Jane on Popcorn

Dear Friends,

I adore Graham Elliot. I love the hipster cool of his white-frame eyeglasses and his innate kindness, but what melts my heart is the way he holds a fork in one of his ham fists, daintily slips a bite into his mouth and then stares into the distance, head tilted back, pondering the flavors.

Elliot is one of three judges on Gordon Ramsay’s “Master Chef” (Wednesdays on Fox), which is four weeks into its fourth season. And although the Chicago chef apparently isn’t always cute and cuddly (see Wikipedia’s entry about a tirade against the press and employee lawsuit regarding tip withholding), he is one of the reasons the reality competition is my favorite food show. Other reasons are the flamboyant personalities of some of the contestants (all home cooks) and the ridiculous feats they inspire me to in the kitchen.

“I’ve got a few minutes to spare before my doctor appointment,” I’ll muse, “might as well make some cheese.”

“Do you think you could be a contestant?” a friend asked recently. God, no. If I had to figure out how to cook an octopus tentacle in 45 minutes in a strange kitchen with a limited pantry and TV cameras in my face, I’d wet my pants. But I like to watch others excel or crumble under the pressure, and I love the sometimes-wacky dishes they produce.

So far this season, the most memorable concoction was the lobster-caramel popcorn that earned a contestant a spot on the show. A guy from New England was among the 100 cooks who made a signature dish on camera to try to snag one of 24 spots in the Master Chef kitchen. The judges scoffed until they tasted. Then they loved it.

I tried without success to find a recipe for that lobster caramel popcorn. Unfortunately, the combo is so strange  that I can’t duplicate it without tasting. But while searching I did turn up other wild  popcorn combinations. Who knew so much was happening in Orville Redenbacher’s world? (I actually met Orville once, by the way, and he gave me a clip-on bowtie that I still wear to costume parties.)

Among others, I found recipes for Cheddar-caramel popcorn, which supposedly is a Chicago thing; Buffalo-ranch popcorn, which I tried and hated; and truffle-Parmesan popcorn, which sounds promising. I’m sharing the truffle popcorn recipe from The Popcorn Board (who knew?) at www.popcornboard.org. It will have to do until we can find a recipe for lobster caramel corn. With all the popcorn shenanigans going on, it’s just a matter time.


  • 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. white truffle oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper

Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the truffle oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add 3 popcorn kernels. When a kernel pops, add remaining popcorn, cover and pop over medium-high heat, shaking pan constantly. When popping slows, remove from heat and transfer popcorn to a large serving bowl.

Melt butter and stir in the remaining truffle oil. Drizzle over popcorn, tossing. Sprinkle cheese, salt and pepper over popcorn and toss to distribute evenly. Serve immediately.


Someone asked me recently how to “peel” an avocado. If you’re as tempted as I am to make The Mailbag recipe that follows, you’ll need to know that and more. First, buy a fist-sized, wrinkly green-black avocado  that yields slightly to pressure, but not too much. Soft equals mushy. With a sharp knife, cut the avocado lengthwise all the way around, to the pit in the middle. With your hands, twist the halves apart. Hold the half with the pit in one hand and strike it with the sharp edge of the knife with the other hand. Hopefully, the knife blade sticks. Twist the knife and the pit will come away on the blade.

In the recipe below, the skin is left on. To remove the skin for other recipes, slip a spoon between the skin and flesh and pop out the flesh in one piece. If you want avocado slices, leave the avocado in the skin. Starting at one edge with a butter knife, cut slices and draw them up and out of the shell. Tony taught me to use a butter knife instead of a paring knife, which is too sharp and would mutilate the flesh.


From Pennie Fordham:
I love your idea for egg and lemon “hollandaise.” Will have to try it soon.
 I wanted to share an extremely easy breakfast recipe that has been floating around Facebook recently. It is for avocados (not from your garden, sadly) and eggs. Avocados are good for you right?


