer, a multiple James Beard nominee for best chef in the Southeast. Fleer executes his modern Southern menu perfectly, and I don’t say that lightly.It was the best meal I’ve had in a very long time.

Six components, all stellar, went into my entree of duck confit over Swiss chard. Tucked under the two duck legs and thigh was also a palm-sized sweet potatoes Anna (thin sliced, formed into a cake) infused with so much umami flavor it had to have been roasted in duck fat. Scattered over everything was “wet” walnuts that tasted of Bourbon but somehow remained crisp, and tiny sprinkles of sweet marinated garlic. A wide swath of rhubarb sauce streaked one side of the plate.

Most diners the evening we visited chose to sit outside on the covered patio overlooking Pack Square. I’m glad Tony and I opted for the dining room, a high-ceilinged space that looked like a rubber shop mid-rehab. The plaster walls were gouged and spotted with bits of old paint. Big industrial-looking lights dangled from the ceiling. We sat near the open kitchen, with a good view of the two brick ovens.

I’m sorry I couldn’t get Fleer’s recipe for sweet potatoes Anna, but you can bet I’ll be working on it here at home. Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for jalapeño hush puppies, humble but just as Southern and almost as delicious.

JALAPENO HUSH PUPPIES

Image
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups diced pickled jalapeños
  • Oil for frying

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and onion in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vinegar. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Stir in the jalapeños. Do not over mix.

Heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a wide, deep pot or deep fryer. Drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil. Do not crowd. Fry for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Break open the first couple of hush puppies to check for doneness.

Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels. Salt if desired. Continue until all of the batter has been used. Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

TIDBITS

Local corn should be ready for picking any day now. Rufener Hilltop Farms in Portage County will “hopefully” start picking this week, says manager Lana Rufener. “At the latest by (this) weekend.”

At Graf Growers on White Pond Drive in Akron, “local” this year will actually be a farm about 45 minutes south of Akron, according to Karlie Graf, marketing manager. Graf’s fields were too wet for planting this spring, so the Grafs contracted with another farm to grow corn using Graf seeds and techniques, such as hydrocooling the picked corn. Daily shipments should begin July 18, Karlie says.

Wherever you buy your corn, call first to avoid a disappointment.

GUT CHECK

What I ate in restaurants last week: Southwest avocado-tortilla-lime salad at Panera; cheeseburger Happy Meal at McDonald’s; oysters with country ham and cornbread stuffing, confit of duck with rhubarb sauce at Rhubarb in Asheville, N.C.; hot chicken thigh, collard greens, biscuit, corn pudding at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in Asheville, N.C.; Coney dog with relish, hush puppies at the Hot Dog King in Candler, N.C.; country ham sandwich and sliced tomatoes at Genny’s Family Restaurant in Chimney Rock, N.C.; more hot chicken; and chopped pork barbecue, coleslaw and hush puppies at Hawg Wild Bar-B-Que in Pisgah Forest, N.C.

THE MAILBAG

From Kathy G.:
Did you know Joe’s Home Cooking at its Finest — new location on Cleveland Avenue near Route 618 and Beiler’s Market in Uniontown— is back and open again? Great food and prices with larger eating area and lots of parking at the new location.

Dear Kathy: Thanks. I know a lot of people liked that place. I finally get to give it a try.

From Cheryl:
This year I celebrated Independence Day with avocado martinis — they sound odd but they’re delicious, cold and refreshing. This recipe makes 4 cups or so:

Rim glasses with lime juice, coarse salt and chili powder (ancho is nice). In a blender mix 2 cups ice, 4 ounces tequila, 2 ounces orange liqueur, 1 ounce lime juice, 3 sprigs of cilantro (optional), 1 avocado, diced, and 2 tsp. agave nectar (although I prefer 1 tablespoon honey). Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish with lime wedges.

Dear Cheryl: In my martini days I would have loved this. Now I’ll just settle for some chips and salsa. (In perhaps a fit of self-preservation, my body began reacting weirdly to liquor a few years ago. I miss martinis, although I do enjoy a bit of Bourbon now and then.)

 
 
From Diane:
Re: slugs on basil — To get rid of your slugs, save your egg shells and after drying out for at least 2 hours, crush them and spread them around the plants the slugs are eating. It is organic and I know it works. We had hostas that were being eaten by slugs and after putting crushed egg shells around the plants the eating stopped!

Dear Diane: Thanks for sharing. Sounds easy and convenient.

From Mark:
Re: smoked salmon hash — When my friends Don and Linda Murfin were officers of the Akron City Club in the early 1990s, a chef there created “Murfin Hash” for them. I use a lightly poached egg per serving as the liaison rather than the Boursin-based cream sauce created by the chef, but I love the chef’s innovation of chopped fennel bulb and beets (triple rinsed; added just before serving) to the familiar mixture of cubed browned potatoes with onion and similar sized pieces of smoked salmon.

Dear Mark: Aha! A fine use for the beets growing in my garden. Thanks.

