February 20,2019

Dear friends,
Although the thermometer says “summer” here in Florida (the temps are in the 80s this week), the produce says “winter.” Root vegetables are plentiful. Everything else, not so much.

I did get a watermelon that turned out to be from Guatemala and cost $7.50, I discovered at the cash register. Strawberries from Plant City and citrus fruit from nearby groves are in season, but most tender vegetables are not. The tomatoes I find at vegetable markets are as hard and tasteless as those in Ohio supermarkets at this time of year. Maybe that’s due to the type of tomato planted here — thick-walled for bruise-free transport.

Which is why I served carrots last week with my very summery meal of steamed stone crab claws with melted butter. The crab claws, plucked from the water, quick frozen and bought not a half-mile from the source in Everglades City, tasted like the ocean.

The carrots managed to taste summery, too, thanks to a high-voltage lemon dressing. I used equal parts olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

I cut the carrots into batons and cooked them briefly in a lidded skillet with a bit of butter and salt. Most carrot salads feature raw carrots, but I think the vegetable tastes best when heat transforms the starches to sugars. Why butter and not olive oil? Because everything tastes better with butter. I tossed the carrots with the dressing, sliced green onions and grated Parmesan and chilled. The salad was simple but so good I’ll be making it often, no matter what the weather.

COLD LEMON CARROTS

4 or 5 medium carrots cut in batons (1/4- by 2 1/2 inches)
1 tbsp. butter
Salt
2 green onions, sliced
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Place carrots and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When butter melts, swirl to coat the carrots and skillet and sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until almost soft. Transfer to a bowl and toss with green onions, olive oil, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Chill. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Savory chorizo and corn bread pudding in the slow cooker (I burnt it); carrot salad with lemon dressing, steamed stone crab claws with melted butter.

What I ate in/from restaurants, etc.:
Seasoned hamburger patty, cottage cheese, lots of fruit at Pogey’s in Okeechobee; strips of grilled sirloin steak, grilled onions and bell peppers and a bite of refried beans at Pueblo Viejo in Okeechobee; half a ham and provolone sub from Subway; spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, Italian bread and homemade white cake with delicious dripping icing at the Okeechobee Shriners Hall ($8 including karaoke!); a heart-shaped Bavarian doughnut dusted with powdered sugar at Dunkin’ Donuts (my Valentine’s treat); a Cuban sandwich and plantain chips from Mervis’ in Ft. Pierce; a spinach, banana, mango and ginger smoothie at the Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Port St. Lucie; an Indian taco (chili, lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese on fry bread) and a frozen chocolate banana at the Seminole Indian Field Day and Rodeo in Brighton; pulled pork, roast beef, corn bread, lima beans, a brussels sprout, a dab of mashed potatoes and a sugar-free chocolate cookie at Golden Corral in Okeechobee.

THE MAILBAG
From Pat K.:
I am a native Clevelander living in Las Vegas. We moved here a little over a year ago, but before that we lived in Jupiter, Fla., for 14 years. You are so right about there not being any local fresh fish markets. The best way to get fresh fish is to make friends with someone who has a boat! If you ever take a ride to Jupiter, one of my favorite restaurants was the Galley Grill Also a great Cuban restaurant is Copacabana.

In Palm Gardens, there a Mediterranean restaurant called Aladdin where you can get a gyro lunch special for $9.99. I wish I could find something that compares here in Vegas!

Dear Pat:
I have had some awesome food in Vegas, including tins of fresh caviar served on a tavern-sized bar made of ice. Ah, the good old days of expense accounts. Sorry I can’t return the favor with great, reasonably priced Vegas suggestions. I am so glad you wrote, though. I will try some of your Florida favorites. We have already been to Jupiter once and now we will go back.

What’s up with the lack of fish markets? Two other people who live here wrote, agreeing with us on that score.

From Char K.:
Regarding peeling garlic, tell your readers to put a clove or two in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds, depending on the size. The peel will come right off. I think I learned this trick in a microwave class years and years ago. Occasionally the clove will pop and get hot, but put a knife through the end of the clove and the skin comes right off.

Dear Char:
Never heard of this. I tried it and it works! My usual method is to just smash the cloves with the flat side of a knife. That works, too.

From Carol C.:
I just read your recent newsletter and I highly recommend the garlic peeler from Pampered Chef. To me it was worth the dollars. It’s a rubber tube, open on both ends. Drop the cloves in the tube, roll it on a flat surface or between your hands, and skins come right off. The other part of the peeler is a gadget that slices the garlic once peeled. I hated what I paid for it, but for me, who has horrible arthritis in my fingers, it was worth it.

Dear Carol:
Donna G.also recommended this gadget, which costs $22 to $26, according to various websites. That IS steep for a little rubber tube, but I just may buy one. Can anyone think of a hardware-store alternative?

From Argery G.:
I have had a taste for cheesecake lately. I now live in new Jersey not far from New York City. While I have eaten many different types of cheesecake here, nothing is as good as Lou & Hy’s…in particular, the chocolate cheesecake.

My mom gave me a printout that appeared in a blog by the Summit County Historical Society dated 2-16-13 with a recipe referencing you as the source from an Akron Beacon Journal article on 10-15-03 with a recipe for the plain cheesecake. I tried making it and I also added some Baker’s chocolate another time for a chocolate version. It was good, but the cake wasn’t as dense as I remember. I think the whipping cream was too loose as the cake is a little too loose even after refrigeration. The recipe didn’t specify it but I added the confectioners’ sugar to the whipping cream. I baked it in a water bath but the top still cracked. I was using a 10-inch springform pan and I baked it at 325 degrees for about an hour.

Do you recall this article? I’m wondering if you have any updates on the recipe that was originally posted.

Dear Argery:
The former chef of Lou & Hy’s gave me the recipe after he retired and that’s the one I printed in 2003. It makes way more than one cheesecake. I cut down the recipe for my cookbook, “Jane Snow Cooks,” but unfortunately I did not bring a copy with me to Florida and the digital copy is on a computer at home.

I do know that the cheesecake is baked for more than two hours, not one hour, so I’m not sure that the recipe you referenced is correct. Here is the original recipe, straight from Tage Hojefeldt, the late chef. Be careful to not over beat the batter, which will produce an airy rather than a dense cake.

When I tested the recipe, I baked it in three graduated springform pans, the kind sold in a set. I baked the cakes directly on the oven rack, not in a boiling water bath. The key to producing a cheesecake that doesn’t crack is to bake it until it is mostly but not quite set. The center should still jiggle. It will firm up as it cools.

LOU & HY’S CHEESECAKE
Crust:
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
10 tbsp. melted butter

Cakes:
8 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
2 3/4cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pint (2 cups) sour cream
9 eggs
2 half-pint containers whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Cherry, blueberry or pineapple pie filling
Whipped cream if desired

For the crust: Stir and toss crumbs with melted butter. Press equal amounts into the bottoms of four 8- or 8 1/2-inch-round springform pans, or a 9 1/2-, 8 1/2- and 7 1/2-inch pans. Set aside.

For the cake: In a 5-quart mixer bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly beat in flour, then sugar. Add salt and sour cream and beat until smooth, scraping down sides occasionally with a rubber spatula.

