December 1, 2016

Dear friends,

I have never wanted a cookie as badly as I wanted the Italian lemon knots (anginetti) I baked earlier this week. For starters, I spent a year thinking about them after my friend Kathy gave me a few to take home last December. Wow. Then I spent a day last week driving from bakery to bakery to try to buy some. I finally tracked them down at Pallotta’s Pastries in Cuyahoga Falls, arriving just after another customer had wiped them out.

“He bought every last one we had,” the clerk said.

On the way home I stopped at Acme for butter, lemons and white sprinkles. I would make the damn things myself. By the time the first batch came from the oven I wanted one so badly I couldn’t wait to add the icing and sprinkles. Truth: I wanted (and ate) two or three before I iced them.

The cookies are not difficult to make but they do require several steps including zesting and juicing a couple of lemons, making the icing, and rolling the dough for each cookie into a pencil shape and coiling it on the baking sheet. You could just pinch off pieces of dough, roll them between your palms and curve into “S” shapes, as some bakeries do. Or I suppose you could drop blobs of the dough from a spoon if you’re reaaal lazy. At that point you probably should just buy a few dozen from Pallotta’s. They are $13.99 a pound (a couple dozen or so cookies).

Pallotta’s is worth a visit anyway. It is one of the few Akron-area bakeries where everything is still made from scratch rather than from purchased frozen dough. Owner Mike Pallotta’s great-grandfather was the founder of Crest Bakery. Mike is a culinary school graduate, so it figures he would eventually expand beyond baked goods. The shop now has a lovely little dining room where retired Italian guys sip coffee and business people lunch on homemade soups, sandwiches and daily specials such as lasagna. Pallotta and his crew also make homemade raw pasta and pizza dough that is sold by the pound. The website is http://www.pallottaspastries.net.

I regret not loading up on that stuff, but when I visited I was on a single-minded search for the soft, moist, sweet-yet-tart anginetti. I found a bunch of recipes and settled on one from http://www.prouditaliancook.com, adding more real lemon juice and zest and eliminating the lemon flavoring and lemon liqueur in the original. These cookies are the bomb.

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ANGINETTI
(Italian lemon knot cookies)

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 cups flour
Pinch of salt
5 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup milk
Lemon icing (recipe follows)
White candy sprinkles

With a mixer or by hand, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in the lemon zest and juice.

In a smaller bowl whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, adding just enough milk to produce a soft dough (you may not need all of the milk). Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap well and chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Pinch off about a cup of dough, refrigerating the rest between batches. Pinch off a walnut-size piece of dough and roll it between your palms into a 4- to 5-inch rope. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, form the rope into a small circle. Loop one end of the rope under the other end and tuck it into the center of the circle (basically making a knot). Repeat, spacing cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. The top of the cookie will not change color, but the underside will be light brown when the cookie is done. Cool on racks before icing and decorating with sprinkles. Store in tightly covered plastic containers with waxed paper between the layers. The cookies freeze well. Makes 5 to 6 dozen.

LEMON ICING
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
Water if needed

Combine powdered sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl. Stir in enough lemon juice to achieve a thin consistency.

Either brush a thin layer of icing on each cookie, or dip the tops of the cookies in the icing. Immediately sprinkle with white candy sprinkles, if desired. Let stand until icing firms up completely before storing.

TIDBITS

If you’ve been longing for a smoker and can get your hands on a 4-drawer file cabinet, you’re in luck. While searching the Internet for lord knows what, Tony found a YouTube video of an ingenious homemade smoker made from an old-school metal file cabinet.

The bottom drawer holds a hotplate and a pan of wood chips for cold smoking, or a charcoal fire for hot smoking. Holes are made in the bottoms of the other drawers for the circulation of smoke and heat. The guy who made the contraption can smoke a couple of racks of ribs, a bunch of chicken and a side of salmon at one time.

And boy, won’t it look spiffy on your patio? To view the how-to, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bPF1hAE1zI.

THE MAILBAG

From Tammy Jo:

In regard to your last blog, Krieger’s Market on Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls carries onion juice and garlic juice (and sauerkraut juice, if the mood hits you).

I have the following question (as one hunting widow to another): Although I can’t discern “violets” in a glass of Cabernet Franc, I can identify microwaved meat regardless of the covert attempts restaurants make to disguise it (sauces, etc.).

My husband insists I am crazy (as he happily consumes piping hot chicken breast left-overs served fresh from our microwave). I have tried all manner of microwave cooking methods – plastic-wrap vaporization, whereby water or broth is infused into said meat using an airtight drum over a glass bowl; the microwave-safe dome (that appears to do nothing more than minimize splatter and aid in clean-up). I STILL taste the mustiness of the microwave.  Any suggestions? The future of our left-overs depends on it!

Dear Tammy Jo: Thanks for coming through with a source for onion and garlic juices. Maybe David can try his turkey recipe for Christmas.

As for your leftovers question, I have never tasted mustiness in meat reheated in the microwave. Could the plastic oven walls have picked up the off flavor from other foods? I have to remove funky baked-in odors from my microwave periodically; maybe that would help.

The method I use is to combine 2 tablespoons vinegar with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil in the microwave. Let stand without opening the door for about 30 minutes. Then wipe down the inside of the microwave with soap and water. If that doesn’t do it, I put some baking soda in a small bowl and leave it in the microwave for a few days, removing it temporarily when I need to nuke something.

If off-odors aren’t the problem, maybe you just have an ultra-sensitive palate. You may have to reheat the meat in a regular oven or on the stove. Keep me posted.

From Dorothy G.:
I unknowingly bought dextrose sugar and made an apple cake (which recipe I have been using for over 50 years).  It did not come out right, so I made another and that too was a failure. Someone then told me about dextrose. Never again.  As you suggest, only buy real sugar. Also, do not buy cheap butter or margarine – like you say, they have too much water in them.

Dear Dorothy: I’m sorry you had to find out the hard way, but at least you now know what you did wrong. Many people have never heard of dextrose-blend sugar, and keep repeating their failures on the assumption a technique is to blame. I’m printing your letter as a cautionary tale to others. When you buy sugar, read the fine print on the package.

November 23, 2016

Dear friends,

I finally wised up that Tony takes a hunting trip immediately after Thanksgiving each year. Last November I ate almost an entire turkey myself because he left town on Black Friday, just after my backup turkey came from the oven.

Although I didn’t mind eating a whole turkey, I felt kind of selfish. So this year I grill-smoked my backup turkey Tuesday so Tony can have a couple of sandwiches before he heads to the woods on Saturday with his buddies.

(A backup turkey is the one you make at home for yourself when you dine out on the holiday. But you probably already know that.)