From Jan C.:
I saw that you had eaten smoked salmon hash last weekend. I have an easy cheat to make it at home: I use Ore Ida potatoes O’Brien which already includes the chopped peppers and onion You can add more veggies or some dill if you wish. Brown the potatoes in butter. Stir in a bit of half and half to add just a bit of richness. Then flake in 4 to 6 ounces of smoked salmon. Leave it in small pieces, not shreds. This can be topped with a runny sunny-side-up egg for extra richness. I serve this with a homemade horseradish sauce that I use lots of horseradish in.

A easy cheat for salmon chowder is to use the baked potato soup from Sam’s Club or Costco. I brown some extra onion in butter, add smoked salmon for just a couple of minutes, then stir it all into the warmed soup, Lovely with a salad on on a cold winter night.

I know you are a from-scratch cook but once in a while it is nice to simply have things on hand that go together quickly on busy days.

Dear Jan: I don’t mind cheating with good-quality ingredients and recipes that make sense. Thanks for the good ideas.

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July 17, 2017

Dear friends,
My three clumps of lavender have been waiting all their lives for Nancy Baggett’s latest book. I pounced when I saw The Art of Cooking with Lavender this spring.

I have known Nancy for years as a meticulous cookbook author — she has almost 20 — who triple-tests recipes on two types of stoves before sending them into the world. So I knew the recipes in her book would work.

I have tried just one of the recipes so far, but it’s a doozy. Lemon-Lavender Pots de Creme are voluptuously rich ramekins of the smoothest, silkiest custard you can imagine. The dominant flavor is fresh lemon, with an undertone of sweet lavender. Lemon and lavender were made for each other.

The book doesn’t stop at desserts, though. Recipes range from herbed popcorn to infused lemonade to stews and roasts. I’m looking forward to trying her Zippy Orange-Ginger Chicken Wings, Creamy Ranch Lavender Dressing and Lemon-Lavender Buttercream Frosting, among others.

The 122-page soft cover book is a trove of information about not only what to cook with lavender but how and what kind to grow. English lavenders such as Munstead (the variety I grow) are sweeter and milder than the more pungent French lavenders and for those reasons are best for culinary purposes. French lavenders are best for scent products, Nancy says. That’s lucky for us here in Ohio, because the delicate French varieties have a difficult time weathering our nasty winters. Spanish lavenders (L. stoechas) are purely ornamental and should not be used in cooking.

Lavender lovers with a plot out back have (or should have) harvested their crop by now. The stalks should be snipped when about the bottom third of the blossoms are partially open, according to the book. The blossoms may be used fresh or dried. I scattered my stalks on a table to dry and then transferred them to a plastic zipper-lock bag. Nancy recommends gathering the stalks into bunches and hanging them upside down to dry. I’ve done that, too.

The pots de creme call for two tablespoons of dried lavender, which is a surprisingly large amount, I found. The buds are measured after they are stripped from the stalk, and many stalks’ worth go into a tablespoon.

I made the recipe twice because the first was a dismal failure. The fault was mine, not the recipe’s. I tried to reduce the amount of calories and fat in the custard by using whole milk instead of heavy cream. I learned that acids like lemon juice will curdle milk, but not cream. So don’t try to be virtuous with this recipe.

The book may be purchased for $15.99 from Amazon or directly from the author at www.nancyslavenderplace.com.

LEMON-LAVENDER POTS DE CREME
Jane-Snow-pots-of-lavendar.jpg
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1/4 cup clover honey
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. sugar, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. dried culinary lavender buds
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 7 large egg yolks, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
  • Whipped cream for garnish (optional)
  • Fresh lavender blooms or sprigs for garnish (optional)
  • Fresh curls of lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In a medium nonreactive saucepan, bring the cream, honey, sugar, lavender, lemon zest and salt just to a boil, stirring until the honey and sugar dissolve. Turn off the heat and let mixture steep for at least 30 minutes, preferably one hour.. For a more intense flavor, cover and refrigerate an hour or two longer, tasting occasionally until the desired lavender flavor is achieved.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Lay a tea towel in a deep roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold 6 to 8 ramekins that ideally hold 2/3 cup each. Place ramekins or cups in pan, spaced slightly apart. Reheat the steeped cream mixture to very warm but not hot.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy and smooth. Gradually pouring in a thin stream, whisk the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk in the lemon juice. Strain the custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a 4-cup glass measure, stirring and pressing down on the zest and lavender. Divide equally among the ramekins. Put in oven.

Immediately pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come at least halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees. Begin testing by jiggling a custard cup. As soon as the creme is set except for about the center one-half inch, remove pan from oven. Place custards on a cooling rack until room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Let warm up slightly before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and/or lavender flowers or lemon curls. Makes 6 small or 8 mini desserts.

From The Art of Cooking with Lavender by Nancy Baggett.

TIDBITS

Local corn should be ready for picking any day now. Rufener Hilltop Farms in Portage County will “hopefully” start picking this week, says manager Lana Rufener. “At the latest by (this) weekend.”

At Graf Growers on White Pond Drive in Akron, “local” this year will actually be a farm about 45 minutes south of Akron, according to Karlie Graf, marketing manager. Graf’s fields were too wet for planting this spring, so the Grafs contracted with another farm to grow corn using Graf seeds and techniques, such as hydrocooling the picked corn. Daily shipments should begin July 18, Karlie says.

