November 20, 2017

Dear friends,

Although panna cotta is on the menu of many fancy restaurants, in truth it’s easier to make than instant pudding. Seriously.

That’s why I made pumpkin panna cotta Sunday when Tony and I craved something sweet. I knew I would be cooking pumpkin pie, turkey and other feast foods in the coming days, and I didn’t want to mess around.

The simple Italian dessert has been described as “creamy gelatin,” but I think panna cotta tastes more like a firm custard. The gelatin in the recipe almost inconspicuously holds the milk, cream and flavorings together in a gentle embrace.

I have seen panna cottas chilled in molds that are then dipped in warm water and tipped onto dessert plates. That’s not a good idea with a generously spiced version such as pumpkin. I found that some of the spices invariably sink to the bottom, which then becomes the speckled top when the panna cotta is unmolded.  I recommend chilling and serving it simply in custard cups or dessert coupes (little footed dishes).

To make the dessert super fast, I used pumpkin pie filling that is pre-sweetened and pre-spiced. I’m not ashamed. Consider the work involved in this recipe: a packet of gelatin is sprinkled on some milk in a saucepan and let stand for five minutes. More milk along with cream and pumpkin pie filling are stirred in and brought almost to a simmer. The mixture is poured into custard cups and chilled. That’s it.

When Tony raved about my pumpkin panna cotta and I smiled and accepted his accolades as if I’d spent the afternoon in the kitchen — now, THAT I’m ashamed of.

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

 

PUMPKIN PANNA COTTA

• 1 1/2 cups whole milk
• 1 envelope gelatin
• 1 cup whipping cream
• 1 cup pumpkin pie filling (sweetened, spiced)
• Whipped cream, fresh-grated nutmeg

Pour 1/2 cup of the milk into a medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over the milk. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining milk with the cream and pie filling until very smooth. Pour into pan with gelatin, whisking well. Heat to just below a simmer, stirring until the gelatin dissolves.

Whisk again and pour into 6 to 8 custard cups or coupes. Chill at least 4 hours. Top each with a spoonful of whipped cream and a dusting of grated nutmeg. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

HELP U COOK

On Tuesday I cooked my annual pre-Thanksgiving back-up turkey my favorite way, on a covered Weber grill. Grill-smoked turkey is hands-down the best way to cook the beast. The meat always turns out juicy, smoky and delicious. One year I roasted a turkey in the oven and one on the grill and compared. The winner by a mile was the grilled turkey.

I have to look up the directions every year because my brain does not hold onto every little detail. I assume you are the same way, so I am providing detailed directions I wrote years ago for the Beacon Journal. It is as good a guide as I’ve seen. You may want to print and save it.

You’ll need a covered grill large enough to contain the turkey. If you’ve already put away your grill for the winter, don’t forget to open the vents or the fire will go out during the first half-hour of cooking. You’ll have to start over, beginning with moving the hot, slippery turkey to a platter.

Use plenty of charcoal. The colder and windier the day, the more you’ll need. Pile about 50 or so briquettes in the grill for starters, and allow them to become about 80 percent ashed over.

When the fire is ready, push the briquettes to each side of the grill and place a drip pan in the center of the grill. A throw-away foil pan works fine. The turkey will be placed directly on the oiled grill (breast-side up) above the drip pan, so that the juices for gravy flow into the pan, and so that no coals are directly under the turkey.

This is called cooking with indirect heat and it’s what all true barbecuers do, whether the meat is turkey, pork or beef. If you place coals directly under a large piece of meat such as a turkey, the outside will burn before the inside cooks.

Add two or three hickory chunks that you’ve soaked in water to the fire before putting on the turkey. This will give the meat a pleasant, woodsy flavor.

Four or five briquettes must be added to each side of the fire about every 45 minutes, so that a steady heat is maintained. About halfway through the cooking, add a couple more chunks of hickory, too. Try to keep the two fires evenly hot, or one side of the turkey will cook faster than the other. Open the grill lid as little as possible, to keep the heat in.

Other than rubbing the turkey all over with butter or margarine before putting it on the grill (to keep the skin from splitting), no basting is required.

Either place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone) before you begin grilling, or use an instant meat thermometer to determine doneness. The turkey is done when the thigh meat is 180 degrees and the breast meat about 170 degrees.

The unstuffed 12 1/2-pounder I tested took about 3 1/2 hours to cook. A bone-in, 5-pound breast took about 2 1/2 hours. Cooking time will depend on how cold it is outside, the bone configuration of the turkey, and the temperature of the meat when it was put on the grill. When I grilled, it was sunny and about 65 degrees. But generally, figure on about 11 to 15 minutes of cooking time per pound — longer if it’s cold and windy.

Rely on a thermometer, not looks, to determine doneness. The meat will be pink just beneath the skin because of the smoke, but this is not an indication of rawness.

When the bird is done, transfer it to a platter, cover with foil and let rest about 20 minutes to allow the juices to return to the surface. Remove the drip pan and make gravy from the juices.

That’s it. Just don’t expect any leftovers. Grilled turkey has a way of getting gobbled up.

Turkeys may be cooked on gas grills, too. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparing the fire. Set the temperature control for 300 to 350 degrees, or low heat, and preheat 15 to 20 minutes, recommends the National Turkey Federation. Place the whole turkey on the grill and close the cover.

TIDBITS

Tony and I both are crushing on Xinji Noodle Bar in Ohio City, which we visited after thoroughly enjoying the Jazz Age exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Finally, ramen that tastes like the rich soup we enjoy in Japan.

The restaurant, which opened in July, is hipster chic on a budget. It is sparsely furnished, with blond wood floors, high ceilings and the requisite exposed duct work. It is a large space — maybe carved from two former shops — partially separated by a wall of exposed brick.

The menu is limited to ramen in several styles, bao sandwiches, a couple of rice bowls and a few appetizers. The latter includes two spicy, very crisp Korean chicken thighs that Tony and I shared. They aren’t as addictive as Nashville hot chicken, but close.

The ramen portions are about half the size of the behemoth bowls served in Sapporo noodle shops, but my bowl of miso ramen was more than enough for me. The rich broth bespoke long-simmered pork bones. The curly ramen noodles had that mysterious crispness of real Japanese ramen (the unusual texture comes from the way the noodles are processed). To cap it all off, nothing on Xinji’s menu is more than $12.

For hours and more information, go toxinjinoodle.com.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked at home last week:
Thick, pan-grilled lamb chops with herbs de Provence and wine sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon; pumpkin panna cotta; chicken and cabbage soup.

What I ate away from home last week:
Pad Thai at the cafe at State Road Giant Eagle in Cuyahoga Falls; Japan-worthy miso ramen noodles with corn kernels, kale, sliced pork and a few bean sprouts at Xinji Noodle Bar in Cleveland; pineapple and ham pizza from Rizzi’s in Copley; eggs over easy, grits, ham and a piece of toast at Wally Waffle in Akron; a cup of turkey chili and a Greek salad at Panera.

THE MAILBAG

From Kim M.:
I saw that you had food at the Eye Opener and had French dressing (which I love). How does it compare to Papa Joe’s White French? The reason for this email is I tried to make white French and it separated. I guess I didn’t drizzle the oil. Do you have a recipe for white French dressing?

Dear Kim:
White French dressing is best when the acid threatens to but doesn’t quite overtake the sweet. This recipe is from my book, “Jane Snow Cooks.”

ALMOST KEN STEWART’S WHITE FRENCH DRESSING
• 1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup grated yellow onion
• 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
• 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar

Place mayonnaise in a bowl. Grate the onion on the grater disk of a food processor or the large holes of a box grater, then mince finely by hand. Measure onion, packing down. Add to mayonnaise.

Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight before using. Makes about 1 cup.

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November 17, 2017

Dear friends,

My cookbook collection is growing again after an abrupt halt when I retired from the Beacon Journal. I had access at the newspaper to almost every new cookbook printed in the United States. They arrived on my desk in droves, unbidden. I could look up an Uzbekistan dish, no problem, or decide which of five Peruvian cookbooks I wanted to keep.

Ah, well. After an 11-year dry spell, I’m just glad to have a way to purchase a few of last season’s cookbooks for $2 to $3. Sometimes the books are older than last season, but that’s OK; they are new to me.

There are probably lots of off-price book e-tailers, but BookBub is the one that snagged me. While it does not specialize in cookbooks, at least two or three are among the offerings in any given week. New subscribers check categories of books they are interested in, and receive daily emails with five or six book synopses. The prices are good for a limited time, and only through BookBub. Most of the books are sold at regular prices at outlets such as Amazon.