Add eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until egg is incorporated. Bowl will be very full. Turn off mixer. Scrape bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until batter is uniformly mixed.

In a very large bowl, beat whipping cream until slightly thickened. While beating, slowly add sugar, vanilla and lemon juice until soft peaks form.

Pour one-fourth of the cream cheese mixture into the bowl with the whipped cream and fold until incorporated. Add half of remaining batter and fold again, then fold in remaining batter.

Pour over crusts in springform pans. Place in a boiling water bath and bake in a preheated, 325-degree oven for about 2 1/2 hours; or place pans directly on oven shelves and bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven until cheesecakes are almost set. To test for doneness, gently shake pans. The cheesecakes should still wiggle slightly in the centers. Without the water bath, baking time will be about 40 minutes for a 7 1/2-inch cake, 50 minutes for an 8- to 8 1/2-inch cake, and 60 minutes for a 9 1/2-inch cake.

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Before serving, run a sharp knife between the cake and sides of the pan. Release the clamp, spread the sides and lift the sides off the cake. Top with pie filling and decorate with whipped cream, if desired.

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February 13, 2019

Dear friends,
I am starting to lose track of time. A month nights, a year of days. October drifting into May. Tony was surprised recently when I mentioned it was Sunday. I’m not that bad, although I do have to look at a calendar to figure out the date. Mid-February already? The breezy, sunny days flow together like summer vacation as a kid.

We are waiting out the snow and ice in ranch country, 30 miles from the beach. Steers outnumber people here in south-central Florida. A bit further south is sugar-cane country, where harvested fields are set afire to prepare them for the next crop. In a state without hills, let alone mountains, the plumes of black smoke are visible for miles.

We are trying to eat local, but it’s difficult. I inhale as many honeybells and grapefruit as I can, but a watermelon I bought at a farm stand turned out to be from Guatemala, and local seafood and beef are elusive. A butcher explained why I can’t find local beef. Florida has plenty of pastures but few if any feed lots where cattle are fattened up before slaughter. Florida herds are shipped north on the hoof rather than butchered here.

The dearth of local seafood is inexplicable. I have had a hard time finding a seafood store even on the coast. Ideally, I’d like to buy some fish directly from a boat. We’re still looking. Meanwhile, we drove a couple of hours Sunday to a seafood festival in Port Everglades for a few nuggets of fried alligator and some chewy fried clams. I bet they were frozen. The festival had more to offer, but the crowd was dense.

On our way out of town we stopped at the Marathon gas station to load up on stone crab claws, the specialty of the region. We scored a 3-pound bag, frozen, for $30. Yes, at a gas station. I’ll cook the crab claws this week.

The only cooking I did last week was a chicken salad and some sausages. Yeah, not exactly Florida food. The salad was delicious, though.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the combination of rice, chicken, dates, almonds and pineapple after Kris F. described it in an email I shared last week. What if I used basmati rice, I mused? And added some warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg? The resulting salad was so addictive I finished off the leftovers for breakfast. Thanks, Kris.

CHICKEN AND RICE SALAD WITH PINEAPPLE AND DATES

2 cups cooked chicken in 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 cup pineapple tidbits
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
2 pinches nutmeg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. pineapple juice
1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine, chicken, rice, pineapple, almonds and dates and mix well. Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix again to distribute spices. In a small bowl, beat together mayonnaise and juices. Pour over chicken mixture and stir well. Makes 4 servings.

HELP U COOK
I found a substitute for Miracle Whip. Look no further than the Japanese section of your nearest Asian grocery store where you will find Kewpie mayonnaise. It is a virtual clone of Miracle Whip, which was basically ruined when the fat content was reduced a few years ago, resulting in dressing that turns watery on salads overnight.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Not much. A chicken-rice salad with dates and pineapple; pan-grilled Italian sausage.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Ground beef patty, cottage cheese and fruit at Pogey’s in Okeechobee; cream cheese wonton, Mongolian beef (sort of) and hot tea at Chen’s in Okeechobee; a Cuban sandwich, plantain chips, yuca fries, beef and chicken empanadas and a coconut pastry from Mervis’ in Ft. Pierce (spread over three meals); two biscuits and jam from Pogey’s; chicken and beef empanadas from Mervis’ in Ft. Pierce; fried alligator, fried clams and hush puppies at the Everglades City Seafood Festival.

THE MAILBAG
From Geoff H.:
In reply to Sherrie W. asking about beans, perhaps she can benefit by going to this website: https://www.ranchogordo.com/.

It’s called “Rancho Gordo” and they sell a large variety of heritage beans. I’ve tried several and they have all been exceptional. The website describes each variety they sell and what dishes they could best be used in. They also have many recipes using beans and I’m sure she could find a variety that would please her here. It’s the only place I buy beans now.

Dear Geoff:
When Sherrie mentioned she used to buy beans online, this is the site I figured she used because it is considered the best. If not, I urge her to try Rancho Gordo. At the very least, she should find a good substitute for the beans that no longer seem crisp. Geoff, your email gave me the idea of buying dried fava beans online. With their dopamine content, my mood swings soon may be a thing of the past. Tony thanks you.

From Carol B.:
I am so tired of dealing with garlic cloves. They’re sticky and it’s hard to get rid of the skins. What do you think of the substitutes for fresh garlic, like marinated minced garlic and dehydrated minced garlic? Both of these come in jars and are so much easier to use.

Dear Carol:
I hear you, but unfortunately nothing packs the punch of fresh garlic. I think packaged, minced garlic pales in comparison. Tony found peeled whole cloves once that were great, but they came in such a gargantuan package that I couldn’t use them all before they shriveled.

I have tried various short-cut methods of peeling garlic with no success. The skin is supposed to fall off if you shake the whole cloves in a lidded jar, but it didn’t work for me. Maybe if I had continued shaking for 15 minutes, but otherwise, no. One tip: If you wet your hands and knife before mincing, the garlic won’t be as sticky.

February 6, 2019

Dear friends,
Besides groceries, my purchases in Florida so far have been one soup bowl and a packet of elastic bands for my unruly hair. On Sunday alone, I talked Tony out of acquiring a 6-foot cardboard Tony Tiger and a curb-alert brown leather sofa. He wanted the sofa badly.

Me: What would you do with it?
Tony: Load it in the truck and take it back to Ohio.
Me: And then what?
Tony: ??

I don’t want to spoil Tony’s fun, but we are living for two months in a 1-room (plus bath), 22-foot travel trailer with a Murphy bed. Last week at the flea market Tony bought an abacus-like back massager, two large loofah sponges, a small lidded pan and a high-backed rattan counter stool. We don’t have a counter. He wanted to fit the stool into the five square feet of floor space that already is junked up with a leather-like ottoman (“for the dog”) and footstool he bought at a second-hand store.

Our entire marriage has been a push-pull between Tony’s wanton urge to buy things and my desire for responsible consumerism, between his tendency to hoard and mine to pare back. And then last week I watched “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix. Oh, boy.

Marie is author of the best-seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Her theory is that people should prune their possessions down to the few things that “spark joy”. Hold that chipped paring knife in your hands, one of six in the drawer, and close your eyes. Do you feel joy? If not, ditch it.