Wherever you buy your corn, call first to avoid a disappointment.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled strip steaks, cherry tomato salad with walnut pesto; salami and avocado on toasted ciabatta bread; beer butt chicken, tomato salad with pesto; grilled hamburgers, corn on the cob; lemon-lavender pots de creme.

What I ate in restaurants/friends’ homes last week:
Green salad, fried liver and onions, mashed potatoes with a smidge of gravy at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; shrimp sunomono, a Suzanne roll (a Jane roll with spicy mayo) at Sushi Katsu in Akron; roast pig, smoked brisket, corn bread, baked beans, mac and cheese, a chocolate chip cookie at Natalie and Brandon’s pig roast; brunch of smoked salmon hash, poached egg and hollandaise sauce at 111 Bistro in Medina Township; Thai red curry with chicken and vegetables at House of Hunan in Fairlawn.

THE MAILBAG

From Arlene:

Jane, I was wondering if you have any idea how to marinate garlic. Giant Eagle has some on its salad bar that is very good. I looked up a pickled garlic recipe that I made and I really don’t like it — too sweet and not what I expected. Then I realized the salad bar garlic isn’t pickled. It stays white and has a crunch and is not bitter or sweet.

I would appreciate any ideas you may have. My brother-in-law eats several daily and lowered his cholesterol to the point his meds were reduced. Healthy snacks!

Dear Arlene: My husband likes to snack on garlic, too, although he usually buys the pickled kind in jars. What you are looking for is marinated garlic. Here’s one from food.com. Tinker with the herbs until the flavor is to your liking.

AL’S FABULOUS MARINATED GARLIC

  • 30 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar (if you can find it, champagne vinegar is wonderful)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (I like to use Kosher salt)
  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano)

Bring a medium saucepan half-filled with water to a boil. Toss in the whole cloves of garlic and blanch for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and plunge into cold water. Drain and dry off the garlic.

Mix the remaining ingredients (except the sprigs of fresh oregano) in a blender until emulsified. If using dried oregano, toss into the blender with the other marinade ingredients.

Put the cloves of garlic in a jar and cover with the marinade. Tuck the sprigs of oregano into the jar. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 5 days (longer is better) in the refrigerator. Serve as a snack, or as part of an antipasto, or as a side dish, or add to a green salad.

From Martha, Kent:
I don’t have the gardening success that you apparently do, but I have always been able to grow basil in pots on my back deck. But this year, something — some sort of bug, I assume — is eating the basil leaves! Instead of shiny, full leaves I’ve got munched up, mangled leaves. Do you have any idea what is eating the basil this year, and if there is anything I can do about it?

Dear Martha: My “gardening success” is a myth. I write about my garden fondly but it rarely returns the affection. This year I planted sugar snaps in April and just harvested the first handful of beans. I’ll be lucky if I get enough for a stir fry. My little row (about 4 feet) of French green beans was attacked by insects and the leaves look brown and chewed. But they have a few blossoms so I’m not giving up hope! The tomato plants I grew from seeds are not wilted and brown yet, so I am excited about an eventual crop.

My lone success so far this year (besides the wild black raspberries) is my basil. It is bushy and lush. I have had your basil problems in the past, though. From the photos you sent, the culprits are probably slugs, which eat great hunks of leaves instead of pinpricks that leave a lacy skeleton (for that problem, blame Japanese beetles.

This information comes from www.gardenknowhow.com:
“To retard those munching slugs, try sprinkling diatomaceous earth over the mulch. The diatomaceous earth scrapes the slug’s skin and causes it to dehydrate and subsequently die. Products such as Bayer Advanced Dual Action Snail and Slug Killer Bait, Sluggo, Escar-Go, and Schultz Slug and Snail Bait must be reapplied after rain or watering. While not totally nontoxic, these products contain iron phosphate, which is significantly less harmful to pets, birds and beneficial insects than the more antiquated metaldehyde-containing products.”

Hmmm. The phrase “not totally nontoxic” worries me. You’ll have to wash the basil leaves before you use them.

From Tammy:
I want to weigh in on the soy milk issue. I am not lactose intolerant nor am I a vegetarian but I love soy milk. I do not cook or bake with soy milk, nor do I see it as a substitute for the “real thing” but the taste is different from milk and I enjoy it. I have never had almond milk, cashew milk or flavored soy milk so my opinion is limited. I do love edamame and tofu in all forms so maybe this has something to do with it.

From Beth:
Try Califa unsweetened almond milk. The green one, there are several colors of packaging. Great on cereal.

Dear Tammy and Beth: I may gather my courage and try plain soy milk, but I’m wary of nut milk after the cashew fiasco.

From Tami W.:
Regarding lamb, I wanted to give a second shout out for Duma Meats. All their meats are wonderful — and we always make the drive to Portage County when we want to cook beer butt chicken. You can taste the difference! Duma’s prices are also much lower than grocery stores.

Dear Tami: I’m sold. I’ve bought whole pigs from Duma for roasting, but have never made the trip for regular cuts. I must remedy that.