So far I have bought Carnivore by Michael Symon, Pastries from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton, The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman. The latter two are the only ones that have tempted me to cook from them, but for $9 total, I can handle a few misses.

I didn’t think I would like cooking from an electronic book, but now I enjoy propping my iPad on the kitchen counter and following along. When the food is finished, my iPad is right there to photograph it.

My latest electronic cookbook session involved a Chinese crab and corn soup from Bittman’s book. I chose it because it sounded so quick to prepare. It was, and Tony loved it. I liked it too, and probably would like it even more with homemade chicken stock and creamed corn that starts with fresh corn on the cob, which Bittman suggests as options. But then, the soup would never have made it to my table.

This soup is delicate and lovely. The clean, grassy bite of cilantro juxtaposed against the creamy broth is what makes the soup, in my opinion. Is it one of the best recipes in the world? No, but it’s good and it’s quick, and worth the $2 paid for the book.

Cream-style corn and crabmeat soup

CREAM-STYLE CORN AND CRABMEAT SOUP

  • 2 tbsp. corn, grapeseed, or other neutral oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 lb. shredded crabmeat, diced peeled shrimp, or diced boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp. nam pla or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 can (15 oz.) creamed corn
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or scallion
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil; then add the crabmeat. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes, until nearly done.

Stir in the nam pla, wine, and corn. While stirring, pour in the eggs in a slow stream so they cook in thin strands. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

From The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman.

TIDBITS

Confession: I rarely buy unsalted butter. I know salted butter is not trendy, but I like the flavor. Now I can come out of the closet.

David Lebovitz, who lives in Paris, writes in My Paris Kitchen: “If you buy regular salted butter, it’s likely that the salt has been dissolved so that it’s not obvious, but there is a discernible flavor difference you’ll probably start to appreciate if you use it often. Salted butter just tastes more, well, buttery to me.’’

Yes, salt originally was added to butter to help preserve it before the availability of reliable refrigeration, but it was added for flavor, too. The two types may be used interchangeably in recipes without compensating for the small amount of salt added or lost, Lebovitz says.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked at home last week:
Chinese corn and crab soup, French dip; bratwurst with sweet and sour cabbage; Japanese venison curry.

What I ate away from home last week:
Taco Bell tacos; butternut squash soup and grilled chicken salad with white French dressing at The Eye Opener in the Wallhaven area of Akron; eggs, bacon, grits and a biscuit at Cracker Barrel; and a Greek smorgasbord (pastitsio balls, spit-roasted lamb, marinated, grilled chicken, Greek cookies, rice pudding, etc., etc.) as a judge at a Men Who Cook fund-raiser at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Akron.

THE MAILBAG

From Rachel A.:
I love your “ode to friends” issue (last week) so much. I’m an Akron girl who moved away and moved back, but I left my two dearest girlfriends a hundred miles away in Powell, Ohio, and this holiday season is when I miss them most.

Recipes and stories are some of the best glue to keep us together. Thanks for the toast to the family we choose! Love (to Kate and Deena).

Dear Rachel: I hope your Kate and Deena continue to enrich your life as Elizabeth does mine. Thanks for the note.

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November 10, 2017

Dear friends,

At a dull dinner once I eyed the people at my table and zeroed in on two elderly women who had arrived together. They had been friends for decades, one confided. “What is the craziest thing you two have done together?” I asked. The conversation took off. Our table became so rowdy we drew glances of envy from around the room.

If you’re very lucky you have an old friend like that — one who is part of so many memories she’s like your other self. For me it’s Elizabeth, my friend of 45-plus years. She was there when my first husband tried to strangle me. I was there when she graduated from college. We took up Tchaikovsky. We memorized “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” We were there for each other when our careers started and when we retired, and every hilarious moment in between.

Elizabeth also colluded in my early cooking experiments. She was up for whatever I wanted to try, including a recipe once that began with a panful of frying hot peppers that assaulted our sinuses and cleared the house.

Then I moved away and became a food writer, and she whittled her weight down to 100 pounds and ate health food. But when we got together, she still gamely tried whatever I cooked.

Last week it was Moroccan chicken with olives. She ate half a serving with basmati rice and a cold, spicy carrot salad. For someone who weighs 100 pounds, that was a lot. Four decades in, I’m still experimenting and Elizabeth is still trying it. If you are lucky enough to have a such a friend, share this soulful stew.

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MOROCCAN CHICKEN SMOTHERED IN OLIVES

  • 1/4 cup salt for brining
  • 1/2 cup sugar for brining (optional)
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed and discarded
  • 2 onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. sweet Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 11 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) pitted green olives in brine, like Goya’s, drained
  • Juice of 1 lemon
To brine the chicken, combine the salt, sugar, and 1 cup hot water in a large bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 3 cups cold water and the chicken pieces. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Drain, rinse, and drain again.

Arrange the onions in a large casserole (or pan) and top with the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with the ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, garlic, and cilantro. Pour the chicken broth over all. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, combine the olives with several cups of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain well and set aside. Add the olives and lemon juice to the chicken and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. If desired, simmer longer to reduce and thicken the sauce. Serve. Makes 4 servings.

From The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, Amanda Hesser, editor.

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MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD

  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Put the carrots in a saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 12 minutes, until the carrots are tender but slightly firm. Drain the carrots and put in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and mix well.

Combine the cumin, coriander, sugar, and salt in a small dish, mix, and then add to the carrots. Toss well. Season with pepper, and fold in the olive oil and cilantro. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 6 hours before serving. Makes 4 servings.

From The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, Amanda Hesser, editor.

HELP U COOK

Don’t believe the warnings that basmati rice cannot be cooked in a rice cooker. You have to make a few accommodations to make sure the rice turns out fluffy and with separated grains, but it can be done.

Before cooking, rinse the rice very well to remove some of the starch. Do this by placing the rice in your rice cooker or Instant Pot insert, covering with cold water, swishing with your fingers for about 30 seconds. Drain. Repeat four or five times instead of the usual three times for regular rice. Cover with cold water again and soak for 30 minutes. Drain, then add 1 1/2 cups cold water for each cup of rice. Cook as usual in the rice cooker or Instant Pot.

GUT CHECK

What I prepared last week at home:
Moroccan chicken smothered with olives, Moroccan carrot salad, basmati rice.

What I ate last week in (or from) restaurants:
New York-style thin pizza from White Box Pizzeria in Wadsworth; a ham sub from Subway; a Spanish omelet, grits and toast at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; marinated, grilled chicken strips with lettuce, feta and tomatoes on pita bread at Village Garden in Cuyahoga Falls.

Note: I cleaned house (one-armed because of the shoulder surgery) in preparation for company last week and didn’t have time to cook, nor did I want to get my sparkling stove dirty. Tony couldn’t help because he threw his back out, but he did contribute thousands of empty calories. He discovered a motherlode of sugar-free baked goods at the Walmart in Wadsworth and lugged home blueberry and apple pies, lemon pound cake, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, and banana nut and blueberry muffins. Arrgh.

THE MAILBAG

Have you ever heard of an evil practice called “threading?” If you use gmail as I do, you probably have fallen victim to this feature that combines all emails on the same subject into a single humongous email.

I learned this week that if you delete an email in the “trash” folder, it will also delete all emails in the inbox that have the same word in the subject line.

Anyway, that’s why I don’t have Mailbag this week. If you sent an email last week that I have not printed or responded to, please send it again. And if anyone knows how to turn off the evil “thread” function on a MacBook Air, please let me know.

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November 2, 2017

Yes, pork again. In the space of a week I made carnitas, breaded and pounded pork cutlets and pan-grilled pork chops. Now I’m sharing a recipe I developed last week for a spectacular rolled pork loin stuffed with cornbread and apples in a cider cream sauce.

The pork fest has been delicious but I’ll lay off now that I’ve whittled my whole pork loin down to nothing. The thing must have been 3 feet long.  I couldn’t freeze it because it had already been frozen once. For two years, every time I opened the basement freezer, it was a humongous, ungainly reminder that I had been too lazy to portion the meat before freezing.

But that turned out for the best. Without that slight edge of desperation, I probably wouldn’t have combined apples, cornbread and cider in a dish that not only is delicious, but screams “fall.” This is the kind of entree you gather friends and family to share. It is a celebration.