Which brings me to the 50-cent yellow bowl I bought Sunday at a flea market. It does not spark joy, but I can’t keep using the same cheap blue and white Corelle dinner ware for my newsletter photos. So I hope you enjoy the photo of this week’s recipe, a coconut chickpea soup with notes of ginger and orange.

The recipe, with minor changes, is from the Florida Citrus Commission. The coconut-ginger broth is so good I plan to use it in other recipes, such as quick bowl dinners (add a grain, protein and wilted greens) and steamed mussels.

While slurping, it’s hard to remember the soup is vegetarian. If you don’t normally cook with vegetable broth, feel free to use chicken broth instead. If the chickpeas aren’t hearty enough for you, toss in a handful of cubed tofu or some shrimp.

The yellow bowl in the photo goes to Goodwill as soon as we return to Akron. I wish I could say the same for the rattan stool.

COCONUT CHICKPEA SOUP

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onions
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
1 can (14 oz.) light coconut milk
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 can (about 15 oz.) chickpeas
1/2 cup orange juice
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a soup kettle. Add onions, carrots, bell pepper and salt. Sauté over medium-high heat until onion is translucent. Add ginger and garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Stir in coconut milk, broth and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro if desired. Make 6 to 8 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Grilled blue cheese burgers on buttered, toasted buns; shrimp cocktails, bloody Marys and grilled corn; coconut chickpea soup with orange and ginger.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Hamburger patty, cottage cheese and a ton of diced fresh fruit at Pogey’s in Okeechobee, Fla.; ground beef empanada and a media noche (Cuban sandwich on sweet bread) at Tropical Latin Food in Port St. Lucie, Fla.; McDonald’s hamburger Happy Meal (for the wi-fi connection, I swear); a chocolate glazed doughnut at Dunkin’ Donuts; a piece of black olive, pepperoni and onion pizza and a garlic knot (a fresh dinner roll drenched in chopped garlic and butter) at Joey’s Pizza in Okeechobee; a chicken salad sandwich on a toasted onion bagel from Max’s Bagels in Stuart, Fla.

THE MAILBAG
From Noreen:
I made cioppino, too, just before your newsletter with the recipe came out. Aldi sells (seasonally) a bag of mixed seafood which includes scallops, mussels, shrimp and calamari. With all the seafood ready to go, it made it a quick after-work meal. It was almost as good as the version with the hand-selected seafood.

Dear Noreen:
Good to know. When I’m not near an ocean, I will check it out. I have found a lot of cool products at Aldi, from the Seedtastic bread to the inexpensive six-packs of bone-in chicken thighs to my current crush, snappy-crisp dill gherkins.

From Kris F.:
As a University of Akron college student in the mid-90s, my first “real” employer would make a special-occasion chicken salad to share in our small office. Her chicken salad made me a fan. I asked for the recipe more than once but she always got a little smile and said, “Maybe one day.”

Well, she passed away very suddenly over 20 years ago and I never got the recipe. I have scoured the internet and Googled the ingredients, all to no avail. Her magic recipe: chicken, pineapple tidbits, dates, slivered almonds and rice. My palate was not sophisticated enough to tell if it was Miracle Whip or real mayo, but the combination was heavenly. There were also tiny flecks of brown in the salad — cinnamon? bits of dates?

I’m writing to see if you have ever come across this recipe.

Dear Kris:
The ingredients sounded pretty normal until I got to the rice. I’ve never seen that in chicken salad, although now I want to taste it. Maybe the brown flecks were grated nutmeg? Maybe it was a rice salad recipe to which she added chicken? The recipe is unusual enough to stick in the mind of anyone who has come across it. Can anyone help?

January 30, 2019

Dear friends,
Just slap me now and get it over with, because I’m going to complain about the weather. I know my readers in Ohio and other northern states are locked in the worst deep freeze in 20 years. I sympathize, honest. But on Sunday we endured some weather here in Florida that scared me out of my flip flops.

Tony, I and the dog were already huddling in our camper with the heater on as temperatures began dropping to the 40s. That was OK. We were prepared with wooly pullovers and a fabulously warming dinner of cioppino — a San Francisco seafood stew that I served over cheesy polenta, as I once enjoyed it at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco.

Dinner was great. What got us was the blasting rain and strong winds that buffeted our small camper trailer afterward. I finally crawled into bed with the dog and hid under the covers while Tony ran from window to window to see whether our awning had ripped off yet. I feared even worse after the tornado warnings a day earlier.

We survived. I kept telling myself, “At least it’s not a blizzard.” Those who are enduring a blizzard can take comfort that at least you aren’t in North Dakota, where the temperatures have been in the minus whackadoodle range all winter. Except my friend, Tamila, who IS in North Dakota. I’m sorry, Tam.

I made cioppino this week with my snow-bound friends in mind. It will really warm you up. I have always loved cioppino, but especially the one I had at the Ritz all those years ago. The great Gary Danko, chef there at the time, served it in a bowl over polenta, turning it into a lumberjack feast. I had Danko’s recipe at one time and lost it. I found it again online in time for Sunday’s cooking session.

I made the polenta first in a slapdash way because I didn’t want to spend 20 minutes stirring. Instead, I sautéed onions and garlic in a skillet in butter, added wine and reduced it by half, and poured it all into a pan of chicken stock. Then I whisked in all of the polenta and stirred it over fairly high heat until it thickened, about 5 minutes. I covered the pot at that point and let it cook over low heat on its own for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Voila — perfectly delicious polenta. Of course, I enriched it with butter and grated Parmesan to amp up the flavor.

Tony and I made quick work of the stew prep. He chopped the pepper, onions and garlic and helped me shell the shrimp and scrub the mussels. I put everything together with the crushed tomatoes, wine and seasonings, downsizing Danko’s recipe and changing some ingredients and methods to match my pantry and equipment.

Steam fogged the windows and created a cozy atmosphere as we spooned polenta into big soup bowls and ladled in the seafood and soup. I served it with thick hunks of sourdough bread toasted on Tony’s tabletop grill. Life was good. Then the storm from hell hit.

I hope this cioppino helps you through your own storm this week.

CIOPPINO WITH EASY POLENTA

For the polenta:
3 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
Butter, grated Parmesan for finishing
Heat chicken broth in a small saucepan (2 quarts). Melt butter in a small skillet and sauté onion and garlic until limp. Add wine, increase heat and boil until wine is reduced by half. Pour wine mixture into saucepan with chicken broth. Whisk in salt and polenta. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking often, until it thickens. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until grains have softened.

Beat in additional butter and Parmesan to taste — about 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Cover and set aside.

For the Cioppino:
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, cut into 1/2″ dice
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 cup dry white or rose wine
1 cup seafood stock
1 16-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz. fillet firm white fish such as mahi mahi
12 large shrimp, peeled
1/2 to 1 lb. mussels, scrubbed

Sauté the onion, garlic and green pepper in the olive oil in a soup pot until the onion is translucent. Stir in salt, pepper, pepper flakes and thyme. Add wine and boil for 1 minute. Stir in seafood stock and crushed tomatoes and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.

