January 28, 2016

Dear friends,

I felt kind of silly toting home my Spiraletti. It reminded me of the time Tony bought me a Forever Lazy – a furry pink onesie – from an ad on late-night TV. The onesie was about five sizes too big and it hurt our eyes to look at (www.foreverlazy.com). We called it “the pink nightmare.”

The Spiraletti looks and sounds like a wacky TV product, too, but I actually tracked it down at Target and fought for one of the last two on the shelf. I had to have it. The Spiraletti produces low-carb, low-cal pasta.

The plastic Farberware gizmo has a hand crank and three cutting disks that turn zucchini and other fruits and vegetables into thin ribbons and strands that look like fettuccini and spaghetti. Two of my friends have them. The gadget is a low-carb wonder.

OK, so zucchini strands don’t taste like pasta. Also, they give off tons of moisture during cooking, which can water down a sauce. But they have a better texture and taste than spaghetti squash, and a big pile of the guilt-free noodles can fill you up.

One friend tosses the zucchini spaghetti with butter and Parmesan cheese, which I think defeats the purpose. Another friend brought her machine to my house one night and we stir fried the zucchini strands with a Szechuan sauce — pretty good but still not the ideal use of the “noodles.”

Then I bought my own Spiraletti and on Sunday turned a big batch of zucchini noodles into pad Thai. Whoa. Now we’re talking. The zucchini noodles stood in for rice noodles admirably. I ate the leftovers for breakfast and was sad that Tony and I had laid waste to just four zucchinis. I consider the pad Thai, though, a mere appetite teaser for glorious noodle dishes to come – cold peanut noodles, “pasta” with broccoli rabe and pine nuts, lemon “fettuccine” with fresh herbs and a touch of goat cheese…. The low-cal options are limitless.

I recommend you par-boil the noodles for one to two minutes and drain very well to eliminate some of the moisture content before starting my pad Thai recipe. If you don’t have a Spiraletti, julienne the zucchinis by hand. Or you could thinly slice the zucchinis with a mandolin, stack the slices and cut into thin julienne sticks. Of course, if you’re congenitally thin or just don’t give a damn, you could make the dish with 8 ounces of rice noodles.

DSCN1849.JPG

SKINNY PAD THAI
•    4 zucchinis, 7 to 8 inches long, about 2 lbs.
•    1/2 lb. large shrimp
•    1 tbsp. nam pla (fish sauce)
•    1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar (or a scant 1/4 cup Splenda)
•    1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
•    1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
•    1 tbsp. ketchup
•    1 tbsp. peanut butter
•    2 tbsp. vegetable oil
•    2 cloves garlic, minced
•    4 green onions, sliced
•    2 eggs beaten
•    1/3 cup crushed peanuts, raw or roasted
•    Red pepper flakes to taste

Trim the ends of the zucchini and wash well. Cut into long, spaghetti-like strands with a Spiraletti or julienne by hand. Drop into rapidly boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Drain well, then wrap in a towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Set aside. Peel the shrimp and blot dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the nam pla, sugar, vinegar, hoisin sauce, ketchup and peanut butter. Line up the shrimp, sauce, zucchini and remaining ingredients near the stove.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat. When hot, add oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and onions and stir fry for 15 seconds. Add the drained zucchini and cook for 2 minutes, lifting and turning the vegetables with a pair on tongs to wilt the zucchini evenly.

Pour the sauce over the zucchini and continue to lift and turn until the zucchini is al dente and the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Stir in the crushed peanuts. Push the mixture to one side of the pan and add the eggs. Cover with the zucchini. Do the same on the other side with the remaining eggs.

After about 15 seconds, lift and turn to distribute the eggs throughout. Remove from heat and transfer to four shallow bowls or plates. Sprinkle each with one-fourth teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: if the zucchini still gives off too much water while cooking in the sauce, push it to one side of the pan and boil the sauce over high heat to reduce.
HELP U COOK
If you’re worried about lead leaching from old water pipes in your house, get them checked out. Meanwhile, start with cold water when boiling pasta, rice, eggs and other foods. Cold water is less likely than hot water to dissolve any metals that pipes may contain.

THE MAILBAG
From Jan S.:
Hi Jane. Happy New Year! This has been bothering me for a while and just remembered to ask you: If baking powder comes in a can with a plastic lid, why doesn’t baking soda come the same way? Wouldn’t it keep the baking soda fresher longer?  If you wanted to put it in the fridge to absorb smells you could just leave the lid off the container right?

I really have a pet peeve with the box of soda. The box opening never stays closed and when it is in the cupboard it probably absorbs all kinds of odors from the spices and other things in the cabinet, not to mention the moisture in the summer. Would it be helpful for me to transfer the soda to a plastic or glass container?  Or is that a no-no?

Dear Jan: Your observations make so much sense that now I’m worried about it, too. Thanks a lot.
I emailed the baking soda folks but didn’t get an answer so here’s what I think: Yes, you could transfer the baking soda to another container. Or just put the entire box in a quart zipper-lock plastic bag and seal it between uses. This is what I do with my 5-pound bags of flour (using a 1-gallon plastic bag) to cut down on the mess. I’ll be doing that with baking soda from now on, too.

From Linda Tustin: Have you ever made bone broth with a pressure cooker? I use my Instant Pot and cook it for about 3 1/2 hours total. Works great!

Dear Linda: I don’t have a pressure cooker, I’m embarrassed to say. I have an unreasonable fear of them. My mother always made my brother and me stand far away, and warned us the lid could blow off at any time and plow through the ceiling.

From Michele Smith, Elkton, Md.:
Thanks for your tips on making the brown stock or bone broth. If you add just a tablespoon of white vinegar to the mixture, it helps pull more of the nutrients from the bones and does not affect the flavor at all.  Additionally, you can make it in a slow cooker. I have left bones to simmer overnight — up to 24 hours and then put the mixture in recipe quantities in zip close bags. Lay them flat on a cookie sheet and they can be frozen.  Then when it’s time to use, just run under a little warm water, snip the sides with scissors and you have stock for your recipes.  It melts rather quickly, too.

January 21, 2016

Dear friends,

Kathy promised a meal of plain protein and vegetables – no carbs, no sweets – when I agreed to take my miserable, dieting self to her house to watch the Golden Globes on Sunday. “I’ll throw in a baked potato for Dorena to keep her happy,” Kathy said.

I arrived ravenous to a house fragrant with beef brisket in a rich brown gravy. Kathy was just about to mash the potatoes, and Dorena was placing the pate she had brought on a plate with crackers.

At dinner I ate a slice of gravy-less brisket, a couple of spears of asparagus that tasted far too good to be fat-free, and a small mound of zucchini “noodles” tossed with Parmesan and – was that butter? No crackers, no potatoes. Not too bad, right?

Then, just as the red carpet began, Kathy plunked herself down in the living room with a plate of my favorite homemade cookies. I was an inch away from caving, so I grabbed my coat and ran.

That was last week. This is the third week of my diet and I’m doing really well, although you probably wouldn’t want to hang out with me. I’m a bit cranky. My carb addiction is slowly fading, though, and I no longer feel like the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man when I zip up my jeans.

I’m putting myself through this hell not only because I’m desperately trying to look youthful (well, youthfully middle-aged) for my 9-years-younger husband, but because he’s going to sell his restaurant and retire in March, and I want to be able to keep up with him. The lighter I am the better I can walk on my beat-up legs.

At home I’ve been eating a lot of broth bowls stocked with mushrooms, kale, tofu, bean sprouts, a few cubes of sweet potato and lean protein such as sliced poached chicken. This may sound unbearably ascetic, but it tastes quite rich. The reason is the broth. Not only do I make my own, but I started modifying and intensifying the flavor with techniques I picked up while perfecting my Japanese ramen broth.