  • 1 avocado
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • Chili powder
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded cheese or salsa (optional)

Preheat oven to 425. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Leave the shell on.
Place the halves cut side up in a baking pan small enough to keep them from tipping. Crack an egg into the indentation in each half. (I always have more egg than avocado.) Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Season with salt, or chile powder if desired. Do it after cooking so you will more easily see how the eggs are cooking. Garnish with a little bit of diced tomatoes, or cheese or salsa. I don’t use anything.  Makes 2 servings.

I am sure you can improve on this — overflowing eggs, inconsistency in doneness in the eggs, but I just love it.

Also, I have a question for you. Is there a list of all the farmers markets in the area by date? I have a few memorized, but I would like to be able to go when the mood or need strikes.

Dear Pennie: First, the recipe. I’m intrigued, and because my husband buys avocados by the case (California sushi rolls are popular), I have a constant supply. Yes, avocados are good for you, relatively speaking. They contain fat but it’s mostly monounsaturated, the kind that is good for your heart (it may actually help lower blood cholesterol levels). Avocados aren’t exactly celery, however. One-half of a medium Haas avocado (those are the tasty, wrinkly greenish-black ones) has about 125 calories. Not celery, but not too bad. Since the entire raw egg won’t fit into the indentation left by the pit, why not either 1) scoop out more of the avocado or 2) buy medium rather than large eggs if you can find them? If you choose to scoop, go wide rather than deep, which should help the egg cook more evenly.

Regarding farmers markets, in May Beacon Journal food writer Lisa Abraham published the list you want  (http://www.ohio.com/lifestyle/food/2013-farmers-markets-1.399637). The markets have become so popular, she says, that more than 30 now operate in the five counties that surround Akron.  I’m a member of the board of directors of Copley Creekside Farmers Market, so that’s where I usually shop from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

From Ron Chamberlain:

Regarding arugula, could you sauté it like spinach? We like spinach sautéed in a little olive oil,  garlic and bacon bits. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  A whole bag of grocery-store spinach makes enough for two or three.

Dear Ron: I don’t cook arugula because I’m afraid heat would kill the peppery bite – to me, its primary allure. However, a friend who carted home some of my excess reported the next day that her sautéed arugula was delicious.

From D.H.:

I’m sending you a photo of a rice holder I’d like to purchase. What are they called and where might I order one? A Japanese friend said it was called a “hitsu.” Googling didn’t help.

Dear D.H.: The lidded rice tub in your photo looks like a cross between a hangiri (http://www.thekitchn.com/a-roundup-of-sushimaking-essen-103264) and an insulated rice tub. (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dgarden&field-keywords=insulated+sushi+rice+containerr&rh=n%3A1055398%2Ck%3Ainsulated+sushi+rice+containerr).
Sushi chefs cool and season cooked sushi rice in a hangiri, a wide, shallow, flat-bottomed wooden vessel that looks like a barrel that has been chopped off 5 inches from the bottom. The tub in your photo looks similar, but it is small and deep rather than shallow and wide. Tony brought his hangiri from Tokyo many years ago and uses it every day. His is about 3 feet in diameter. The cooked rice is transferred  in a precise manner to the hangiri (the rice is scattered with a wooden paddle in a back-and-forth motion to separate the grains). Then it is seasoned with vinegar, sugar and secret ingredients, turned and separated with the paddle some more, and then fanned for 10 to 15 minutes, turning rice once.

Traditionally, pleated paper fans were used. Tony has switched to a small electric fan. The turning and fanning process prevents the rice from becoming gummy and leaves  each grain of rice separate, while still able to stick together.

Then the rice is transferred to an insulated tub (Tony’s is metal) and placed beside the chef for making the sushi. The hangiri is not covered, while the insulated tub is covered with a damp cloth. Leftover rice is never refrigerated and saved for the next day, because that would change the texture that has been so painstakingly achieved.

