April 25, 2018

Dear friends,

Sometimes you have to look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially if the gift is a food processor and the horse creates recipes for a living.

For Christmas 2016 I gave my niece, Heidi, a Cuisinart. She is a very good cook and owns a batterie of cookware but at that point, not a food processor. I would swap anything in my kitchen for a food processor. I consider it indispensable.

Last week I was moving my food processor while cleaning the countertop and wondered what Heidi had used her processor for in the last 16 months. I haven’t heard a peep, so I’m guessing the answer is “nothing.” I know she has been ridiculously busy, so I’ll help her figure out this new appliance. For starters, here is a list of the tasks I use my processor for the most, in no particular order:

TOP 10 THINGS I DO WITH MY FOOD PROCESSOR

  1. Make pesto
  2. Make fresh bread crumbs for meatloaf, etc.
  3. Puree soups
  4. Finely chop nuts
  5. Make frozen blueberry ice cream (a couple handfuls frozen blueberries, a carton of vanilla yogurt, pulse and voila!)
  6. Make smooth sauces such as chimichurri and mole
  7. Make sorbet bases
  8. Make pasta dough
  9. Make peanut sauce for noodles or sate
  10. Make hummus

I don’t use the extra blades much, other than for making julienned carrots occasionally. I used to thin-slice potatoes with another blade, but I don’t cook white potatoes often anymore. For scalloped potatoes, though, that processor blade can’t be beat.

In honor of Heidi, I came up with a recipe last week for Thai pork chops in a sauce made in a food processor. Instead of cutting and combining each ingredient by hand, I dumped everything in the food processor and pureed them. The result was a coconut milk-lime-curry sauce easy enough for a weeknight dinner.

How do you use your food processor?

THAI COCONUT CURRY PORK CHOPS

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1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk
1 tbsp. Thai chili paste
Grated zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. nam pla (fish sauce)
4 boneless pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick
8 cups cabbage in 1-inch pieces, layers separated
Salt, pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Chopped cilantro (optional)

Cut ginger in half and, one at a time, drop each piece through the feed tube of the food processor with the motor running. The blade will chop the ginger into bits. Repeat with the garlic. Remove lid of processor and add coconut milk, chili paste, lime zest, lime juice and nam pla. Replace the lid and process until smooth.

Place chops in a 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Add one-half cup of the coconut-milk sauce. Close the bag and massage to moisten all surfaces of the chops. Refrigerate for at least one hour or all day while you are out or at work.

About 45 minutes before dinner, place cabbage in a 9-by-12-inch baking pan. Pour 3/4 cup of the coconut sauce over the cabbage and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until soft and silky.

Meanwhile, 15 minutes before cabbage is done, remove chops from marinade and pat dry (discard marinade). Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the edges on each side just begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until meat is just slightly pink in the center, about 5 minutes. It will continue cooking off the heat.

Remove cabbage from oven, stir and spread on a platter. Arrange chops over cabbage. Pour remaining coconut sauce into hot skillet and boil over high heat until it reduces by about half and thickens slightly. Pour over chops. Scatter chopped cilantro over all. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Swap Thai curry paste for the chili paste if desired, and another vegetable for the cabbage, which I used because I had excess on hand.

GUT CHECK 

What I cooked last week:

A sliced chicken, pesto and avocado open-faced sandwich; chili; chicken salad with apples, dried cranberries and pecans; cabbage baked in Thai sauce and coconut-curry pork chops; microwave cinnamon-raisin bread pudding; pan-grilled chicken breasts with horseradish-mayo topping and a chopped kale salad with sweet and sour dressing; pan-grilled strip steaks with tarragon wine sauce, buttered lima beans, smoked sweet potatoes.

What I ate in restaurants last week:

A grilled chicken salad at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; half of an Asian salad with chicken and a hunk of baguette at Panera.

THE MAILBAG

From Cheryl:
The bay laurels are in stock now at Donzell’s. Make sure you have enough room when you plant them.

Dear Cheryl:
I am sharing your tip, although I admit I waited until I snagged a plant to do so. Until the weather warms up, I am keeping my bay-leaf seedling near a grow light on my kitchen counter.

When I visited, Donzell’s Garden Center on Waterloo Road in Akron had almost a dozen plants. They are in the herbs section, in case your query for directions, like mine, is met with blank stares.

In case you missed my earlier post, I have wanted to find a bay laurel bush for years, ever since I tasted a blanc mange flavored with fresh bay leaves. FYI, bay laurel is a Mediterranean bush that is too tender for harsh Northern Ohio winters, so your best bet is to use a planter and bring it indoors before the snow flies.

From Mary D.:
I found a new place for you, on the Baldwin-Wallace campus … the Campus Grill: http://www.thecampusgrille.com.

Dear Mary:
You are a doll for sending me this link. I read the Latin menu and am itching to try it. Tony is balking at more Cuban and Caribbean food right now, so I’ll have to wait. Meanwhile, I hope anyone who visits will send me a report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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April 17, 2018

Dear friends,

I am sorry to beat you over the head with Cuban cuisine again, but I can’t get that bewitching bread out of my mind. Since I returned from Florida, I have been trying to make a decent loaf of Cuban bread with middling success until I stumbled across the secret: lard. Who knew?

Three Guys From Miami knew. That’s the name of a blog written by a trio of laid-back Florida guys who like to cook Cuban food. How laid back? Their Cuban bread recipe includes a break for beer on the patio while the bread rises and one carps, “Why didn’t we just pick up a loaf of bread at the bakery?” For all their humble charm, the guys aren’t just casual cooks — they have a TV show and cookbooks as well as the website icubano.com.

The Cuban loaf produced with their recipe has a delicately crisp crust, more fragile than a French baguette, and a soft, very slightly sweet crumb. It’s the Cuban bread I remember from Florida.

I am reproducing their short recipe and long, explanatory instructions with just a few edits for conciseness. I found their ramblings helpful. I have put my deviations in parentheses.

PAN CUBANO

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1 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup lard
2 tbsp. warm water to brush on loaves before baking

Grease a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water (110 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). (I proofed the yeast right in the bowl of the stand mixer). Place the bowl in a warm place and let it stand until it starts to foam and double in volume, about 10 minutes. If it doesn’t foam and bubble, you have some bad yeast.

Meanwhile, place the lard in a Pyrex measuring cup or other suitable container. Heat in the microwave on high for about (1 minute) 90 seconds or until melted.

Place the water/yeast/sugar mixture in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add the rest of the warm water (110 degrees) and the salt. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until blended.

Take your measuring cup and dig in to the flour bag, scooping out two whole cups of each flour. Now the important part: in a separate bowl, sift together the two flours. Sifted flour has more volume than un-sifted flour, so you will use about 3 1/4 cups of sifted flour in the following steps.

Gradually add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients in your mixer, mixing constantly. At the same time you are adding flour, gradually pour in the melted lard. Keep adding a little flour and a little lard until all of the lard is added. (I had to stop the mixer several times to scrape down sides).

Continue adding more flour — A LITTLE AT A TIME — until you make a smooth and pliable dough. Try to add just enough flour to make the dough elastic — just as much as necessary so that the dough hook barely cleans the sides of the bowl. Too much flour and your bread will be too dense. (Too little and it will spread too much). You will use about 3 1/4 cups of sifted flour to bring the dough to this point — more or less, this is where the art of baking comes in. Save any leftover flour mixture for rolling out the dough.

Set the mixer on a low speed and knead with the dough hook for about 3 to 4 minutes, no more. Your dough will be fairly sticky at this point.

NOTE: If you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, you can also do this the old fashioned way. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pound the dough ball down and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, about ten minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the greased bowl, turning to grease all sides of the dough. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm place. (We pre-heat our oven to 160 degrees and then turn it off, creating a perfect environment for our rising bread.) Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board, using the leftover flour in the bowl. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and use a rolling pin to roll it out to fit diagonally on your largest baking sheet — usually 20 inches long. Roll dough to a 12-by-20-inch rectangle. Sprinkle more flour on the dough and turn it over a few times as you roll to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. The added flour at this stage should take care of most of the stickiness.

Starting at a long edge, roll the dough into a tight cylinder, with a slight taper at both ends. Wet your fingers and pinch the loose flap of the rolled dough into the loaf, making a tight seam.

Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. (I used parchment paper instead.) Place the loaf diagonally onto the baking sheet, seam side down. Dust the top with a little extra flour and cover very loosely with plastic wrap. (You don’t want the rising dough to dry out or stick to the plastic wrap.)

Place in a warm spot and let rise until about 2 1/2 times it’s original size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cuban bread is wider than French bread, so expect your loaf to spread out quite a bit as it rises. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a pan of water on the lowest oven rack.

Use a sharp knife (I used scissors) to cut a shallow seam down the middle of the top of the bread, leaving about two inches uncut on each end. Brush the top of the loaf with water (I soaked the brush with water and flicked it onto the bread instead of brushing and potentially deflating the bread). Place on the middle oven shelf. After about 5 minutes of baking, brush some more water on top of the bread.