Classic beef broth is made by simmering meaty beef bones with aromatics — onion, carrots, celery and garlic – and a “bouquet garni” of herbs and spices tied in a cheesecloth pouch. For brown beef stock, which is more deeply colored and flavored, the bones are browned first in the oven.

For my beef stock last week, I also tossed in a few chicken backs and a couple of tomatoes, and simmered the stock for about 28 hours. The extra ingredients and long, slow simmering produce a broth with unusually robust flavor. You know you’ve made a great broth when you can chill it, carve out a hunk and balance it on a spoon.

After fussing with broth bowls last winter, I stripped them to their essence and ditched all the pre-cooking. I have found that kale wilts and sliced mushrooms cook just fine when warmed up for a minute or so with the broth in a microwave. I spoon some solid broth into a bowl and melt it for a minute on high power in a microwave, then add the remaining ingredients and heat for another minute or two.

I no longer skim the broth, either, after learning that the scum is merely protein that eventually dissolves into the broth. I don’t even make a cheesecloth pouch to hold my spices. I just toss ‘em in the pot and strain them out later when I strain the broth to remove the bones.

My new bone broth bowls are a quick and easy meal for those who are watching their weight – or anyone, for that matter. I came home Sunday and had a comforting bowl while I watched the Golden Globes. I almost didn’t miss Kathy’s Italian lemon cookies. Almost.

DSCN1847
BETTER BEEF STOCK
4 to 6 lbs. raw beef bones (frozen is fine)
1 piece meaty beef shank, about 1 inch thick (or other meaty beef bone)
2 to 3 chicken backs
1 onion, unpeeled, cut in half
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large carrot, cut in half
2 medium fresh or frozen tomatoes or 4 canned whole tomatoes
2 sprigs dry thyme or 1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. herbs de Provence
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Salt

Place beef bones, shank and chicken backs in a very large roasting pan (or 2 smaller pans) in a single layer. Scatter onion, garlic and around the bones. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, until bones are golden brown.

Scrape everything in the pans into a large stock pot and cover with water to about 1 inch from top of pot. Add tomatoes. Add thyme, bay leaf, herbs de Provence, peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 28 hours. The pot should barely bubble overnight. The liquid will reduce down to about half.

With tongs and a slotted spoon, remove bones and other solid ingredients from broth, draining well over pan to catch all the good stock. Place a wire mesh strainer over another stock pot large enough to hold the broth. Strain the broth into the pot. Taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste.

Cool broth in pan at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. Lift off the solid fat and discard. Heat broth to a simmer and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate or freeze in portions until ready to use. The yield will depend on the size of the stock pot.
WEST POINT MEMORIES
From Susan Becker, Orrville:
More than twenty years ago I was shopping at West Point and looking for adzuki beans for a recipe I wanted to try. An employee asked if I needed assistance but was stumped when I asked for that bean. I had never heard of it before and it was obvious neither had she. With apologies for being unable to help, she left me to resume my shopping. She later found me in another area of the store to tell me I could find adzuki beans at the Mustard Seed Market. She had done the leg work for me. It exemplified the special service that West Point always provided its customers — a small gesture that made a big impression.

Dear Susan: I remember once, after buying ingredients for a recipe-testing session, Russ inquired the check out whether I’d found everything I needed. All but a can of Spam, I told him. “Follow me,” he said, zipping down an aisle. “I think we have one around here somewhere.”

He eventually located the Spam on a bottom shelf in the canned goods aisle. There was exactly one can.

From Jim Switzer:
A number of years ago my friend F. Eugene Smith, who had something (a lot?) to do with designing one of West Point Market’s incarnations, took me on a tour of the bowels of the place.  I was surprised to see that there was a complete classroom in the basement where new hires were taught how to be West Point staff: blackboard, diagrams, notes.

Customer service, customer service, customer service.  In retrospect I don’t know why I was surprised.  Russ Vernon didn’t leave much to chance, from product to presentation to personnel.

I also remember, even more decades ago, that Russ saved grapes that were taken off sale for Butch, my friends the Fryes’ pet monkey. Early recycling.

Dear Jim: I love the story about the monkey. A lot happened at that place behind the scenes. It’s the only food store I know of in our area that bought small amounts of exotic produce directly from farmers and gatherers. People would take in a quart of yellow raspberries from their backyard or a clutch of morel mushrooms they found in the woods, and the store was happy barter.

From Mike Vrobel, Dad Cooks Dinner:
Jane, you inspired me to write up my own goodbye to West Point Market:
http://dadcooksdinner.com/2016/01/farewell-west-point-market.html/.

Dear Mike: Your tribute is so well-written. I know you wrote the email just to me, but I’m sharing so others can enjoy your essay.
HELP U COOK
Mark Auburn of Akron sent along a helpful bit of information for those trying to find achiote powder. If you have annatto seeds and don’t want to go to the bother of grinding them, steep a tablespoon of the seeds in a cup of hot vegetable oil to create a “long-lasting, deeply colored, flavorful” infusion that may be used in place of achiote powder, as it is in Puerto Rico.
Thanks, Mark.

THE MAILBAG
From David R., Akron:
I have some veal shanks for osso buco and need more.  I used to get them through West Point.  Is there any place in the area that carries them, or will take orders? If I can’t get the cut reasonably soon, is there a meat I can use with what I have to supplement it without sacrificing too much?

Dear David: Try Kirbie Meats in Stow. If butcher David Burns doesn’t have them on hand, he can probably order them. Or you could drive to West Side Market in Cleveland, or just use the beef shanks available in many supermarkets.

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

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January 6, 2016

Dear friends,

The relatives had come and gone and my friends and I were ready for our own little holiday celebration.
We gathered at Kathy’s house for an evening of appetizers, birthday cake and Drunk History.

For her birthday cake, Dorena had requested the coconut-chocolate cake I made for another friend, Nancy, last summer. Michele brought the champagne, Nancy provided a platter of spicy broiled shrimp with garlic and lime, Dorena made a batch of kidney bean salad and Kathy dazzled with a slew of nibbles, from a cheesy hot dip to stuffed and sliced pork tenderloin served on little rolls. As Nancy noted the next day, there was “much, much deliciousness.”

Not the least of which were her shrimp. Yeow. They tasted like a kicked-up version of New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp minus the pound of butter. When

Nancy shared the recipe, I was surprised my taste buds were off by about 600 miles. The spicy, complex flavors hail from the Yucatan region of Mexico, where garlic, citrus, cilantro and annatto are combined in the area’s most iconic spice mixtures.
Nancy used annatto seeds she bought last year at a Cleveland spice store and ground them herself, which was difficult and messy, she says. Afterwards, she ordered achiote – ground annatto seeds – from Amazon. You don’t have to go to that expense or trouble, though. Annatto seeds and ground annatto (achiote) are available at just about any Latin food store as well as Dave’s supermarkets, which cater to ethnic populations.

You’ll notice the shrimp are marinated and cooked in their shells. Diners peel and eat the shrimp at the table. Shrimp cooked in their shells are simply more flavorful than shrimp that are peeled before cooking. I tested this once with side-by-side batches of shrimp on a barbecue grill, and the difference was striking. I bet the folks at Cooks magazine tested it, too, because that’s where Nancy found the recipe.

The noshing meal was our last hurrah before I and my friends went on New Year’s diets. We ate ourselves silly that evening and laughed ourselves silly, too. If you have seen Drunk History, you know why. On the Comedy channel program, after host Derek Waters and a guest comic get roaring drunk, the guest tells Derek about a chapter in U.S. history. Famous actors and comedians act out the episode while lip syncing the drunk’s commentary. It’s hilarious.