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CORNBREAD AND APPLE-STUFFED PORK LOIN
WITH CIDER CREAM SAUCE

  • 1 boneless pork loin, 3 1/2 to 4 lbs.
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp. crumbled dry sage leaves or to taste
  • 2 cups crumbled cornbread
  • 1 3/4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup cream
Place pork loin on a cutting board fat side down. Butterfly the pork loin by slitting lengthwise halfway through the thickness of the meat. Spread open along the slit. With knife blade flat against the meat, make a horizontal cut near the center slit, lengthwise through the thickest part of the meat on one side, stopping an inch from an outer long edge. Repeat on other side.
Open meat by folding back along cuts. With a blunt meat pounder, pound meat to achieve a fairly even thickness. The meat doesn’t have to be thin, just evenly thick. You should now have a flat, oblong piece of meat. Season cut surface with salt and pepper.

Melt oil and butter in a large, hot skillet. Add onion and apples, sage, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Scrape into a large bowl. Add cornbread and stir well. Stir while drizzling in 3/4 cup of the cider.

Evenly spread cornbread stuffing over cut side of pork loin. You may not need all of the stuffing. Press to condense stuffing. Starting at one long edge, roll pork cigar-fashion to encase stuffing. Tie at intervals with kitchen twine.

Place stuffed pork loin in a baking or roasting pan with fairly low sides (a 9-by-14-inch pan works well).  Pour remaining 1 cup cider around loin. Roast in a preheated, 325-degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees in the center of the meat. Remove from pan, cover loosely with foil and let rest 15 to 20 minutes before cutting into 3/4-inch slices.

While meat rests, scoop any loose stuffing from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving behind all of the cooking liquid. Place pan over a burner and bring to a simmer, scraping up browned bits from the bottom.  Stir in cream and return to a simmer. Cook until liquid reduces slightly and flavors blend. Fan slices of meat on a platter or place a slice on each plate and top with a spoonful of sauce. Makes about 8 servings.

SPEEDY MICROWAVE MUG DESSERT

 

This is the second installment from my almost-book of 5-minute cakes, custards, cheesecakes, bread puddings, pies and crisps. This flourless chocolate cake is one of my favorite recipes in the collection.

“How soon can I get the recipe for this?” asked a friend who was persuaded to try just a bite before breakfast one morning and ended up eating the whole thing.

The ultra-smooth texture and deep, dark flavor of this chocolate decadence-style cake is just about perfect. You could serve it at a dinner party with creme anglaise and chocolate curls and no one would believe it came from a microwave.

 

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

  • 6 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp. butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2 tsp. sugar, preferably superfine (see note)
  • 3/4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 whole egg
  • Pinch of salt

Place chocolate and butter in a 12-ounce ceramic mug. Microwave on high power until butter is melted and chocolate is soft, 20 to 40 seconds. Stir until smooth. Chocolate retains its shape when melted in the microwave so stir very well before increasing cooking time.

Add sugar and stir well. Add cornstarch, egg and salt and beat vigorously with a fork for 50 strokes or until the egg is completely incorporated.

Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 1/2 minutes in a 1000-watt oven or 1 1/2 minutes in an 1100- or 1200-watt oven, adjusting the time up or down for lower or higher wattage ovens.

The batter will rise and fall in the oven. The top of the cake will feel firm but look wet when done. Let stand a few minutes before eating. Any moist batter will set as the cake stands. If desired, immediately run a knife around edge of cake an invert onto a plate.

Dress it up: Chill the cake and dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

Even better: Garnish with fresh raspberries.

NOTE: To make superfine sugar, process 1 cup of regular granulated sugar in a food processor for 30 seconds without stopping. Measure after processing.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Locally made bratwurst and fried onions in Orlando brat rolls; sausage, potato and green chile soup; Japanese tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets over rice with onions in a dashi-soy-based sauce), sugar-free strawberry Jell-O.

What I ate in restaurants lasts week:
One egg over easy, bacon and a biscuit at Bob Evans (Tony’s favorite restaurant); red pepper and mozzarella pizza at Pizza Fire in Montrose; corn and potato soup and a fabulous crispy kale salad with focaccia bread at The Courtyard Inn & Cafe in Lisbon; ribs and hush puppies from Old Carolina Barbecue in Fairlawn; baked crab and a Jane Roll (a California roll with caviar and both shrimp and crab) at Sushi Katsu in Akron.

TIDBITS

Dining at The Courtyard in Lisbon is like eating inside a jewel box. Surfaces are encrusted with tiny mirrors. Overhead lights glitter. The tabletops and the entire undulating bar are sheathed in gleaming copper. Interesting artwork surprises you around every corner.

In most hands such a decor would be too much, but in the hands of internationally known jewelry designer Renee Lewis, the entire restaurant comes off as a work of art.

Lewis noticed the old brick building — the oldest brick structure in Ohio — on trips to her hometown from Manhattan, where she lives now. It had been empty for years and was in danger of demolition. Lewis rescued it in grand fashion. She spent 11 years restoring the exterior as well as the interior, in the process fitting out four bedrooms for guests and installing a top-flight staff in the kitchen.

Lewis chose a vegetarian menu so she would have someplace to eat on trips home, but the menu is so interesting and the dishes I tried so delicious that it should appeal to anyone. The lush crispy kale salad, for example, featured big pieces of oven-dried kale tossed with a mixture of greens, creamy strands of mozzarella and candied nuts. Dinner entrees are familiar, upscale items such as risotto, Thai peanut stir fry, and stuffed shells puttanesca over Sicilian olive-tomato stew.   Ingredients are carefully and locally sourced, and everything including the breads is scratch-made.

I can’t wait to return for another meal and to maybe one day stay in a room upstairs where three presidents, including Lincoln, have been guests. Information and directions are at thecourthouseinnandrestaurant.com. Reservations are recommended.

THE MAILBAG

From Michele, Akron:
I recently bought an Instant Pot and, like you, made carnitas as my first dish. Since then I have made a beef roast and a salsa chicken recipe, which was speedy because I had forgotten to thaw the chicken. Today I cooked artichokes in it. They were tender after 12 minutes and then resting while the pressure released for 10 minutes on its own, and then I manually released the pressure.

I suggest watching some You Tube videos on the Instant Pot. I was afraid of pressure cookers for over 40 years thanks to the story involving a pressure cooker, potatoes, an explosion and third-degree burns told by my mom. I watched several videos — many very short — and they helped me to adequately understand so I could begin experimenting. I plan to make homemade yogurt in the near future. Going to try your pickled onions with carnitas for my next venture!

Dear Michele: I’m excited to hear you can cook food from its frozen state in an Instant Pot. That would come in handy. Otherwise, I think I’d rather cook food the old-fashioned way.

From Linda C.:
Re: Your pressure cooker article — how timely! I was looking at an Instant Pot last week. Many of my vegetarian and vegan friends are addicted. Thanks for the Melissa Clark reference article.

Dear Linda: Go for it. Katherine’s recipe (below) would be a good place to start.

From Katherine:
Try the Instant Pot spaghetti from skinnytaste.com. It’s really delicious, and because of the pressure cooking, the whole wheat pasta better absorbs the sauce and it has a more pleasant consistency than usual. My whole family loves this recipe, and I’m going to make three batches in a row in a couple of weeks when I cook dinner for the homeless.
 
Dear Katherine: Thanks for bringing this recipe to my attention. It sounds a lot like the classic Mexican homestyle dish, fideo, where broken pasta is stir-fried in a skillet to toast it, then stirred some more in sauce. The pressure cooker would eliminate the need for 20 minutes of stirring.

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October 26, 2017

Dear friends,

I am mechanically impaired. Closing a tea ball is difficult. Manual can openers are Chinese puzzles to me. So it’s no surprise that I left my new Instant Pot in the box for several months before unpacking it. I could sense trouble.

The good news is that I did eventually unpack it and on Saturday cooked pork carnitas for tacos in 11 minutes. Unbelievable. Of course, that doesn’t count the 15 minutes it took for the Instant Pot to “come to pressure” or the 15 minutes to reduce the sauce after cooking. But still.

The bad news is that my first test of the pot — a venison roast — was a disaster. I read the instruction book cover-to-cover but the pressure gauge is so weensy that I never did see it pop up (it pops about an eighth of an inch, I later determined). I was afraid to remove the lid so I left the roast in the pot for two hours, during which time it continued to cook (not “keep warm”) until even the dog wouldn’t eat it.