Bake the loaf until it is light brown and crusty, about 12 to 18 minutes total baking time. (Don’t cut into loaf until it cools.) Makes 1 loaf.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
A broth bowl with chicken, asparagus, cubed sweet potato and wilted spinach in chicken-ginger broth; sausage and cauliflower soup with spinach; hot dogs in buns, chopped salad with ginger dressing; scrambled eggs with roasted red peppers and sour cream; slow-cooker roast beef in red wine with Italian spices; sautéed cod loin, sautéed garlic and spinach.

What I ate in/from restaurants, etc.:
Pepperoni pizza from Rizzi’s in Copley; Waterloo salad with grilled chicken and pita wedges at Waterloo Restaurant in Akron; Thai chicken taco with peanut sauce, cochinita pork taco with pickled onions, lime and cilantro from Funky Truckeria in Norton; breaded chicken stuffed with cheese and broccoli, mixed vegetables at St. George church social hall in Copley.

TIDBIT

The paleo and low-carb diet fads have elevated the status of once-lowly cauliflower, which is being used now as a stand-in for rice (cauliflower risotto) and potatoes (mashed cauliflower), among other starches. I have even seen teensy flecks of it masquerading as quinoa.

I often make mashed cauliflower, and last week found a great new way to use it: as a sub for potatoes in one of my favorite soups, potato and greens soup. The use isn’t revolutionary, but I’m glad I thought of it.

For the soup, brown 1 pound of seasoned bulk sausage (such as Bob Evans in the tube) in a skillet. Meanwhile, in a covered soup pot, simmer about a half head of cauliflower, broken into florets, in a carton (32 ounces) of chicken broth until the cauliflower is mushy-soft. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the cauliflower in the pot with a stick blender. Add the browned sausage and a splash of half and half (optional) and return to a simmer. Add a couple of big handfuls of fresh spinach, cover and simmer until the spinach is wilted. Makes about 6 servings.

THE MAILBAG

From Pat S.:
All that brutal stirring to create delicious gougere isn’t necessary if one owns a mixer. When it comes time to add the eggs, remove the pan from the heat as directed. Dump the batter into a the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Follow the recipe as written, beating in eggs one at a time, then cheese, on medium speed.

Dear Pat:
NOW you tell me. Seriously, thank you for letting me know. I will make gougere more often now, and may even experiment with sugar-free eclairs, which Tony has been asking me for years to make. I might note that by “mixer,” you mean a stand mixer. Hand mixers aren’t powerful enough for the dense puff paste dough.

From Stephanie F.:
Hi Jane. I had to laugh when I read about the Jell-O salad. My mom would make this to try to hide veggies when my sisters were little. I liked veggies but they did not. They referred to it as “Grass Salad.” Occasionally now we will make it for family get-togethers in memory of our mom. Good memories. Thanks!

Dear Stephanie:
Oh, good, I get to kid my brother about Grass Salad now. Speaking of memories, one of my presents for my brother was the letters from basic training and Vietnam he sent me in 1971 that I had saved. I mention this for anyone else of a certain age who is a pack rat and looking for gift ideas for older family members. Rob was very happy to get them.

From Dawn C.:
My oh my! That celebration dinner sounds divine! Lucky husband and brother.
The chocolate-lime-coconut cake entices me to want to know more. And sugar-free, no less. Could you share the recipe with us? And how about the pineapple-mayo dressing? I’ve never had such a thing. Recipe, please! I’m drooling with anticipation.

Dear Dawn:
Don’t get too excited. The pineapple-mayo dressing was merely a cup of mayonnaise combined with about one-fourth cup crushed pineapple and enough of the pineapple juice to thin it to pouring consistency. That’s how my mother did it.

The cake was a cheater, too, but was surprisingly delicious. I started with a sugar-free Betty Crocker yellow cake mix. I replaced part of the liquid in the recipe with the juice of two limes, and added the grated zest of the two limes to the batter. This gave the cake a pronounced lime flavor.

The chocolate part is complicated. I only did it because Tony insisted on some chocolate. I sandwiched the two 9-inch cake layers with chocolate frosting made by beating a can of Betty Crocker sugar-free chocolate frosting with 4 ounces of softened cream cheese and about 3 tablespoons butter. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla to bump the flavor even more. The frosting straight from the can is kind of yucky and I haven’t found a homemade sugar-free frosting recipe that is worth the effort.

The sides and top of the cake were frosted with a thick layer of Lite Cool Whip. It’s not sugar-free, but it’s fairly low in sugar and holds up better than real whipped cream. From my days in the photo studio, I can tell you it holds up for so long it’s scary. To finish the cake, again at Tony’s request, I gently tamped shredded coconut onto the sides. No, the coconut wasn’t sugar free, but I didn’t use a lot of it. Everyone was crazy about this cake. FYI, Tony also wanted almonds in there somewhere, but I put my foot down.

From Isabelle G.:
Jane, I can’t believe the addition of Jell-O to your delicious meal. My granddaughters couldn’t believe that anyone would put cabbage in Jell-O when I made it for Easter. They only know about Jell-O shots. I would like an actual recipe as I made mine up from memory. I may have put too much cabbage in it. I am sending your column to all my granddaughters to prove I am not the only one who likes Jell-O. That salad was a regular in my childhood home. Thanks for the enlightenment.

Dear Isabelle:
The recipe I used calls for 2 small boxes of orange Jell-O, prepared according to package directions, to which I added 1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage and 1 cup drained crushed pineapple. I skipped the half-cup or so of sliced celery in my mother’s recipe. The “salad” is poured into an oblong baking pan and refrigerated until set. Variations abound on the Internet, and in fact the original was made with Knox gelatin, not Jell-O. My mother used orange Jell-O because that was my father’s favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 10, 2018

Dear friends,

The cream-puff dough almost did me in. Beating in the eggs one at a time with my six-month-old titanium shoulder was brutal. Tony had to step in to spell me. Who knew cooking would become a matter of stamina as I age?

The pate a choux dough was for French gougere, light-as-air unfilled puffs that were a cocktail snack at a family gathering last weekend. I made the hors d’oeuvre followed by a special meal to mark two important birthdays — Tony’s 60th and my brother’s 70th.

I went all out. The guys wanted steak, so I rubbed inch-thick strips with a homemade seasoning mix (coarse sea salt, fresh-ground pepper, a bit of sugar and herbes de Provence) and grilled them over charcoal. My brother-in-law watched the meat while I made béarnaise sauce with fresh tarragon and plated fat roast asparagus and small new potatoes roasted with olive oil and coarse salt.

I also served my brother’s childhood favorite, Perfection Salad — orange Jell-O with crushed pineapple and shredded cabbage and carrots, with pineapple mayo dressing on the side.

Dessert was two sugar-free layer cakes — one chocolate with chocolate icing and sliced almonds clinging to the sides, and the other — Tony’s request — lime with chocolate filling, whipped cream frosting and coconut.

That was Saturday. On Sunday I slept.

Back in the day, this would have been a quick-fix meal I would have been slightly embarrassed to serve to friends. Back then I could complicate even a salad course with, say, Roquefort beignets. And of course the baguettes with the cheese course would have been homemade. Now my idea of going the extra mile is serving a carousel of sour cream, crumbled bacon, butter and sea salt with the roasted new potatoes.

Dang, I miss those fabulous meals.

The gougere provided a taste of my decadent past without a lot of work if you don’t count that incessant beating. They can be made ahead and frozen, and reheated briefly at the last minute. The prep involves combining flour with melted butter and water and heating while stirring until the dough comes together in a big, springy ball. Then off the heat, four eggs are beaten in one at a time until each egg is absorbed by the flour mixture.

With this dough you can make cream puffs and eclairs, or beat in shredded cheese for gougere. The airy, crisp puffs are often served in wine cellars in France to customers who look like they’ll buy a case or two.

GOUGERE

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1 cup water
6 tbsp. butter, cut in small pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup flour
4 eggs
1 cup grated cheese (gruyere, Parmesan or Cheddar)

Bring water, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg to a boil in a heavy, 1 1/2-quart saucepan. Remove from heat and pour in the flour all at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend. Then beat over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove pan from the heat and make a well in the center of the paste with your spoon. Immediately break an egg into the well and beat it into the paste until it has been absorbed. Continue with remaining eggs, beating them in one at a time. Beat in the grated cheese.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between mounds. Brush the tops of the mounds with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water) if desired, being careful that drips do not hit the parchment.