Today I’m not laughing. It’s three days into my diet and I could eat the shellac off the dining room chairs. But I’m still dreaming about that spicy shrimp. And that cake. And those dates stuffed with pecans and boursin….

boiled-shrimp.jpeg

BROILED SHRIMP WITH GARLIC, LIME & CILANTRO
2 lbs. large shell-on shrimp (16 to 20 per lb. or larger)
1/4 cup salt dissolved in 1 quart of water in a large bowl
1/2 cup oil (peanut, Canola)
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste
1 tsp. ground annatto (achiote powder)
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp. grated lime zest
6 cloves garlic, pressed or minced into fine paste
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 lime halves
Lime wedges for garnish
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Devein shrimp if needed but do not peel. Cut a deep slit through the shell and into the thickest part of each shrimp to allow the seasonings to permeate. Brine prepared shrimp in bowl of salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and dry shrimp well between two kitchen towels or plenty of paper towels.

Make a seasoning paste by combining oil with crushed coriander, red pepper flakes, ground annatto, black pepper, lime zest and garlic. Stir to combine. Place shrimp, seasoning paste and all but a handful of the cilantro in a gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Seal and massage seasoning paste into the shrimp, working under the shells and along the tops. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Cover a cooling rack with foil and liberally pierce foil all over. With more foil, cover a rimmed baking sheet large enough to contain the cooling rack. The foil is not required but aids the cleanup. Soak bamboo skewers in warm water.

When almost ready to cook, position top oven rack 4 inches from heat source and preheat broiler set to high. Thread shrimp on skewers, nesting like a stack of spoons. Closeness buys a little more time under the broiler. Arrange skewered shrimp on the foil-covered rack. Use the lime halves to douse each with lime juice.

Broil shrimp for 2 minutes. Rotate pan and broil 2 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven and turn shrimp skewers over. Return to boiler for 2 minutes, rotate pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer. The goal is shrimp with a few charred spots, a browned appearance but still tender on the inside.

Slide shrimp from skewers and pile on a platter. Sprinkle with remaining chopped cilantro and another squeeze of lime juice. Garnish with small lime wedges and cilantro sprigs. Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer.

HELP U COOK

You say “annatto,” I say “achiote.” They’re basically the same spice. “Annatto” usually refers to the reddish seeds of the annatto tree, while achiote mostly is used to describe ground annatto seeds that are combined with other seasonings in a popular Mexican spice mixture. Achiote, especially when mixed with garlic, peppercorns, onion and oregano, is the principle seasoning of meat dishes in the Yucatan. You’ve heard of suckling pig roasted in banana leaves? Achiote is what makes the famous Yucatan dish sing.

According to Southwestern chef Mark Miller, achiote “…has a strong iodine-like flavor that may take some getting used to, as it imparts a somewhat bitter note, not unlike Campari.” You probably won’t find it in regular supermarkets, but it is available at almost any Latin food market.

THE MAILBAG

From Bess Brown:
You couldn’t have written a better tribute to The West Point Market. I too was in love with the store. Once a month, for years, I would make the trip from Mansfield to see what was new and to purchase favorites.

Saturday I went to the sale but like you went out empty handed. It just didn’t feel right to me to join in the picking of the bones. I had treated myself to a trip to the market just a few weeks before, allowing myself to savor it for what I thought was to be my last time.

I just wanted to thank you for your article.

Dear Bess: Judging from the number of emails I got in response to my love letter to West Point, you and I are not alone in our fondness for the store. I wouldn’t mind hearing more recollections of that special place. I think it’s fitting that we pay tribute. I’ll try to see that Russ Vernon gets copies of any email that’s sent.

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

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

December 30, 2015

Dear West Point Market,

You were my first love. For years you were my only love, until lesser stores began glamming up, making cheating on you more convenient. But I’ll never forget those heady days of my early love affair with fine food and with you.

I remember you before the 1988 expansion, when a bulbous jar of wrinkled Nicoise olives sat atop the meat case, wordless announcement that this was no ordinary grocery store. In Akron, Ohio, I marveled, I could make authentic salade Nicoise!

Before I became the Beacon Journal’s food writer in 1984, I worried that I wasn’t chic enough or important enough to shop your aisles. People actually dressed up to visit. I overheard discussions at work about the outfits my West Akron friends encountered in the store. Would a bouncer usher me out for wearing tennis shoes and a track suit?

What a laugh. Russ Vernon, the charming owner, put everyone at ease, like the genial host of a party. He fielded questions about unfamiliar foods as if he lived for the opportunity, and carried groceries to cars alongside the bag boys.

Once when I was 34 and a callow California Cellars fan, I scraped together $100 to blow on wine. Russ did not laugh when I asked him to help me select a case – a case! — of reds that would age well. He spent an hour doing exactly that, with the best bargain wines I’ve ever tasted.

I became a West Point regular and cherished the times Russ would round up three or four of us to follow him downstairs to taste some new items crowding his desk. Or he would excitedly open a bottle of wine and pour sips, a gleam in his eye. He didn’t just sell fine food, he was obsessed with it, and sought out those of us who were likewise afflicted.

Saturday I waited outside your doors, fourth in line in a swelling throng of your former lovers. If we had been more constant, you would not be selling your imported butters and triple-crème St. Andre cheese at half price in preparation for your demise.

The thick line roped around the side of the building before heading north through the parking lot to the back fence. By noon the line extended through the east parking lot almost to Hawkins Avenue.

I remember that parking lot in happier times. In 1988 it was filled with white tents, waiters and Perrier Jouet Champagne to celebrate the 10,500-foot expansion, making it the largest specialty foods store in the country. I felt lucky to have gotten an invitation to the party.

I remember the annual free breakfasts in the parking lot, and many summer days when the aroma of brats wafted from outdoor grills.

On Saturday when the doors opened the half-crazed crowd dashed through the store. I wandered into the cheese department and was studying a box of crackers when Russ’ son, Rick Vernon, wished me a Merry Christmas.

I’m going to try to do this without crying,” I said.
“Me, too,” he responded.

Turns out I wasn’t in the mood for bargains. Bags of pasta were snatched from under my nose and I was pushed and prodded in the tea aisle. I had harvested a mere tin of smoked paprika, a couple of tubs of cheese spread and a container of sliced almonds when I eyed the throng at the meat case and gave up.

This was no way to say goodbye. I will do that later with a bottle of Champagne and a good cry. For now, I’ll just thank you, West Point, for some of the most magical hours of my life. And thank you, Russ, for sharing and stoking my passion.

TIDBITS

I finally got around to eating at Sushi Asian Gourmet, the fairly new restaurant on Portage Path in the Merriman Valley, in the revolving-door property that has held at least a half-dozen restaurants beginning with G.D. Ritzy’s.

Asian Gourmet has a little sushi bar and Vietnamese and Thai items on the menu, but go for the Chinese food – specifically, the Szechuan. The chef is from Szechuan province, the owner says.

I believe it, because the Szechuan eggplant with pork that I had for lunch was absolutely tremendous. I will dream about it. I can’t wait to go back and order it again.

My husband, a pho fanatic, says his bowl of soup and noodles didn’t taste especially Vietnamese, but the broth was good and stocked with plenty of good-quality beef that had little fat or gristle. It came with the required selection of herbs and lime wedges to add to the broth.

For more information about the restaurant, including hours, go to http://www.sushiasiagourmet.com and click on “contact.”

THE MAILBAG

From Pat Simons, Hudson:
I recently made Scottish Millionaire Shortbread.  Adopting a Glasgow recipe, I used McEvities biscuit crust for the base, which is a good alternative to shortbread and tasty. However, I tried their method of boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk (2 hours then cooled, making dolce de leche) for the center.  Tasty but it oozed everywhere.

The center layer in the final product should be soft but a bit different from the consistency and taste of melted Kraft caramels or jarred caramel sauce.  Wondered if you have a recipe for a center that is soft but not oozing.

Dear Pat: I don’t, but I do know you should not boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk. It could explode. Open, transfer the contents to a pan, and simmer it until golden brown.

Maybe canned dolce de leche, sold in Mexican food markets, would be thicker than homemade.