From Cheryl:
Crown rack of lamb, leg of lamb and nice chops can be found at Sams Club. The racks got rave reviews from our ladies’ lunch group when I served them grilled (cherry smoked) with homemade pomegranate molasses, grilled asparagus, grilled smashed potatoes with rosemary butter and my signature lemon lavender martinis. I love my friends.

Dear Cheryl: And we would all love to be one of them. Currently, Sam’s is my source for lamb. The price is good and the lamb is pretty good, too. I’m just hoping to find a local source with reasonable prices, which may be a pipe dream.

From Janet:
Your were hunting for lamb. And I do not know if this would be a solution: Arukah Market Health and Wellness. It is located at 2871 Edison St. in Lake Township west of the Hartville Flea Market in a house on the north side of the street. There is a website. The changing sign out front mentions bison, goat and elk. Everything is natural. I have not been there but the reviews are good.

Dear Janet:
Thanks for the tip. I’ve seen the sign for the store but didn’t notice anything about bison, goat or elk. Exciting! I called and talked to owner John Taylor, who said he does get lamb sporadically from a local farm. The store had ground lamb and one leg of lamb when I called. The leg was $11.97 a pound.

To everyone who suggested Spicy Lamb Farm, Brunty’s and other local boutique operations, I am aware of them but they are out of my price range — as is Arukah. But I may stop by for some elk.

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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July 5, 2017

Dear friends,

My legs are scratched and I have poison ivy on one wrist, but that’s a price I willingly pay for black raspberry pie. This is the summer of the wild berry. The black raspberries are running rampant here in Ohio, and I have no doubt blackberries will be next.

The overgrown patch of wild black raspberries between my greenhouse and shed is out of control, sending rogue canes over, around and into the greenhouse. In years past I have collected handfuls of berries to eat with my morning yogurt. This year I have harvested quarts of berries and haven’t even hacked my way beyond the perimeter of the thicket. I urge you to go to the woods, find a clearing and start picking.

For the first time I have enough berries for a pie. Initially I made a galette, a simple tart of a pastry round covered with about two cups of berries and the edges folded over to form about a 2-inch rim. The next day I picked a quart and reached for a 9-inch pie pan. I used refrigerator pie crust for the bottom crust (my shoulder injury is worse, not better) and devised a spur-of-the-moment crumb mixture for the topping.

I didn’t use a recipe for the pie and you needn’t, either, for the fruit you pick or buy this summer. Just remember that a galette bakes in about 30 minutes and a pie in 60 minutes at 400 degrees.

Because fruits vary in juiciness, you may have to look up how much thickener to stir into the filling. Four cups of black raspberries (the amount needed for a pie) require 3 tablespoons flour. I didn’t use sugar in the filling because the berries were sweet enough. Use your judgement, but in any case go easy on the sugar to allow the fruit flavor to shine.

The formula for a crumb topping is 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup flour, 5 tablespoons butter and about a half cup sugar. I substituted three tablespoons Splenda for the sugar. You might want to add a few shakes of salt, too. The butter is cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until the bits are the size of peas. To this basic topping recipe you can add cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices. You may season the filling, too, if desired. Sometimes I add a few drops of almond extract to peach pie filling, for example.

Save this column and stash a box of pie pastry in your fridge. Then whenever you come across a trove of fruit this summer, you’ll be just minutes away from slipping a pie into the oven. What’s that old saying? And some days there’s pie.

BLACK RASPBERRY CRUMB PIE

Raspberry-Pie-Jane-Snow.jpg

  • 1 pastry disk for a 9-inch pie
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or 3 tbsp. Splenda granular)
  • Several dashes of salt
  • 5 tbsp. cold butter, in small pieces
  • 4 cups black (or red) raspberries
  • 3 tbsp. flour

Leave pastry at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until pliable. Ease into a 9-inch pie pan. Fold under the edges and crimp. Place in refrigerator.

In a bowl, combine oats, the 1/3 cup flour, sugar and salt. Stir together. Cut butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until it’s the size of peas. Refrigerate.

Gently wash berries by floating in cold water or by very gently running water over them in a strainer. Spread on paper towels to dry. Place in a bowl and toss with the 3 tablespoons flour.

Remove pie crust and topping from refrigerator. Pour berries onto the pie crust. Top evenly with the crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees (375 if using a glass pan) on the middle oven rack for about 60 minutes, until crust is dark brown and fruit is tender. Makes 1 pie.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Black raspberry galette; black raspberry crumb pie; sweet soy-glazed pork chops with a platter of oven-roasted red bell peppers, Anaheim peppers and new potatoes with olive oil, coarse sea salt and chopped fresh basil over arugula; and thick pan-grilled hamburgers on ciabatta buns with roasted red peppers, onions and mustard.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants:
Ribeye and gorgonzola sandwich and a few thin fries at Johnny’s Downtown in Cleveland; chicken and vegetable rotini from Earth Fare; peanuts and a hot dog with mustard at Progressive Field in Cleveland; a California roll, tuna and crab poke salad, and coconut-curry noodles with jumbo shrimp at Basil Asian Bistro in Canton; a thin veggie pizza from Earth Fare; and a fruit cup, toast and a two-egg omelet with feta cheese, onion, mushrooms and tomato at the Eye Opener in Akron.