Place the baking sheets in the lower third and upper third of an oven preheated to 425 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes. The puffs are done when they have doubled in size and are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and puncture the side of each puff with the tip of a sharp knife. Return to the oven, heat off and door ajar for 10 minutes to dry out the insides. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To freeze, cool completely and place in a zipper-lock bag, cushioned in paper towels. Reheat on parchment-lined baking sheets at 425 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Boiled knockwurst with mustard on buns; oven-cooked bacon; Cheddar gougere; sugar-free chocolate-lime-coconut cake, sugar-free chocolate cake with almonds; Jell-O salad with pineapple-mayonnaise dressing; spice-rubbed, charcoal-grilled strip steaks, béarnaise sauce, roast asparagus with butter and sea salt, roasted new potatoes with sour cream, bacon, butter and sea salt; Japanese curry with chicken.

What I ate in (or from) restaurants:
The low-cal plate — a deliciously seasoned hamburger patty, cottage cheese, tomato slices, hard-cooked egg and applesauce — at Village Gardens in Cuyahoga Falls; spicy chili pork wontons and spicy eggplant at House of Hunan in Fairlawn.

THE MAILBAG

From Stephanie C.:
What is “poke” and how is it pronounced? I see it on menus everywhere.

Dear Stephanie:
Poke is pronounced poe-kay, according to my husband, who made it when he worked in a Hawaii sushi bar years ago. Poke is a Hawaiian raw fish salad that is usually served in a bowl. Bite-sized pieces of seafood — classically, ahi tuna — are seasoned and tossed with green onions and eaten as is, over rice, or on leaves of lettuce. One recipe from the Hawaiian Fish Co. blog (honolulufishmarket.com) calls for chili pepper flakes, sesame oil, green onions, salt and sesame seeds.

A fast-casual restaurant devoted to the dish has opened in the Whole Foods plaza in the Wallhaven area of Akron. Poke Fresh is set up like Chipotle, with customers queueing up to choose a base (rice, greens, grains), a protein (tuna, salmon, chicken, tofu) and toppings. The website is eatpokefresh.com.

I had a delicious version of poke at Sushi Katsu in the Merriman Valley. That’s the place Tony owned until he retired. The new chef, Tin, makes great poke and sushi.

From Heidi:
For the man who wanted the recipe for African peanut soup, here is the one I use. I’ve made it several times and think it’s good. I’ve never had the version West Side Bakery makes so I can’t compare.

AFRICAN PEANUT STEW

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion
1 1/4 cups finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame
1/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut or almond butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach, torn in bite-size pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
Coarse-ground black pepper

Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan. Sauté onion, bell pepper, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and curry powder and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and cook, uncovered, until tomatoes are slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

Add broth and sweet potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 8 minutes. Add edamame and peanut butter; stir to combine. Add cilantro and spinach and cook until throughly heated and spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe by Cheryl Forberg in “Relish the Healthy Table.”

Dear Heidi:
I know Cheryl Forberg, the recipe’s creator and former nutritionist for “The Biggest Loser” TV show. You can’t go wrong with one of her recipes. She specializes in healthful food that tastes great. My favorite baked taco recipe is from Cheryl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 3, 2018

Dear friends,

For a while there, all my buddies were longing for Greek lemon and egg soup. It was like a virus that was going around. I didn’t catch the bug until much later. A year went by before I felt the urge to make the soup. What else was I going to do with the sack of lemons in my fridge?

The soup was a revelation. I had no idea it was so lemony and creamy. I may have had avgolemono — Greek lemon-egg soup — once long ago at Gus’s on Tallmadge Avenue in Akron, but the memory is dim. The soup I made recently was either way better or prepared in a different style. Probably both, because I think I would have remembered something this good.

This classic soup can be made with rice, bulgur or orzo pasta, or with rice served on the side. The lemon juice must be fresh, but many recipes start with canned chicken broth instead of homemade. The surprise for me was that the eggs are added not in ribbons, as with egg drop soup, but are slowly tempered so they enrich and thicken the broth without leaving so much as a trace.

The recipe I found and followed in “The Good Egg” by Marie Simmons starts with a whole frying chicken slow-simmered to produce a broth, which is then stocked with the cooked, shredded meat along with rice, fresh lemon juice and eggs. It’s just the thing for a drizzly spring day.

AVGOLEMONO SOUP

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1 whole chicken (3 to 4 lbs.), rinsed in salted water and drained
10 cups cold water
1 large onion, unpeeled, studded with 2 whole cloves
Kosher salt
1 cup long-grain white rice
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
Fresh-ground black pepper

In a large pot, combine the chicken, water and onion and bring to a simmer. Skim off and discard the foam. Add salt to taste and simmer, covered, until the chicken is falling off the bones, 2 to 3 hours.

Remove from the heat and, using 2 large spoons, transfer the chicken to a platter to cool slightly. Remove and discard the onion from the broth.

Remove the meat from the chicken and shred or chop and return it to the pot, discarding the skin and bones. Taste the broth and add salt if needed. Stir in the rice and simmer uncovered until tender, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and lemon juice until frothy. Slowly ladle in about 1 cup of the hot broth, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Turn off the heat under the pot and slowly whisk the egg mixture into the soup.

Serve the soup immediately . Pass the pepper mill at the table. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: I continued to cook the soup without simmering for several minutes after adding the eggs. The recipe is from “The Good Egg” by Marie Simmons.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Fried corn meal mush sprinkled with Splenda, fried German bologna; stuffed cabbage soup; Japanese Genghis Khan — marinated and grilled thin-sliced lamb with sautéed onions and carrots over rice; sugar-free brownies.

What I ate in and from restaurants last week:
Cuban sandwich, salad with mozzarella and strawberries at Pub Bricco on Merriman Road in Akron; crispy spring roll, red curry noodles soup with beef at Thai Pattaya in the Portage Lakes; wontons in spicy sauce, scallion pancakes at Szechuan Gourmet in Cleveland; poutine with pulled pork at The Merchant Tavern on Merriman Road in Akron; a thin-crust veggie pizza from Earth Fare.

TIDBITS
This is a tale of two Asian restaurants, one meh and one potentially great. Szechuan Gourmet next to Tink Hol Asian grocery store in Cleveland has been lauded by several diners whose palates I trust. Thai Pattaya in Akron’s Portage Lakes area also has fans but is such a sleeper that some readers thought it had closed.

Guess which one I loved?

I tried to love Szechuan Gourmet when Tony and I visited last week on a sliced-lamb run to Park To Shop, another Asian grocery store near Tink Hol. Do not confuse the awful Szechuan Cafe next to Park to Shop with the Tink Hol Szechuan restaurant, which is much better. Still, the latter, which I had visited once before and thought lackluster, again failed to impress.

It wasn’t awful, but the six small pork wontons in spicy sauce I ordered were smushed together in a cereal bowl with a mere spoonful or so of sauce (itself nothing special), and a $14 octopus stir fry was served in a Pyrex pie plate. The baby octopuses were plentiful but the kitchen forgot (or didn’t know) to remove their beaks. Add in careless, neglectful service and it adds up to a disappointing meal.

Am I not ordering the right dishes? Visiting on off days? Whatever the answer, the spicy wontons a friend recommended couldn’t hold a candle to the ones I had at House of Hunan in Fairlawn.

In contrast, Tony and I visited Thai Pattaya with modest expectations a couple of days later and were blown away. I have been daydreaming about their luscious Red Curry Noodles Soup with beef ever since. The broth was stunning — gingery, maybe a hint of coconut, notes of lime and, of course, red curry paste. The soulful soup was stocked with round wheat noodles, chunks of roast beef caramelized on the edges and bamboo shoots. A platter of bean sprouts, julienned carrots and radish, sprigs of cilantro and lime wedges was served alongside, to add to the soup according to taste.

The restaurant is spacious and clean, and the service the evening we visited was attentive. I don’t know how the service would hold up during a rush because we arrived late and were the only customers. I can’t wait to return.

Thai Pattaya is at 497 Portage Lakes Drive in Coventry Township. The hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The phone is 330-644-8363.

THE MAILBAG

From Carol:
Because of your comment a couple of weeks ago, I’m wondering what the difference is between Thai and Vietnamese pho.

Dear Carol:
I wrote that we would have to make do with Thai “pho” until a Vietnamese restaurant opens in the area. Pho is Vietnamese, not Thai. Some Thai and Chinese restaurants offer a noodle soup they call “pho” because the soup is very popular and they want the business, just as many Chinese, Thai and even American restaurants sell a bastardized form of sushi because sushi is all the rage. And everyone, it seems, has a pretend-Thai dish on the menu.

Although the faux sushi irks me the most because my husband is an itamae (sushi master) and I know the difference between salted raw and plain raw salmon, and vinegar-splashed air-dried rice and plain steamed rice, and properly trimmed tuna and tuna with the black streak intact, and a cheap sushi roll with a thick ring of rice and a well-made sushi roll with a fair portion of expensive seafood….well, I could go on and on. Sorry for the rant.