Mowing the Garden

Dear Friends,

I mowed the garden Monday morning. Mowing is the latest weapon in my epic 6-year battle with weeds. I’ve tried and failed with a lot of methods, but mowing just may work.  I read about the technique recently in the Beacon Journal. The rows of vegetables are planted a mower width apart and instead of weeding the walkways, you just mow them. The vegetable rows are protected by permeable ground cloth.

My garden looks manicured and green. Already the broccoli is heading, the squash are blooming and tiny kale leaves are peeking from the soil. The haricots vert are six inches high, and the Asian eggplants are  beginning to flower. I even spotted my first ripe tomato yesterday, but didn’t pick it. I want to look at it longer, even if it is just a tiny Sun Gold.

Each morning the dog and I make our rounds, harvesting a handful of sugar snap peas from the vines I planted in the flower garden and snapping a few slender stalks of asparagus from the bed in the side yard. Today I found one ripe blueberry and ate it on the spot, sun-warm and sweet. The blackberries are blooming like crazy and the elderberry bushes are sporting dozens of flat-topped, lacy flowers. This may be a very good year.

Sadly, I can’t turn the fruit into sorbet or smother the vegetables in hollandaise. I’m dieting, remember? I’ve lost 15 pounds and one pant size and was feeling pretty good until Tony called me his “chubby cookie” yesterday. I’d kill him if I wasn’t so weak.

On the bright side, those snap peas and asparagus arrived just in time to save me from all those carborific winter root vegetables. I think I’d strangle myself with knotweed If I didn’t have asparagus and fresh herbs to allay the hunger. Basically I’m eating lean protein and vegetables with little or no fat. This is how I’m supposed to eat all the time, but gradually I regressed with a slice of pizza here and a spoonful of peanut butter there. The clerks at the frozen yogurt shop began greeting me by name. When I realized I was gulping Tylenol daily for my aching legs, I retired my frequent-customer card.

My favorite dinner right now is steamed asparagus with lemon and poached eggs. I simmer the spears in a medium skillet, pile them on a a salad plate and squeeze a lot of lemon juice over them. In the same skillet I bring the warm asparagus water almost to a simmer, swirl the water in a circle with a spoon, and slide in two shelled eggs. Three minutes produces perfection: firm whites and soft yolks that I transfer to the asparagus with a slotted spoon. After a dusting of coarse salt and  fresh-ground pepper, I stab the eggs with a fork. The liquid yolks flow into the lemon juice, producing a hollandaise-like sauce.

I suppose this could be a side dish instead of an entrée if you’re a lean runner or just don’t give a damn. But with an arugula salad on the side, I think it makes a fine spring dinner.



Per person:

  • 1 handful of asparagus
  • 1/2 of a lemon
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Fresh-ground black pepper

Wash the asparagus. Cut off the woody ends and shave the cut end with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Place the asparagus and about 1 1/2 inches of water in a medium skillet. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until asparagus is barely tender. Remove from water with tongs and place on a salad plate.

Stick a fork in the cut side of the lemon and squeeze the juice over the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Heat the asparagus water until it barely begins to simmer. While the water heats, break two eggs into a custard cup. With a spoon, swirl the water in the skillet to produce an eddy, and slide the eggs into the center. (The swirling will keep the whites in a tight ring around the yolks unless you stirred too frantically, in which case bits of white will spin off like comets.)

Cover the pan and maintain a slow simmer for 3 minutes. Remove each poached egg with a slotted spoon and place on top of the asparagus. Season with pepper and more salt. Makes 1 serving.


Breakfast lately has been a half-cup of Fage plain Greek yogurt topped with rhubarb sauce. I’ve been craving rhubarb yogurt since a reader mentioned a commercial brand last spring. The beauty of my homemade version is that it’s sugar-free and absolutely clobbers you with rhubarb flavor. Here’s a refresher on making rhubarb sauce. It freezes well.


  • 4 cups rhubarb in 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 lbs.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or 3 to 4 tbsp. Splenda Granular) or to taste
  • 2 tbsp. water

Combine rhubarb, sugar or Splenda and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Simmer covered over low heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Stir well and continue cooking uncovered until liquid reduces and rhubarb forms a smooth sauce. If necessary, add more sugar to taste. Serve warm or cold.