From Carol Whidden:
The microwave pecan brittle (in last week’s newsletter) is a hit with our friends. They keep munching away! A great recipe to round out the cookie plate! Could you send me the duck with olives recipe? I have a duck waiting in the freezer for a special occasion. Thanks for all your good recipes and hints over the years.

Dear Carol:

DUCK WITH OLIVES CHEZ ALLARD

(“Bistro Cooking” by Patricia Wells)

1⁄4 tsp. fennel seeds
12 parsley stems
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. thyme
2 tbsp. rendered chicken fat (or 1 tbsp. oil and 1 tbsp. butter)
2 lb. chicken wings or backs
1 duck (4 to 6 lbs.), cleaned and trussed, neck and gizzards reserved
Salt, pepper
3 medium yellow onions, minced
1 1/2 tbsp. flour
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
1⁄3 cup tomato paste
1/2 lb. brine-cured, pitted green olives
2 tbsp. butter

Put fennel, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf, and thyme on a 4-inch square piece of cheesecloth, double thickness. Bring up corners and tie with kitchen string to make a bouquet garni; set aside.

Heat chicken fat or butter and oil in a heavy, 8-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and reserved duck neck and gizzards, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 8 minutes. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add bouquet garni, stock, and wine. Stir in tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a non-reactive saucepan.

Meanwhile, bring a quart of water to boil in a saucepan. Add olives and boil over high heat for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse olives under cold water; set aside. The sauce may be made to this point up to a day in advance and refrigerated. Spoon off the fat before continuing. Add olives to the sauce and simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 475 degrees. Pierce duck skin all over with a knife. Rub with butter. Place breast side down on a rack in a roasting pan filled with a half-inch of water. Roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Continue cooking about 1 hour longer, until skin is crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of a thigh (without touching the bone) reads 160 degrees. Transfer to a platter and let rest for 20 minutes.

To serve, carve duck and arrange on a platter.
Surround the meat with the olives and sauce.

Serves 8.

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

December 16, 2015

Dear friends,

It’s mid-December, time to bake like a maniac or give up and buy your holiday goodies. Or you could do neither. You could sail through the late-baking panic with ridiculously simple recipes like this: Stir together a cup of Nutella, 2 eggs and 2/3 cup flour. Spoon into muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

My friend Kathi Purvis of the Charlotte Observer has written a Christmas treats story for people like me.
It’s a genius compilation of recipes and tips for last-minute bits of heaven like the above Nutella Brownie Bites. The recipes are, as she puts it, “… the sweet spot between slice-and-bake Santas and full-on Martha creations.”
Even those organized sorts who start baking and freezing in October may find a cookie or candy they can’t resist among her selection. In addition to the recipe above, Kathi gives directions for making no-fuss Sea Salt Chocolate Wafers, Pretzel Peanut Butterscotch Bark, Microwave Pecan Brittle, Sweet and Salty Thin Mints, Tiger Butter and Peppermint Sandwich Cookies.

They all sound good, and got me thinking about the quick-fix Christmas treats I’ve come across or dreamed up over the years. I remember once creating eight cookie recipes from two kinds of purchased dough. A favorite was date bars made by kneading oats into sugar cookie dough for the crust and crumbled topping, and sandwiching with purchased date filling.

If you’re a laggard like me, you could probably use that recipe about now. I’m sharing it along with two of Kathi’s recipes. Her remaining recipes can be found at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/food-drink/article48458670.html#storylink=cpy. Now get baking.

NUTELLA BROWNIE BITES
•    1 cup Nutella
•    2 eggs
•    2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Line a mini-muffin pan with liners. Beat all the ingredients until smooth. Fill lined muffin pan and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Optional: Press a pecan half or a half of a maraschino cherry in each before baking.
Makes about 32.

The following recipe is from “Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook,” by Kathleen Purvis. It has more ingredients but takes hardly any time to make. Kathi writes, “The bowl will get hot, so make sure you have oven mitts. Once you add the baking soda, you need to spread the brittle quickly. Make sure you have the pan prepared before you start.”

MICROWAVE PECAN BRITTLE
•    1/2 cup light corn syrup
•    1 cup sugar
•    1 1/2 cups pecan halves
•    1 tsp. unsalted butter
•    1 tsp. vanilla extract
•    1/4 tsp. salt
•    1 tsp. baking soda

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Combine corn syrup and sugar in a 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe mixing bowl. Stir to blend.

Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave and stir in the nuts. Return to microwave and cook for 4-6 minutes on high, until the sugar is light brown. (The time will depend on the wattage of your microwave. Keep an eye on it, and stop if the nuts start to smell burned.) Stir in the butter.

JANE’S QUICK DATE BARS
•    1 1/2 cups sugar cookie dough (refrigerated supermarket brand or homemade)
•    Hot water
•    1 cup quick-cooking oats
•    1/2 cup canned, commercial date filling
Place dough in a bowl. If dry, sprinkle with a few drops of hot water and knead until pliable. Knead in oats. Press half of dough into the bottom of a buttered, 9-inch-square baking pan. Spread date filling over dough. Crumble remaining dough over filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until topping is golden brown.

If using commercial dough, use three-fourths of a 20-ounce log.

Raspberry-oatmeal bars: Make the same way as for date bars, but substitute one-half cup raspberry jam for the date filling. Sift powdered sugar over the top of the warm bars.

HELP U COOK

Onion juice can help prevent the grated potatoes in your latke batter from darkening. Because both are grated for latkes, an easy way to coat the potatoes is to alternate potatoes and onions on the same grater.

TIDBITS

I love those best-of-the-year lists, especially ones about cookbooks. (Snack lists: not so much. Cinnamon-maple chickpeas? Really?)

Anyway, the big question for consumers is not how to rate cookbooks but how to rate the raters. Who to trust? After years of reading cookbook reviews (and writing a few myself), I am partial to the best-of list from the Chicago Tribune.

Why? Because the reviewers in East and West Coast cities are likelier to get caught up in which author is hot and which publisher or agent or editor on the cocktail circuit shepherded through which book. In other words, too much inside baseball.

Besides, I think Midwestern writers are more cognizant of what the majority of Americans want in a cookbook. And most important, the writers and editors at the Chicago Tribune have a policy of testing at least three recipes from a book before reviewing it.

Prominent on the list – and every other cookbook list I’ve seen so far – is Kenji Lopez-Alt’s “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. I’ve heard a lot about this book and have even tried some of the recipes because my friend, Nancy, is smitten with Kenji and bought one of the first copies off the press. The 1000-page tome is filled not only with interesting recipes, but explanation of how ingredients and techniques work. Also on the list:

• “United States of Pizza” by Craig Priebe with Dianne Jacob;
• “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations” by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman;
• “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine” by Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali;
• “Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn” by Dale Talde and J.J. Goode;
• “Mastering Sauces” by Susan Volland;
• “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” by Claire Ptak;
• “A Real Southern Cook in Her Savannah Kitchen” by Dora Charles;
• “Made in India” by Meera Sodha; and
• “Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix”

THE MAILBAG
Write to me or you will get coal in your stocking!

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December 4, 2015

Dear friends,

This is the hardest season of the year for me in the kitchen. Making Christmas cookies has been a holiday tradition for as long as I can remember, but lately I have sworn off sugar. Usually I find an excuse to make cookies for someone else – my sister, my brother or friends. Last year it was my in-laws in Japan, who are in failing health. The year before it was my brother, whose wife was in the hospital. The year before that it was my sister, who is a teacher and was too busy to bake.

Although I’ve racked my brains, I can’t come up with an excuse this year. That’s OK. I’ll start baking and an excuse will materialize. If not, I’ll have to eat a whole batch of chocolate-fig biscotti and that would be a shame.

I’ve already eaten about a quarter of a batch thanks to my friend, Nancy, who toted them along when she brought her dog, Bosco, for a play date. (I must mention that a friend of hers calls Bosco “Young Ovaltine.” I love that.)