Cut fish fillet in three pieces and gently lower into soup. Cover and simmer 5 minutes for a 1-inch-thick piece of fish. While fish cooks, begin to rewarm polenta over low heat. Add shrimp and mussels to the soup, cover and simmer just until mussels open, 2 to 3 minutes. Shrimp should be barely cooked through. They will finish cooking off the heat.

Beat warmed polenta with a whisk or smooth out with a potato masher. Spoon into large shallow soup bowls. Ladle broth and seafood over polenta. Serve with sourdough bread. Makes 3 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Grilled beef ribs seasoned with chopped garlic; grilled strip steaks, fried beef and poblano peppers in olive oil, baked sweet potatoes; cioppino with shrimp, mussels and mahi-mahi over cheesy polenta.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Grilled chicken and melted Swiss on a toasted bun at Old Dixie Cafe in Hobe Sound, Fla.; Smoked beef brisket, yellow rice and red beans, fried cabbage and onions, coleslaw from JR’s B-B-Q in Indiantown, Fla.; chicken stir fry, custard tart, marinated cucumbers, one bacon-wrapped shrimp, cantaloupe, grapes, and a sugared fried dough puff at King House Buffet in Okeechobee; scrambled eggs, bacon, half a pancake with strawberry jam and coffee at Glady’s in Okeechobee; a fabulous smoke-grilled 1/2 chicken, green beans with bacon and coleslaw at a festival in Moore Haven, Fla.; tortilla chips, green salsa, a pork tamale and a shredded beef burrito (bites of each; blah) at Monita’s Mexican Grill in Okeechobee.

THE MAILBAG
From Dan:
I made your Pork and White Bean Stew last weekend and it is another “Jane Snow Hall of Fame” recipe. It was paired with Southern Living’s Buttermilk Drop Biscuits (with whole grain mustard) for a great comfort food meal on a cold weekend.

To post your recipe on my Pinterest board, I copied and pasted it from the newsletter email into a Publisher document, did a little graphics editing and saved it as a jpeg using the snip it tool. Easy to upload the jpeg to Pinterest.

Thanks for the great recipe!

Dear Dan:
And thank you for the info on posting my recipes to Pinterest. Those who are computer-savvy enough to follow your instructions are encouraged to do so. Spread the word!

From Marge:
I use gmail, and it is possible to highlight, copy and paste into a word document I just tried it again and it works, so no need to go to your blog site.

Dear Marge:
Sorry for the bad info in last week’s newsletter. Thanks to you, I finally figured out how to highlight and paste from gmail on my MacBook. Thanks.

From Sherrie W.:
For many years I have used anasazi beans in various stew recipes because I like the crispy/crunchy character of the beans even after soaking them overnight and cooking them. But I have had a hard time finding them in recent years. This year I ordered them online. However, when I cooked them I was very disappointed because they were mushy.

Do you have any suggestions for a substitute for anasazi beans that have a crunchy texture after cooking?

Dear Sherrie:
I think adzuki beans, which my husband buys in Asian stores, are firmer than most. Any other suggestions?

January 23,2019

Dear friends,
I need some fava beans, quick. Like a moth to a flame, I have been drawn to forbidden sweets lately in an unconscious quest to boost the feel-good chemicals in my brain. I hate this but on the other hand, how else would I have discovered Caribbean coconut roll last week?

Yes, it’s complicated. Short version: I am not depressed, but my brain is genetically low in the chemicals that keep me happy. For years I have solved the problem with medication but now want to do so naturally. That means listening to music, meditating, getting plenty of sunshine and eating fava beans, the only food known to contain dopamine, one of the substances my brain is craving. Sugar will give me a temporary feel-good jolt, but I’d like to avoid cleaning out every pastry shop in South Florida.

Luckily, one of my pastry stops last week was Jerk City, a Jamaican carry out in Port St. Lucie, Fla. I don’t know why I stopped; it wasn’t a bakery and I had just finished lunch. But I rushed in, bought
one of the pastries stacked on the counter, and fled.

The scent of vanilla and coconut washed over me when I opened the plastic clam shell in the car. Wow. I figured “coconut roll” would be a sweet bread, but no. It was a roll of flaky pastry wrapped around and around a thick coconut filling. The roll, cut in half for packing, was about 7 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. The interior was moist and bread-y from the dough spiraled around the filling.

The flavor was — well, imagine a mouthful of buttery, flaky, mellow coconut goodness. It was as gentle and cozy a delivery system for coconut as I’ve tasted.

Later I found a recipe for the coconut roll, which turned out to be a Trinidad version. Many islands in the Caribbean have coconut rolls, all with slight variations. Some tint the filling pink. Some slice before baking. Trinidad does neither.

The following recipe is from The Schizo Chef at www.theschizochef.com/2016/03/coconut-roll/. I have not tried it but the winter is young and I haven’t found fava beans yet. Lord help me.

TRINIDAD COCONUT ROLL

Pastry ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup (4 tbsp.) cold butter, chopped
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
1/2 cup cold water

Filling Ingredients:
1 cup frozen grated unsweetened coconut, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Topping Ingredients:
1 egg
1 tbsp. water
1 tsp. sugar

For pastry: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.
Add shortening and butter. Using a pastry blender, cut fat into flour until it resembles small peas. Add water and mix just until dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

For the filling: Combine all filling ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Assembly: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spray with non stick spray. Make egg wash by whisking together the egg and water for the topping.

On a lightly floured board, roll out dough into a rectangle. Spread filling on top. Starting on the long side, roll into a tight cylinder, sealing the ends. Transfer to cookie sheet. Brush the top with egg wash. Sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Slow cooker pork, bean and green chili stew; grilled kabobs of marinated top sirloin, baby bell pepper, onion chunks and chunks of corn on the cob; grilled meatloaf burgers, grilled mixed peppers drizzled with vinaigrette, grilled corn on the cob.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Scrambled eggs, ham steak, grits, biscuit and coffee at Pogey’s in Okeechobee, Fla.; a rueben sandwich at Pogey’s; a chocolate glazed doughnut at Dunkin’ Donuts; Popeye’s 3-piece chicken and a biscuit; roast marinated pork, maduros (sweet plantains), black beans, yellow rice and a cafe con leche at El Cubanito Cuban Restaurant in Port St. Lucie, Fla.; a Trinidad coconut roll from Jerk City in Port St. Lucie; grilled shrimp and spicy grits with garlic bread at Good Spirits Lounge near Okeechobee; eggs over easy, grits, ham, biscuit and coffee at Pogey’s.

THE MAILBAG
From Marge S.:
(For Gail B.), I print your recipes by simply copying them and pasting into a Word document. Highlight the text you want, right click within the highlight and choose “copy.” Open a new Word document, right click on it and choose “paste.” Then you can make adjustments if you want, print it, and save it.

Dear Marge:
You and many others proposed that solution, which is how I print recipes from my newsletter, too. Those who get the newsletter via gmail, which does not support editing functions, will have to go to my blog site to copy and paste JaneSnowToday.wordpress.com

Thank you to those who offered suggestions: Debbie N., Dorothy T., Dorothy B., Christine S., Sura S., J.S., Pennie, Sue D., Judy A., Cindy W., Barbara S., Peggy K., Kay in Santa Fe, Ron C., Iris, Carol W., Ellen, Pat and Deb C.