Anyway, a wise critic once told me that she judges restaurants not by how authentic they are but by how good the food tastes. That makes sense to me, too. So Thai “pho” could be delicious. (But not, I think, faux sushi.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2018

Dear friends,

I do not dye eggs and decorate my home with china bunnies. I say that with regret. I admire the zest of elderly women in senior apartments who put spring wreaths on their doors and whip up a celebration, no matter how small. I wish I could join them but I can’t.

I’m not world-weary; I’m simply incapable of summoning enthusiasm for a spring fete that does not include chocolate. No chocolate bunnies. No chocolate-marshmallow eggs. No Cadbury eggs with caramel centers. No sugar, period.

Ah, well. If I can’t have chocolate I’ll say it with biscuits. I found a recipe for biscuits that are so tall and fluffy they’re almost cause for celebration themselves. If you plan to have friends and relatives over for Easter dinner, these biscuits will make your day. They rise to ridiculous heights in tender layers that puff upward like an accordion.

I found the recipe in my friend Kathleen Purvis’ blog, I’ll Bite (www.charlotteobserver.com/living/food-drink/ill-bite-blog). A few years ago a reader sent her a photo of the biscuits she perfected, and Kathi nailed down the recipe and technique. When I made the biscuits Sunday, I added a clarification or two to the recipe to help ensure consistent results.

The biscuits employ cold butter and a folding technique similar to that of puff pastry. The cold butter is grated into self-rising flour, enough buttermilk is added to produce a dough, and the dough is rolled and folded six times. The folding and rolling distributes the butter through the flour in layers that become air pockets when the butter melts in the oven. Ta da! — tall, flaky biscuits.

The butter must not melt before the biscuits go into the oven, so everything — flour, rolling pin, bowl, grater — is refrigerated before using. The butter itself is frozen.

You’ll need a 2 to 3-inch biscuit cutter or glass with a thin rim of the same circumference. Don’t twist the cutter into the dough or the biscuits won’t rise properly; press the cutter straight down.

I am munching a biscuit as I write this. It isn’t chocolate and I’m not belting out “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” but for a biscuit it’s pretty good.

TALL FLAKY BISCUITS

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1/2 cup (1 stick) frozen butter
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour, preferably White Lily, plus more for dusting work surface
1 cup buttermilk
1 to 2 tbsp. salted butter

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place butter in freezer. Place flour in a mixing bowl and the mixing bowl in the freezer. Chill a rolling pin (preferably marble) and a box grater.

When the butter is frozen, grate it with the large holes of a box grater into the bowl of chilled flour, tossing with flour every few minutes.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk. Starting slowly with a wooden spoon, toss flour from the edge into the pool of buttermilk, then continue gently mixing until all the buttermilk is mixed in. All of the flour should be moistened enough to stick together. If not, gently stir in enough milk to produce a soft dough. Do not mix more than necessary. Place in the freezer to rest for 10 minutes.

Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface. Pat and press the dough gently to form a mound. Using a cold, floured rolling pin, roll in one direction to flatten slightly, then fold the dough in thirds like an envelope and make a quarter turn. Repeat five times to form a rectangle of dough that’s about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.

Using a round biscuit cutter dipped in flour, press straight down without twisting. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet slightly touching. Pull the scraps together, reroll and continue cutting out biscuits until you have 12.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Watch carefully so the biscuits don’t burn. Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted salted butter. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 biscuits.

Note: Biscuits are best when eaten fresh from the oven.

 

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Greek lemon-egg soup; chicken salad with dried cherries and pecans; tall, flaky biscuits; pan-grilled sockeye salmon with lemon-cilantro sauce, fried potato nuggets, asparagus with butter.

What I ate last week in and from restaurants:
Bacon and egg on English muffin at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; salmon roe on sushi rice from Sushi Katsu in Akron; sloppy Joe at Mrs. J’s Restaurant in Orrville; fried lake perch, coleslaw (with horseradish, I think), a bite of mac and cheese, oven-fried potatoes at St. Thomas Eastern Orthodox Church in Copley (catered by Totally Cooked); a hamburger and onion rings from Hamburger Station.

THE MAILBAG  

From Mike:
After last week’s post, we found out that Southern Gardens is actually still open. They did away with the weird Southern food portion of the menu, kept the Asian and the spot is called Thai Pattaya. Same great Asian dishes including, of course, the pho. We went there last Friday. It was busy. I tried the red curry soup for a change and it was great, too.

Dear Mike:
Thank you and also Sally O. who notes the restaurant is alive and thriving at 497 Portage Lakes Drive in Coventry Twp.

The website is thai-pattaya-restaurant.business.site.

From Rachel:
Tell me more about sweet soy sauce for your lemon fettuccine and shrimp recipe. I use regular ol’ Kikkoman for most of my soy-based marinades; would it work here? What if I’m trying to cut sugars wherever possible? And would you recommend fresh or dried pasta for this one?

Dear Rachel:
Sweet soy sauce, called exactly that in Asian stores, is thick and sweet. It makes a nice glaze for grilled meats and vegetables. In this case, you could substitute regular soy sauce without much flavor difference. I used the sweet because it helps the coating to caramelize on the shrimp in the pan. I used fresh pasta for the recipe; either fresh or dried will work fine.

March 20, 2018

Dear friends,

I have been hungry for lemons ever since I swiped one last month from under a lemon tree beside a gas station in Florida. I thought the fruit was a lime when I tossed it into the door pocket of our pickup for the trip home. It gradually ripened to a soft yellow and then a dark yellow. When I cut into it, the deep yellow interior and sweet taste told me it was a Meyer lemon. I ate it unadorned, right from the rind.

Meyer lemons are all the rage and in season right now but I prefer regular old puckery lemons for cooking. They have a more pronounced lemon flavor than Meyers, which are thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.

I had a yen for lemon bars and lemon cake and lemon mousse last week but because I’m avoiding sugar, I channeled the urge into a savory dish. Tony and I dreamed it up together in the car and I jotted down the ingredients on an envelope in my purse — lemony fettuccine with chili-rubbed shrimp, crushed peanuts and cilantro. All I had to do was fill in the details when we got home.

I marinated fat shrimp in a rub of Szechuan chili oil and soy sauce, and started the pasta sauce while the pasta water heated. Tony crushed the peanuts, chopped the onions and minced the cilantro while I skewered and pan-grilled the shrimp, finished the sauce and boiled the pasta.

The dish tasted just as I imagined — the slippery, lemony pasta a counterpoint to the spicy, rich shrimp. It put me in such a good mood I didn’t even grouse when Tony dumped tons more chili oil on his pasta to spice it up. His boorish tastebuds, I decided, are not my problem.

LEMON FETTUCCINE WITH CHILI-RUBBED SHRIMP

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For the shrimp:

1 lb. large raw shrimp
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp. Szechuan chili oil
8 6-inch wooden skewers
2 tbsp. vegetable oil

For the pasta:

3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 quarter-size pieces of fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup seafood stock or broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of 2 medium lemons
8 tbsp. cold butter, in small pieces
2 chopped scallions, green part only
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

For the shrimp:
Peel and place in a zipper-lock plastic bag with the sweet soy sauce and Szechuan chili oil. Close tightly and rub the shrimp with the marinade to cover completely. Refrigerate until needed. Soak skewers in water.

For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta and add about a tablespoon of salt. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the three tablespoons oil and when hot, add the ginger, pressing and turning to flavor the oil. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the seafood broth, increase heat to high and simmer until reduced to about 2 cups. Add the lemon and lemon zest. Set aside.

Thread shrimp on skewers. Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet or grill pan. Cook the shrimp just until done.

While the shrimp cooks, place pasta in the boiling, salted water. Cook until al dente. While the pasta cooks, place lemon-broth over medium heat and when warm, begin whisking in the butter, a small piece at a time. Continue until all butter has been used.

When pasta is done, drain and return to empty pot. Shake over low heat to remove remaining moisture. Pour sauce over pasta and gently toss. Transfer pasta to four dinner plates or shallow pasta bowls. Scatter chopped green onions over pasta. Place shrimp skewers on pasta. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:

Colorado sloppers (open-faced hamburgers on bun halves, topped with Colorado green chili and melted cheese); Cuban pork roast slow-cooked with criollo mojo marinade and green olives, with black beans and rice; lemon fettuccine with chili-spiced shrimp; Cuban pork, olive and avocado sandwich; pan-grilled strip steaks, oven-roasted cubed potatoes, cauliflower and red bell pepper with olive oil and herbes de Provence.

What I ate in restaurants last week:

Hummus with pita bread and Mediterranean pizza at Continental Cuisine in Fairlawn; a cheeseburger from Wendy’s; a spicy California roll and mini shrimp tempura donburi (two battered, deep-fried shrimp in a bowl of rice with teriyaki sauce) at Tensuke Express next to Tensuke Market in Columbus; two eggs over easy and grits at Eli’s Kitchen in Medina.