Note: Splenda Granular is not the formula that comes in single-serve packets, nor Splenda for Baking.  Splenda Granular is formulated to be substituted 1-for-1 with regular sugar. It is sold in resealable plastic bags. Read the packages carefully.


From Dan H.:

My question to you (and maybe Tony) is: What kind of indoor grilling apparatus (stovetop or tabletop) would you recommend for yakitori and/or bulgogi? I do not have access to large cooking quarters but would like to be able to prepare these delights at home. Any suggestions?

Dear Dan: You need an electric tabletop grill. Tony had several when I met him, but none worked very well. They didn’t get hot enough to cook meat efficiently. So buy a good one rather than a cheap one, and make sure it’s a grill, not a griddle. Many griddles – with solid surfaces rather  than wire grill  surfaces – go by the name “grill,” so it can be confusing. The industry calls one an an open grill and the other a contact grill. You want an open grill. Both types are reviewed at http://bbq.about.com/od/indoorgrills/tp/aatp100405a.htm.

From Michele Smith:

Came across this link to an arugula potato salad and since you have a bumper crop, thought I would share: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/lemon-arugula-potato-salad-10000001988527/.

Dear Michele: The salad looks awesome. It would be great to take to a potluck – colorful and slightly different from the norm.

From Jan Cramer, Uniontown:

You brought back such memories of family holiday dinners in the 60s with my aunty Lu. Her “special” salad for all good holiday occasions was lime Jell-O in a gorgeous cut glass ring-shaped dish into which she arranged drained pear halves just touching all the way around with a huge maraschino cherry in the center of the pear. Even though my tastes have progressed over the years, this is still a great flavor combination. It was really a pretty to look at salad, also. Everyone in the family looked forward to it.

Dear Jan: I’ve seen that lime-pear Jell-O salad in the distant past. And I will admit that I have fond

memories of a lime Jell-O, chopped walnut and cottage cheese salad a neighbor made when I was a kid. Out of curiosity, I searched for the recipe and found it on Cooks.com. Just as I recalled, it contains lime gelatin, chopped walnuts and cottage cheese, plus pineapple. Cooks are instructed to “Add one-half cup Miracle Whip “if desired.” Tony would love it.


From Sura Sevastopoulos:

Speaking of artichoke festivals, last year my husband and I were visiting friends on the island of Tinos, Greece, and were lucky to be there during one village’s annual artichoke festival. All the families in the village cooked up their specialties, which included fritters, casseroles, croquettes, soups, sautés, creamed dishes, cookies, chocolates, you name it….and all was given free to visitors from all around. Even the candle holders and flower pots were made from huge artichokes, stuck in walls and on tables all over the village. We were in heaven!

Dear Sura: Wowee, did you get lucky! Sounds incredible.

Jane on Jell-O

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Dear Friends,

I gave up life as a food diva to traffic in Lime Jell-O and Ragu Spaghetti Sauce. That’s basically what happened when I quit my job as a food editor and restaurant critic, married a sushi chef and acquired two cats, a dog and a house on two acres in the country.

Tony’s love of lowbrow food is a throwback to his childhood as the son of a chef who cooked for American G.I.s after World War II in a restaurant near Chitose Air Base in Hokkaido, Japan. American food remains popular in Japan, but much of it reflects the taste of a 1950s American soldier. Miracle Whip, Ketchup, Sanka and Ritz Crackers are some of the mainstays.

Even so, Tony’s love of lime Jell-O surprised me because the Japanese are crazy about real gelatin. They flavor it with fish broth or vegetables and serve it for lunch or infuse it with fruit juice and stock it with fruit for dessert. It is made in interesting flavors such as coffee and cucumber. It is molded or cut into elegant shapes. The gelatin is seaweed-derived and is known there as kanten and here as agar-agar.