From Carol B.:
I just printed your recipe for bean stew and can’t wait to fix it. Also, I’m curious about what Tony cooks on a 7-inch electric grill.

Dear Carol:
I measured Tony’s dinky grill and it is actually 10 inches in diameter. It looks smaller because the electric element sits inside a ceramic dish that resembles a soufflé dish, with a grid on top. It is a Japanese thing; they do a lot of grilling at the table.

I didn’t think the grill would be effective because we have a bunch of them taking up space in the basement, and the one I tried didn’t emit enough heat to cook a shrimp.
This one surprised me. Tony fired it up to grill corn on the cob, peppers and hamburgers, in shifts. It cooked everything slowly but surely.

The jury’s still out on the toaster oven.

From Susan R.:
What! No Instant Pot?

Dear Susan:
No. I hate it.

From Pat K.:
I’ve always wanted to know, what do you do with your leftovers? The bean stew recipe you ran last week serves 10. There are two of you. While I like leftovers, what’s a lot of leftovers. Do you freeze and then really reheat? I hate to waste food but I also hate eating the same thing all week long.

Dear Pat:
Sometimes I freeze leftovers, but typically I eat them. I love leftovers. Tony does not. Usually it’s just me and a big pot of whatever. We each had two bowls of the stew initially, then I ate stew the next morning for breakfast. It was the perfect breakfast — protein and vegetables in a warming broth. I had it again for lunch and dinner, and lunch the following day and then breakfast again. I was sad when it was gone. Meanwhile, Tony was happy eating peanut butter toast for breakfast and doctored-up instant ramen noodles for dinners. He eats a lot of ramen and spaghetti while I eat leftovers, fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, protein shakes and other healthful stuff.

January 16, 2019

Dear friends,
My brother brought us up to date via Facebook: “I’m sorry you’re missing the weather today — 16 degrees.” It was our second day in Florida. The temperature had dipped to about 45 degrees overnight and by morning had risen to a crisp 55. Not as frigid Ohio, but still soup weather.

I came prepared. Unlike last year, when I brought no recipes and found the Internet in our campground had been wiped out by a hurricane, I came this week with a clutch of recipe ideas to try. I brought a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a grill and freshly sharpened knives. Our camper is equipped with a 3-burner stove, a midget oven and a microwave. If pressed, I could probably make a multi-course feast with that equipment.

(Tony brought a toaster oven and a 7-inch table-top electric grill. What does he plan to make with those pretend appliances, I wonder?)

Update: Tony just read this over my shoulder and said, “Toast.”

Okay, then. Maybe we can eat his toast with the Southwestern pork and Navy bean stew with green chilies I made for dinner. It simmered all day on the kitchen counter in the slow cooker, and it smells heavenly. It tastes pretty good, too. I had a test bowl after 7 hours and another after 8. By then the white beans had broken down and become creamy. The thick stew is studded with big cubes of tender pork, slices of sweet potato and bits of mild green chilies. I deepened the flavor with onions and garlic and seasoned the stew with plenty of cumin and oregano.

I heated the slow cooker on high as I cut and added the ingredients. By the time the last can of beans was drained and scooped into the pot, the temperature of the mixture had risen enough to skip the usual 15-minute preheat on high. This will be convenient for those who assemble the stew before work.

As for me, I’m just hanging around the camper, listening to my stomach growl and waiting for that toast.

PORK AND WHITE BEAN STEW WITH GREEN CHILIES

2 1/2 lbs. pork butt, in 1-inch cubes
1 jumbo white onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cans (about 5 oz. each) chopped mild green chilies, drained
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced thin
2 cans (about 16 oz. each) chicken broth
2 cans (about 16 oz. each) Navy or Great Northern beans, drained

Heat a slow cooker on high. Chop/measure/prepare each ingredient and add to a slow cooker in order given. Stir, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 8 hours or until pork is tender and beans are soft and creamy. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with more salt to taste. Makes about 10 servings.

GUT CHECK
(I left my weekly planner and food diary in a motel on the way to Florida, so this week’s report is incomplete. Here’s what I recall:)
What I cooked last week:
Egg salad; scrambled egg on seeded toast with hot sauce.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Southwest salad with chicken and a hunk of baguette at Panera; a Burger King Croissanwich; chicken teriyaki skewer, one salt and pepper shrimp, two spoonfuls of chicken stir fry and a sugar-dusted fried doughnut at Szechuan Buffet in Statesville, N.C. (the only place we could park with a camper in tow); pulled pork, potato salad, corn dodgers and iced tea at Bar-B-Que Hut in Sumter, S.C.; a bacon and pineapple pizza from Pizza Hut in Jacksonville, Fla. (delivered to our motel room); a pulled pork and slaw sandwich and Diet Coke at Memaw’s Bar-B-Q in Palm something (Bay? Harbor), Fla.

THE MAILBAG
From Gail B.:
How do I print some of the recipes you put in your weekly newsletter? I cannot find a print icon. I even went to your blog but no icon there, either. Thanks.

Dear Gail:
I’m sharing your question because others have asked, too. I also get questions about why there is no way to post recipes to Pinterest and other collection sites that enable users to keep track of recipes they want to save.

Unfortunately, I can’t help because I don’t handle the physical production of the newsletter. The kind folks at Mimi Vanderhaven manage the mailing list and editing functions, and I am grateful for their help. I will ask them again if there’s a way to add these features. Meanwhile, maybe there’s a computer whiz out there who has an easy solution for printing recipes from this newsletter.

January 9, 2019

Dear friends,
I’m cooking for just myself for a few days while Tony is off to a cabin in the woods, leaving me in charge of the dog and packing for our annual trip to Florida. We leave this week. We will be gone for two months. I could kill him.

So far I have gathered up a stack of summer shirts and the dog’s medicine. I am frantically making lists and doing laundry while subsisting for two days now on crackers and a big bowl of chicken salad.

Today (I’m writing this on Sunday), I will treat myself. At 6 p.m. I will turn on the TV to watch the Golden Globes red carpet while dining on pan-grilled salmon with coconut-lime sauce. I don’t have a lot of time to cook, so I dreamed up a dish that produces lots of flavor in about 15 minutes, tops.

I will savor the break and try not to feel guilty. I envy Tony, who is much better than I am at pampering himself. He lives in the moment. Then again, somebody has to pack.

PAN-GRILLED SALMON WITH COCONUT-LIME SAUCE

3 tbsp. oil such as Canola
3 green onions
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. minced ginger
4 salmon fillets, each about 2 inches wide
Coarse sea salt
2 tbsp. chopped peanuts

Heat a medium skillet. When warm, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl. Slice white part of onions and sauté with garlic in the warm oil for 1 minute, just until garlic begins to soften. Add soy sauce, coconut milk, lime juice and ginger and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Heat a heavy skillet large enough to hold the salmon over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, swirl and heat. Place salmon fillets, skin sides down, in skillet. Spoon some of the hot oil over the salmon and sprinkle with sea salt. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 7 minutes for 1-inch-thick fillets, or until salmon is done to your liking.