Anyway, not only does “chocolate-fig biscotti” sound ritzy, the cookies taste wonderful. The chocolate and dried fig play off each other, amplifying the flavor of each.

CHOCOLATE-FIG BISCOTTI

JANE FOOD

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup diced dried figs

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients and beat until dough comes together (it will be dry) then mix in figs.

Divide dough into two equal pieces. Form each piece into a 12- by 2- inch log and place on baking sheets.

Bake until cooked through but still soft, about 30 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to cut biscotti into 3/4-inch thick pieces. Place back on baking sheet and bake until dry and toasted, about another 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. From Serious Eats.

HELP U COOK

Northeast Ohio is a hotbed of fudge-making at Christmas time, and almost everyone has not only a favorite flavor but a favorite texture. Do you like your fudge soft and creamy or shiny and firm? Ingredients have little to do with the texture. The way you beat the cooked sugar mixture causes the sugar crystals to align in certain ways, producing different textures. If you want soft, creamy fudge, let the mixture cool to 122 degrees (from the 240-degree soft ball stage) before beating. If you like it firm and shiny, beat it while hot.

THE MAILBAG

From Dorothy G.:
Jane, not to be funny, maybe I am the only one, but pumpkin is only for pumpkin pies (Note: and I think they feed it to pigs, too!). My mother made pumpkin soup (probably from her younger days in Europe). I never would eat it. But enjoy your holiday and your pumpkin cheesecake.

Dear Dorothy: I enjoyed my pumpkin cheesecake to the max, thank you, but I can understand your reticence. When I took the cheesecake to a Halloween party once, a friend from France wouldn’t touch it. She explained that pumpkin was considered a vegetable where she grew up, and to her, “it would be like eating a broccoli cheesecake.”

I’m more broadminded in my tastes. I eat pumpkin every which way, from roasted cubes with butter to pumpkin polenta to pumpkin cakes, custards and pies. Bring it on.

From Robin, Creston:
My daughter is working on a project for her senior Spanish class. She has been assigned the country of Nicaragua and will be giving a presentation on the culture, tradition and food of that country. Do you know of any restaurants that serve or specialize in Nicaraguan food in the area? While she can easily go online and get recipes, etc., she thought it would be especially fun to go to a restaurant that specializes in that food. While we are short on time, I thought you might be an excellent source to determine if there are any area restaurants. It sure sounds like a fun field trip if the option exists! Thanks so much!

Dear Robin: As close as I can get you is an El Salvadoran and Columbian restaurant, El Arepazo Y Pupuseria, in Fairview Park. Does anyone else know of a Nicaraguan restaurant in Northeast Ohio?

From Suzanne Allen:
Reading See Jane Cook makes my day. And it would make my week, perhaps month, if you could remember a recipe for an appetizer (dip) you served years ago. It was a pomegranate, olive, bread crumb tapenade-like dip that used a pomegranate-infused balsamic vinegar (perhaps?). I just remember it was fabulous and now in pomegranate season, it’s all I can think of. So now my question is, can you think of it, too?

Dear Suzanne: I’m happy to say my memory has not totally deserted me. The recipe you crave is from Kitty Crider of the Austin American-Statesman, who found it in “New American Cooking” by Joan Nathan. Kitty published it as one of her favorite recipes before her retirement in 2008. The dip is Middle Eastern – perhaps Syrian, she says. The pomegranate “vinegar” you recall is actually pomegranate syrup, a staple of Arab cooking.

PEPPER, POMEGRANATE AND WALNUT DIP (MAHAMMAR)
2 red bell peppers, piths and seeds removed, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Dash of cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. pomegranate syrup (See note.)
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped black Greek-style olives, optional
Toasted pita bread

Put the peppers and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until the peppers are in little pieces.

Add the walnuts, bread crumbs, cayenne pepper and salt and pulse a few times until the walnuts are processed but still have some crunch to them.

Stir in the olive oil and pomegranate syrup. Adjust the seasonings and gently fold in the fresh pomegranate seeds (or dried cranberries), mint and olives.

Place in a serving bowl with a small spoon, accompanied by toasted pita bread or chips for dippers. Makes 2 cups.

Note: Pomegranate syrup is available in Middle Eastern stores.
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November 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

Four days after I met my husband he told me he loved me.

“You can’t possibly,” I scoffed, having heard that line before. “You don’t even know me.”

“Well, I really, really, really like you,” he responded.
That’s how I feel about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I really, really, really like to. So when I dine out on Thanksgiving and offer to bring three or four dishes, I really, really mean it. So can you imagine my chagrin when I arrived at my brother’s last Thanksgiving and saw the sideboard loaded with pies still in their bakery boxes?

When my brother called Sunday to ask if I’d bring my cranberry sauce and bourbon-mashed sweet potatoes to this year’s feast, I agreed and angled for cornbread stuffing.

“No, we have that handled,” he said. And for dessert?

“We’re making two pumpkin pies and buying a pecan pie,” he said.

“Could I maybe bring a pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust?” I wheedled.

Oh, yes. I think the gingersnaps cinched it.

So I get to make cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and a favorite cheesecake I haven’t had in years. I can’t even remember where I got the recipe but I’ve never found a better one. The cheesecake is rich
and creamy with a pronounced pumpkin flavor and just the right balance of spices.

By the time you read this my kitchen will smell like warm pumpkin and I’ll be wrist-deep in cornbread stuffing. Yes, I’m making the stuffing anyway, to go with the turkey I’ll roast Friday for Tony and me here at home. We won’t actually sit down to another Thanksgiving dinner. I just really, really like Thanksgiving leftovers, almost as much as I like to cook them.

P.S.: Tony and I were engaged two weeks after we met, so I guess he wasn’t handing me a line.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

  • 1 1/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 12 walnut halves
  • Whipped cream

Mix cookie crumbs and butter. If grinding in blender, break up cookies first. Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes; cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Beat cream cheese, one cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in large bowl on medium speed until smooth.
Add pumpkin and mix well. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on lowest speed of mixer.

Pour over crumb crust. Bake at 300 degrees until center is almost firm, but still wiggles slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least three hours or overnight before serving.

For decoration, place two tablespoons sugar and walnuts in small pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar caramelizes and coats walnuts. Do not allow to burn. Spread on foil, separating nuts. Cool. Remove cheesecake from springform pan. Top with whipped cream and garnish with candied walnuts.
HELP U COOK
To skim or not to skim the foam that rises to the surface of homemade stock? I usually swipe away a few spoonsful and then and then say, “Screw it.”

Does it affect the flavor or just the looks? I found a guy who seems to know all about that scum.
Skimming is for aesthetic purposes,” writes Bruce Goldstein at stackexchange.com.

“The scum is denatured protein, mostly comprising the same proteins that make up egg whites. It is harmless and flavorless, but visually unappealing. Eventually, the foam will break up into microscopic particles and disperse into your stock, leaving it grayish and cloudy. The more vigorously your stock bubbles, the faster this process will occur.

“If the grayness or cloudiness bothers you but skimming is not an option for some reason, you can always remove the micro-particulates later through the clarification process used to make consommé.”

If you don’t want to skim, you sure as heck don’t want to clarify. Trust me.

TIDBITS

A waitress at a restaurant Tony and I visited last week couldn’t contain her enthusiasm for the food at a taco restaurant down the street. Odd, no? Well, she was right. We checked out the other restaurant a few days later and loved the tender corn tortillas, the spritz of lime, the fresh herbs and inventive fillings. Get yourself to the Funky Truckeria and see what the fuss is about.

Two food truck chefs – from the Orange Truk and Wholly Frijoles – opened the small restaurant about a month ago. They merged their recipes and styles to come up with menu items such as the Southern Cali Mahi Mahi Taco with blackened mahi, feathered cabbage, avocado, fresh pico de gallo, queso fresco, chipotle crème, micro cilantro and lime on a soft flour tortilla; and the Tequila Lime Chicken Taco with lime-marinated chicken, chipotle crema, sautéed onions, queso fresco, micro cilantro and lime on a grilled corn tortilla.