TIDBITS

I finally tasted soy milk last week — specifically, cashew soy milk, which my doctor recommended. Until now I have resisted the soy-milk fad, stubbornly clinging to my beloved skim milk, which I use in puddings, protein shakes, for baking and cooking, and occasionally straight up.

The verdict: Cashew soy milk is no competition for the real thing. It tasted like a No. 2 pencil. I’m serious. Sink your teeth into a yellow pencil and inhale. Then take a sip of cashew soy milk. Am I right? Besides, It is grayish-tan, a hell of a color for something you’re supposed to consume.

I am mystified why so many non-vegetarian, non-lactose intolerant people have switched to soy milk. Please enlighten me.

P.S.: And don’t tell me it’s because milk is inflammatory. Dairy products do not cause inflammation, according to the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, both of which cite a review of 52 clinical studies that disprove that widely disseminated falsehood. In fact, dairy products may alleviate inflammation.

THE MAILBAG

 

From George, Akron:
About where you can buy some good lamb: One, Canal Fulton Provision — they sell to restaurants as well as the public; and two, Near East Market, 3464 Hudson Drive in Cuyahoga Falls — I believe you wrote about them in a newsletter from a galaxy a long, long time ago.

Dear George: I remember that galaxy, where we were all much younger. I haven’t had much luck with Near East Market the last few visits. The lamb in the freezer was scant and the owners didn’t want to talk about it. Canal Fulton Provision sounds like a hot lead, though. Thanks.

From Maryann:
For lamb — and nearly every other edible critter that can be portioned, wrapped and frozen — try Duma Meats on 857 Randolph Rd. in Mogadore. A second site in Hartville Marketplace is expansive, too, with fresh meat. But for the full ark, the Duma home place has it and is worth the drive.

Also, I have a new food find for you. Hidden in the new center at the NEO College of Medicine, Chef Xavier holds court in fine, fine form. I have only had lunches, as food service stops about 2 p.m. But it’s always a treat — unique dressings on unique and fresh made-to-order salads. Everything from PBJ to black bean hummus on naan bread. He also hosts special cooking events as part of the Wellness Center programs on improved health through healthy eating. Although it is a small cafeteria-style station for getting folks in and out quickly, the vibe is good as is every dish I have eaten there. Check it out at the Rootstown exit of I-77. The med school is easy to find and parking is easy as well.

Dear Maryann: If Tony and I are ever near the med school around lunch time (it happens), we will stop. And thanks for the lamb tip. The lamb at Duma is reasonable, too. I called and was told leg of lamb is $6.95 a pound bone-in and $7.95 a pound boneless.

From Bill:
Jane, there is an Indian grocery store in Cuyahoga Falls, across from Acme on Front Street/Bailey Road next to Jubilee Donuts, a few doors down from Strickland’s ice cream and Ninnies Hot Dogs and the River Grille, around the corner from the Silver Swan Tavern and Totally Cooked. You might find naan there or just a good meal in the neighborhood. If you need to take Tony you can drop him off at Hudson Drive Hardware — a real old-fashioned hardware store.

Dear Bill: Well, now I can’t wait to walk that neighborhood. Maybe I’ll just move in. Thanks, Bill, for all the ideas.

From Linda Bower:
I really like your “what I ate” and “what I cooked” parts of your column. I like to see what restaurants you go to. It gives me ideas for places that I want to check out for myself. As far as “what I cooked,” sometimes I want to know the details or the recipe of something you cooked. For example, last week you said you cooked strip steaks with wine sauce. How did you make your wine sauce?

Dear Linda: I am always glad to share details. The wine sauce was simple. After cooking and removing the meat from the skillet, I added about three-fourths cup of leftover red wine I had on hand. I think it was a pinot noir. I added a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and brought it to a boil, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. I let it boil for a minute or two until reduced by a third to a half, then whisked in a few bits of cold butter. Very basic.

From Marcia, New Franklin:
Oh my, grilled double-cream gouda and roasted pineapple on toasted sourdough? Sounds wonderful! What’s your take on how the Blue Door fixes it?

Dear Marcia: The Blue Door’s $11 grilled cheese sandwich is worth every cent. The cheese layer is not thick and gooey. In fact, it melts almost completely into the bread. But imagine the best thick-cut sourdough toast you’ve had, with just the right tang countered by the richness of that wisp of cheese…. and I haven’t even gotten to the pineapple yet. The sandwich is the opposite of a Melt grilled cheese in conception. It is elegantly understated, letting a few outstanding ingredients speak for themselves.

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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June 28, 2017

Dear friends,

l grew up with Jamie, graduated high school with him, and remained close to him and his family even after our 13-year marriage ended. I didn’t expect to be making cabbage rolls for his Polish wake at age 67.

Tony declined the invitation to accompany me to my ex brother-in-law’s home Sunday, but he would have been welcome. Jamie and Tony were friendly, and my ex would stop in the restaurant to share clutches of morel mushrooms he picked each spring.