My favorite way to eat leftover turkey is, of course, snuggled between two slices of bread with cranberry sauce and a sheen of mayo. I will eat several of these sandwiches before I even think of branching out. There’s no greater November meal. In my opinion, not even the big feast itself can compare.

Maybe by Saturday I will be ready for something different – not an alternative to turkey, but an alternate way to eat it. I have a box of phyllo dough in the freezer for the occasion. I will thaw it and layer it in a pie pan with a hot filling of sautéed onions, shredded turkey, cinnamon and other spices moistened with chicken broth. I will sprinkle the filling with almonds and gather the buttered, papery dough around the mixture before baking.

This is my version of bisteeya, the iconic dish of Morocco that usually takes hours to make. I will make my quick version for a splendid solitary meal while Tony shivers in a tree all day and later dines with the guys on pork and sauerkraut. When he calls, I’ll tell him that the turkey and I miss him.

SHORT-CUT BISTEEYA
2 tbsp. margarine
1 cup chopped onions
Salt, pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
6 sheets phyllo dough
Butter-flavored non-stick spray
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Melt margarine in a heavy, 10-inch skillet and sauté onions until limp. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until flour begins to change color. Whisk in lemon juice and chicken broth until smooth. Whisk and simmer until mixture thickens. Stir in turkey and cinnamon. Simmer until very thick.

Peel off two sheets of phyllo, spray the top sheet lightly with butter-flavored spray, and fold in half, butter-side in. Spray the top of the folded sheets and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Repeat with two more sheets of dough, arranging phyllo squares so excess extends beyond the rim of the pie plate, all the way around.

Pour hot filling over dough in pan. Sprinkle with almonds. Spray and fold two more sheets, tucking the square in the pan on top of the filling. Fold the overhanging dough up and over the top pastry.

Spray top of pie. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until pastry is golden and filling is hot. Let rest 15 minutes before cutting’ into wedges. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

HELP U COOK

Baking season begins in earnest this weekend, and to put you on the right track, here are some tips on why your cookies may spread during baking:

• Make sure your sugar is pure granulated sugar, not a dextrose blend. Read the ingredients list, which should say merely “sugar.” Dextrose blends react like corn syrup, making cookies spread and prevent candies from setting up.

• Many margarine’s contain water, which will affect the texture of your cookies.

• Unbleached flour has a slightly higher protein content than bleached flour. The higher protein can cause cookies to spread and flatten.

• Letting cookie dough stand too long at room temperature also can cause cookies to spread and flatten, so refrigerate the dough between batches.

THE MAILBAG

From David G.:
I’m trying to find onion juice and garlic juice for a turkey injection recipe. I’ve struck out at Market District, Earth Fare and Mustard Seed.

Any suggestion on where else I might try locally?

Dear David: I tried Penzey’s, Trader Joe’s and Heather’s Heat and Flavor (the latter in Hudson) with no luck. Walmart online carries both, but not your closest Walmart megastore in Wadsworth. I think
you’ll have to make your own.

Caveat: bottled onion juice, at least, according to food writer John Thorne, is pretty mild. He says it tastes like juice from boiled onions. So I would use way less homemade juice in your recipe. Old, old Fanny Farmer cookbooks have you add mere drops to recipes.

To make onion juice: Peel and grate an onion on the smallest holes of a box grater set in a fine mesh strainer over a small, deep bowl. Press the pulp with the back of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Wear goggles! Wash your hands afterward with salt.

To make garlic juice: Separate a whole head of garlic into cloves. Place in a lidded jar and shake to remove skins. Press the cloves in a garlic press over a fine mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Scrape pulp in press into the strainer and press with the back of a spoon to extract juice. Again, clean hands with salt to eliminate odor.

It might be easier to just use another recipe. But you probably want to do Thanksgiving the hard way….

From Sandy T.:
You mentioned that your favorite way to cook a turkey is on the grill. Could you give us the directions?

Dear Sandy: Sure. The down side is you cannot stuff the turkey when you roast it this way. The upsides are many, though. The turkey will taste better than any you’ve ever roasted in the oven. It will cook in just two to three hours (for up to an 18-pounder).

Did I mention it will taste incredible?

Here are directions:

GRILL-SMOKED TURKEY

Build a large charcoal fire (about 30 briquettes) in the bottom of one side a lidded grill, and place a 9-by-12-inch foil pan in the bottom of the other half.

Rub or spray an unstuffed turkey (preferably brined) all over with oil or butter. When the coals ash over, place the turkey on the grill over the pan. Scatter wood chips over the coals. Close lid, leaving vents wide open. Grill for 2 to 3 hours for a 10 to 18-pound turkey. Note that the air temperature and wind can lengthen cooking time.

While roasting, add 6 to 8 charcoal briquettes every 45 minutes, and turn turkey quickly at the same time to rotate the side closest to the coals. Otherwise, do not open lid or heat will escape and lengthen the cooking time. Cook turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 degrees.

Transfer to a platter, wrap tightly with foil and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

November 16, 2016

Dear friends,

The late-September afternoon was abuzz with bees, and the scent of ripening hung heavy in the air. I groaned when Tony boosted me onto the four-wheeler for a ride around our two acres. My new knee was still too tender for the trip, but I was mad with cabin fever and anxious to see how my precious plants had fared in my absence.

The vegetable garden was almost a total loss, and waist-high Canadian thistle had overrun the asparagus bed and young blueberry bushes. But despite my neglect a few clusters of fat red and white grapes dangled from ropy vines and – the surprise of the season – our solitary dwarf pear tree was absolutely loaded.

Suddenly I was pear-rich. I could indulge in fantasies of pear-intensive desserts with plenty left over for snacking. I was in no condition to bake yet, but luckily that was six weeks away. Last year I finally learned that pears fresh from the tree must be kept in cold storage for several weeks before ripening at room temperature. Otherwise they remain rock-hard.

Pear time is now at my house. I pulled several from the fridge last week and dreamed up desserts in my head while they ripened on the counter. On Sunday I began with an idea – pears, walnuts and blue cheese – and ended up with a gorgeous tart that straddles the line between cheese course and dessert.

The tart shell is made with frozen puff pastry. It is filled with a beaten mixture of ground walnuts, butter, eggs and sugar that puffs up slightly in the oven. Before baking, a handful of crumbled blue cheese is scattered over the tart and cored pear halves are nestled in the walnut mixture. The blue cheese lets you know it’s there without overwhelming the pears and walnuts. When the tart comes from the oven, toasted walnut pieces are tumbled in a thick sugar syrup and arranged on top. The syrup assures they both stay in place and glisten.

This tart would taste smashing with a port or a chewy red wine such as Syrah.