My second try last weekend went more smoothly but still had glitches. For example, it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to lock the lid. Yes, I had locked it before. Don’t judge.

Will I use my Instant Pot again? Yes, but only because so many of you do, and I feel obligated to provide recipes. I know many of you have bought Instant Pots because the multi-cooker is a genuine phenomenon. Sales began surging in the summer of 2016 and rose so fast — by word of mouth and primarily through mail order on Amazon — that the item was named product of the year for its increase in market share.

A group of engineers formed the Instant Pot Co. in Canada in 2008 to design an electric pressure cooker with built-in safety controls that old stove-top pressure cookers do not have. In other words, this is not your mother’s exploding pressure cooker. The Instant Pot will automatically shut off before the pressure reaches a dangerous level. The pot also can be used as a slow cooker, rice steamer, yogurt maker and probably a coffee pot. But it’s the fear-free pressure cooker function that excites most buyers.

The Instant Pot and its imitators are available in stores as well as online, in a variety of sizes and with varied features. I will not provide a buying guide here; plenty of information is available on the Internet.

As a neophyte myself, neither will I instruct you in its use. An excellent primer has been written by Melissa Clark of the New York Times at: https://cooking.nytimes.com/guides/46-how-to-use-an-instant-pot. Her cautions include cutting way down — by half or two-thirds — the liquid in a regular recipe when making it in a pressure cooker. Liquid does not evaporate. Another crucial tip is to make sure the vent on the lid is not just turned off, but is locked in place before programming the pot. This is a step that is glossed over in the instruction booklet, and is overlooked by many first-time users. Me, for example.

If anyone has a good Instant Pot recipe or would like me to adapt a favorite recipe to the Instant Pot, send it to me. I can’t print or adapt them all, but I’ll do what I can. Meanwhile, try my 11-minute carnitas recipe. With the additions I suggest, you can make one of those trendy, upscale tacos for a fraction of the cost in a restaurant.

I snuggled the carnitas — little glazed cubes of meat — in corn tortillas briefly fried in a skillet just long enough to change the texture of the tortillas (I dislike those crumbly raw things) but not enough to make them crispy-stiff. The meat is topped with quick-pickled onions, crumbled Mexican cheese, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. The final touch is a spoonful of the spicy reduced carnitas cooking liquid. Yeow.

I bought the crumbly cheese, queso fresco, at a Mexican grocery store. You could substitute feta if desired.

If you don’t own a pressure cooker, the carnitas recipe may be adapted to stove-top cooking. Just toss the carnitas ingredients into a pot with double the liquid and simmer the meat and spices over low heat, covered, until the meat is tender. Remove the meat and boil the liquid until it is reduced to about 1 cup. The inspiration for the carnitas, although not the exact recipe, is from Coyote Cafe by Mark Miller.

PRESSURE-COOKER CARNITAS

  • 2 lbs. boneless pork loin, untrimmed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. mild or medium pure chile powder
  • 1 1/2 tsps. salt
  • 4 cloves garlic. chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed
  • 2 tsp. cumin seed
  • 1 stick Mexican canela or cinnamon, about 3 inches
  • 1 tbsp. oregano

Cut pork, including fat, into 3/4-inch cubes. Place in pressure cooker pot with the water, chile powder, salt, garlic and onion.

In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the fennel, cumin, cinnamon stick and oregano, shaking pan often, until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind spices (including cinnamon or canela) in a spice grinder to a powder. I use a small coffee grinder I reserve for that purpose.

Stir spices into meat mixture.

Lock lid into place, lock vent in closed position and program Instant Pot for the “meat” setting, then immediately adjust the time to 11 minutes. After the time expires and the gauge pops up, vent the steam manually and remove the lid. The meat should be very tender. If not, replace the lid, reprogram and cook a few minutes longer. When done, remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Re-program Instant Pot to sauté and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Return meat to pan and cook a few minutes longer, until the meat is glazed with the sauce. Transfer meat to one bowl and sauce to another. Makes enough for about 20 tacos.

Note: If your pressure cooker does not have a sauté function, transfer meat and sauce to a pan and boil on the stove, uncovered, until meat is glazed and sauce has reduced to about 1 cup.

 

PORK CARNITAS TACOS WITH PICKLED ONIONS, QUESO FRESCO AND LIME

 

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  • 1 vertical half of a large yellow onion, peeled
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Canola oil
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Pork carnitas and sauce (see previous recipe)
  • Crumbled queso fresco, or feta, 1 to 2 tbsp. per taco
  • Handful of cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Cut the onion into very thin horizontal slices. Place in a small bowl with the vinegar and water, submerging the onion. Let stand while preparing the tacos.

Heat a scant quarter inch of oil in a skillet large enough to hold a corn tortilla. When hot, cook the tortillas one at a time in the oil, turning with tongs and folding in half. Cook just until the tortillas are blistered but do not brown. Drain on paper towels.

Place a thick layer of carnitas in the bottom of a taco shell. Top with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cheese, some of the drained onion, some cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Drizzle with a spoonful of the carnitas sauce. Continue with remaining taco shells. Makes 8 tacos, or 4 servings, with meat left for about 16 more tacos.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked at home last week:
Coconut curry chicken soup; pork loin roast with apple-corn bread stuffing and cider cream sauce, kale sautéed with garlic; pork carnitas tacos with queso fresco,  pickled onions and lime; two sugar-free pumpkin pies.

What I ate in (or from) restaurants last week:
Half of a steak and bacon sub from Subway; half of a chicken and avocado melt sandwich and an apple at Panera; an Indian buffet (samosa, hot pepper pakora, chicken tikka masala, curried eggplant, naan) at Bombay Sitar in Jackson Township; pepperoni pizza from Rizzi’s in Copley Township; a chili dog with onions and french fries with chili and cheese at the Hot Dog Shoppe in East Liverpool.

THE MAILBAG

From Shirley, Cuyahoga Falls:
For those who find your peanut butter and tomato sandwich combination appalling — don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. I’ve been eating peanut butter, tomato and mayo sandwiches for as long as I remember. I’m 83 years old now and can’t wait until home-grown tomatoes are in our stores. That sandwich is probably my favorite of all time!

From Rachel M.:
I dig PB and tomatoes, too. PB with sharp Cheddar on Italian bread is surprisingly tasty, and PB with Clausen dill pickle sandwich slices (patted as dry as possible) is an old favorite. Nope, not pregnant; just a fan of some weird combos.

Dear Shirley and Rachel: Thanks for helping me feel normal. And you may want to try PB and thin-sliced onion some time.

From Michele:
I was reading your pumpkin pie mug recipe and wanted to know where you are finding superfine sugar. I have searched high and low with no success.

Can’t wait to see more of your mug recipes. Hopefully, some are waist-friendly.

Dear Michele: I wish. All of the recipes are desserts. Not a low-cal number among them.

As for superfine sugar, that’s one of the many quandaries I faced while writing the book. I used superfine sugar because it dissolves quickly — a plus when the cooking time is just 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Microwave mug cakes made with regular sugar are gritty, I found. But a couple of years into testing recipes, I suddenly couldn’t find superfine sugar in stores anymore. Domino and a couple of other manufacturers were still making it, but most stores didn’t sell enough to justify the shelf space, I was told.

The solution, if you’re unable to find the sugar, is to grind some regular sugar in a food processor.  Process 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar nonstop for 30 seconds to produce 1 cup superfine sugar.

 
From Cheryl S.:
A couple things going on. The first has to do with aged balsamic vinegar, which can be expensive. America’s Test Kitchen says you can “age” your own. Actually, it’s just a reduction but tastes identical to an aged one I recently sampled. To an uneducated palate such as mine, it was fine.

In a small saucepan combine 1 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons ruby port. A 4-inch sprig of fresh rosemary is optional. Heat just below a simmer until reduced by about half. I made two batches, one with rosemary and one without. Both were delicious, but the one with rosemary was outstanding.

On another note, I despise beets — always have. I think they taste like dirt. But I found a recipe that makes them tolerable if not good. I made this recipe with the non-rosemary vinegar.

HONEY-GINGER BALSAMIC GLAZED BEETS

  • 1 lb. medium-sized fresh beets, scrubbed and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. peeled, chopped ginger (or more)
  • 2 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey, or to taste

Line a cake pan or other oven pan with foil. Splash in about 1/4 cup water, add the beets and seal with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. Test by piercing with a sharp knife. Remove from oven.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, peel beets and cut into thick slices.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger and cook for a minute or two, just until fragrant. Add beet and vinegar and cook until beets are hot and glazed. Stir in honey.