THE MAILBAG

From Mike:
We really liked the pho at Southern Gardens. The closing is sad. We also like the pho at Taste of Bangkok on East Exchange Street in the Akron U area. It looks like a hole in the wall from the outside but is actually nice inside. And it will save you the trip to Cleveland when you don’t feel like driving so far.

From Jill:
Carol B., my first pho was at Southern Gardens in Portage Lakes, too. Sorry to hear it didn’t make it. But fear not. Lemongrass in Munroe Falls is everything you would want from amazing Thai food to the best soup on the planet. Everything there is completely addictive and the service is really good there as well. I highly recommend it.
There is also Papaya Salad in Cuyahoga Falls. They do a very good job, too. Hope this helps.

Dear Jill and Mike:
Thanks for the recommendations. I guess we’ll have to make do with Thai “pho” until a Vietnamese restaurant opens in our area.

From Marty L.:
The next time you need to get mayo, pick up a jar of Duke’s mayonnaise. I tried it while visiting my daughter, Jen, in the South. It is so good that I pack some to bring home every time I visit. But now I found out that both Acme and Walmart are stocking it, so I will have a ready supply. Try it in your egg salad next time and you will notice the difference.

Dear Marty:
Y’all switched to Southern mayo? I’ve tried both Duke’s and Hellman’s (known as Best Foods Mayonnaise in some areas of the West) and have preferred Hellman’s for years. But now I can’t remember what Duke’s tastes like so I’ll try it again on your recommendation. Sometimes a senior moment is a good thing.

 

March 13, 2018

Dear friends,

Out of the blue, Tony whipped up an appetizer last week of cold, juicy cylinders of spinach draped with a rich sesame sauce that tasted like sophisticated peanut butter. Where did that come from? And why has he been hiding it from me for the 12 years I’ve known him?

“Hatsuhana,” Tony said. “I learned to make it when I worked at their sushi bar in New York City.”

Well, it’s about time Tony dragged those recipes out of his memory. He was recruited by the chain of very upscale U.S. sushi bars when he was a young hotshot sushi chef in Tokyo (he won a city-wide contest for making sushi the fastest with the fewest mistakes.) Tony was brought first to Hawaii, then New York, then Chicago to work in Hatsuhana restaurants before he struck out on his own.

After visiting the New York location with Tony, I wondered whether any of the luxe recipes were lodged in his memory banks. Finally the wonderful spinach rolls surfaced. Are there more recipes screaming to get out? Only time will tell. Tony will not be hurried.

Last week I convinced Tony to make the spinach rolls again. I stood at his elbow measuring each ingredient and jotting notes about his spinach-rolling technique. The man is infuriating when he cooks. He shares knowledge grudgingly. We usually argue “like the chefs on ‘Top Chef’ during restaurant wars,” he says. Two cooks are not meant to share a kitchen, he believes. I say he is just contrary and bossy.

Anyway, I got the recipe. It is so terrific and so simple. Spinach leaves are cooked briefly in boiling water, refreshed with cold water and gently squeezed into a cylinder that is about 1 inch in diameter. Squeezing too tightly will cause the spinach “rope” to fall apart. Squeezing not enough will result in watery rolls and they, too, will fall apart.

The spinach rope is wrapped snugly in plastic wrap and refrigerated. After a while (“when it’s ready,” is Tony’s unhelpful instruction), the spinach roll is placed on a cutting board and sliced into about 1 1/2-inch lengths. The pieces are arranged on end, on little plates, and the sauce is spooned over.

Tony makes the sauce with toasted sesame seeds that he crushes to a powder with a pestle and mortar. Sorry, but a blender won’t do the job. If you lack the tool, check out the inexpensive ones sold in Asian food stores.

Sugar, sesame oil, white miso and soy sauce are added to the crushed seeds. The sauce is thinned with water. The sauce in my photo is a bit thick. The next time Tony made it, he thinned the sauce until it flowed easily from a spoon.

Minus the mortar and pestle chore, this dish is ridiculously easy to make. It would be an elegant, refreshing appetizer for a spring or summer gathering.

OSHITASHI (Spinach rolls with sesame sauce)

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10 oz. spinach leaves (approximately)
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. toasted white sesame seeds
2 tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup white miso paste
2 tbsp. soy sauce
Pinch of salt
Water to thin
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Steam or boil spinach just until wilted and stems are tender. Drain and place in a pot or big bowl with very cold water. When the color brightens and the leaves are cool, drain in a mesh strainer. Do not press at this point.

Gather the wet spinach leaves in your hands and begin gently pressing while elongating the pressed leaves into a rope about 1 inch in diameter. Do this by gently squeezing handfuls of leaves in a downward motion, as if you are milking a cow. Some moisture will remain in the spinach. Squeeze out just enough water so that the rope holds together.

Place the spinach rope on a piece of plastic wrap slightly longer than the rope. Wrap it tightly but do not squeeze it. Tuck the ends of the plastic wrap under to seal. Refrigerate, being careful not to bend the rope.

While the spinach chills, grind the sesame seeds to a powder with a mortar and pestle, in batches if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sugar, sesame oil, miso and salt. Continue stirring until smooth. Stir in enough water to make a thick dressing that flows off a spoon.

Place the plastic-wrapped spinach on a cutting board. Without unwrapping, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Unwrap each piece and group three pieces, standing on ends, on a plate or in a small bowl. Drape with some of the sesame dressing. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

GUT CHECK

 What I cooked last week:
Thai potato and spinach soup with coconut milk; chocolate pudding; fusilli lasagne; chicken salad with dried cranberries and pecans; stubby Italian sausages from West Side Market roasted with chunks of kabocha squash and cauliflower; Cuban bread; pan-grilled steak with roast sweet and red potatoes, grape tomatoes, green beans and feta cheese with olive oil and herbes de Provence.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Half of a steak and arugula sandwich and a cup of tomato soup at Panera Bread; cafe con leche, a Cuban sandwich and fried ripe plantains at Sabor Miami Cafe in Cleveland; a fish sandwich minus the bun and some cottage cheese at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth.

 TIDBIT
The Sabor Miami Cafe, a comfy, homespun restaurant hidden in a small shopping strip in Old Brooklyn, was plenty good enough to satisfy my itch for Cuban food. I give my Cuban sandwich a B plus. The people who cook, take your order and ring up sales get an A plus in warmth and hospitality. Combined, that should be enough to make the place a big hit. Too bad it’s so hard to find.

When Tony and I visited, the sign was propped up on the ground, hidden behind parked cars. If not for the pastel stripes running like piano keys across the top of the building, which I associated with deco Miami Beach, we would have given up and returned home.

That would have been a shame. The rich cafe con leche, served in big mugs, is reason enough to drive up and down Broadview Road a half-dozen times searching for the cafe. We sipped and surveyed the funky decor while waiting for my Cuban sandwich and Tony’s palomilla steak sandwich to arrive. There was a lot to look at, from the mismatched tables and chairs to the burlap coffee bags doubling as art, to rustic portraits of Frida Kahlo to a 3 1/2-foot-tall plush pink flamingo posed in a rattan chair. Half the room is given over to thrift-shop wares. Is the stuff for sale? Who knows.

My pressed Cuban sandwich, on real Cuban bread, was about 8 inches of deeply marinated chopped pork, Swiss cheese, ham, mustard, mayo and, oddly, sweet pickles instead of dill. It was almost perfect, and plenty big enough for two meals. I also bought a fabulous beef and potato empanada for later. Tony loved his sandwich of shredded, marinated steak topped with lettuce and fried potato sticks. He also had serviceable black beans and yellow rice and we shared some maduros — fried sweet plantains. All of the food is made by owner Mariela Paz, who is from Nicaragua but lived in Miami, where she came to love Cuban food.

As good as the food was, the information we gleaned was the lagniappe. The bread, we learned, comes from Caribe Bake Shop, which sells the heavenly stuff — along with Cuban sandwiches and a range of eat-in and takeout Caribbean foods — at 2906 Fulton Rd. in Cleveland. Can’t wait to visit.

Sabor Miami Cafe is at 4848 Broadview Rd. in the Old Brooklyn area of Cleveland. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch. The phone is 440-714-0202.

THE MAILBAG

From Jan S.:
I have made egg salad for many years and never had a problem with it the next day until about two years ago. I use Miracle Whip and sweet pickle relish. That’s it; no salt, no pepper. It is fine when I make it and use it immediately, but if it sits in the fridge, the next day it is runny. Any idea as to why this is happening?

Dear Jan:
Interesting! This happened to me two weeks ago. For the first time in 30-some years I used Miracle Whip that Tony had bought. I was tempted to blame that product until I read about similar complaints from those who used light mayonnaise.