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PEAR, WALNUT AND BLUE CHEESE TART
1 sheet (half of a 17.3-oz. box) frozen puff pastry
1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2/3 cup sugar, divided
2 eggs
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/2 tsp. vanilla
5 or 6 ripe but slightly firm pears
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup water

Thaw puff pastry sheet according to package directions and remove butter from refrigerator to soften at room temperature.

Spread walnut pieces in a baking pan and bake at 375 degrees until toasted but not burnt, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven when edges begin to darken. Immediately transfer to a clean dish towel, gather towel around the nuts and rub pieces together to remove most of the skins, which can be bitter.
Discard skins and set nut pieces aside.

Roll puff pastry on a floured work surface until large enough to fit in bottom and up sides of a 10- or 11-inch tart pan with removable sides. Fit pastry into pan, floured side down. Trim edges with a knife, allowing one-half inch to extend above tart rim. Use trimmed pieces to patch areas that are too short.
Fold the excess pastry even with the rim, tucking between the dough and the side of the pan to make a crust of double thickness. Prick all over with a fork. Refrigerate.

Beat softened butter and one-third cup sugar with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in ground walnuts and vanilla, scraping bowl once or twice.

Peel pears with a vegetable peeler. Cut vertically in halves. Remove stems and carefully remove seeds and core with a melon baller or the tip of a paring knife. Place pear halves cut sides down on a cutting board and cut across the pears at quarter-inch intervals, almost but not quite all the way through.

Spread ground walnut mixture in the chilled tart shell. Sprinkle blue cheese evenly over the mixture. Nestle pear halves in the tart shell in a decorative pattern. Combine water and remaining one-third cup sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil one minute, until syrup slightly thickens. Remove from heat and brush some of the syrup over the pears.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, until walnut mixture is puffed and set. Remove from oven. Return remaining syrup to a boil and toss toasted walnut pieces in the syrup. Transfer with a fork from the syrup to the warm tart, scattering randomly over the top. Cool to room temperature before removing the sides of the tart pan and cutting tart into 8 wedges. Serves 8.

TIDBIT I

I have become a tea fiend, and not because I have a Japanese husband. In fact, I don’t like matcha (Japanese powdered green tea) and I loathe the barley tea Tony craves. My tea of choice was Ceylon until a few years ago, when I switched to Assam after asking the proprietor of a Lebanese grocery store if it was any good.

“It’s the best tea in the world,” he said slowly, as if instructing an idiot. Many pots later, I’ve decided he was right.

Assam is a black tea named for the region of India where it grows. The native tea plants are a different variety than those that grow naturally in China (the only two regions to which tea is native). The deep-amber tea has a bright, frisky flavor. The best place to buy it is in a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern grocery store. You can find it in upscale stores, but it will cost much more.

My other tea find, of much more recent origin, is the house-blended mix of Earl Gray and regular black tea at Istanbul Grill in Avon Lake. Earl Gray is black tea flavored with bergamot. Cutting the intensity with plain black tea produces a hauntingly, almost floral-flavored cup.

The Istanbul is worth a drive for both the tea and the food. The latter is about as authentic Turkish food as you’ll find locally, seasoned with extraordinary finesse. The restaurant’s website is http://www.istanbulgrillavon.com.

TIDBIT II

If you want to try the splashy new seafood restaurant in Montrose without investing a fortune (entrees are $23 to $58), go during happy hour. The Kingfish, in the space on “restaurant hill” where various Italian restaurants have tried and failed, offers big-portion appetizers for just $5 from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays in the bar.

Tony and I were impressed with the quality and quantity of our appetizers one evening last week, including a mini platter of house-cured salmon, four substantial kabobs of chicken with a soy-Bourbon glaze, a big bowl of perfectly cooked mussels in a wine-tomato broth, and a plate of meltingly tender cornmeal-fried shrimp with dill pickle remoulade. The happy hour starters are a steal compared to the apps on the dinner menu, which range from $9.50 to $13.50 ($85 if you count the chilled shellfish tower).

The Kingfish has polish right out of the gate thanks to chefs and servers who migrated from Hospitality Restaurants’ other Cleveland-area properties — Rosewood Grill, Delmonico’s, Cabin Club, Blue Point Grille, Salmon Dave’s and Thirsty Parrot. Wade through the company’s website (www.hrcleveland.com) for the Kingfish’s menu and directions.

THE MAILBAG

No fodder for this feature landed in my inbox last week, probably because all of you were stunned senseless by the election. Regardless of party, we all went through the psychic equivalent of a meat grinder.

This is the perfect time to be lulled to sleep by the gazillion watts of tryptophan in a Thanksgiving dinner. Tony and I will spend the day in Columbus with my niece, Heidi, who takes after me in the kitchen. I’m sure she won’t steam her turkey in a roaster or simmer it in a slow cooker. The next day I’ll grill-smoke my backup turkey for my favorite food of the season, Thanksgiving leftovers. Oh, boy.

This year, instead of reprinting instructions for roasting, high-heat roasting and grill-smoking a turkey, I will answer your Thanksgiving cooking questions and provide requested recipes individually via email. Send your questions to me directly at janesnowcooks@gmail.com. I’ll check my inbox daily through 5 p.m. Nov. 23.

 

 

November 9, 2016

Dear friends,

I’ve had a crush on goulash since I was 5 years old, when a pot of goulash on the stove at a playmate’s house drove me wild with desire. I wouldn’t leave until I at least got the name of the dish from my friend’s mother. The aroma alone was killer.

Despite my age at the time, I clearly remember that Mrs. Lee’s goulash was the American version made with ground beef and noodles. Years later I was thrilled to try the real thing on a ski trip to Austria. I learned goulash has many variations. In Innsbruck, entire menus were devoted to the dish and its permutations.

So I can appreciate a good goulash craving as much as anyone, but I have no idea why Tony started pestering me for goulash last week. I had never made it for him. I took him to the New Era in Akron, but we picked the wrong day for goulash; it’s a Saturday special. By that time I was hungry for goulash, too, so searched for recipes in cookbooks and on the Internet.

I was surprised most goulash recipes are so simple they don’t even call for browning the meat. That makes sense, since the dish was originally made over campfires by shepherds in Eastern Europe. That would never do for me, though. Browning the meat gives a stew or fricassee a depth of flavor that can’t be summoned any other way.

I noted many other variations: the meat ranged from veal to pork to beef to venison, the seasonings from paprika alone to a hodgepodge of herbs, and the additions from chopped tomatoes to wine to beef broth to sour cream.