Just thought I’d share and see what you thought (and maybe a wine suggestion).

 

Dear Cheryl: I like beets BECAUSE they taste like the earth. Not dirt. Earth. See how I make them palatable? It’s all about perception. As for wine, how about a big, earthy, fruit-forward zinfandel such as  Ridge? I like the “aged” balsamic recipe. Real aged balsamic is beyond expensive.

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October 18, 2017

Dear friends,

Remember the cookbook I was writing? After four years of testing microwave dessert recipes in three different ovens and another year of writing descriptions, chapter intros and cautionary how-tos, I flamed out. The book is so close to the finish line that to drop it at this point would be nuts, so call me nuts. I can’t. Write. Another. Word.

The good news is that I’m left with almost 100 original, rigorously tested recipes for single-serve cakes, pies, crisps, custards, cheesecakes and bread puddings that can be made in about 5 minutes in a microwave oven.

I had to invent a few techniques to get the textures and flavors I wanted. For example, I found that microwaving the cakes on 50 percent power instead of 100 percent gives the leavening more time to work and helps eliminate the rubbery texture most other microwave mug cakes have. I haven’t seen my methods in other sources, or tasted microwave mug desserts this good, so I hate to let the recipes languish in my computer.

My solution is to share the recipes with you in this newsletter. I have shared a couple of recipes in the past and will share many more in the coming months. This week I’m offering a recipe for microwave single-serve pumpkin pie. If it is one of the two or three mug recipe I’ve printed before, forgive me. It didn’t turn up in a search of my columns, so I think I’m safe.

The microwave pumpkin custard/pie recipes I’ve tried from the Internet are awful — bland and loose-textured, like warm pumpkin from the can. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients in my recipe. They are all necessary to produce a 5-minute microwave pumpkin pie that tastes like it came from your regular oven. The measuring goes quickly, and the result is worth it.

I’m also sharing my microwave mug recipe for a moist banana cake. I found that most Internet mug cakes I tried had a rubbery texture that hardened if left overnight. If you can resist eating this banana cake hot from the oven, it will taste just as good the next day.

The size, shape and composition of your mug, along with the power of your microwave, makes a difference in the timing of the recipes. I tested the recipes in 1000-, 1100- and 1200-watt ovens, and used 12-ounce Fiesta ceramic mugs. I provide microwave times but also describe what the surface of the dessert should look like when it is done. Adjust the time if necessary.

Image

 

MICROWAVE MUG PUMPKIN PIE

Crust:
  • 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. graham cracker crumbs
Filling:
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar (preferably superfine)
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch of powdered ginger
  • Pinch of ground cloves

For the crust, place butter in a 12-ounce ceramic mug and microwave on high power for 15 to 20 seconds or until butter melts. Stir in sugar and graham crumbs. Press evenly into the bottom of the mug. Set aside.

For the filling, combine butter, pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk in a glass measuring cup. Microwave on high power for about 30 seconds, until butter has melted. Stir well. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Pour over crust in mug. Microwave on 50 percent power for 2 minutes, or until the top is mostly dry except for a dime-sized circle in the center. The filling will be loose. If eating right away, first chill in a freezer for 10 minutes to set the custard. If eating later, chill completely in the refrigerator.

Dress it up: Top chilled pie with a dollop of whipped topping and pinch of nutmeg.

Even better: Beat a half-teaspoon of Bourbon into the whipped topping.

MOIST BANANA MUG CAKE

  • 1 tbsp. softened butter
  • 1 tbsp. sugar, preferably superfine
  • 1 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp. mashed ripe banana (1/3 to 1/2 banana)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

In a 12-ounce ceramic mug, beat butter and sugar with a fork until fluffy. Beat in corn syrup, egg yolk, banana and vanilla until thoroughly incorporated. Add flour, baking powder and salt and beat about 50 strokes, until very smooth and thick. Scrape batter off sides and smooth top.

Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 1/2 minutes in a 1000-watt oven, or 1 minute, 45 seconds in a 1100- or 1200-watt oven. Adjust time up or down for lower or higher wattage ovens. Eat directly from the mug or, if desired, immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a plate.

Dress it up: Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake.

Even better: Stir a tablespoon of mini chocolate chips into the batter before baking.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Chicken with sautéed peppers over ditalini pasta with wilted spinach and mascarpone cheese from Blue Apron; oven-roasted potatoes and green beans with leftover pot roast; two sugar-free pumpkin pies.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Delicately crunchy fried perch, coleslaw, applesauce at The Boulevard in Cuyahoga Falls; arepas with chorizo and green salsa, and a taco with duck confit, roasted red peppers, kale and goat cheese at Crave Cantina in Cuyahoga Falls.

TIDBITS I

Low-cal, high-protein ice cream is a hot category in grocery stores at the moment. The ice creams (technically frozen desserts because they don’t contain enough fat to legally be called “ice cream”) are sold in pint containers that are about 230 to 350 calories for the whole thing.

The only problem is they’re expensive. The ones I’ve seen cost about $6 a pint.

The exception is a new entry in the category, Breyers delights. The various flavors contain 20 grams of protein and range from 260 to 330 calories a pint. They cost about $4. Currently they’re available at Giant Eagle stores.

I tried two Breyers delights and they’re pretty good. Still, as I’ve pointed out before, you can make your own high-protein, low-cal ice cream by freezing a protein shake made from a low-cal protein powder such as Pure Protein. It won’t cost $4, either.

TIDBITS II

I can’t wait to return to Crave Cantina and work my way through the menu. The Cuyahoga Falls restaurant is the brainchild of Aaron Herve, the chef who owns Crave in downtown Akron. He calls the food globally inspired Latin fare so as not to pigeonhole it too narrowly. Tacos are the main event, but nothing you’ll find in Mexico. The imaginative fillings range from buttermilk fried chicken with kimchi, Korean bbq, Japanese mayo and house-made pickles, to smoked brisket with fried potatoes, pickled red onion, white Cheddar, horseradish and pasilla pepper pesto. The 13 taco varieties are $3 and $4.

The menu also includes salads, sandwiches, a handful of entrees (paella Cubano with mussels, scallops and shrimp is $19), seven kinds of guacamole and nine appetizers. I loved the arepas, although the unstuffed cornmeal disks were unlike any I’ve had before. For the next trip, I have my eye on the Latin poutine (yucca fries, chorizo, queso fresco, pickled chilies and cumin veal gravy, $9) and the Jamaican curried chicken empanadas, $8.

The restaurant is at 2097 Front Street, in the middle of an ongoing street construction project that makes getting to the place a challenge. I suggest you park behind the restaurant in one of lots on Riverfront Parkway and enter through the back door. The Cantina is open evenings only.


THE MAILBAG

From Rebecca R., Senecaville:

Is the Stray Dog (last week’s newsletter) like the Hot Dog Shoppe in East Liverpool? Have not stopped there in a few months. Also, the last time we were in Wilmot we stopped at Bee Bobs. The burgers were really good and the fries and onion rings are all hand-cut and fried to order. We will stop there again but hubby and I will split our order next time, it is that large. You may want to check it out when you are in that area.

Dear Rebecca: You bet I will. The Stray Dog is a hip restaurant with contemporary, global food — good, but nothing like our beloved Hot Dog Shoppe.

From Linda C.:
Your soup (last week’s newsletter) sounds yummy. I’m a vegetarian so I would leave out the chicken and use a clear veggie broth. It reminds me of a fave Crock Pot dinner with sauerkraut, potatoes and apples (we used to add kielbasa but now add vegan hot dogs at the end). I love sauerkraut. Thanks!

Dear Linda: Thanks for telling folks how to make my soup recipe vegetarian-friendly.

From Marlene H.
Re: your review of meal kits — I’ve been using Home Chef for a few months, and overall have been pleased. On the “steak” dishes, the meat has not been the tenderest. I’ve been really busy at work and this is a nice alternative as I get tired of eating out, which is the easy way out after an extended work day. Have been amazed at the flavor you get with just a few ingredients. It’s also nice to have it delivered and mostly prepped.

From Cynthia P.: I prefer Blue Apron. Fresher veggies. Much better packaging. More spices . More layers of flavor. Better directions. Healthier food overall. I didn’t like that Hello Fresh used chicken base in recipes and less olive oil. And now I have more choices on  Blue Apron. After a few weeks of Hello Fresh it got boring. I switched back and forth but will do more Blue Apron.