So-called experts on the Internet blame watery additions such as celery and onions, undrained relish, or smashing the eggs too finely. I don’t buy any of that. I don’t use celery, onions or relish, and those who do had no problem for years and years. I think the culprit is fat. Low-fat mayo turns runny. After some digging, I learned that Miracle Whip was de-fatted in 2006 when some of the soy oil was replaced with water in a move to economize on ingredients. It, too, is now low-fat. To avoid runny next-day egg, chicken and potato salads, stick with full-fat mayonnaise.

From Randy:
You have mentioned several times Tony’s ramen noodles. Does he use the ramen that is sold in bricks everywhere or is there a fresh or frozen noodle that is superior? Thanks so much. I so enjoy your blog.

Dear Randy:
Thanks. Tony uses both dried and frozen ramen. I was surprised to see in Japan that those bricks with the seasoning packet are widely used there, too (not in restaurants but at home as snacks). Many brands of frozen ramen come with the seasoning packet, too.

Tony’s favorite brand of dried ramen is Maruchan, either in the block or bowl. He prefers chicken or beef flavors. He adds a splash of soy sauce, whatever meat is left over in the refrigerator, green onions if we have them, and usually cracks a beaten egg into the simmering soup. He does not like my homemade ramen broth, laboriously made with pounds of pork bones, so I don’t know if you want to trust his judgment.

From Carol B.:
I am so disappointed that Southern Gardens in Portage Lakes has closed. They had the best pho that I’ve ever tasted. Do you know of any restaurants in this area that are known for this dish? Also, do you know whether the former owner plans to open another restaurant?

Dear Carol:
I’m sorry I didn’t visit Southern Gardens before it closed. I heard good things about it. I think the owner sold the restaurant to her niece and the niece apparently couldn’t make a go of it.

I have not heard that the family opened elsewhere. When we’re in the mood for pho, Tony and I go to Pho Hoa or Superior Pho in Cleveland. Any other recommendations?

From Beth B.:
Regarding poaching (last week’s newsletter), here is how i always poach chicken, a lazy technique that has resulted in perfection every time I’ve done it:

For 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, skin and bones removed (about 3 large breasts), bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Add the chicken, cover and turn off the heat. Let stand for 2 hours. The chicken will be moist and just done.

The technique is from “Summer on a Plate” by the late Anna Pump, who had the Loaves & Fishes store in the Hamptons. I love this cookbook, not just for the name of it, but because every recipe I’ve tried has been delicious.

Dear Beth:
What a no-brainer way to poach chicken! I’ll try it the next time I need some juicy chicken for a recipe.

From Janet C.:
I was hunting something different, but easy and quick, to make for a St. Patrick’s Day treat to take to friends. My dearest Aunt Bobby, who died in December, made these many years ago:

OREO TREATS
Coating chocolate (I use half milk, half dark melted together)
1 or 2 packages of Oreos (I prefer Oreo thins. The mint variety would be good for St. Pat’s.)
Peanut butter

Melt the coating chocolate. I used the low setting of my slow cooker and it worked perfectly. Open each sandwich cookie and spread with peanut butter. Put the cookies together again and chill for several hours. Using 1 or 2 forks, dip each cookie in the chocolate. Shake off excess and set to cool on a rack over waxed paper to catch the drips. Decorate with green sprinkles if desired. Store in refrigerator or a cool place.

Dear Janet:
Thanks for sharing your aunt’s recipe. I bet your friends love you.

 

 

March 6, 2018

Dear friends,

When Giuliana Rancic bit into that chocolate Oscar and the passionfruit filling dribbled down her dress, I had serious food envy. She was interviewing chef Wolfgang Puck Sunday on E! before the Oscars. Later at the Governor’s Ball he would offer the stars Waygu beef sliders, truffled mac and cheese, lobster corn dogs, baby potatoes with caviar, gold-dusted popcorn and those chocolate-passionfruit Oscars.

Poor me. Here I was in my cozy pajamas with a fluffy dog, a handsome man and a big salad of spinach, toasted coconut, cashews, poached chicken, quinoa, raisins and a creamy curried yogurt dressing. Wait a minute. Maybe Giuliana should be envying me.

I made the big salad for our annual Oscar watch, which is exciting only to me and possibly our dog Oscar, who was named while we watched the awards show 10 years ago. The salad provided all the excitement for Tony. While photographing it in the kitchen, I wondered whether it would serve three or four. Tony gave me the answer after I scooped about a fourth of the salad into a bowl for myself. He grabbed a fork and carried the salad that was left, in its serving bowl, to the living room where we were camped out.

Shoot, no leftovers.

The salad was as good as I remembered, and the creamy curry dressing was, too. I first tasted it last month in Florida, where it was a carryout special in a supermarket deli.  I jotted down the ingredients, arranged in swaths over a bed of spinach. The toasted coconut, nuts and curry dressing gave it an Indian vibe. The dressing was delicious. It just hinted at curry, and had fruity undertones I couldn’t nail down.

Luckily, I found several versions of yogurt curry dressing on the Internet. I bought a quart of plain yogurt to experiment with, but by luck cracked the recipe on the first try. Surprisingly, lemon juice is what provided the fruity note. I needn’t have opened the bottle of mango chutney I was going to puree for my second attempt.

I hope I don’t file and forget this salad recipe, as I do with many of my creations. I’m always thinking ahead, not behind. This salad, though, is too good to forget, and healthful enough that I’ll want to eat it year-round.

But I still want one of those chocolate Oscars.

MADRAS SALAD WITH CURRY YOGURT DRESSING

MADRAS SALAD WITH CURRY YOGURT DRESSING Jane Snow.jpeg

4 cups packed spinach leaves, any long stems removed
1 cup cubed rotisserie or poached chicken
1/2 cup cooked and cooled quinoa, seasoned with salt
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup raisins
Curry yogurt dressing (recipe follows)

Wash spinach and roll in paper towels to dry. Arrange in the bottom of a wide, shallow serving bowl. Arrange chicken in an inch-wide strip down the center of the salad. Arrange quinoa, cashews, coconut and raisins in strips on either side of chicken. Pass the dressing at the table. Serves two to three.

CURRY YOGURT DRESSING

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
Water

Combine yogurt and mayonnaise and stir until smooth. Add curry powder, turmeric, honey, lemon juice and salt and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Taste and correct seasonings if necessary. Thin to pouring consistency with water. Makes about 1 cup.

HELP YOU COOK

Is poaching becoming a lost art? With the advent of rotisserie chicken and deli salmon, and the emphasis on pan-grilling and saucing, the classic French technique isn’t used much, at least at my house.

When shopping for my salad, I found chicken tenders on sale and no rotisserie chicken at the store I visited. So I bought the tenders and poached them. I had forgotten how tender and juicy poached chicken is.

To make basic poached chicken, place the chicken pieces (boneless or bone-in, with or without skin) in a pan large enough to fit the chicken in a single layer and deep enough to cover with water. Cover the chicken with cool water by about a half inch. Partially cover with lid and bring to a simmer. When the first bubbles break the surface, adjust the heat so the water barely simmers. A single bubble at a time should rise to the surface and lazily pop. Poach until the chicken is just cooked through, which will take less time for boneless than bone-in, and less for smaller pieces (thighs) than large (whole breasts). Generally, chicken pieces will be done in about 15 to 20 minutes.

Don’t throw away the poaching liquid. Drink it as a pick-me-up or freeze it to add to soups.

GUT CHECK

I haven’t kept up with my cooking/dining diary because I was tending to my ill cat, Mia, who died last week. Tony and I will miss her. Life has somewhat returned to normal, so I will be able to chronicle my eating habits next week. I like this feature because it compels me to try new restaurants. I hope you like it, too.

THE MAILBAG

From Joy:
Just a thought but I wonder if the citron spicy chili pork wontons you enjoyed at House of Hunan in Fairlawn might be the same as Dan Dan Pork Wontons but with a possible addition of yuzu kosha (citrus chili paste), which would explain the citrus taste you mentioned.

I have a cookbook, “Dumplings All Day Wong,” which has a recipe for Dan Dan Pork Wontons and the description in the book (and some of the ingredients) seems pretty close to the description on the House of Hunan website for their Spicy Chili Pork Wontons. Check out the book if you haven’t as yet, it’s a great cookbook.

Also, even though I’m sure you and Tony know this recipe in and out, here’s a link to a recipe for yuzu kosha (citrus chili paste) that you might want to give a go as it might be a nice addition to your next chili pork wonton cloning experiment: https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/172813-homemade-yuzu-kosho-citrus-chili-paste.

Dear Joy:
Your note struck a chord. When I had the wontons in the restaurant, the flavor immediately reminded me of dan dan noodles. I think that will be my departure point the next time I make the dish, and I will definitely add some of the yuzu kosha, which I had never heard of. Thanks for the link.

From Susan P.:
When I crave Asian food, I make the 30-minute drive to Cleveland’s Payne Avenue area. One of my favorite spots is Szechuan Gourmet next to Tink Hol grocery. The wonton in spicy sauce as well as the dan dan noodles are addictive.