The menu is all tacos with the exception of a couple of appetizers (nachos, risotto balls). The fresh décor is industrial Day of the Dead. The prices are easy to swallow.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for brunch. Can’t wait to see what that’s about. The restaurant is in Norton Plaza at 3200 Greenwich Road. View the weekly menus on Facebook at TheFunkyTruckeria.

THE MAILBAG

From Kevin Scheuring:
I’m curious as to why you suggest cooking a turkey breast to 170 degrees?

Dear Kevin: Because that’s what the experts (i.e., the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line) recommend. The recommended temperatures have fluctuated over the years, as the shape of turkeys have changed (the breasts are bigger now) and the science of food safety has advanced. I know that, bottom line, turkey meat must be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees, the temperature at which salmonella bacteria is destroyed.

So why 170 degrees? And why do the experts recommend cooking the thigh meat to 180 degrees? Hmmm. Curious, I phoned the Turkey Talk-Line. Flavor and texture are the reasons. “Thighs have to be really well done to taste good,” the Talk-Line pro said. “Otherwise it will taste like rubber bands.”
Breasts may be cooked to 165 degrees, she said. Cooking them to 170 degrees gives you a cushion to make sure the salmonella baddies are dead.

Everything you need to know about roasting a turkey, including time tables and techniques for roasting, grilling and deep frying, is at http://www.butterball.com/turkey-talk-line. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the subject that interests you.

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

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

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Dear Friends,

With all of the one- and two-person households in this country (comprising more than two-thirds of Americans), most people must either round up a bunch of friends and family for Thanksgiving dinner or eat turkey for two weeks.

There is an alternative, which I’m sharing for singles and couples: turkey breast. At its simplest, roast turkey breast is made by plopping a whole or half bone-in breast in a shallow pan and roasting at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes per pound, until an instant-read thermometer registers 170 degrees.

But why go basic for the most important feast of the year? Since you’re reading this newsletter you probably love to cook, so I suggest you go with my favorite way to serve turkey breast. I made the recipe (adapted from a Cooks Illustrated poultry book) seven years ago for my husband’s fiftieth birthday. A skinless turkey breast is boned, butterflied and brined, then rolled with a stuffing of ancho chilies, raisins, garlic and parsley. The roast is grilled, slice and napped with a chipotle cream sauce. It is kick-butt.

Serve the Southwestern turkey breast with jalapeno cornbread stuffing and mashed potatoes for a memorable Thanksgiving dinner for two or three. Or make a whole, double turkey breast for a Thanksgiving dinner for six.

CHILI AND RAISIN-STUFFED TURKEY BREASTS
•    1/4 cup kosher salt
•    2 quarts water
•    1 whole (two lobes) skinless turkey breast, boneless or bone-in, split
•    1 cup raisins
•    3 dried ancho chilies
•    4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
•    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
•    Salt, pepper
•    1 tbsp. melted butter

The day before serving, combine salt and water in a pitcher and stir. Set aside.

Remove skin from turkey breasts. If they are bone-in breasts, bone them: Starting at the thinner, rounded edge (not the thick edge where the breasts were joined, slip a thin, sharp knife between the meat and the bones. Continue cutting horizontally close to the bones, lifting meat and folding it back like a book. When you reach the thick side, cut the meat away from the breast bone and discard bones.

Turn the breasts cut-side up on the counter. Where the thick and thin portions of each piece of the meat meet, make a horizontal slice to within one-half-inch of the thick edge. For each breast, fold back the meat along the cut to create a large, flat piece of chicken of roughly even thickness. This is called butterflying the meat.

Place both breasts in a large, zipper-lock plastic bag. Stir the salt water and pour into the bag. Seal and refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours.

Place raisins and chilies in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak until plumped and softened, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and discard water.
Remove stem and seeds from chilies and tear into large pieces. Combine raisins, chilies, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Prepare a large charcoal fire (about 25 briquettes) on one side of a covered grill (cover removed).

While coals heat, remove turkey from brine. Rinse and pat dry. Place meat cut-sides-up on a counter. Spread chili mixture to within 1/2 inch of the edges of the meat. Roll up jelly-roll style, tucking in ends so no filling leaks out. Tie each roll in three places with kitchen string. Sew up any gaps with cotton thread.

Brush turkey rolls all over with melted butter. When the coals have ashed over, scatter a handful of soaked hickory chips over the coals. Place meat on the opposite side of the grill from the hot coals. Close lid, positioning vents wide open. Roast for about 20 minutes. Turn and reposition turkey rolls. Replace lid and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey registers 165 to 170 degrees. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the heat of the grill. Check with a thermometer after 45 minutes.

Remove from heat, cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting each roll in half-inch-thick slices. Serves 6. Recipe may be cut in half to serve 3.

CHIPOTLE CREAM SAUCE
•  1/2 cup cream
•  1 tsp. mashed, canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

Whisk cream with chilies in a small saucepan and simmer until reduced by half. Dribble a tablespoon of sauce over each portion.

TIDBITS

David Lebovitz was making a pie when all hell broke loose in his neighborhood in Paris last weekend. On Monday I checked his blog, Living the Sweet Live In Paris, to make sure all was well. He, his partner and his friends are fine but his local outdoor market and restaurants were the scene of bombings, he wrote. Everyone is shaken up.

Lebovitz returned to the kitchen later to finish making a pecan pie with Bourbon and ginger, a new recipe he found in “First Prize Pies” by Allison Kave. The pie is very special, he wrote, and served a function beyond nourishment: “I was happy to have this pie sitting on the counter after all that happened this weekend. It made us feel a little better.”

Find the recipe here: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2015/11/bourbon-ginger-pecan-pie-recipe-thanksgiving/#more-21615.

THE MAILBAG

From Iris Stacey:
Thank you always for your awesome recipes! I’ve tried many of them, and they have become some of our favorites.

My Nana used to make wonderful apple turnovers or hand pies. I think she just used her homemade pie crust, but I don’t remember how she prepared the apples – use them like making an apple pie or cook them first? After they were baked, she would sprinkle them with confectioners’ sugar. I would love to make them myself, but my attempts have failed. Would you have a recipe that might help me out? I asked both my mom and aunt, but they didn’t remember. Thanks.

Dear Iris: My mother made apple turnovers and they were awesome, too. She used raw apples, cinnamon, sugar and flour, as she would for a pie. They were way too flaky to be called “hand pies,” though, so I suspect your grandmother’s turnovers were different.

Southern hand pies often were made with dried apples and the pies were fried, such as in this recipe from Southern Living magazine http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/fried-apple-pies-1:

You recall that your grandmother baked the pies, though. Try this recipe with a pre-cooked apple filling from Cooking Light: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/apple-hand-pies-0.

From Jodie:
A reader asked where to get Russian tea biscuits: The same place to go for the best Jewish rye bread in the world — Davis Bakery, Cleveland.

Dear Jodie: Excellent suggestion. The beloved bakery has locations in Woodmere and Warrensville Heights. Here’s more information: http://davisbakery.net/locations.php.

From Tammy Jo:
I recently began hunting (my husband is an avid hunter). Last weekend I shot my first deer!
My sister would like to make an authentic English mincemeat pie with venison. Our deer processor will give us spicy sausage, hamburger, sliced tenderloins and inner loins. My sister isn’t sure which to use for her mincemeat pie recipe. Any ideas? Thanks!

Dear Tammy Jo: Making authentic mincemeat is a project. I assume your sister doesn’t want to go Merrie-Olde- England authentic, because the mincemeat of Old England contained as much meat and suet as fruit, and was made with very little sugar. Our tastes have changed. I found a more modern version – with venison, no less – on a trusted King Arthur Flour site at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/mincemeat-pie-or-tarts-recipe. The cut of venison isn’t specified, but after studying the recipe I would guess a roast. Because your roasts are being turned into ground beef and sausage, your sister will have to use the inner loins.