From Janis T.:
Just read about your experiences with meal delivery kits. I also recently became interested in this service. I don’t mind cooking at all, it is the meal planning and shopping that I consider to be a chore. There are only so many hours at the end of a work day and I would prefer to use the extra ones on other things.

I started with Hello Fresh, too, and was pleased with the whole experience. I love that I can come home and pull out all the ingredients for a meal in one handy package, rather than running circles around the kitchen from the fridge to the pantry collecting all ingredients. I also like that I don’t need to purchase a whole jar or bottle of an ingredient I may or may not use again. We were very pleased with the quality and taste of the Hello Fresh meals.

However, I recently stumbled onto SunBasket. It’s a little more expensive than Hello Fresh at about $12 per serving (they also charge for shipping) but the draw for me is the recipes. They have so many more meals that are “paleo” protein/vegetable combos, rather than including a starch such as rice, noodles, etc. This was very appealing, and as it turns out, delicious, too! Plus, I’m cooking meals that I would not have considered had I needed to start from a recipe. We are on our fifth week with SunBasket and have not been disappointed in a meal yet.

From Pam M.:
Seriously Jane? Peanut butter and sliced tomato on toast?

Dear Pam: Sadly, yes.

BONUS FALL RECIPE!

APPLE PINWHEEL DUMPLINGS

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped apples

Make a syrup by combining sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine salt, flour and baking powder; pulse to mix. Cut shortening into bits and add to the flour mixture, pulsing until bits of fat are the size of peas. Drizzle in enough milk, pulsing, to form a soft dough. Dough also may be made by hand by cutting the shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, and tossing with a fork while adding the milk in a drizzle. Gather dough into a ball and chill.

Roll or pat dough into an 11-by-15-inch rectangle. Spread apples over dough. Beginning at a long edge, roll up jelly-roll fashion. Pinch seams to seal.

Cut pastry log into 1-inch slices. Place in a buttered, 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Pour syrup over all. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 12 servings.

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October 12, 2017

Dear friends,

One of my favorite fall dishes is a skillet ragout of chicken and sauerkraut simmered with onions and apple cider. What if I turned the ingredients into a soup, I mused last week?

Yes, it can be done and the result is delicious. I like the slightly sour edge to this soup, which I ate for lunch, dinner and even one day for breakfast.

You’ll notice that the soup is a lovely golden yellow, due to the totally unnecessary turmeric I added for its anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric doesn’t impart much flavor, so if you’re young and vigorous or you just don’t give a darn, you can leave it out.

By the way, you can buy big pouches of turmeric at bargain prices in the many Nepalese grocery stores that dot the North Hill area of Akron. I frequent Family Groceries at 768 N. Main St.

If you have sour cream on hand, add a dollop to each portion before serving.

Image

CHICKEN AND SAUERKRAUT SOUP

  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, in 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup thin-sliced onions (halve lengthwise before slicing)
  • 2 cups apple slices
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 24 oz. sauerkraut
  • 1 lb. potatoes in 1-inch cubes (2 large potatoes)
  • 2 boxes (32 oz. each) chicken broth

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a soup pot. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown in oil on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, sauté onions and apple slices over medium heat until the edges begin to brown.

Return chicken to pot. Add paprika and turmeric and stir and cook 1 minute. Add vinegar and bring to a boil. Stir in sauerkraut. Add potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Note: If the soup is too tart for your taste, stir in 1 tablespoon brown sugar.

 

TIDBITS

And the winner is….Hello Fresh. I haven’t tried every meal delivery kit on the market, but of the two I tried this month, I prefer Hello Fresh.

Two different friends signed me up for free three-day trials of Blue Apron, the industry leader, and Hello Fresh, and Tony and I had fun trying them out. For those who have been living under a rock, meal delivery kits are three or four day’s worth of ingredients and recipes shipped in a big box to your door. Everything is included, from tiny bottles of sesame oil to well-iced packages of fish, chicken and beef. All you have to do is follow the easy-to-use instructions for making the meals, none of which takes more than 30 minutes to assemble.

Customers may choose among offerings that change weekly. My Hello Fresh meals were spicy ground beef tacos with quick-pickled vegetables; creamy Dijon chicken with roasted green beans and oven-fried potatoes; and sesame shrimp stir fry with ginger rice and roasted green beans.

The Blue Apron meals comprised penne pasta Bolognese, crispy buttermilk catfish with sautéed kale and roast delicata squash, and chicken breasts with sweet pepper puree over ditalini with spinach and mascarpone cheese.

The meals cost about $9 per person — about $55 to $60 for three days’ worth of meals for two. Family-size subscriptions also are available. The portion sizes of both brands were more than adequate although Tony, the human anaconda, topped most of his dinners with a big bowl of ramen. I would have added more seasoning to some of the dishes, and the cooking processes  of the Blue Apron dishes seemed clunky and messy. Overall, the Hello Fresh meals seemed to be better thought out, the food better seasoned, and the recipes more interesting to my palate.

Meal kit companies are multiplying exponentially right now, leading me to wonder why local supermarkets don’t jump on the trend. The popularity of the kits proves what I’ve thought for a long time — more people would cook after work if they just had the ingredients and a recipe on hand. That’s the fun part. The hard part is figuring out what to cook, finding a recipe and drawing up a shopping list.

I’m interested in other meal-kit companies. Do you subscribe to one? If so, drop me an email.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked at home last week:
Pan-browned, oven-finished glazed pork chops with sweet soy sauce, roast eggplant with pesto, roast delicata squash and fried ripe tomato slices; peanut butter and sliced tomato on toast; egg salad; chicken and sauerkraut soup; crispy buttermilk catfish with sautéed kale and roasted delicata squash from a Blue Apron meal kit; penne pasta with beef Bolognese sauce from Blue Apron.

What I ate out last week:
Baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, beets and a yeast roll at the Amish Door in Wilmot; homemade potato chips, a mini shredded beef hand pie, and a coney dog with mustard and relish at Stray Dog City Tavern in Akron; dried tomato and goat cheese canapés with figs, creamy clam chowder, ham tetrazzini and sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (wow) at my friend Joan’s; cheeseburger and fries at Five Guys.

Note: I came across Stray Dog City Tavern when I was searching for a local coney dog restaurant. It is a real find, although owner Charlie Murphy says he has owned the restaurant for a year. Before that he operated the cafe in the main Akron-Summit County Public Library in downtown Akron. He started out eight years ago with a hot dog cart, and still operates three Stray Dog carts in the area.

The restaurant is in a hip, updated space near Temple Square. The menu is pretty hip, too, with items such as scallop tacos, mussels with Guinness stout and hot dogs topped with crawfish, slaw, and Sriracha mayo. The big, all-beef dogs come a variety of ways, although none of the variations are on the menu. You have to ask.

“We make up new stuff every weekend,” Murphy says.

Two of his burgers, including his Punch In the Mouth Burger, took prizes at this year’s National Hamburger Festival downtown. Punch In the Mouth burger is topped with Cheetos, pickled jalapeños and Wrath of Dog sauce. All of Musrphy’s food, from the hot sauce to the potato chips and onion dip, is made from scratch. Check out the menu at akroncitytavern.com.

THE MAILBAG

From Susan Rainey:
No! Don’t use your Instant Pot for canning. Very bad idea.

See instantpot.com/portfolio-item/before-you-buy/

Dear Susan: Thanks so much for setting us straight. In fact, the Instant Pot may be used for boiling water bath canning but not for pressure canning, in which the pressure must reach 15 psi and the temperature must be maintained at 240 to 250 degrees. Pressure canning is mandated for low-acid foods such as meat, poultry and vegetables.

The problem is that the Instant Pot is regulated by a pressure sensor instead of a thermometer. Elevation above sea level can affect the temperature of food under pressure, so the exact temperature of the food inside the pot cannot be determined. The caution applies to other brands of pressure cookers, also.

From Deb B.:
Thanks for the interesting and helpful recipes. Would you share your recipe for apple dumplings?

Dear Deb: The apple dumplings my family makes are actually apple turnovers. If you are craving a real apple dumpling, you’d be disappointed. I have made plenty of other apple dumplings over the years for articles, though. A favorite of newsroom tasters was a pinwheel apple dumpling in a bubbling sugar syrup, an entry in a state-wide apple cooking contest. To introduce that recipe in 2003 I wrote:

“Thousands of blushing, naked apples are heaped in Ohio’s roadside markets this week, just waiting to snuggle into a warm blanket of pastry.