I decided to pick and choose. The recipe I ended up with does not require a lot of prep time (my knee isn’t 100 percent), yet produces a suave, robustly flavored goulash with classic sensibility. In other words no wine, no herbs, no French accents.

I used venison, but beef would work just as well. I served the goulash to Tony Tuesday after a chilly day of deer hunting. He loved it, but apparently not enough to satisfy his craving. Yesterday I caught him searching for goulash restaurants. Bring ‘em on. I’ll put this goulash up against anyone’s.

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HEARTY VENISON (OR BEEF) GOULASH
2 1/2 lbs. venison or lean beef (such as bottom round)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chopped onions
2 red bell peppers, slivered
1 tbsp. sweet paprika
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup hot water
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

Trim meat of all fat and cut in 1-inch cubes. Season with salt. Heat oil in a wide, squat kettle or large Dutch oven and brown meat in batches. When the edges are dark brown, remove with a slotted spoon before continuing with next batch.

In the same pan with more oil if necessary, sauté onions and peppers over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until limp. Return meat to pan. Stir in paprika and 1 teaspoon salt. Add tomato paste and water, stirring over high heat to scrape browned bits from bottom of pan.

When water comes to a boil reduce heat to low, cover and simmer very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Stir in the potatoes, cover and simmer 1 hour longer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

TIDBITS

Pumpkins, butternut, dumpling, Delicata, acorn and probably a half-dozen other kinds of winter squash are on display now in food stores. The common denominator for most of them is a hard shell that’s the devil to peel off.

A knife may be a requirement for making jack-o-lanterns but it’s the wrong tool for paring a hard-shell winter squash. Instead, use a sharp vegetable peeler.

You don’t even have to do that if you plan to cook the squash in order to mash or puree it (for pumpkin pie, for example). Cook the whole pumpkin or squash in boiling water until a knife pierces the flesh easily, then cut it open, remove the seeds and strings, and scoop out the flesh.

Or you could cut the pumpkin or squash in half (or leave it whole), place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until soft.

Delicata, an oval yellow-and-green-striped squash, has a tender skin that may be eaten, so peeling it is unnecessary. You shouldn’t peel spaghetti squash, either – just boil or bake it whole until tender, then cut it open and rake the flesh into strands with a fork.

In the winter a butternut squash or two is always nestled in a hanging mesh basket in the corner of my kitchen. For longer storage they should be kept in a cool place such as a basement, but mine seldom last longer than a couple of weeks.

My favorite way to prepare butternuts is to peel with a vegetable peeler, cut in half horizontally, and cut the bulbous part in half vertically to expose the seeds. I scoop out the seeds, cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and roast on an oiled baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until tender. If I’m feeling sybaritic I dot the squash with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar before baking. I’ll toss in some dried cranberries, too.

THE MAILBAG

From Jan Cramer, Uniontown:
After all the questions about this recipe, I happened to find the original tucked away in a folder. I am pretty sure this is the one from the Greek restaurant that was in a plaza in the Montrose area.

Dear Jan: I’m pretty sure your recipe is from the Montrose restaurant, too. This was published in Beacon magazine:

PAPAS’ GREEK SPAGHETTI
1 lb. spaghetti
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and washed
3/4 cup (12 tbsp.) butter, oil or margarine
Salt, pepper
Garlic powder
Dried oregano, crumbled
Lemon juice
1/4 cup Chablis (dry white wine)
2 cups (about 1 lb.) grated Kasseri cheese (a hard Greek cheese available in Mediterranean grocery stores)

Cook and drain the spaghetti. Chop the green part of the onions, reserving white part for another use. Melt 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of the fat in a large skillet. Sauté the onions until limp. Add the spaghetti and mix well. Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and lemon juice.

Add remaining fat and toss with spaghetti mixture. Immediately add wine and mix, boiling off alcohol. Transfer to four pasta dishes and top each portion with one-half cup cheese. Serves 4.

October 26, 2016

Dear friends,

Time sneaks up on you. One Halloween you dress up as Carmen Miranda with tap shoes and real fruit on your head (I made a chicken-wire base and centered the arrangement with a pineapple), and the next thing you know you’re spending the holiday on the sofa in a sweat suit watching TV.

When did Halloween parties stop being part of my life? In my 30s and 40s, even in years when no friends threw a bash, I at least dressed up and hit the streets of Kent for my alma mater’s surreal downtown blowout.

One year I went as half-man, half-woman, buying two head-to-toe outfits at Goodwill, cutting everything down the middle, and sewing the male-female pieces together. One half of my head was covered with a fedora and the other half with a flowered pillbox.

Now I don’t even hand out candy to trick-or-treaters because we don’t have any on my stretch of country road, where the houses are far apart and set way back. For a couple of years I bought a few treats and delivered them myself to neighborhood kids, but the children grew up and I don’t bother anymore.

Somewhere I still have a cache of silly disguises such as Groucho Marx glasses, a pig’s nose, and antennas made from miniature slinkys and ping pong balls glued to a headband. For most of my adult life I kept such things handy because you just never knew….

Yes, once I was the kind of person who dressed up and went out on Halloween. I miss her, but not enough to become her again. That would require staying out after 10 p.m. and drinking alcohol, neither of which I enjoy much anymore.

On the other hand, my taste for Halloween treats continues unabated. If I still bought candy bars for door-knockers, I would probably still buy way too many and use the leftovers in something like Milky Way brownies, which I wrote about in my Carmen Miranda days. If you lean more to Snickers, I’m also sharing a recipe I developed for Snickers cheesecake made with 16 miniature (“fun size”) candy bars. For the latter, Snickers bars are melted down, swirled through the batter and drizzled over a sour cream topping. More bars are sliced and used to decorate the finished cake.

SNICKERS CHEESECAKE

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups sugar, divided
1/4 lb. butter, melted
4 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. vanilla
Pinch salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
16 Snickers fun-size bars, divided
4 tbsp. milk, divided
2 cups sour cream
Whipped cream for garnish
Whole fun-size Snickers Bars for garnish

Stir together graham crumbs and one-fourth cup sugar in a bowl. Drizzle in butter and stir well with a fork. Press evenly into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium speed of electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt and blend. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on lowest speed of mixer. Pour over crust.

Chop 10 candy bars and combine with two tablespoons milk in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over very low heat until smooth. Spoon over cheesecake batter in parallel strips. With a knife, cut across the strips to swirl melted candy into batter. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for one hour, or until done. The cheesecake is done when the edges appear to be firm, but center moves slightly when gently shaken. Cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop remaining six candy bars and melt with remaining two tablespoons milk over low heat. Beat together sour cream and remaining one- fourth cup sugar. Spread sour cream mixture over cheesecake. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle melted candy over sour cream in a decorative pattern. Return to oven for three minutes. Refrigerate immediately. Before serving, decorate with whipped cream and whole candy bars, if desired.