Jamie will forever be a part of my culinary history. With him I explored the restaurants of Italy, England and France. He was there when I ate my first snail, tasted my first Camembert and discovered cioppino. I remember when he cracked up a restaurant in Italy where we were the only (we thought) English speakers by too-loudly responding to my whispered confession with “How can you be off your feed when you’re doing Europe on 20,000 calories a day?”
His brother, Bill, decided on a Polish wake because it seemed the right way to celebrate Jamie’s fun, quirky personality and his heritage. Bill didn’t intend to set up a cabbage roll smack-down between me and cousin Tammy, but that just became part of the fun.

Polish sisters Bernie (Jamie’s late mother) and Sophie (absent with a broken arm) prided themselves on their cabbage rolls. The recipes were similar but not identical. Without planning to, Tammy made her mother Sophie’s recipe and I made Bernie’s for the wake. Jamie’s brothers and cousins had a good time lobbying for a cabbage roll face-off, but Tam and I called it a draw.

My ex mother-in-law taught me to make these cabbage rolls. The deep flavors belie the straightforward ingredients of cabbage, ground beef, rice and tomato juice. It is a dish made in heaven — which, if there’s justice in the universe, is where Jamie is enjoying some now.

POLISH CABBAGE ROLLS

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  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 2 1/4 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 cup white rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 egg
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 quarts tomato juice

Core cabbage, steam or boil briefly and separate into leaves. Drain.

In a bowl, combine beef, cooked rice, onion, egg, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of the tomato juice; mix gently but thoroughly. The mixture should be very moist.

Place a mound of filling on the stem end of a cabbage leaf and roll up, tucking sides inward as you roll.

Continue with remaining filling.

Place a layer of leftover cabbage leaves on the bottom of a wide kettle. Layer stuffed rolls on top.

Combine 1 cup of the remaining tomato juice with 1/2 cup water. Pour over rolls. Cover with more cabbage leaves. Cover with a lid and gently simmer until filling is cooked and cabbage is tender, about 2 hours. Remove cabbage rolls and add remaining tomato juice to sauce in pan. Heat and pass at the table.

GUT CHECK

More than a dozen of you said you like this feature and only one said she has had enough, so I will continue. Many writers said they like to hear what I ate because it gives them ideas for meals to cook and/or restaurants to visit. I like it because it encourages me to visit different restaurants each week so I won’t seem boring, and cook meals that won’t embarrass me. But I still won’t give up Spam

What I cooked last week:
Lots and lots of cabbage rolls; avocado and soft-scrambled egg on buttered ciabatta toast; lemon-lavender pots de creme (a disaster); grilled thick hamburgers; fried left over cabbage roll stuffing mixture scrambled with an egg (desperation dinner).

What I ate at friends’ homes last week:
Minted cold pea soup, cold salmon terrine, a platter of roast fingerling potatoes with herbs, roast tomatoes and roast peaches, and apple rum cake at Raymond and Doris’; cold strawberry soup, stuffed BLT cherry tomatoes and Belgian endive with Bellinis, Korean bulgogi (tender marinated, grilled beef) in lettuce wraps, and fruit kolachy at a potluck with friends Martha, Joan and Michele; grilled hamburgers, potato salad and sugar-free raspberry pie at my brother’s; and cabbage rolls, macaroni salad, scalloped potatoes, carrot salad and carrot cake with cream cheese icing at my ex brother-in-law’s. I was a real social butterfly last week.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A taste of Tony’s chicken pasta with diavolo sauce and half a burrito-like sandwich of warm, cheesy flatbread wrapped around sliced spicy sausage, peppers, romaine and mozzarella at Piada in West Akron; beef with broccoli and Sichuan chicken from Chin’s near Tangier in Akron; grilled double-cream gouda and roasted pineapple on toasted sourdough, tomato soup with a balsamic syrup squiggle, and diced fresh fruit at the Blue Door in Cuyahoga Falls.

TIDBITS

Piada Italian Street Food, a fast-food Italian, opened two weeks ago in the former West Point Market block in Akron’s Wallhaven area. Lines wrapped around the building the first week, a manager told me, and the place was very busy when Tony and I visited during week two.

Although I have seen some disparaging comments on Facebook, I thought the food was very good for the price. The Columbus-based chain is modeled on Chipotle, with a front counter where diners choose pasta, sandwich or salad; various sauces and toppings; and protein (sausage, fried or grilled chicken cubes, steak cubes, meatball, calamari and hot peppers, or grilled salmon). Main choices all cost about $7 to $8 plus protein, which ranges from 99 cents to $2.49. The pasta choices are angel hair carbonara, pesto or diavolo (a spicy red sauce).

I liked the wheat flatbread that serves as the sandwich wrap. It’s thin as a tortilla but tastier because it is embedded with Parmesan cheese and warmed up on a crepe griddle until the edges are crispy. I also liked that calorie counts for all of the items are printed on the menu.

The Akron Piada is the latest restaurant in the rapidly expanding chain owned by the Bravo Brio folks. The website is www.mypiada.com.

 

THE MAILBAG

From Mark:
I am SO eager to read responses to your query about local purveyors of lamb.