For your next deer, you might consider getting a few roasts. I use them for all kinds dishes, from shredded-meat burritos to jerky (after slicing, of course).

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November 12, 2015

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Dear Friends,

When I saw a recipe for an almost-flourless chocolate cake a couple of weeks ago, I had a brainstorm. I would try to make a pumpkin version of that rich, custard-y, slumped cake. Oh, boy. A totally new take on pumpkin.

I’m glad I did a Google search for “pumpkin custard cake” before I started. I created almost the exact cake for See Jane Cook in October 2012. Yikes. Am I becoming one of those people who repeat themselves as they get older except I do it with food, and in print? (If you notice this, send me an email. I’m serious.)

I’m equal parts terrified and gratified. I’m terrified that I totally forgot an entire cake. I’m gratified that, thanks to my poor memory, I have a terrific new (to me) recipe. In the 2012 article I described it as a cross between a cake and a soufflé “with a mousse-like texture and prominent pumpkin flavor accented with grated orange rind, vanilla and pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon.” The description jogged my memory, but to solidify it in my mind, I had to make the cake. I did, and it was delicious. I hope to heck I don’t forget it again.

In some oven-friendly cardboard mini cake pans I found at TJ Maxx I will bake little pumpkin soufflé cakes for the Countryside Conservancy’s Local Food Swap next Tuesday. This will be my first food swap. A couple of readers have been urging me to participate in the monthly events, where local food-lovers meet, mingle and trade homemade or home-produced food items. I will take four or five of the little cakes and three half-pint jars of my vanilla, quince and star anise brandy.

I would love it if some of you came to the swap, too. We can be first-timers together. Any kind of homemade item is welcome, from easy quick breads to seasoning mixes. Most of the food isn’t “gourmet.”

Take your contribution in small portions so you have several items to trade. Participation is free but you must sign up in advance. The swaps are held the third Tuesday of each month at various locations. This month’s venue is Summit Artspace in downtown Akron. For more information, go to https://countrysideconservancy.worldsecuresystems.com/BookingRetrieve.aspx?ID=61588.

If, like me, you forgot about this fab pumpkin cake, here’s the recipe. It could be the hero of the dessert table at Thanksgiving.

pumpkin 016
PUMPKIN SOUFFLE CAKES
•    1 1/2 cups canned or fresh pumpkin puree
•    6 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
•    Pinch of nutmeg
•    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
•    2 tsp. vanilla
•    8 large eggs, separated
•    1 cup sugar
•    1 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind
•    Salt
•    Pinch of cream of tarter
•    1/2 cup cake flour

Grease and flour a 10- to 11-inch springform pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using homemade pureed pumpkin, drain it in a fine mesh sieve until it is about the texture of canned pumpkin.

Place puree in a small bowl and microwave for 1 minute on high power, or until hot. Beat in butter a tablespoon at a time. Stir in nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks in the bowl of a mixer to combine. Continue beating while gradually adding 3/4 cup of the sugar. Beat at medium-high speed until mixture is thick and lemon-colored, and drops in a ribbon when the beater is lifted. Beat in orange rind, a pinch of salt and pumpkin mixture until smooth. Scrape into a large bowl.

In a clean mixer bowl, beat egg whites with the whisk attachment until frothy. Add cream of tartar and increase speed to high, beating until soft peaks form. Continue beating while adding remaining ¼ cup sugar a little at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Sift together flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt onto a piece of waxed paper. Pour back into sifter. Stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture to lighten it. Add half of the remaining egg whites and sift some of the flour over the batter. Gently fold. Continue folding remaining egg whites and sifted flour into the batter just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until cake begins to shrink from the sides of the pan and center is set. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge and remove springform sides. Cool completely. Top with whipped cream dusted with nutmeg, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

TIDBITS

Mike Vrobel of Copley has been a busy guy. Not only does he continue to write his well-received food blog, Dad Cooks Dinner (www.DadCooksDinner.com), but he just published his third book.

“Rotisserie Turkey” debuted in late October as an e-book and in paperback just in time for Thanksgiving. The book covers the basics of cooking the big bird on the grill and moves on to 29 recipes for whole turkeys, turkey breasts, brines, glazes and side dishes bathed in the drippings.

The book is $2.99 for the Kindle edition and $8.99 for paperback from Amazon.

THE MAILBAG

From Jane S.:
For the guy looking for Russian tea biscuits, they are available at Heinen’s. FYI, the brown sugar pear clafoutis from Orangette’s blog are terrific.

Dear Jane: Thanks. With all those pears in my crisper (they ripened perfectly), I need all the pear recipes I can get. I found the recipe you recommend at
http://orangette.blogspot.com/2013/10/it-made-impression.html/. It sounds like a winner.

From Diana:
My dad has a pear tree and he gave me lots of pears and so I made pear butter in the Crock-Pot! Originally it called for 6 cups of sugar, but it was delicious with only 1 cup of sugar.

Dear Diana: Good idea. Others who want to try this should peel, core and chunk up enough pears to fill the slow cooker half full. Add sugar, 1/2 to 1 cup pear or apple juice and spices if desired (cardamom would be delicious). Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours, until pears are very soft. Puree in a blender or food processor. Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks or freeze.

From Mickey Shankland, Rittman:
Here is my favorite meat loaf recipe — a bit different maybe.

MEAT LOAF MICKEY

•    2 1/2 lbs. meat loaf mix (ground beef and pork)
•    3 eggs
•    1/2 green pepper, chopped
•    1 1/2 tsp. oregano
•    1 tsp. garlic salt
•    2 tbsp. minced onion
•    3/4 cup barbecue sauce (I Use Sweet Baby Ray’s)
•    1 cup Grapenuts cereal
•    1 tsp. Lowery’s Seasoning Salt
•    1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
•    4 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
•    6 oz. shredded cheese (any kind)
•    1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
•    Bacon Strips

Mix everything except bacon strips with half of the tomato sauce. Shape into 2 loaves in a baking pan. Spread remaining tomato sauce on top and then bacon strips. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Serves 12.

From Virginia Braun:
This weather turns my mind to winter cooking like chili and meat loaf. I call it steaming up the windows — which begins with preserving foods for later. Your recipe is similar to my mom’s favorite from years ago. She only used Wonder’s white bread crumbs so I gave it up years ago when I switched to whole grains. Do you too use white bread?  If so, many label whole wheat breads still contain lots of white flour so do you think they would work? We just returned from St. Augustine, Fla., and my husband had a Cuban meat loaf sandwich at Mango Mangoes. (His only non-fish meal in 10 days.) He found it to be the best he’s ever eaten and the reluctantly given bite I had was awesome! They’d give no info out about their special spice mix. That same meat loaf-loving husband makes a pretty mean slow cooker one himself. The grandchildren asked for the recipe to give their mom! Keep steaming up those windows and sharing the results with us!

Dear Virginia: If your husband figures out a recipe for that Cuban meat loaf, I hope he shares. As for bread crumbs, I use whatever fresh bread I have on hand (except rye). Whole-grain bread makes great bread crumbs. Just tear the pieces into chunks and pulse them in your processor.

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November 6, 2015

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up here to have newsletter appear every Wednesday in your email in box. Join us!

Dear friends,

I just spent 30 minutes getting a head of cauliflower ready to roast and I’m nowhere near done. I still have to make homemade harissa and an orange and onion salad before the recipe is ready for the table. Jeez. I’m not against spending a few hours in the kitchen, but for a side dish??

Recipes within recipes (first make harissa, page 60….) is one of the problems with “Mad Delicious, The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!” by Keith Schroeder. The book won a James Beard Award last year. I checked it out of the library in my cookbook preview project. I’m trying recipe from library books to see which are worth buying.