Now, while I consider Jell-O an American icon, the faux flavor and artificial color (especially grating in lime)  would not appeal to a Japanese sushi  chef, I thought. I was wrong. He loves it.

I don’t, though, which is why I made lime gelatin from scratch last week. Because  I was controlling the flavor, I figured I’d create something fancier than plain lime. I added chopped fresh mint to some of the water in the recipe, infused it, married it with the lime juice and powdered gelatin, and stashed it in the fridge to set. Voila! Mojito gelatin.

I reduced the amount of mint in the final version I’m sharing because I thought it was too strong. No one else did, though, so if you really like mint, go for it. This gelatin does taste like a mojito cocktail. I don’t think kids would like it, but four adults pronounced it “refreshing” and ate every last  quivering drop.

Note: Because Tony and I are trying to avoid sugar, I made the gelatin with Splenda granular. You may substitute one-half cup of sugar if desired.




  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • Grated rind of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature water
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 6 tbsp. Splenda granular
  • 1 cup ice water

Stir mint into boiling water, cover and let stand off heat for 15 minutes. Strain and discard mint and return water to pan (or just pluck out the mint with tongs).

Combine lime juice, grated rind and the half-cup water in a medium bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the liquids and let stand 1 minute to soften. Meanwhile, bring mint water back to a boil.

Stir Splenda and hot mint water into the lime-gelatin mixture. Stir for 5 minutes to completely dissolve gelatin. Stir in ice water. Pour into 4 to 6 stemmed goblets and chill until set, at least 4 hours. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Oranges are OK. Figs are out. Lemon juice is just peachy (as are peaches), but fresh pineapple will made your gelatin watery no matter how long you chill it.

You probably know that the enzymes in certain foods will prevent gelatin from setting up, but you’re probably hazy about which foods are the culprits. Here’s a short list of add-ins to avoid when making gelatin: ginger, papaya, figs, mango, guava, kiwi fruit and pineapple. Just the fresh versions have the enzyme. Cooked or canned versions, such as crushed pineapple, are safe to use.


Cuyahoga Falls food blogger Kathy Carano will be the guest chef at this week’s Copley Creekside Farmers Market. Come on out and say hi and have a sample of whatever Kathy decides to cook. The market runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays in the field beside the River City Gift Shoppe at 1245 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, just north of Copley Circle.


From Mauri O’Brodo:
We have some fantastic Brookside Natural Casing all beef hotdogs for $9.25 for a 2 pound package.  They are made locally in Cleveland.

Dear Mauri: Thanks for the heads-up. I didn’t realize we had  locally made gourmet dogs. Sherman Provision is at 3998 Johnson Road in Norton, phone 330-825-2711.

From Mike, Akron:

I, too, have a weakness for hot dogs (indeed, most forms of processed meat, for better or worse). By far, the best (best!) hot dogs I’ve ever had come from Duma’s Meats in Mogadore. A fantastic butcher all around, their all-beef hot dogs are huge, natural casing and have a nice black pepper accent. In fact, it’s almost belittling to call these gems hot dogs. And they’re cheap too (though, maybe more expensive than your average pack of Gwaltneys). Cheers!

Dear Mike: Ah, another great local dog. Dang, I may have to try one.

From Patti:

Do you have any recipes you can share for using whole artichokes?  My sister just asked for ideas and I told her the only thing I have done with them is hollow them out and fill them with dip on a vegetable platter.

Dear Patti: You’re missing some good eating. The next time, steam the whole artichokes for about 20 minutes (or cook standing upright in a covered pan in an inch of water for about 20 minutes), until the bottom can be pierced easily with a knife. Chill, hollow them out as usual and fill  with dip. Then pluck out the petals one by one, dunking them in the dip and scraping off the good stuff from the fleshy end by dragging it between your teeth. Discard the rest of the petal.

A slew of other recipes, from soups to cheesecake, can be found at the website of the Artichoke Festival in Castroville, Calif. Last month the town hosted its 53rd bash for the prickly thistle. Go to  http://www.artichoke-festival.org/.