Have pity. Make a dumpling.”

Geez, I wish I could still write like that.

APPLE PINWHEEL DUMPLINGS

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped apples

Make a syrup by combining sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine salt, flour and baking powder; pulse to mix. Cut shortening into bits and add to the flour mixture, pulsing until bits of fat are the size of peas. Drizzle in enough milk, pulsing to form a soft dough. Dough also may be made by hand by cutting the shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, and tossing with a fork while adding the milk in a drizzle. Gather dough into a ball and chill.

Roll or pat dough into an 11-by-15-inch rectangle. Spread apples over dough. Beginning at a long edge, roll up jelly-roll fashion. Pinch seams to seal.

Cut pastry log into 1-inch slices. Place in a buttered, 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Pour syrup over all. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 12 servings.

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October 4, 2017

Dear friends,

I have made apple pie, apple turnovers and apple tarts; apple dumplings, apple cake and apple mousse. But I had never made apple kuchen until last weekend, when I came across an old recipe card and decided to remedy the omission.

“Kuchen” means cake in German, and there are as many types as the generic term would suggest. Most apple kuchens, judging from recipes I found on the Internet, are baking powder quick breads whipped up in a jiffy, with sliced apples either folded into the batter or arranged in a pattern on top. The sort I made was a lesser-known, yeast-raised coffee cake that takes a bit more forethought. The butter- and egg-rich dough must be kneaded and raised twice, but it produces two handsome loaves you’d be proud to serve anyone.

I divided up the prep time by making the dough one day, refrigerating it overnight for the first rise, and shaping and baking it the next. A word to the wise: Because of the  butter and eggs, the rich dough will not rise as high as regular dough. In fact, you’ll be lucky if the dough rises at all the second time, after it is shaped and in the pans. It will just look a bit puffy.

Image

APPLE KUCHEN

(Yeast-raised coffee cake)

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 to 5 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter
  • 5 or 6 apples (6 cups apple slices)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. butter
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a small bowl or measuring cup. In another measuring cup, bring milk almost to a boil in a microwave, then pour into a mixer bowl with the 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar and salt; cool to 110 to 115 degrees. Add softened yeast mixture, grated lemon rind and eggs. Beat with the paddle beater of a stand mixer until combined.

Add flour a little at a time while beating on medium-low speed. Add just enough flour to produce a soft dough. Exchange the paddle beater for a dough hook and knead with the mixer for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to prevent stickiness.

Scrape dough onto a counter and shape into a ball. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and coat the insides with oil. Place dough in bowl and turn the dough to grease all surfaces. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or let stand in a warm place until doubled if making the kuchen immediately).

Remove dough from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Punch down dough, remove from bowl and divide in half. Shape each piece into a 10-inch disk. Place each in an oiled, 10-inch-round cake pan. Brush with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until dough looks puffy. Remove plastic wrap.

Peel apples and slice very thin. Place in a large bowl with the 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Toss well. Spread half of the apples on each round of dough. Dot with the 2 tablespoons butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, until apples are soft and bread is cooked though. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. Makes 2 coffee cakes.

HELP U COOK

To “scald” a liquid means to bring it almost but not quite to a boil. My old kuchen recipe specified scalding the milk, and although I didn’t actually scald it,  I made sure it was hot enough to melt the butter. Scalding milk, however, is no longer necessary when making yeast bread, according to the folks at Red Star Yeast:

“It used to be that scalding milk was necessary to kill bacteria that might affect the yeast activity and to alter a protein in the milk that played havoc with the gluten structure in bread. However, pasteurization has protected us from harmful bacteria and has altered the proteins, so scalding milk is no longer necessary.”

What IS necessary is making sure any liquids added to yeast are no hotter than 115 degrees, the point at which yeast is killed. The temperature range for activating yeast is 110 to 115 degrees. I use an instant-read thermometer held under the hot water tap to gauge the temperature.

GUT CHECK

Note: A friend signed me up for three days of mail-order meal kits from Hello Fresh, which arrived last week. The food was decent, although it could have used more seasoning.  The portions were more than adequate for me, if not for Tony. He and I enjoyed making two of the meals together. My friend Elizabeth and I had a great time making the third meal for lunch. She said she would sign up for the service. Another batch from a different purveyor arrives Friday.

What I cooked last week:
Roast whole chicken and roasted potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash and cherry tomatoes; hoisin shrimp with crispy green beans and ginger scallion rice from Hello Fresh; chicken salad with walnuts and grapes; sesame beef tacos with quick-pickled veggies and spicy crema from Hello fresh; creamy dill chicken with roasted potatoes and green beans from Hello Fresh; bacon, tomato and spicy mayo sandwiches on health-nut toast.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Pierogis, bratwurst, fried cabbage and German potato salad at Mike’s Place in Kent; half of a Southwest chile lime ranch salad with chicken at Panera Bread.

THE MAILBAG

From Jill:
I just got a pressure cooker this spring and I only used it four times this summer but I really got it for soups and stews and more winter food.

But the first time I used it the meat was done so fast and I hadn’t been watching it that I thought I must have done something wrong so I kept it closed up in the pot and recooked it. Boy, was that roast tender, falling apart but not dry.

I’m going to start making some tomato sauce today with the two bushels of tomatoes I have. I’m really happy I got a pressure cooker — but I think I remember my mother having an exploding pressure cooker. Lots of something on the ceiling, but it could be that I remember my mother telling about it, as she wouldn’t use it unless we were out of the house playing or at school.

I hope you enjoy yours.

Dear Jill, So you saw that little aside in Gut Check about ruining a venison roast in my first try at pressure cooking? I did exactly what you described — let the pressure cooker sit long after the thingy popped up so that it overcooked. Heck, I couldn’t even SEE the little pop-up thingy because it’s so small and rises only about  quarter inch. I was so disgusted — and leery — that I haven’t used my Instant Pot since. I guess I’ll give it another try this winter. I never thought of using it for pressure canning. Good idea.

I did find a good primer on pressure cookers (specifically the Instant Pot) written by Melissa Clark of the New York Times. It is at https://cooking.nytimes.com/guides/46-how-to-use-an-instant-pot.

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September 29, 2017

Dear friends,

The first serious cookbook I bought was “The New York Times Cook Book” by Craig Claiborne. I still use it whenever I want to make paella, chicken satay, country pate or mushroom bisque.

None of those life-altering recipes made it into the latest Times cookbook, described by the publisher as “All the best recipes from 150 years of distinguished food journalism.” I’m a fan of the book anyway, as are many others — it won a James Beard Award after it was published in 2014.

Yes, I’m dishing up old news. I admit that here in my cozy retirement backwater of Copley, Ohio, I did not hear of the book until two weeks ago, when a discount-book service, BookBub, offered the e-book version for a couple of bucks.

The full name of the book is “The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.” Editor Amanda Hesser, a former Times food writer, tested each of the 1,104 recipes in the book, along with many more that didn’t make the cut.
Unlike Claiborne’s Times cookbook, which covered just a decade, this one draws on recipes from 150 years.

This is not a food history book, although Hesser prefaces each chapter with a delightful timeline of a food’s progression through the newspaper’s pages. Hesser chose recipes that remain vibrant and enticing no matter the age. The recipe I tried, for Spicy New England Pot Roast, is from 1972, and it wears its age well. I can’t wait to try a legion of other recipes, from Hot Cheese Olives (baked olives in cheese pastry) to Pumpkin Black Bean Soup.

Although I already have a pot roast recipe I love, I will make this new recipe again because it is almost as delicious as mine. The spicy pot roast recipe has a strange list ingredients — cranberry sauce, horseradish, cloves, a cinnamon stick — that come together to produce a slightly sweet, richly-flavored gravy. Hesser writes, “I wouldn’t call this spicy — the horseradish mellows — but it’s certainly flush with candid warming flavors like bacon, cinnamon and cranberries.”

Well, I would call it spicy — not in the spicy-hot sense, but in the full-of-spices sense. It is fall-worthy and absolutely delicious.

SPICY NEW ENGLAND POT ROAST

  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp, salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 (4 lb.) boned and tied beef arm, blade or bottom round roast
  • 3 tbsp. bacon drippings or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish or drained prepared horseradish (4-oz. jar)
  • 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 16 small white onions
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
Mix the flour with the salt and pepper. Dredge the meat in the flour, rubbing it into all surfaces.