USDA standards defining “lamb” as opposed to “mutton” must be less stringent about the age and growth than they are in, say, New Zealand and Australia. The shrink-wrapped stuff marketed locally seems mighty long-in-the-tooth, though I guess at least one country’s standards for calling it “lamb” includes limitations on the animal’s advancement towards full adult dentition.

From Deborah:
We are searching for lamb as well. Lately, we’ve been able to purchase it at the Countryside Conservancy Farmers’ Market on Saturdays at Howe Meadow and at Acme No. 1 in very limited supply.

Dear Mark and Deborah: We must be a small club of lamb lovers, because no one else responded. Or maybe they just don’t want to tip us off to their supplier. I will continue to search. Too bad the Middle Eastern market on Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls has become such an inconsistent source. Anyone have any Lebanese/Middle Eastern friends they can query?

As for lamb vs mutton, the USDA basically has no mandatory standards. All lamb in stores is USDA inspected for wholesomeness (freedom from disease), but grading for quality is voluntary. The quality gradings (prime, choice and good) take into account tenderness, juiciness, flavor and — but one criterion — maturity. According to the USDA, 80 percent of the U.S. lamb supply is good or choice. But I guess if you want to make sure your lamb is indeed young, you have to see it on the hoof.

From Janet C.:
I love to hear what you cooked and what you ate out. I always find new places to try.

Recent things I cooked: Stuffed shells with spaghetti sauce and sausage, Caesar salad, and brown sugar shortbread drizzled with white Belgian chocolate. I’m going to a barbecue on Sunday with friends. Taking deviled eggs with chopped jalapeños and sweet relish, a shrimp dip that I serve with Bugles, and puff pastry appetizers with cremini mushrooms, smoked gruyere and caramelized onions. I told my friends I would bring the appetizers.

I’m going to the Desert Inn in Canton for the Mid-Eastern grilled platter for our anniversary this week and to the bar at Russo’s in Cuyahoga Falls for raw oysters and the roasted garlic appetizer for my birthday. I’m going to Trump Tower in Toronto tomorrow night for my very favorite, steak tartare. I cannot find it many places in Ohio unless we drive to Cleveland. If you know of any place near Akron that serves it, please let me know.

Dear Janet: Yay, a reciprocal gut check! Thank you for sharing. You have reminded me of places to revisit and foods I want to eat.

Does anyone know of an Akron restaurant where Janet can get steak tartare?

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

June 22, 2017

Dear friends,

No potatoes. No cabbage. No macaroni. A bag of carrots was the only fodder I had for a picnic salad to go with the ribs that were slow-smoking on the grill. “I’ll make carrot slaw,” I thought. “I bet no one has thought of that before.”

Ha! The Internet and a zillion food bloggers have ensured that every dish I dream up these days has been dreamed up before. When I Googled “carrot slaw,” I got 675,000 hits.

The way I deal with this overload is to ignore it. I create most of my recipes without looking at versions that have come before. That is the only way I can remain fresh and come up with something new tailored to (hopefully) your tastebuds and mine.

The slaw recipe was also tailored to my pantry. I had just bought a bag of walnut halves, so I toasted some in a skillet for added crunch. I found some crumbled feta in the fridge and added that, too, for little bursts of creaminess. The herbs in pots out back were ready for harvesting, so I plucked some basil and rosemary to add freshness to a mustard vinaigrette. Everything came together in a slaw that not only is unique — I think — but delicious.

Make that 675,001 hits for “carrot slaw.”

CRUNCHY-CREAMY CARROT SLAW

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  • 4 cups grated carrots (on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Grate carrots into a medium-size serving bowl. Scatter walnut pieces in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until nuts are golden brown. Cool, then add to carrots with feta cheese.

In a small lidded container combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, mustard, basil and rosemary. Shake well to combine. Pour about half of dressing over carrot mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Add more dressing only if needed. Season to taste with more salt. Makes about six servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:

Scrambled egg, ham and feta cheese on a toasted baguette with hot sauce; grill-smoked ribs with Tennessee rub and spicy barbecue sauce, carrot and toasted walnut slaw; strip steaks with wine sauce, balsamic-roasted cauliflower.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Thai chicken salad at Panera; a Coney dog and a sugar-free country apple pie ice cream cone (1 scoop) at Boss Frosty’s in Wadsworth; soft Indian paratha bread dipped in egg, fried, and folded around curry-seasoned chicken and sautéed onions (the Frankie) at Greedy Girl Restaurant in Cleveland Heights; a BLT at Rockne’s in Fairlawn; huitlacoche spoonbread, half a Cuban sandwich and half a chorizo-sweet potato-pineapple burrito at Nuevo Modern Mexican Restaurant in downtown Akron; and a steak sandwich and excellent fries at the Canal Boat Lounge in Canal Fulton.

Note: In my defense, I couldn’t cook for a few days after I fell and injured a shoulder. I’ll be back in the kitchen soon.

THE MAILBAG

Dear friends: I know summer is dawning and you’re busy, but could you spare a minute to dash off a note? Tell me how your tomatoes are growing and whether you lost herbs last winter like I did (my thyme and tarragon mysteriously died).