MILKY WAY BROWNIES

BATTER
13 fun-size Milky Way Bars
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

MILKY WAY FROSTING

4 fun-size Milky Way Bars
2 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. water

For batter, chop candy bars into thirds and combine with butter in a small saucepan. Cover and stir over very low heat until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour blended with baking powder and salt.

Spread batter in a greased, 8-by-8-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until edges pull away from sides of pan. Cool.

For frosting, melt candy bars with butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and water, beating until creamy. Spread over cooled brownies. Cut into squares to serve.

TIDBITS

The Boy Scouts in Uniontown are cooking again, which is cause for celebration. The Scouts (actually, their parents and boosters, including my friend Marty LaConte), are staging their popular cabbage roll fund-raiser this weekend at Queen of Heaven Catholic Church’s Parish Life Center. On Sunday, eat-in or carry-out diners will get two big cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, corn bread or a roll and beverage for $8 for adults and $6 for children.

The hours are noon to 3 p.m. but I suggest you go early because the cabbage rolls usually sell out. That may happen early this year because the dinner is being held after church rather than on the usual Saturday night. Also, cabbage rolls may be bought in bulk this year from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday evening, after the all-day cooking session. Marty and her crew will make 800 cabbage rolls as usual, and when they’re gone they’re gone.

The church is at 1800 Steese Road in Uniontown.

THE MAILBAG

From Sue T., Pittsburgh:
I have a favorite ice pop recipe that I am trying to modify to a low-sugar version since I am on Weight Watchers. Do you have any suggestions for a sugar replacement in a frozen treat?  My recipe is 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup white wine, 3/4 cup lemon juice and grated rind of 4 lemons. Thank you so much.

Dear Sue: I would replace the sugar with a generous half-cup of Splenda granular and taste. Add a bit more Splenda if necessary. Then beat the bejeezus out of the mixture in a blender to aerate it before you pour it into ice-pop molds. Even better would be to partially freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker before spooning into the molds.

Sugar helps soften the texture of frozen treats. Without sugar, your pops could freeze to the consistency of a block of ice. The wine helps, and so will aerating or processing in an ice cream maker.

I replace the sugar with half as much Splenda granular because I think it is sweeter than regular sugar, although the company says otherwise. Also, it can develop a bitter edge if too much is added.

October 20, 2016

Dear friends,

Rats. I remember yet another original recipe I have lost. A loaf of coarse-textured cranberry-cornmeal yeast bread would go so well with fall stews and roasts, not to mention a Thanksgiving turkey.

I created the recipe for Second Helpings, my Internet newsletter when I worked at the Beacon Journal. The online recipes weren’t saved in the newspaper’s database, and I lost my copies in one of many computer blowouts. Gaaa!

If anyone out there has the recipe I’d be grateful for a copy. While I wait, I’ll nibble on a few cornmeal-cranberry scones. I found the scone recipe when I was searching the Internet for my cornmeal yeast bread. Sometimes my recipes turn up in other food sites, but not this time. The scones are pretty good, and almost satisfied my craving. The small amount of corn meal added to the flour base produces a texture that is slightly grainy and tastes of corn. This recipe is from the Ocean Spray Cranberries folks.

CRANBERRY-CORN MEAL SCONES

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2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl and stir until mixed. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form. Add milk and stir with fork just until a sticky dough forms. Gently stir dried cranberries into dough.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently about 10 times. Pat dough into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Cut out dough circles with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter and place on cookie sheet.  Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 10 scones.

TIDBITS

Please change your copy of last week’s Ginger Beef with Black Bean Sauce recipe to read “2 lbs. beef tenderloin” rather than “2 tbsp.” Most of you had already figured that out, but I liked the comments that poured in regarding my mistake. “Are you sure that’s Tylenol you’re taking?” one reader queried.

THE MAILBAG

From Christine T.:
My father used your chicken liver and walnut pate recipe that was published in the Akron Beacon Journal 15 years ago or so. He has been unable to find a copy of the recipe. Is this something you can provide?

Dear Christine: Yes, and gladly. Although the recipe isn’t mine (I got it from a Silver Palate recipe calendar), I have been spreading the word about it for years. It’s the best chicken liver pate I’ve eaten – voluptuous with cream and cognac, and studded with bits of crisp bacon and crunchy nuts.

PATE MOUSSE WITH BACON AND WALNUTS
8 slices bacon, diced
1 lb. chicken livers
1/2 cup brandy
3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 tsp. dried thyme
Large pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

One day before serving, fry the diced bacon in a medium skillet until crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. In same skillet, sauté the livers in the hot bacon fat over medium-high heat until brown on the outside but still pink inside, 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Pour the brandy into the skillet over medium heat and stir, scraping loose browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to about 1 cup.

Process the livers, onion, and reduced cream in a food processor until smooth. Add the mayonnaise, thyme, nutmeg, salt and plenty of pepper. Process until smooth. Add the diced bacon, walnuts, and parsley and pulse just until blended. Transfer to a crock or decorative serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with baguette slices or crackers.

From Debbie M.:
I’m gearing up for holiday baking. Do you or any of your readers know where bakers can purchase ground poppy seed? It’s rather expensive on Amazon and I prefer to support local merchants when possible. I placed an order for apricot butter on Amazon and purchased walnuts when they were on sale. I’m getting ready to make kolachy rolls but need ground poppy seed — my husband’s and son’s favorite. Thanks!

Dear Debbie: Leach’s Meats & Sweets in Barberton sells ground poppy seed filling for $3 a pound. No doubt other stores sell it, too. Check bakeries and stores in areas that have a large Eastern European population.

Leach’s is at 256 31st. St. SW, phone 330-825-4415.

From Maryann:
I enjoyed your comments about apples, pies, and dumplings. My mother used to make little dumplings with leftover apples and dough that we called “pagach,” which could be either of Slovak or Polish origin.

In your list of which apples were good for what, you left out the very excellent Courtland apples. They are the only ones I use for pies and most apple cake recipes. They retain their shape in a pie, but aren’t crunchy or mushy. They also seem to absorb the spices well. My pie recipe uses flour, sugar and cinnamon, and makes a light brown slurry rather than the clear gel-like sauce of most apple pies. People who say they don’t like apple pie have changed their mind after tasting mine!

Dear Maryann: Heck, I’m sold and I haven’t even tasted it.