I will definitely have to try House of Hunan’s and save myself the almost weekly trip to Cleveland. I’ll let you know how they compare…but do make the trip to Szechuan Gourmet if you haven’t already. They have an extensive menu of foods not available in this area.

One item I don’t see in your recipe is bits of actual Szechuan peppercorns. You might try toasting and then crushing some and adding them to your sauce. I think it gives a greater depth of flavor than just the chili oil.

Dear Susan:
I will return to Szechuan Gourmet now that I know the spicy dumplings are on the menu. Thanks for the tip about the peppercorns. I have a bag of them to use up.

From Dorothy G.:
The recipe for pork roast (last week’s newsletter) looks good, but I do not like rosemary at all. What could I use instead?

Dear Dorothy:
Sprigs of thyme would be a good substitute. Fresh sage leaves would work, also.

From Jan and Bob P., Tallmadge:
We’re excited to see the new Uzbek carryout place on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. We ate at an Uzbek restaurant called “Silk Road” while snow birding in the Ft. Myers area. It was delicious! You should try it next time you’re down that way.

Dear Jan and Bob:
I did get to the Ft. Myers area last trip. If I swing that way next January, I’ll search out Silk Road. Thanks — I love restaurant tips.

From Mitch:
In your newsletter you mentioned an African peanut soup. My wife used to love the one they served occasionally at West Side Bakery in Fairlawn (not sure if they still do). Anyway, can you hook me up with a good recipe for one?

Dear Mitch:
I couldn’t get the bakery’s recipe, but I found perhaps the next-best thing. The peanut soup recipe in the classic “Sunday’s at Moosewood” is one of the most popular recipes in the book, according to the Washington Post. It sounds delicious.

WEST AFRICAN PEANUT SOUP

1 tbsp. oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small celery rib, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1 tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce, plus more to taste
12 oz. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups tomato juice, preferably low sodium
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro, plus more leaves for garnish
1 scallion, white and green parts, sliced thin, for garnish

Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery with the salt until softened. Stir in the ginger and Tabasco. Add the sweet potatoes and water. Increase heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the liquid is barely bubbling around the edges. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the tomato juice and peanut butter. Use a stick immersion blender to create a creamy, pureed soup, or puree in batches in a blender. Stir in the chopped cilantro and warm through. Taste and add salt and/or hot sauce as needed.

Divide among bowls and top with the scallions and cilantro leaves. Serve hot. Makes        4 1/2 to 5 cups.

 

February 27, 2018

Dear friends,

Plunging prices of whole and half pork loins have meant lots of pork on my table. I have seen the uncut boneless loins selling for as little as $1.65 a pound this month. Who could resist tossing a couple in the cart? Well, lots of people. Specifically, those who are stumped about what to do with such a large hunk of meat.

I’m here to help. I have been buying whole boneless loins for several years, so I know a thing or two about big hunks of pork. Pork loins — basically, the meaty part of a pork chop — are very lean, so they should be cooked quickly or long and slowly. If you stop somewhere in the middle — say, 30 minutes for a chop — the meat will be chewy and dry.

So what do I do with all this meat? First I turn about half of the loin into boneless pork chops, slicing it 1- to 1 1/2-inches thick. I wrap the chops individually, then stash them in a gallon-size freezer bag in the freezer. I pull out three at a time to grill or pan-fry. Sometimes I bread them, but not usually. I season the chops with salt and pepper and brown them over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, then finish them in a 350-degree oven. Ten to 20 minutes, depending on thickness, will do it. Check the temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the chop. It should read 145 degrees for pink or 155 degrees for cooked through but still juicy.

Some of the remaining meat is cut into strips for stir fry or cubes for fricassee or Tony’s beloved Japanese curry. I portion the stir-fry strips into small zipper-lock freezer bags, add about a tablespoon of soy sauce and squish it around to coat the meat before freezing. It’s instant marinade.

The rest I use as roasts — one or two, usually. I might cook one in a slow cooker with criollo mojo marinade for Cuban roast pork or in a Dutch oven on the range with Asian seasonings.

Or, I’ll stuff it and roast it as I did last fall with a cornbread-apple stuffing. I haven’t plain roasted a pork loin for a long time, but I did on Sunday after I found a recipe for Rosemary Roast Loin of Pork.

The pork loin roast is stabbed on each end with the blade of a sharp knife, and a sprig of rosemary is inserted deep into each slit. As the meat heats and cooks, the rosemary flavors the entire roast. Part way through cooking, Pinot Grigio or another fruity white wine is added with water to the roasting pan.

When my roast was done, I cut it into thick, glistening slices and spooned the luscious pan juices over them. Tony and I ate just half of our 2 pound roast, so we have plenty of leftovers this week for his ramen and my protein snacks.

The roast recipe seems so plain on paper that normally I would have ignored it, but it is from one of my trusted authors, Patricia Wells. It is from her 1993 book, “Trattoria.”

Wells calls for a 5-pound roast, which is too gigantic for Tony and me. Use your own judgement. I also replaced Wells’ fresh rosemary with sprigs of dried from the bush that died in my mud room while I was in Florida. I soaked the prickly sprigs in hot water until pliable, and they scented the roast beautifully.

I don’t have a rack small enough to fit into a pan that’s a sensible size for a 2-pound roast, so I crisscrossed the bottom of the pan with chopsticks and wooden skewers. My makeshift rack kept the roast off the bottom of the pan, while allowing some of the pan juices to gently lap it.

The flavor of this roast was out of proportion to the scant amount of ingredients and work required. The recipe is a keeper.

ROSEMARY ROAST LOIN OF PORK

Rosemary.Roast.Loin.of.Pork.Jane.Snow.jpeg

1 loin pork roast, 2 to 4 lbs., depending on number of diners (Wells specifies a 5-lb. bone-in roast, but boneless loins are the cut on sale)

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Sea salt, fresh-ground black pepper to taste

About 1 1/2 cups dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio (I used 1/2 cup)

About 1 1/2 cups water (I used 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat the roast dry with paper towels. With the point of a slender, sharp knife, pierce the centers of both ends of the roast and insert a sprig of rosemary in each slit. Season the roast generously with salt and pepper. Place fat side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Place in the center of the oven and roast until the skin is crackling and brown and the meat begins to exude fat and juices, about 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and base with any juices from the pan. Add about 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup water to the pan. Continue to add wine and water as needed, to maintain a thin layer of liquid in the pan at all times, and baste at 20-minute intervals. Roast the pork for about 25 minutes per pound for a bone-in roast or 15 minutes per pound for boneless, for slightly pink meat, or 20 minutes per pound for juicy but cooked- through. An instant-read thermometer should register about 145 degrees for pink and 155 degrees for cooked through. Let stand for 15 minutes — no longer — before cutting into thick slices.

Meanwhile skim the fat from the pan juices and simmer over moderate heat, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan. If necessary, add several tablespoons of cold water to deglaze the pan, and bring to a boil. Cook, scraping and stirring, until the liquid is almost caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not burn. Spoon off any fat. Pour into a sauce boat and pass at the table. A 2-pound boneless roast will serve 6 generously.

From “Patricia Wells’ Trattoria.”

TIDBIT

I would go to the ends of the earth to taste a new cuisine. Luckily, I didn’t have to; It came to me. Those who have yearned to taste Uzbek food — as in Uzbekistan, Tashkent, the Silk Road — now can satisfy their curiosity at a store-front carryout in Cuyahoga Falls.

Two high-top tables hug the front wall of the public space, leaving just enough room for a person to reach the order counter. It was staffed by a precocious pre-teen boy when I visited. He relayed my order to the kitchen, which is shielded from the customers by a drape.

The eight-item menu is on the wall with pictures, Uzbek names (in the Roman alphabet, not Cyrillic) and English explanations. The prices are ridiculously low. You could order the entire menu for $38. There’s Uzbek’s national dish, “Plov” — chunks of beef with rice and carrots, $7 — and the Uzbek snack, “Cheburek” — a deep-fried meat or potato turnover, just $2. I ordered the “Manti” (steamed beef-stuffed dumplings with unusual spices), $6, and a “Somsa” ($2), which looks and kind of tastes like a Lebanese meat turnover, with a lighter pastry and different seasonings. I wish I had picked up some Uzbek flat bread rounds, too. Next time.

Uzbek Cuisine is at 2457 State Road., next to the Falls Wheel & Wrench Bike Shop, in Cuyahoga Falls. The phone is 234-706-6664. The sign outside says “Authentic Middle Eastern Food,” but who are they kidding? The exotic food is from deep in Central Asia, and this little carryout may be your one chance to taste it.

THE MAILBAG

From Cheryl S.:
Regarding your post on wanting to grow bay laurel, Donzell’s in Akron stocks them in the greenhouse section where they sell the herbs, but they don’t stock many herbs until around Memorial Day.