Spoon some of the sauce onto each of 4 dinner plates. Place salmon fillets on top of sauce. Chop green onion tops and scatter over salmon. Scatter peanuts over fillets. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Roasted kabocha squash with sweet soy sauce, pan-grilled strip steaks; overnight oats with dried cranberries and slivered almonds; venison spaghetti sauce; chicken salad with red sweet peppers and celery; pan-grilled salmon with coconut-lime sauce.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Half of a Southwestern chicken salad and a piece of baguette at Panera; Wendy’s chili with Cheez-its.

THE MAILBAG
From Ann M:
I know the holidays are past along with the need for sauerkraut ball recipes, but I wanted to tell you about the gluten-free ones we make for my celiac family. I substitute Earth Balance spread for the butter, use gluten-free flour (Pamela’s), and put gluten-free Rice Chex in the blender for the coating. They turn out great.

Dear Ann:
Thank you for sharing that. I’m sure many people will try your suggestions.

From Sonja C.:
Do you have a recipe for the hot sauce served at Aladdin’s Restaurants? I’ve tried imitating it and searched online for recipes to no avail. The sauce is a condiment frequently offered for an additional cost if you order hummus. It looks a bit like a vinaigrette dressing in that is separates. It is orangish, with chunks that are finely diced peppers and garlic, perhaps. We like it for dipping falafel or just to add some spiciness to any of our meals.

Dear Sonja:
You have piqued my curiosity. I’ll have to try it. Meanwhile, if anyone shares a recipe I’ll let you know.

January 3, 2019

Dear friends,
I remember packing raw chickens in dry ice at breakneck speed to make the final Fed Ex pickup of the day. The birds were going to a food lab in Columbus to determine how the chickens in Akron supermarket chickens stacked up against the national average of salmonella in chicken. (Result: about 30 percent were contaminated, same as nationwide).

I remember the day a photographer coaxed me into a fort built from hundreds of my cookbooks for a picture to go with a story about cookbook collecting. Before he could snap the photo, the heavy rear wall of the fort toppled onto me, bruising a shoulder and almost burying me.

I remember interviewing a nice guy in a kitchen absolutely trashed from an apparently intense cooking session. Although the photographer had a tough time getting a serene shot, I loved the guy’s green chili stew. For years afterward I imagined the scene when his wife got home from work that day: You let them photograph this??

I remember naming the sauerkraut ball Akron’s iconic food, and Gino’s its best pizza. I remember generous chefs who shared their knowledge and recipes and readers who shared their life stories.

In 24 years as food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, I amassed a lifetime of memories. I held the position from September 1982 through November 2006, the latest in a line that stretched back to the 1800s. Standouts along the way were Glenna Snow (1932 to 1946) and Polly Paffilas (1961 to 1974), but all 12 of the food writers whose bylines I unearthed in the newspaper archives helped Akron-area readers shop and eat better and more knowledgeably.

Today I’m asking what YOU remember. I am writing a chapter on the Beacon Journal’s food coverage as part of a history of the newspaper untaken by my colleagues. The eventual book will be published by the University of Akron Press. I would like to include readers’ comments on what they liked (or disliked) about the Food section.

I know what I think — the design, artwork and photography were some of the best in the country, and the content when I was writing the section was the result of much blood, sweat and tears.

But what about you? Are there any articles you especially remember? Were you helped by any of the nutrition or food safety advice? Did we make you laugh occasionally? Did any recipes become favorites? In sum, what made the Beacon Journal’s food coverage special?

Many of the recipes I printed became favorites of mine. Among the treasured stack I keep in a mixing bowl in the kitchen are recipes from readers, chefs and cookbooks, along with a handful of recipes I created. Do you have a favorite? The following bread pudding recipe is one of mine. It is from reader Geoff Hewitt, who was profiled in an In the Kitchen column in 1988. The addition of pecans and shredded coconut puts his version over the top.

LOUISIANA BREAD PUDDING
1 long loaf French bread
1 cup chopped pecans
4 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter, melted
3 eggs
1 tbsp. dry sherry
2 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Tear the bread into pieces of various sizes and let air-dry for three days. Spread chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Combine all ingredients except bread and mix well. Add bread and stir well, using your hands to thoroughly mix the ingredients. The mixture should be quite moist but not soupy. Add more milk if it appears to be too dry. Pour into a greased, 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes. Serve warm with bourbon sauce.

BOURBON SAUCE
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/2 cup bourbon or other liquor

Stir butter and sugar over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolk. Stir in bourbon gradually. Heat until warm but not boiling. Spoon over individual portions of bread pudding.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
A bone-in half ham (shank) with honey-mustard glaze; ham, potato and butternut squash soup; ham quiche. (Eternity is two people and a ham.)

What I ate out last week:
Baked brie en croute, marinated chicken kabob, steamed rice, couscous, green salad and a cut-out cookie at my niece, Heidi’s; chicken pad Thai at Giant Eagle in Cuyahoga Falls.

THE MAILBAG
From Dorothy G.:
“The West Point Market Cookbook” by Russ Vernon is for sale on Amazon.

Dear Dorothy:
I was stunned to see how much the book has soared in price since it was published in 2008. Used copies are going for as much as $132 on Amazon, although a number of more reasonably priced copies in good condition can be had for $25 to $30. Again, I would check the shelves at the Bookseller in Akron first.

From Bill B.:
A book you said you want to get, “The Flavor Matrix,” sounds good. Have you read “The Flavor Thesaurus”? It is what the title says it is: Synonyms and antonyms for flavors. I also recommend “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nosrat. Both books are great for understanding flavors.

Dear Bill:
I currently am watching the four-part documentary on Netflix based on “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” It is entertaining and instructive. As for “The Flavor Thesaurus,” that sounds like a good book for a restaurant critic. Personally, in my years of reviewing I was always searching for a new way to say “mediocre.”

From Karen B.:
It’s good to see that you were recently at Sushi Katsu (in Akron’s Merriman Valley). We were just talking about it yesterday! My son and friend had both been there but it was years ago, and they really enjoyed it. I told them I wasn’t sure how it is since Tony left but apparently it’s pretty good if you were there. Any other thoughts?

Dear Karen:
Tony and I go at least once a month. The sushi is very good. Tony taught the chefs before we handed it over. Sometimes there will be something not up to Tony’s standards, and he will make the chefs aware of it. The sushi is more adventurous under chef Tin than it was under Tony, who is a sushi purist. The tired decor, which Tony wouldn’t let me change, is sleek and modern now. Go! Enjoy!

December 28, 2018

Dear friends,
First came the Vietnamese noodle soup, pho. Then came the Japanese noodle soup, ramen. The two Asian soup trends steamrolled across the country, leaving pho and ramen restaurants in their wake. Except in the Akron-Canton area, where restaurants devoted to the slurpy, soul-warming ramen are scarce.

Oh, sure, you can find bowls of ersatz ramen on restaurant menus, but no restaurants devoted to the stuff until now. Ramen Katsu, a sister restaurant to my husband’s former restaurant, Sushi Katsu in Akron, has opened in Green with a menu absolutely brimming with ramen. There’s miso ramen, shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, vegetarian ramen and build-your-own ramen. A tiny problem: the broth is too sweet for my taste. The toppings and noodles are stellar, though.