Heat the drippings in a Dutch oven or other heavy casserole and brown the meat very well on all sides over high heat. Pour off the drippings into a skillet and reserve.

Mix together the horseradish, cranberry sauce, cinnamon, cloves and broth and add to the meat. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover tightly and simmer gently for about 2 hours, or until the meat is barely tender.

Meanwhile brown the onions in the reserved drippings in the skillet. Add the carrots and cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. When the meat is barely tender, use a slotted spoon to add the onions and carrots. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes longer, or until the vegetables and meat are tender. Serves 8.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Three batches of pesto; ricotta cheese, sliced tomato and a fried egg on wheat-nut toast; cherry tomato and goat cheese clafoutis; grilled sockeye salmon, oven-roasted peppers, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and zucchini tossed with baby kale, vinaigrette and sea salt.

What I ate out last week:
Cream of wheat and a hardboiled egg, two bites of meat loaf, desiccated fruit cup and tomato soup, and an egg salad sandwich and vegetable soup, all as a patient at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron; tuna salad plate with cottage cheese and hard-cooked egg at Village Gardens restaurant in Cuyahoga falls; an Italian sausage sandwich with onions, peppers and marinara sauce at the Mum Festival in Barberton.

Note: Tony cooked a lot last week while I recuperated from shoulder replacement surgery on the 18th.  He made a shrimp stir fry, grilled salmon, spicy shrimp rice bowl and an amazing miso chicken and vegetable soup. You’ll note that I cooked a good bit, too, which should tell you that the recovery is going great. This week I was gifted with three days of mail-order meal kits, which I am going to spring on Tony. We’ll see if he can restrain himself from adding soy sauce to everything. I’ll report back next week.

THE MAILBAG

From Dona:
This question is not a joke. How can you tell when buttermilk has gone bad, in other words, gone sour? I never seem to use the entire carton in a reasonable time.

Dear Dona: Good question. For the answer, I turned to the folks at Cook’s Illustrated, who once went to great lengths to figure that out for a magazine article. The short answer: Buttermilk is good for about three weeks after opening the carton. You’ll know you’ve passed the limit when the milk begins producing blue-green mold.

Buttermilk lasts longer than regular milk because it contains lactic acid, which acts as a preservative, according to Cook’s. The flavor becomes less buttery as it ages, although the tang remains and even intensifies. Luckily, buttermilk freezes well, so there’s no need to toss out your leftovers.

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September 20, 2017

Dear friends,

Imagine toasted butternut squash ravioli with a warm ricotta-Parmesan-sage dip. Keep on imagining, because I didn’t get around to creating that recipe last week. Maybe someday. I’ve been so busy (or lazy maybe) I instead splashed the ravioli with brown butter and topped them with frizzled prosciutto and fried sage.

You may already know how to make this classic dish, but I’m going to tell you anyway. For a dish so simple— it has just four ingredients — it sure tastes spectacular. Of course, you could turn it into a day-long project by roasting and pureeing the squash, making the pasta, and stuffing it with the butternut puree. But let’s not. I bought excellent butternut ravioli at Sam’s Club and spotted some the next day at Whole Foods. I’m sure Earth Fare carries them, too, and regular supermarkets may as well.

With that out of the way, all you have to do is brown some butter and fry some prosciutto and sage leaves. Seriously, this dinner almost qualifies as fast food.

A word about browning butter: You should barely sizzle it until the solids drop to the bottom of the pan and turn brown. The butter itself will look brown, but the toasted solids are what actually give it color. If you don’t pay attention, the solids will go from golden brown to black and the flavor will be ruined. Use a shiny pan so you can see the solids turning brown, and stand over the pan while the butter heats.

Frying fresh sage is easy; telling when it’s done is not. If the leaf turns brown, it is overcooked. You might have to sacrifice one or two leaves before you can tell just when to remove them from the oil. The leaves will shrink and ruffle a bit, but the centers will still look greenish and pliable. As they drain and cool on paper towels, they will crisp up.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH RAVIOLI WITH PROSCIUTTO AND SAGE

  • 10 tbsp. butter
  • 20 large sage leaves
  • 4 oz. paper-thin slices of prosciutto
  • 1 package (18 oz.) uncooked, refrigerated butternut squash ravioli
  • Coarse sea salt, fresh-ground pepper
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter until melted and sizzling. Fry sage leaves, a few at a time, over medium-high heat until they begin to shrink and look crisp. Transfer to paper towels. In same skillet, fry prosciutto slices in batches until they shrink slightly and begin to pucker. Drain on paper towels.

In a small shiny pan, melt remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Continue to heat and stir until the butter turns golden brown. Do not allow the solids that drop to the bottom of the pan to burn. Remove from heat.

Drop ravioli into boiling water and cook according to package directions, about 5 minutes for al dente. Drain. Divide ravioli among four shallow bowls. Pour brown butter over pasta and top with the sage and prosciutto. Season to taste with a pinch of the salt and some pepper. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I ate out last week:

Baked lemon chicken breast, mashed potatoes at St. Thomas Hospital cafeteria in Akron; wedge salad with white French dressing, filet mignon, sautéed spinach with garlic at Wise Guys in Akron; potato samosa, chicken vindaloo, curried chickpeas, basmati rice at Whole Foods 365 in Akron; thin-crust vegetable pizza from Earth Fare; cheeseburger Happy Meal from McDonald’s.

What I cooked at home last week:
Pressure-cooker venison pot roast (awful; first attempt at pressure cooking); Spicy New England Pot Roast with carrots and onions (great); chocolate pudding; raspberry sugar-free gelatin;  grilled t-bone steaks, baked potatoes.

 

TIDBITS

For my birthday Tony took me to Wise Guys restaurant in the North Hill area of Akron. A friend had recommended it for steak and I’m glad she did.

I had eaten there several times when the restaurant was Nick Anthe’s, the latest about eight years ago with a friend, Joe Crea, the former food editor of the Plain Dealer. He was reviewing, I was eating — an alternate universe kind of situation for me. Even then the restaurant was a throwback to another era of crystal chandeliers, thick carpeting, polished woodwork and a menu of steaks, chicken picatta, Caesar salad and the like.

After it closed, gunsmith Tom Procaccio drove by the empty restaurant for two years before he rescued the landmark from oblivion.

“I just couldn’t stand seeing it sit there empty,” Procaccio says.

For never having owned a restaurant before, Procaccio has done a commendable job. He freshened the restaurant while keeping the best elements of the grand old Akron restaurant tradition — the cushy decor, special-occasion menu and a kitchen that has a way with steaks.

While the small filet I had was fine, I hear the ribeye is the bomb. At 22 ounces it is way too large for me, but I’ll coax Tony into ordering it the next time we go. I loved a side dish of garlicky, almost creamy sautéed spinach, and the white French dressing on a wedge salad was spot on.

Check out the menu at  wiseguys.us. Then visit one evening after a trying day, when all you want to do is sink into a booth, snap open a snowy white napkin and immerse yourself in some culinary deja vu.

TIDBITS II

It’s autumn to most people, but to me it’s Asian pear season. I’ve already eaten a half dozen of the crisp fruit, and that’s only the beginning. I got a whole boxful last weekend at Weymouth Farms and Orchard in the southern reaches of Hinckley, the epicenter of Asian pear deliciousness as far as I’m concerned.

Brenda and Paul, the proprietors, have branched out (no pun intended) the last few years to apples and grapes for wine making, Paul’s latest passion, but the pears are what keep me coming back. Wow. They are crisp but unreasonably juicy. I will have no trouble polishing off that case.

The various varieties are ripening and selling quickly this year, Brenda notes, so if you want some, visit soon. For details, see www.weymouthfarms.com.

THE MAILBAG

Dear readers: Somehow I lost several of your emails. I remember the gist of one of them and will reconstruct it below. If you sent me an email question or comment that I haven’t printed or responded to, please send it again if you have time. Thanks.

Q: You used a “dry white wine” in a recipe recently. What kind of wine do you buy?

A: All kinds, but usually a brut Champagne. I don’t buy any wine specifically for cooking unless I’m making a dish such as boeuf Bourguignon that uses an entire bottle. I can rarely polish off a bottle myself anymore, so I usually have leftover wine on hand for cooking. When I used to drink every bottle to the dregs, I would keep a bottle of white vermouth in the cabinet for recipes that called for less than a cup of white wine. Vermouth is a fortified wine (sugar is added), so it keeps for a long time.

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