Tell me where I can buy good, reasonably priced lamb, because I’m stumped.

Tell me where you go for Thai food. Tell me where I can buy naan. Tell me whether you like my
what-I-ate-last-week feature or if you’ve heard quite enough.

Basically, just write.

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Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then click here to sign upunder your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

June 9, 2017

Dear friends,

My husband’s citizenship and English classes finally paid off last weekend. He has been attending classes three evenings a week since February in his quest to finally become an American citizen. No, he didn’t pass his naturalization test yet (that’s scheduled for June 26); even better, we got to attend the annual English as a Second Language potluck picnic at Patterson Park in Akron on Saturday.

The spread was humongous and as diverse as I’d hoped. I hovered near a stack of San Salvadoran pupusas before the meal began, waiting for the signal to dive in. I snagged one of the corn cakes stuffed with pork and nibbled while I surveyed the other offerings. There were dishes from Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and Guatemala. I lfound a pot of Thai chicken curry and a big tub of Nepali chatpati, a crunchy-spicy snack with a dozen or more ingredients. Rebecca Jenkins, the ESOL coordinator, steered me to circlet of Nepali fried bread the size of an onion ring, and returned later for a sliver of Mexican tres leches (three milk) cake.

Tony’s contribution was big platters of inari sushi (pockets of sweetened tofu skin stuffed with seasoned sushi rice) and homemade tamago (a seasoned, layered omelet). I took an all-American dessert: Red, White and Blue Bread Pudding.

The pudding is assembled in five layers — three layers of custard-soaked bread cubes interleaved with a layer of blueberries and a layer of halved strawberries. I sprinkled the fruit layers with sherry for extra flavor. Although my bread pudding was way prettier than Tony’s offerings, his platters were empty when we left while only half of my pudding had been eaten. Go figure. The pudding tasted great, though, and would be a wonderful Fourth of July dessert.

The English classes, by the way, are under the aegis of Project Learn of Summit County. Even though Tony has been in this country for more than 30 years and speaks very passable English, he has been taking classes at the International Institute in Akron in preparation for the citizenship test. Sadly, his vocabulary is being rid of charming phrases such as “Project Runaway” and “pickle little” (a small cucumber). Darn it.

Here’s my bread pudding recipe:

RED, WHITE AND BLUE BREAD PUDDING

22 oz. sturdy white sandwich bread
6 tbsp. butter, melted
6 cups milk
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 cups blueberries
1 cup halved or quartered strawberries, depending on size
2 tbsp. dry or medium-dry sherry

Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a very large bowl. Drizzle with butter, tossing to coat evenly.

In another large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Beat in sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread cubes and let stand several minutes while you butter a 9-by-12-inch baking pan.

Ladle about one-third of the bread cube mixture into the prepared pan. Scatter blueberries over the bread cubes. Drizzle evenly with one tablespoon of the sherry. Cover evenly with another one-third of the bread cube mixture. Scatter strawberries over the bread and drizzle with remaining sherry. Top with remaining bread cubes and custard mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour, or pudding is puffed and edges are brown. Makes about 8 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Rosemary crackers; deconstructed chicken stir fry with rice sticks and spicy orange sauce; red, white and blue bread pudding; thick strip steaks with red-wine sauce, an arugula and Parmesan salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and Japanese sweet potatoes.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Stir-fry bowl of quinoa, sauteed greens with garlic, and grilled chicken in red curry at Mustard Seed in Highland Square; pesto and chicken pizza at Pizza Fire in Montrose; pupusas, coconut curry, chatpati, tres leches cake and more at the Project Learn picnic; eggs, bacon, grits and toast at Tony’s favorite restaurant, Bob Evans.
THE MAILBAG

From Kathi: Re: Removing the back bone from the chicken when you spatchcock. I always cut up both sides with heavy-duty poultry shears, but I never discard it; it goes into the big resealable freezer bag that lives in the freezer, where I stash all the wing tips, necks and fat globs pulled off the cavity. When the bag is full, it becomes stock.

Dear Kathi: Geez, you’e organized. You have shamed me into starting my own frozen-chicken-parts bag.

From Debbie: You can get the Korean dish bi bim bap at Sung’s Restaurant at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. I think it’s $13. I always get the egg over easy so the yolk runs down into the rice. You can get it with chicken, beef or tofu.

From Tom: I just saw the tip about the Columbus restaurant offering dol sot bi bim bap. While I will be putting this place on my list for the next time I visit Columbus, I wanted to let you know there is a very good version of dol sot bi bim bap at Seoul Garden on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. Actually, all of the Korean food is pretty darn tasty there.

By the way, the spicy “sauce” the gentleman mentioned that you drizzle onto your bi bim bap is usually a combination of gochujang, rice wine vinegar, and I’m guessing probably a little sugar. Happy eating!

Dear Debbie and Tom: Thanks for the closer-to-home recommendations. I am not crazy about many Korean dishes (I loathe kimchi), but I will give bi bim bap another try. Gochujang, for the uninitiated, is Korean fermented hot chili paste.

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Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to change the address for you in our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. Then click here to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.