But before you get to the main part of the menu, zero in on the appetizers — specifically, a version of edamame that is worth the trip alone. The green soy beans are usually served in their pods, salted and steamed. Diners peel off and discard the pods and eat the tender beans. At Ramen Katsu, you’ll want to linger over the pods awhile before discarding them. That’s because the pods are seasoned with plenty of chopped garlic, sesame seeds, chili pepper flakes and salt. Getting to the beans inside is a delicious journey.

The pods at Ramen Katsu are almost tender enough to eat, and I did chew on a few of them although they’re meant to be discarded. Either way, you’ll get enough of the seasoning to make your mouth sing.

I think the restaurant uses a homemade seasoning mixture with chili flakes. I used a more traditional Japanese seasoning called “shichimi togarashi,” which is a number of ground dried chili peppers mixed with other seasonings such as dried seaweed, black pepper and dried orange peel. It is sold in little shaker bottles in Asian food stores. I also added white sesame seeds, salt, Chinese chili oil and of course, garlic. Here’s my version:

SPICY GARLIC EDAMAME

1 package (12 oz.) frozen edamame (in their pods)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 heaping tablespoon)
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp. shichimi togarashi (available in Asian stores)
1 tsp. coarse salt (sea or kosher)
1 tsp. Chinese chili oil

Remove frozen edamame from wrapping and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for about 3 1/2 minutes, or until the beans are warm and completely thawed.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add oil. When oil is hot, stir in garlic, sesame seeds, togarashi and salt. Cook and stir until garlic is golden and mixture is fragrant. Add beans and continue to cook, scooping and stirring, for 1 minute or until beans, oil and spices are thoroughly mixed.

Pour into a bowl and drizzle with chili oil, adding more or less to taste. Toss again and serve. Makes 3 to 4 servings (or 1 if you’re Tony).

Here’s a bonus recipe for a cookie so good I made it twice this month.

ORANGE BUTTER COOKIES

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ⅔ cups cake flour or more all-purpose flour (cake flour gives a finer texture)
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 packed tsp. freshly grated orange zest
1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

FOR THE ICING (Jane’s version):
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 orange

Position two oven racks in top and bottom third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk flours, baking soda and salt together. In a mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and orange zest at medium speed until light and smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of bowl frequently. Add egg and mix. Add one egg yolk and mix. Add remaining egg yolk and mix. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment, leaving about an inch between cookies. Press each one down lightly with 2 fingers to flatten to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Leave any ridges and valleys on top of cookie intact, but smooth the edges.

Bake about 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through. Cookies should be pale but baked all the way through. Cool. From Julia Moskin in the New York Times.

For the icing: Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl. Grate the zest of the orange (just the colored part) into the bowl. Juice the orange and stir in 3 tablespoons until smooth. Add more juice if necessary to make a thin icing that slowly drips from a spoon. When cookies are cool, dip the tops of the cookies in the icing. Set aside to dry. Store in lidded containers at room temperature or freeze.

TIDBITS
Cookbooks I want to buy, from the Chicago Tribune’s annual best cookbooks books list:
• “The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes” by James Briscione with Brook Parkhurst. This is no ordinary book about flavor mashups. IBM’s Watson supercomputer was used to compare chemical compounds in various foods and match ingredients that have similar traits — green beans with pineapple and olives with chocolate, for example. This is exciting stuff for a recipe developer.

• “Dorie’s Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan. This book, filled with luscious cookie recipes (the chocolatey World Peace Cookie is already famous) from the inimitable Greenspan, won the James Beard Award for Best Baking and Dessert Book this year.

• “The Adventures of Fat Rice” features 100 recipes from the “cult favorite” Chicago restaurant Fat Rice. I can’t wait to try Macau-inspired dishes such as minchi, a Macau meat hash, and Po Kok Gai, a Portuguese-Chinese mashup chicken curry with olives. This is flavorful cooking with an exclamation point.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Mexican eggnog; scrambled egg whites and avocado on toast; potato and spinach soup; pot roast with wine and thyme, sautéed cauliflower rice with vegetables; pancakes, bacon and eggs; pickled eggs; homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons; mini microwave fruitcakes soaked in Grand Marnier; potato salad; no-knead bread; truffled risotto with pan-grilled shrimp and an antipasto platter; potato salad.

What I ate out last week:
A hamburger slider with onions from Hamburger Station in Akron; a California roll from Sushi Katsu in Akron; a pickle dog (beef hot dog with mustard, onion and grilled dill pickle spear) from the Stray Dog Cafe in Akron.

THE MAILBAG
From Beth B.:
Re: West Point Market alternative — I really like the Miles Farmers Market on Miles Road in Solon. Superior produce, great meat, pretty decent baked goods and prepared foods (not as nice as West Point Market, though), and lots of specialty items. I try to go there every time I’m up on the East Side for an appointment or errand. The Heinen’s stores in Hudson and especially in Brecksville are pretty swell, too. Wish I hadn’t donated my West Point cookbook during one of my purges.

Dear Beth:
Regretfully, I can’t find mine, either. I’m sure the University of Akron Press would be pleased to sell us copies. The Bookseller in Wallhaven probably has some used ones available, too.

From Jane S.:
You have to try coquito. It is a coconut version of a type of eggnog using cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and 151 rum. Generally it is made at home and is served in small glasses. There are several recipes on the internet and youtube. Ask any Puerto Rican friend about it.

Dear Jane:
Coconut cream AND sweetened condensed milk? Maybe I should just glug a bottle of Karo. Anyway, coquito sounds wonderful to this coconut lover, although far too sweet for me to try. Others may want to give it a go, though.

From Amy:
Are you sure your killer brownie recipe is correct? Both the West Point cookbook and the Beacon Journal say 2/3 cup evaporated milk.

Dear Amy:
The reader who questioned the cookbook and Beacon Journal recipe said the batter was so soupy it would not firm up. That is why I offered MY version, created before the cookbook came out and given to me in pieces-parts by the Vernons. I am sure my recipe works. Russ Vernon told me, in an interview promoting the book, that he didn’t want to give away TOO many secrets. Maybe the correct brownie recipe was one of them. Can anyone else comment on the Killer Brownie recipe in the “West Point Market Cookbook?”

December 19, 2018

Dear friends,
I’ve heard of Appalachian old-timers who kept crocks of eggnog on their chilly porches in the weeks leading up to Christmas, replenishing the pot each time visitors sampled the libation. No wonder people used to “go visiting” at the holidays.

I love eggnog with a fierceness fueled by unfulfilled longing. I gave up the drink long ago when I spied the calorie count on a carton of Smith’s: 170 per half cup. This week’s recipe, homemade Mexican eggnog made with 2 percent milk and Splenda, whittles that down to 124 calories without the rum— still not diet food, but geez, it’s Christmas. And when I foam the eggnog and fill half the mug with hot coffee for an eggnog latte, it’s almost guilt free.

I stumbled across Mexican eggnog, or rompope, by accident while searching for Latin American Christmas traditions. I was curious last week after I enjoyed lunch at a newish Puerto Rican restaurant, Hayuya Puerto Rican Cuisine on Canton Road in Akron.