October 12, 2016

Dear friends,

Dinner tonight is a hunk of French bread, horseradish pickles and low-fat cottage cheese. I have lost my husband and chief cook to deer season. While he hunkers in a tree somewhere, I lie supine in a tilt-back chair, heaving myself upright and hobbling around the house only to let the dog out, limp to the bathroom, or fetch a snack from the kitchen.

This is week six of my recovery from a total knee replacement. I appreciate all the encouraging emails, and I thank Dorena and Marty for visiting and bringing food. I have graduated from a walker to a cane, and from hard drugs to Tylenol. I even drove a car – briefly – last weekend.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, and why you won’t be seeing an original recipe from me yet again this week. It’s because cooking has become an extreme sport. OK, we’re back to me. Sadly, I can’t stand long enough to chop an onion and a head of cabbage, let alone brown them in a skillet.

Before this painful operation, I thought I’d enjoy a couple of weeks in bed with Tony supplying a steady stream of savory tidbits and cups of tea. Then life would get back to normal. Ha! I was in too much agony to eat for the first two weeks, and now that the pain has subsided to merely a wasp-stinging-me-in-the-leg level, Tony is off to the woods. Just kill me.

I hope next week or maybe the week after that I will resume cooking. Until then it will be cottage cheese, carry out and Lean Cuisine for me, and a reheated recipe for you. Luckily, I have a lot of truly great recipes lying around. I had forgotten I even had this recipe for gingered beef from local legendary Thai chef Sue Fogle. I can’t wait to make it again.

SUE FOGLE’S GINGER BEEF WITH BLACK BEAN SAUCE
2 tbsp. beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp. flour
Oil
2 tbsp. brandy
1 tbsp. peeled and chopped ginger
2 tbsp. black bean sauce (sold in Asian markets)
1 tbsp. orange marmalade
1/2 cup quartered and sliced onion
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp. slivered red bell pepper
2 tbsp. chopped green onion

Place beef and flour in a plastic or paper bag and shake to coat the meat. Heat about one-eighth inch oil in a large, heavy skillet. Brown beef on all sides in the oil. Add brandy and stir well. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain any remaining oil and brandy from skillet.

In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger, black bean sauce and marmalade and stir for 2 minutes. Add onion and oyster sauce and stir 2 minutes longer. Return beef to pan and stir over heat for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and stir over high heat for a minute. Spoon mixture onto plates and sprinkle with slivered peppers and chopped green onions. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

MOM’S PIE DOUGH
4 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1 tbsp. vinegar

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add shortening by teaspoons. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until the bits are pea-size and evenly distributed.

With a fork, beat together water, egg and vinegar. Drizzle into the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to moisten evenly. Cut briefly with knives or a pastry blender to work in any remaining dry flour. Do not stir or knead. Gather dough into 2 balls, wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 2 days. Dough also may be wrapped well and frozen.
TIDBITS

Western Fruit Basket is alive and kicking in downtown Akron. Last week I mistakenly said it had closed based on a visual scan of the vacant corner where it used to do business at Broadway and East Market Street. The new owners let me know the Greek grocery/restaurant/bakery/gift basket business changed hands two years ago and moved a couple of doors down the street to 115 E. Market St.

The store always has baklava on hand, as well as spanakopita, galataboureko and various other Greek pastries. Kataifi, the shredded wheat-like pastry a reader asked about last week, may be ordered, says Meela Magois, who owns the shop with her father, Greg.

If you visit around lunch time, try a fresh-made lamb or chicken gyro, a specialty, for just $4. The menu also includes hard-to-find Greek dishes such as pastitsio, moussaka and Greek spaghetti. The phone is 330-376-3917 and the website is http://www.wfbasket.com.
THE MAILBAG

From Debbie Minerich:
I enjoyed your recent article and recipe for mac and cheese and have attached a family favorite that was passed along by my husband, Bill, whose Boy Scout Troop makes it on camp-outs. Most times we just “eyeball” the amount of ingredients rather than rely on accurate measurements. We also like to heat our home-canned stewed tomatoes to top the baked casserole with prior to serving. Enjoy!

8 oz. macaroni (elbow or shells)
1 to 2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. sour cream
2 cups cottage cheese
8 oz. cream cheese, cut in cubes
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Partially precook macaroni until it is a bit firmer than al dente. Drain and return to pan. Heat oil in a small skillet and sauté chopped onion until translucent.

Combine all ingredients in the macaroni pan and mix well. Pour into a buttered, 2-quart baking dish. Cover with a lid or foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Dear Debbie: Thanks for sharing your family favorite.  I like the idea of the tomatoes.

From Molly C.:
Jane, for the person, O.R.  looking for kataifi, it may be found at Aladdin’s Baking Co. on Carnegie in downtown Cleveland. Aladdin’s is just down the street from Progressive Field (go Tribe!). Here’s a link: http://www.aladdinbaking.com/con1.html.

My favorite Middle Eastern restaurant is Nate’s on West 25th, a few storefronts north of the West Side Market. Highly, highly recommend for anything on the Middle Eastern menu. I can’t speak for the deli choices as I’ve never eaten anything other than the delicious Lebanese fare.

Dear Molly: Thanks for the valuable advice. I’ve heard of Nate’s but never visited. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll drag Tony away from Chinatown on our next trip to Cleveland, and have lunch at Nate’s.

October 5, 2016

Dear friends,

The last time I made an upside-down apple tart I used the wrong kind of apples and ended up with pie dough topped with applesauce. When you bake with apples, variety is crucial.

I don’t remember from year to year which variety is good for what, so I usually fall back on Golden Delicious. It is good for pies and tarts because the apple slices retain their shape when cooked.

When I want to branch out, I do not consult the Pollyanna charts from apple growers, which pretty much say every apple is good for everything. That’s where I went wrong in using Gala apples for a tarte tatin. Instead, I Google cookbook author Nancy Baggett. She tested a bunch of apple varieties in all kinds of preparations and has reliable recommendations.

The best choices for whole baked apples: Empire, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Braeburn and Rome.

Some good choices for pies and crisps: Stayman, Rome, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Pink Lady and York.

Nancy likes to punch up the flavor of pies by using three kinds of apples. I bought just one kind, but you may want to follow her lead if you make a pie this month. I won’t be making apple pie. Earlier this week I made dumplings, the preferred treatment for apples in my youth, when my mother would make a big batch each autumn for an all-dessert supper.

You can’t get away from apple dumplings in Ohio in the fall, which is a good thing. Just about every small market and farm stand sells them. Often they are the whole-apple kind consisting of a cored apple filled with cinnamon-sugar and butter, wrapped in pie dough and baked. They are good, I’ll grant you, but I prefer the sliced-apple kind I learned to make at my mother’s kitchen counter.