The premise of “Mad Delicious” hooked me, and I like the way the recipes are written. Beside each ingredient is an explanation for why it’s included. Most of the science is pretty basic – citrus juice tightens chicken skin, sugar promotes caramelization, stock is richer than water – but Schroeder surprised me more than once with a technique. For example, in a penne pasta recipe he toasts the dry pasta in a skillet and cooks it risotto-style to produce a creamy sauce without the cream.

The proof is in the tasting, though, and I’m still mulling over whether the two recipes I tried are good enough to buy the book. Ground turkey in lettuce wraps was a fun dinner made yummier by my last-minute addition of hoisin sauce. I’ve made this dish before and I like my recipe better. Then again, this was a healthful version made with ground turkey rather than pork. I’ll give it a B plus with my addition of hoisin.

Ok, the roast cauliflower with a raisin paste and Moroccan spices is now done. I am underwhelmed. I guess I won’t buy the book. I might make the lettuce wraps again, though, and I’m looking forward to trying that new pasta technique.

janesnow-lettuce

SRIRACHA-SPIKED TURKEY WITH BIBB WRAPS

2 tbsp. sriracha sauce
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 lb. ground turkey
1/4 cup sliced green onions
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 minced Thai chilies
8 leaves bibb lettuce
1 cup matchstick-cut cucumber
1 cup matchstick-cut carrot
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Combine sriracha and oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook 3 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Add the onion and ginger. Stir for a minute. Add the turkey, raise heat to high and cook 6 minutes, stirring until meat is scattered throughout the pan. As long as nothing is burning, keep the heat cranked and the turkey moving.

When the turkey is cooked through and slightly crisped, turn off the heat. Toss in the green onions, lime juice, peanuts, fish sauce and Thai chilies. Fold to combine.

Divide the turkey mixture evenly among the lettuce leaves. Top each with 2 tablespoons cucumber, 2 tablespoons carrot and 1 tablespoon cilantro (and a squiggle of hoisin sauce, if desired). Serve with fresh lime wedges. Makes 8 wraps, two per serving.

HELP U COOK
Thanks to our pear tree and my newly gained knowledge of the art of pear ripening, I have more pears than I can eat this autumn. To use them up I’ve been making simple pear tarts for Tony. If you already know how to do this, forgive me. If not, here’s how to throw together an extremely quick, lower-calorie (than the classic version) pear or apple tart:

Thaw one sheet of puff pastry according to package directions. On a lightly floured surface, roll it with a rolling pin until large enough to fit inside a 10-inch springform pan, with 1/2-inch excess all around. Fit into bottom of pan, pressing the excess up the sides. Trim off the corners and use them to patch any torn areas.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel three firm pears, cut in fourths lengthwise and trim away the cores. Cut each fourth in half lengthwise, yielding 8 pieces per pear. Arrange in a pinwheel fashion (one end pointing toward the center, one toward the rim) around the outer edge of the pastry. The pear pieces should almost touch. Arrange another circle of pear pieces inside the first, and so on until the pastry is covered. You may have to peel more pears.

Dot top of tart with about one-half tablespoon butter cut into bits. Dust lightly but evenly with powdered sugar. Use more sugar if fruit is tart; less if it is sweet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, until the fruit is soft and the pastry begins to brown. Cool slightly, then remove the sides of the pan.

Makes 1 tart.
TIDBIT

The winner of the Ken Stewart’s meatloaf face-off was bartender Carol Giacobone. I misspelled her last name in my Oct. 21 newsletter. Sorry, Carol.

THE MAILBAG

From Mary, Rocky River:
I purchased vanilla beans in bulk online. They’ve been in my fridge for months and have since shriveled and have a light white coating on the ends.  Are they still good? Can I still make homemade vanilla if they’re too shriveled to cut and scrape out the seeds?  What proof vodka is used?

Dear Mary, The coating is probably crystallized vanillin, not mold. Check out this photo of the phenomenon: http://www.amadeusvanillabeans.com/pictures/vanillin.php. Then give them the sniff test. If they smell moldy, toss them. If not, bring them to room temperature and rehydrate the beans in vodka – any proof. No need to scrape out the seeds; use the entire pod. If desired, cut the pods into pieces to increase the surface area exposed to the alcohol.

From Cindy P.:
Regarding your search for the best meatloaf, I suggest you Google “bobotie” recipes. Bobotie is a South African meatloaf I first made more than 30 years ago. I don’t have much use for following recipes once I try making one, so I improvise. This style of meatloaf, with spices I love along with almonds, raisins, and chutney, is my absolute favorite. In fact, I don’t think I’ve made any other style meatloaf since I discovered this recipe. I’ve substituted other dried fruits, marmalade or fruity salsa instead of chutney; oats or breadcrumbs instead of bread; used beef/lamb/pork/ground turkey or combinations thereof, and it is always great.

Dear Cindy: How could I have missed bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tea, according to the BBC) all these years? According to Wikipedia, “It is thought to have originated from the Indonesian dish bobotok. Colonists from the Dutch East India Company colonies in Batavia (now Jakarta) probably introduced bobotie to South Africa. The first recipe for bobotie appeared in a Dutch cookbook in 1609.”

So it’s Indonesian filtered through Dutch settlers in South Africa. Or maybe Dutch as filtered through Indonesia and South Africa, as other sites claim.

The recipes are as varied as its history. Everyone agrees the dish is made with ground meat topped with an egg custard mixture and baked. Curry powder is almost universal. So is a binder of fresh bread, often soaked in milk. Quite a few recipes call for apricot jam instead of chutney. Almonds usually are added along with dried fruit such as raisins and apricots. Spices, in addition to curry, can include ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg and allspice – or none at all.

Of the recipes I found, the one that sounds the most like your version is at the Daring Gourmet, http://www.daringgourmet.com/2013/08/09/bobotie-south-african-meatloaf-casserole/. Can’t wait to try it.

From Geoff:
Many thanks to Debbie and Peggy for their recommendations on where to purchase unpasteurized apple cider.  As soon as I read them I went to the closest, Fruitland’s Farm Market in Deerfield, Peggy’s recommendation, and bought several jugs.  It was exactly what I’ve been looking for for years, a great sweet cider with lots of flavor.  As soon as it’s gone I’ll go to Walnut Creek, Debbie’s recommendation, buy more, and compare the two.  Thanks again to you both.

Dear Geoff: Here’s one more to add to your list:

From Marilyn:
My favorite cider is from River Styx Cider Mill at 8058 River Styx Rd., Wadsworth. They sell it out of a converted garage and make it out back in their little cider mill. Cash only and they say you can freeze it. It has a tart natural flavor and is not pasteurized.

From Beth B.: I grew up in Deerfield Township, and my mother still lives there. When visiting her last week, I stopped by the farm stand you mentioned, on Deerfield Circle. It has been advertising the unpasteurized cider on a sign for a couple of weeks. (I know that farm stand better in its previous incarnation as Larry’s Sohio.) The cider is from the nearby The Fruitlands of Carrington’s Farm, 3453 Wayland Road in Diamond, 330-654-2059. It is utterly delicious. My husband says it’s the best cider he’s ever tasted. There’s a family restaurant also on Deerfield Circle that is renowned for its gigantic pancake. I had it a couple of years go, and it was good and practically as big as a tire. I regret that I can’t think of anything else to recommend a trip to Deerfield, especially now that Berlin Reservoir has been lowered for the winter.

Dear Beth: Isn’t delicious cider and a pancake as big as a tire enough? Tony and I have eaten at the Circle Restaurant a couple of times and really like its down-home cooking. We have also stopped at the antique store/barn/warehouse between the farm stand and the restaurant. So that’s three reasons to visit Deerfield, which I’ve driven through thousands of times to and from my hometown of East Liverpool and first Kent State University, and then Akron.

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

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