Before I could get to Puerto Rican Christmas recipes, up popped a bunch of recipes for rompope, a cinnamon-spiced eggnog that originated at a nunnery in Oaxaca. In essence, milk is steeped with cinnamon sticks and a selection of spices that changes according to the whim of the maker. Cloves, citrus peel, nutmeg, vanilla and almonds are some popular choices.

After steeping, egg yolks are whisked into the milk and cooked and stirred until thickened. Some recipes call for ground almonds to thicken the nog, but I found if you are patient and stir it over low heat, the eggs will thicken it sufficiently. Warning: Do not allow the egg-enriched mixture to come to a simmer or the eggs will scramble and clump.

Right about now, seasoned cooks are concluding that Mexican eggnog is basically creme anglaise or what the English call “pouring custard.” Maybe so, but who hasn’t wanted to drink custard? I still have some in the fridge if anyone wants to drop by.

ROMPOPE

4 cups milk (I used 2 percent)
1 cup sugar or 1/2 cup Splenda Granulated
1 pinch baking soda
2 sticks (3 inches long) cinnamon
1 whole clove
Zest of 1 orange, in strips, no white pith
1/4 tsp. fresh-grated nutmeg
8 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup dark rum

Place milk, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, clove and orange zest in a saucepan. Watching carefully, bring to a simmer, lower heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Do not walk away because you must adjust the heat after covering it, or it might boil over. Remove from heat, still covered, and steep for 30 minutes.

Uncover milk mixture and strain out cinnamon sticks, clove and orange peel. Stir in nutmeg. Allow to cool while separating eggs and placing yolks in the bowl of a mixer. Beat yolks until pale yellow and thick. Ladle in warm milk mixture in a thin stream while beating on medium-high speed to prevent eggs from cooking.

When all the milk has been added, return it to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the nog has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil or even a simmer or the eggs will curdle.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and rum. Serve warm or, even better, chill overnight to allow the flavors to blend before serving. Dust the top of each serving with nutmeg if desired. Makes 8 half-cup servings.

This recipe is an amalgam of several recipes found on the Internet.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled, oven-finished sirloin steak (shared with our dog for his 12th birthday) sliced and served over cauliflower rice with vegetables; hot pepper crackers; skinless chicken thighs simmered with wine and sauerkraut; pork and bell pepper stir fry with five-spice Szechuan sauce and Szechuan peppercorns; scrambled eggs and orange sections with toast and sugar-free blackberry jelly.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
A stellar beef empanada, roast pork shoulder and fried ripe plantains at Hayuya Puerto Rican Cuisine on Canton Road in Akron; tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) miso ramen with eggplant and mushrooms, spicy garlic edamame and two pieces of a California roll at Ramen Katsu in Green; Nashville hot chicken thigh and leg, mashed potatoes and a biscuit at KFC in Wadsworth.

TIDBIT
Judy James is looking for a sauerkraut ball recipe, but not just any sauerkraut ball recipe. She is avid to find the recipe for the iconic sauerkraut balls served at Brown Derby restaurants in years gone by.

James, a retired librarian, wants the recipe for her forthcoming book about the treasured recipes of Akron. She has collected quite a few recipes, but despite some serious research, the sauerkraut ball recipe continues to elude her. The recipe was shared by the Brown Derby and printed in the Beacon Journal’s Action Line column decades ago. According to a 1970 article, the newspaper mailed 550 copies of the recipe to readers, so someone in the Akron area is bound to have it, says Judy. If you have the recipe, or even a clue about where to find it, contact her at akronrecipeproject@gmail.com.

THE MAILBAG
From Cindy W.:
Yay! Thanks for today’s recipe (Shrimp ACC)… my Christmas Day appetizer! You have the greatest readers. For those who might recreate the dish, the Club served its signature appetizer in small individual ramekins finished in a salamander (broiler) with toast points on the side for dipping in the sauce…damn, I’m drooling again!

Dear Cindy:
I may have to try this. Alix, who sent the recipe, points out that despite my skepticism, the Akron General cookbook version really does specify just 1/2 teaspoon of Diablo Sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of chutney. I can’t imagine 1/2 teaspoon of either would add much flavor to 1 1/2 cups mayo and chili sauce. I suggest tasting and doctoring according to your own discretion.

From Kathleen C.:
With the closing of West Point Market, I tried making the Killer Brownies recipe the Beacon Journal published recently (https://www.ohio.com/akron/lifestyle/west-point-market-killer-brownies-how-you-can-make-them-at-home). It’s also the same one in (former owner) Russ Vernon’s cookbook that came out a few years ago.

The first part of the recipe is where I am having trouble, after mixing the batter and baking the first layer.

After it is in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, the consistency of the brownies is liquid. I’ve tried cooking them longer, which is almost an hour to get the batter firm. But then the top gets really hard and the rest of the brownies are hard when fully cooked. So what am I doing wrong? Anyone else have this problem?

Dear Kathleen:
That recipe was posted in September to the newspaper’s website, based on an article written in 2013. It is not my story, so I don’t know much about it. I could not access the 2013 recipe in the Beacon Journal’s database to determine if a mistake had been made in reprinting it in September, and I no longer have the West Point cookbook to compare.

However, in 2006, before West Point coughed up the recipe, I made a knock-off based on descriptions of the recipe and process from owner Russ Vernon and his son, Rick. The mix the Vernons used, Russ told me, is Betty Crocker Super Moist German Chocolate Cake Mix. The liquid is just few tablespoons, not 2/3 cup as in your recipe. The brownies are not baked until firm. The first layer becomes firm when frozen. These tips from my 2006 article may help you:

“… the brownies are baked in three steps. The bottom layer is briefly baked, rapped on the counter to make the batter fall, and baked a few minutes more. When cool, the partially baked layer is slathered with caramel, dotted with chocolate chips and frozen. When everything is rock hard, the top layer is added and the brownies are baked some more. Freezing keeps the caramel layer in place and prevents the bottom layer from over baking.

“Even so, the brownies must be removed from the oven before they appear to be done. My advice is to test your oven temperature for accuracy and then just trust the timing in the… recipe.”

JANE’S KILLER BROWNIES RECIPE
1 box (18.25 oz.) Betty Crocker Super Moist German Chocolate Cake Mix
12 tbsp. butter, melted
3 tbsp. cream
3/4 cup walnut pieces
2/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. By hand or with a mixer, mix dry cake mix and butter. Beat in cream. Stir in walnuts by hand. Spread half of the dough in the bottom of a lightly buttered and floured, 9-inch-square baking pan. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and bang on counter to make brownies fall. Bake 3 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold.

Spread caramel topping over brownie layer. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Freeze until firm.

Crumble remaining dough and scatter evenly over frozen caramel layer. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes, until top is dry. Cool completely, then refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar. Store in refrigerator or freeze. Bring to room temperature to serve.

From Peggy:
I read with alarm about your waning interest in Belgrade chicken. Twice our “to go” chicken from Belgrade was soggy, too — a new experience. Determined to continue my 60-plus-year affair with a childhood love, I immediately dumped the chicken out of the to-go bucket and into a basket at home. Voila! Sogginess gone.

So please don’t give up. Some things are worth a little loyalty despite changes in the kitchen. Keep the lard in your life!!

Dear Peggy:
Words to live by.