The recipe couldn’t be easier. Sliced apples are mounded on squares of dough and topped with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. The pastry is drawn up around the apples and pinched, and the dumplings are baked on cookie sheets.

I baked some for Tony using half Splenda and just a smidge of brown sugar. I plunked my warm dumpling in a cereal bowl and topped it with cold milk. For a moment, I was a 8 years old again.

BROWN SUGAR APPLE PACHES
1 recipe Mom’s Pie Dough (recipe follows)
6 medium apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
16 tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. chilled butter, cut in 16 pieces

Divide each of the balls of dough in half, to make 4 pieces of dough. Working with one piece at a time (refrigerate the others), roll on floured waxed paper into a 12-inch square. Cut into four 6-inch squares.

Peel an apple, cut into fourths and remove the core. Cut into thin slices and mound about 1/3 cup in the center of each dough square. Work with one apple at a time to prevent browning. Sprinkle apple mounds with a pinch (1/16 tsp.) of cinnamon. Mold 1 packed tablespoon brown sugar over each mound of apples. Top each with a piece of butter.

Gather dough around each mound of filling, pinching to seal. Place on rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender and pastry starts to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 dumplings. Recipe may be halved or cut in fourths.

MOM’S PIE DOUGH
4 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1 tbsp. vinegar

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add shortening by teaspoons. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until the bits are pea-size and evenly distributed.

With a fork, beat together water, egg and vinegar. Drizzle into the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to moisten evenly. Cut briefly with knives or a pastry blender to work in any remaining dry flour. Do not stir or knead. Gather dough into 2 balls, wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 2 days. Dough also may be wrapped well and frozen.

THE MAILBAG
From Suzanne Y.:
Did you mention that you were a fan of the Post House Restaurant located on the corner of State Routes 585 and 57 near Orrville? If so, you may want to make a trip before the end of February 2017 — they are closing their business.

On Facebook, Suzy West wrote, “As a family member of the Post House Restaurant, I would like to thank you all for your kind comments and walk down memory lane. Yes it is becoming common knowledge that we are closing… “

Evidently they had some code violations and it takes boatload of money to fix. Mainly sprinklers. It’s an old house.

Dear Suzanne: Yes, I did write about the Post House and its terrific omelets (the eggs are mixed with a bit of pancake flour in a blender). I’m sorry to hear the restaurant is closing. Those who want a good homespun meal should visit soon. Hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

From O.R.:
I managed to miss out on the kataifi at this year’s Annunciation Greek Festival!  It’s one of my favorite Greek pastries.  Do you or any other readers know of local bakeries that routinely carry it?  Many thanks.

Dear O.R.: That’s a tough one. Kataifi, for those who are wondering, are pastry logs made from shredded filo dough wrapped around a nut center and soaked in syrup. They look like little shredded wheats. Since Western Fruit Basket in Akron closed, I don’t know of a bakery that carries Greek pastries other than baklava. All is not lost, though. Athens Foods, the Cleveland company; that makes filo dough, sells ready-made, frozen kataifi. Check out the website, http://www.athensfoods.com, then contact the company to find a store near you.

September 28, 2016

Dear friends,

Tony has been on a macaroni and cheese kick since our trip to Memphis last spring. He ordered it in all the barbecue joints we visited in Kentucky and Tennessee, enthralled that tastier versions exist than the one in the blue and yellow box. Apparently it was the first time he had ventured beyond Kraft, and he couldn’t get over it.

I don’t make mac and cheese because of the fat factor, so Tony has had to glean the odd sample where he can – diners, Bob Evans, Cracker Barrel. It has been slim pickings, which is why I decided to make a big panful to take to a pig pickin’ pot luck on Sunday. I knew Eunice’s mega-watt macaroni and cheese would outshine any he had tasted on the trip.

Eunice is a woman I met once at a Juneteenth festival in Southwest Akron. A bunch of people were celebrating the anniversary of the historic day (June 19) word of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Texas, months after it was issued by Abraham Lincoln in January 1863. I figured such a gathering would attract at least a smattering of good cooks, so I went to eat and stumbled on Eunice’s stellar macaroni and cheese.

A few days later at her house, Eunice let me in on her secret: Four cheeses, including cream cheese for a velvety, rich finish. Her version also contains butter, egg and evaporated milk in addition to 2 ¼ pounds of cheese in all. No wonder it tasted good.

I’m still hobbling around with a can and walker, so Tony helped make the mac and cheese Sunday morning. I measured and chopped the cheese, and he stirred it into the cooked macaroni until it melted. It smelled and looked wonderful when it came out of the oven. We wrapped it in newspaper, hauled it to the party and came back with an empty pan. I was embarrassed but touched when I overheard Tony point out our casserole to folks in the buffet line. There were several mac and cheeses, and Tony didn’t want anyone to miss the best one.

“How does my macaroni and cheese compare to the ones you tasted on our trip?” I asked with a sly grin on the way home.

“It is almost the best,” Tony said with a touch of regret. “Moonlite Bar-B-Que is still better.”

Oh, really? Well, until he can get to Owensboro, Ky.,again, Eunice’s will have to do.

EUNICE’S MACARONI AND CHEESE
1 lb. elbow macaroni
2 cans (12 oz. each) evaporated milk
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb. Colby cheese, grated
1 lb. (half of a box) Velveeta cheese, cut in small cubes
4 oz. cream cheese, cut in small cubes
1 egg
Salt, pepper

Cook macaroni in a large kettle of boiling, salted water until al dente – pliable but not mushy. Drain well and return to pot. Add milk and butter and place over medium-low heat. When butter has melted, add cheese a little at a time until the cheeses have melted into a smooth sauce.

Remove from heat and stir in egg. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until edges begin to set and casserole is bubbly.

Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish.

TIDBITS

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Ripe fruit are dropping from local pawpaw trees now, and I got my mitts on three of them. A kind reader, Lori, recalled that I had whined earlier this summer about never having tasted these large, native Ohio fruits. When her tree in Bath began dropping the ripe fruit she sent me an email, and soon delivered three paw paws to my door.

“Not everyone likes them,” she cautioned. “Let me know what you think.”

The greenish-yellow fruits are about the size of a small fist, with the slightly flattened, oval shape of a Haitian mango. I cut one in half and dipped in a spoon. The flavor starts out OK – kind of a cross between banana and passion fruit – but it keeps intensifying until it goes too far, slumping into a faintly chemical, rotten flavor at the finish. The texture is usually described as “creamy” but to me it was more slime than custard. I can’t help thinking of pawpaws as the durian fruit of the New World.

Anyway, Lori, that’s what I thought of it. Even though I didn’t like it, I appreciate the chance to finally taste it, and for that I thank you.