Dear Cheryl:
I debated whether to share this juicy tip, but my better self won. I will be first in line. Thanks, Cheryl.

From Judy S., Scottsdale, Ariz.:
I saw a recipe for your Sichuan dumplings in chili oil, and the missing ingredient may be Chinkiang black vinegar. Good luck.

Dear Judy:
Possibly. I plan to buy some on my next Chinese-store run.

From Sue D., East Liverpool:
I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows on Public Television’s Create TV — one of the blessings of retirement. Given that the quality of ingredients logically ought to be a big factor in the results of your cooking efforts, how do you feel about using Louisiana gulf shrimp as opposed to shrimp imported from elsewhere? There was a lot of talk on one of the shows about the superior flavor and texture of Gulf shrimp. What’s your thinking on sourcing seafood?

Dear Judy:
Hands down, wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico is superior to all other shrimp I’ve tasted. I once compared Gulf and Asian shrimp in a taste test. No contest. Most of the shrimp sold in local stores is farmed, which I use sometimes because of the lower prices. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor, though, and the texture isn’t as firm as that of Gulf shrimp.

Yes, the source of seafood matters. So does how the seafood is handled after it is caught. The first thing to look for is wild-caught. Then, if you have access to the information, buy seafood that is frozen right on the boat. For scallops, “dry pack” is a useful descriptor. For fish, “line caught” is the ecologically sound way to go. The clerk behind the fish counter should be able to give you this information. Ideally, patronize a store that knows the provenance of its products, has a high turnover and handles the seafood carefully.

February 20, 2018

Dear friends,

I have not yet tried the Taiwanese pork belly buns or the honey-bacon shrimp with crushed peanuts. But I have tasted the spicy chili pork wontons in a citron sesame chili sauce, and that appetizer alone is enough to keep me coming back to House of Hunan in Fairlawn.

Some chefs get better with age, and that’s true of chef/owner Lawrence Suen, who keeps slipping luscious new items onto his list of seasonal specials. I loved the chili pork wontons so much that I had to have some the next day or I would burst, so I set about making them.

“Don’t ask me what’s in them because I don’t know,” Suen’s wife, Cheryl, had told me after dinner, so I brought home a couple of tablespoons of leftover sauce from the restaurant. I would clone it. Easier said than done.

The wonton dish, I learned, is actually an old Sichuan specialty. Why had I never heard of it? Maybe because the Akron area for decades was a Chinese-food wasteland, punctuated here and there with a few decent dishes from Chin’s and House of Hunan. And in my travels to larger cities, the spicy wontons had simply slipped through the cracks.

At its most basic, the dish consists of wonton wrappers stuffed with a seasoned ground pork mixture, gently boiled for 5 minutes or so, drained and served in shallow bowls in pools of a fiery Sichuan sauce.

I had no problem finding recipes, but I did have problems matching the exquisite flavor of Suen’s sauce. I could see sesame seeds, chopped garlic and finely diced green onion tops in his oily red broth. But what contributed that deep umami flavor that tempered the fire of the Sichuan chili oil?

I guessed sesame paste, available in Asian stores or as tamari in health-food stores and many regular supermarkets. I prepped the seasoned meat and the sauce a day in advance to allow the flavors to meld. Before dinner the next day, Tony helped me fill and fold the wontons in the shape of large tortellini. When the pasta was done and the meat filling cooked through, I drained the pouches and stirred one-third cup of the pasta water into the sauce.

Yeow, was it spicy! It was delicious, too, although not nearly as good as House of Hunan’s. I will keep tinkering with the recipe and eating the results of my experiments, with the occasional trip to House of Hunan to check my progress. Maybe I’ll never get it right, but I’ll have a great time trying.

I challenge you to try the dish at House of Hunan if you live in the area, then make my version at home and tell me what is missing. (The dish is surprisingly easy to prepare.) Together we can crack this mystery or, at the very least, have a couple of great meals.

FYI, I stepped down the heat in my recipe. If you like very hot foods, add more chili oil to taste.

SICHUAN SPICY WONTONS

Dumplings.jpeg

Sauce:

2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. finely minced garlic
1 heaping tbsp. minced green onion, green part only
2 tbsp. Sichuan chili oil (available in Asian stores)
1 tbsp. sesame paste or tahini
1/3 cup wonton cooking water

In a small bowl combine all ingredients except the water. Mix very well to incorporate the sesame paste. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bring to room temperature. After the wontons are done, stir 1/3 cup of the cooking water into the chili sauce. Spoon sauce over the wontons in individual serving bowls.

Wontons:

12 oz. ground pork
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. finely minced ginger
1 tbsp. sherry
32 wonton wrappers (most of a 12-oz. package)
1 egg white beaten with a fork with 1 teaspoon water
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Combine pork, salt, sugar, onions, garlic, ginger and sherry. Mix well. If possible, refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. The next day, bring to room temperature.

Place a wonton wrapper on a work surface. Place a mounded teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center the wrapper. With your fingertip, brush the edges of the wrapper with some of the beaten egg white. Bring two opposite points together and firmly seal the edges of the wonton to form a triangle. At either end of the long side of the triangle, bring those two points together at the bottom of the filling bulge and press together. Don’t encircle the filling in the middle; encircle it at the bottom, so the filling bulges upward. The result should resemble a tortellini. Continue with remaining wonton wrappers and filling. You should have about 32.

Bring at least 4 inches of water to a lazy boil in a wide pan. In batches, cook the wontons for 5 minutes, or until the pasta is done and the filling is no longer pink when you cut into a wonton. Remove with a long-handled strainer, transferring to shallow bowls. Place six wontons in each bowl for appetizers, or eight for entrees with steamed rice on the side.

Stir one-third cup of the wonton cooking water into the chili sauce, and spoon it over the wontons. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Makes 5 appetizers or 4 entrees.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Split pea and ham soup; meatloaf, baked Japanese sweet potatoes; Sichuan chili oil wontons.

What I ate in or from restaurants:
Cavatelli with meat sauce, crisp salad, Massoli’s bread at Dontino’s La Vita Gardens in Akron; a Jane Roll from Sushi Katsu in Akron; an egg roll, pork wontons in a spicy Sichuan chili oil sauce, and cold Singapore noodles with apples, cucumbers and steamed shrimp from House of Hunan in Fairlawn; a soulful lima bean and ham soup, clam and corn chowder and African peanut soup at a VFW Auxiliary soup fund-raiser in the Highland Square area of Akron.

MICROWAVE BREAD PUDDING!!

Here’s another recipe I developed for a book on microwave desserts. I found that bread pudding is a natural in the microwave. I experimented with different breads such as croissants, brioche and French but found plain supermarket white bread works best when the cooking time is short, as it is in a microwave.

In the following recipe, I paired acidic pineapple with sweet, soothing custard and tossed in pecan pieces for crunch. If you have time, toast the pecans in a dry skillet to amp up the flavor. Remember that the size and composition of the mug (I used a 12-oz. Fiesta pottery mug) will affect cooking time.

PINEAPPLE-PECAN MICROWAVE BREAD PUDDING

1 tbsp. cold butter
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. well-drained crushed pineapple
1 egg white
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 cup gently packed white sandwich bread in 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/4 slices)
1 tbsp. broken pecan pieces

Place butter in a 12-ounce pottery mug and microwave on high power until melted, about 20 seconds. Add milk, pineapple, egg white, vanilla and salt and beat with a fork until egg white is thoroughly incorporated. Add bread cubes and pecan pieces and press into the milk mixture, folding to distribute pecans evenly. Microwave on 50 percent power for 2 minutes, 30 seconds in a 1000-watt oven, or 2 minutes in a 1100- or 1200-watt oven, adjusting time up or down for lower- or higher-watt ovens.

The pudding is done when the top is set but still moist, and the sides of the pudding look set when a knife is inserted between the pudding and mug. Eat from the mug or, if desired, let stand 2 minutes, loosen edges with a knife and invert onto a plate. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Dress it up: Toast the pecan pieces in a dry skillet before folding into the pudding.

Even better: Sprinkle the warm pudding with 1/2 teaspoon dark rum and top with whipped cream and a pecan half.

THE MAILBAG

From Mary D., Rocky River:
The next time you and Tony head up to Cleveland, you can get your Cuban sandwich fix at Sabor Miami Cafe and Gallery on Broadview Road in Cleveland. The Facebook and Yelp reviews are excellent (I’ll have to try it myself). Cheers!

Dear Mary:
I had no idea! I see that the little restaurant opened in another location, refined its menu and moved last year to its current location at 4848 Broadview Rd. in the Old Brooklyn area of Cleveland. The owner is Honduran native Mariela Paz. She serves an eclectic menu of Cuban and Latin American dishes and breakfast comfort foods. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch only. The phone is 440-714-0202 or you can find Sabor Miami Cafe on Facebook. I’ll report back after I try the Cuban sandwich, which will be soon. Thanks, Mary.