THE MAILBAG

From Bill Bowen:
I just read your post and the green tomato mincemeat recipe. I would heartily suggest that the tomatoes and apples be ground as the recipe instructs in an old-fashioned meat grinder. I’ve tried to adapt several of my older recipes that call for ground ingredients by using the food processor. However, what you get is finely chopped and dry rather than ground and juicy. And somehow that makes a difference in the texture of the final dish, which always leaves me disappointed.

Dear Bill: My grandmother’s hand-crank meat grinder is on a shelf in my kitchen, in limbo until I have an excuse to use it. I think I’ve found it.

September 21, 2016

Dear friends,

As I type this, Tony is bronzing a dozen ears of corn on the grill, the latest salvo in his endearing attempt to cook me well. He has grilled T-bone steaks and eggplant, made the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted, and served me Japanese curry, tamago (Japanese sweet omelet) and cantaloupe macerated in plum wine.

I didn’t know the man could cook. Sure, he’s a chef, but a SUSHI chef who deals primarily in raw seafood and rice. Until now he has played dumb in the kitchen while encouraging me to make all of our meals. After 10 years you’ve been outed, pal.

But how can I be annoyed when he is taking such good care of me while I recover from knee replacement surgery? I can’t.

Tony has had a couple of misfires, true. Lunch one day was a platter of peanut butter, pesto and Cheddar cheese sandwiches, a startling combo he admitted he had “just made up.” And I had to get tough one day as he hungrily eyed a 4-pound sack of frozen corn I had used for two weeks as an ice bag. No, he could not cook and eat corn that had been frozen and thawed repeatedly. Besides, this was Ohio in the middle of fresh corn season.

Slowly I have learned to hobble to the kitchen with a walker and fetch my morning yogurt. I have graduated from reheating coffee and carrying it back to the living room in a big plastic glass (to prevent slop-overs) to actually making the coffee. And although I’m in no hurry to elbow Tony out of the kitchen, I did make soup with his help on Saturday.

Because of my limited mobility and endurance, the soup had to be quick and easy to make. I sent Tony to the store for a tube of breakfast sausage, a bag of spinach and some potatoes, and we set to work.

Tony actually did almost everything while I emptied cartons of broth into a soup pot and instructed.
Some of you already may have guessed we made Potato and Greens Soup, one of my old favorites.

This version was different, though, because of the broth. Typically the soup is made by simmering peeled and chunked-up potatoes in chicken broth until falling-apart tender, then mashing the potatoes right in the pan and adding browned bulk sausage, handfuls of fresh spinach and cream.

For years I’ve substituted fat-free milk for the cream, and this time I used a wonderful Thai-flavored broth in place of chicken stock. If you can find the broth, snap it up. It is “Thai Coconut Curry Culinary Broth” made by College Inn and sold in a 32-ounce aseptic box. I have not seen it in any supermarket, but I have found it twice at R Grocery Outlet (also known as Sommers), the indoor surplus-groceries retailer at Hartville Marketplace in Hartville.

The Thai broth turned my old favorite into an entirely different soup – slightly exotic but still comforting, with underlying flavors of coconut and lemongrass. If you manage to get your hands on some of the broth, buy extra because it would be spectacular in any number of dishes. I’m looking forward to big bowlfuls of Thai steamed mussels.

I have tried to duplicate the broth with no success so far. Of course, the soup is plenty good enough with plain chicken broth.

One last note: I’m only telling you about this find because, in my current mobility-compromised state, I won’t be shopping at the mega market any time soon. But in the coming months when my knee has healed, I trust you won’t be as greedy as I was on my last trip to the store when I bought every last box of broth on the shelves. Please, show some restraint.
THAI POTATO AND GREENS SOUP
2 aseptic boxes (32 oz. each) College Inn Thai Coconut Curry Culinary Broth (or chicken broth)
5 medium-large potatoes
1 lb. bulk (not link) sausage (the kind that comes in a plastic tube)
1 cup fat-free or 2 percent milk
8 oz. fresh spinach leaves, washed and drained

Place broth in a soup pot and bring to a simmer. While broth heats, peel potatoes and cut into big chunks. Add to broth, cover and simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes, until potatoes are falling-apart tender.
With a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the pan, leaving some of the potato slightly chunky.

While the potatoes cook, brown the sausage in a skillet. After mashing the potatoes, transfer sausage to the soup pot with a slotted spoon. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in milk and return to a boil. Stir in spinach and simmer for a few minutes, until spinach is wilted. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

TIDBITS
One of the bright spots of my recent hospital stay was a visit by a dear friend, Chuck Montague, who came bearing chocolate. Lilly Handmade Chocolates to be precise, from the artisan chocolate shop of the same name in the Tremont area of Cleveland.

The hands making the chocolates belong to Chuck’s son and daughter-in-law, chefs Joshua and Amanda Montague. Each extreme-gourmet chocolate was exquisite, but none more so than a filled white chocolate gilded with a pink leopard print. It featured a creamy center of orange liqueur and blood orange and passion fruit reductions enrobed in Valrhona white chocolate. Ask for the “Frou-Frou” when you visit the shop, which you should do immediately. The website is http://www.lillytremont.com.

Cookbook sale

Although my shelves are stuffed, I can’t resist buying cookbooks at flea markets and yard sales. There’s no such thing as too many cookbooks, right? If you agree, you won’t want to miss the used book sale Oct. 1 at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s main location in downtown Akron.

The library and its branches regularly host book sales to raise money and cull older titles from both the library and volunteers’ collections. The Oct. 1 sale is unique in that it will feature only cookbooks. The Friends of the Main Library have amassed hundreds of cookbooks for the sale, which will be held just outside the gift shop during library hours. Happy hunting.
THE MAILBAG

From Laura Lea Frank:
I found my mom’s recipe for green tomato mincemeat from the 1930s if you’re interested. Most (modern) recipes for mincemeat don’t have any meat in them This one takes suet (people still buy it at meat counters to feed the birds).

Dear Laura: You bet I’m interested. Thanks for sending this heritage recipe from your mother, Rose Conley of Tallmadge.

GREEN TOMATO MINCEMEAT
1 peck of green tomatoes, ground
1/2 peck of apples, peeled and ground
2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. ground allspice
1 cup vinegar
5 pounds brown sugar
3 cups finely chopped suet

Combine ground tomatoes, apples spices, vinegar and sugar in a large kettle. Cook slowly for 3 hours. Cool. Stir in the suet. Can in glass jars. Makes about 8 quarts. Recipe may be halved.

Note from Jane: Because canning recommendations have changed since this recipe was developed, I suggest you freeze the mincemeat in pie-sized (5-cup) portions instead.