From Diana Herhold:
In the soup cookbook from the restaurant that used to be on Ghent Road in Bath, there is a recipe for a lettuce soup. I used our in-the-process-of-wilting mixed greens and it was DELICIOUS!!! Guess you could substitute the arugula for the lettuce.

Dear Diana: Every recipe I’ve tried from that book has been great. The slim ring-bound volume, “Soups” by George Dobrin, contains recipes for the soups he served at the former Dobie’s Corners, a much-loved Bath restaurant in the 1980s. I’ve seen it for sale at Don Drumm in Akron.

Arugula Overload

Dear Friends,

I have an arugula problem. I have bouquets of it. Baskets of it. My crisper is filled with dish towels gently rolled around wads of it. And still it keeps coming.

I know I’m bragging but I’ve earned the right. I’ve suffered through many arugula-less Mays and Junes, waiting for seeds to sprout in various outdoor locations around my property.

This year I’ve been grazing on on arugula since early May, thanks to the deep, raised beds my husband built in our homemade greenhouse. The beds were a requested Christmas gift. They’re about knee height and filled with a 60-40 mixture of top soil and compost.

Arugula and mesclun mix love the environment. The cilantro is sparse and a critter ate the snap peas before they could sprout, but a crop of basil is coming along nicely.


But all that arugula! I love the spicy greens so much that I can’t stand to waste it. The big salads I’m making daily barely make a dent in the supply. If anyone has a recipe that uses a bunch of it, please send it immediately. If any of my friends read this and want some, please stop by.

Meanwhile, I scrounged up just one recipe to try, Arugula Pesto from chef Michael Chiarello. You can skip the blanching and ice-water bath if you don’t mind a less-than-vibrant green color in the finished sauce.  To me, the sharp, spicy flavor of raw arugula takes precedence over the color.



  • 4 cups packed fresh arugula 
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted, plus 1 tbsp.
  • 1/8 tsp. vitamin C (for color retention, optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh-grated Parmesan

Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the arugula in a large sieve and plunge it into the boiling water. Immediately immerse all the arugula and stir so that it blanches evenly. Blanch for about 15 seconds. Remove, shake off the excess water, then plunge the arugula into the ice water bath and stir again so it cools as fast as possible. Drain well.

Squeeze the water out of the arugula with your hands until very dry. Roughly chop the arugula and put in a blender. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, and the vitamin C, if using. Blend for at least 30 seconds. In this way the green of the arugula will thoroughly color the oil. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. The pesto will keep several days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Pull out before dinner to get to room temperature. Before serving, add the remaining 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts.

Arugula may be used as a pasta sauce, on pizza or bruschetta, or any other way you would use basil pesto.




Nowadays you can’t swing a cat in the summer without hitting some farmer trying to sell you French breakfast radishes or just-picked tomatoes. That’s a good thing. I’m lucky to be within cat-swinging distance of one of the nicer farmers’ markets to pop up in the last couple of years. The grand opening of this year’s Copley Creekside Farmers market is this Thursday (June 6), and I’ll be there cooking. Please drop by, introduce yourself and have a taste.

The market runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays in the field beside River City Gift Shoppe at 1245 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, just north of Copley Circle. Forty vendors have signed up so far this year, says market manager Lois Mitchell. All of them either grow or produce what they sell.

A list of vendors and other details are on the market’s website, http://www.copleycreeksidefarmersmarket.com/.




From Leslie:

In the yakitori recipe last week, is it 14 C. wine or 1/4 C. wine?  34 inch pieces of green onion or 3 or 4 inch pieces.??

Gotta watch the proofreading better!

Dear Leslie: A glitch in the computer program turned my fractions into whole numbers in that portion of the newsletter. Both my editor and I apologize. The correct amounts are one-fourth cup wine and three-quarter-inch pieces of green onion.


From Tim C., Sagamore Hills:

Do you have a brand of hot dogs you like best?

Dear Tim: I love hot dogs. I love the kind you get steamed, bun and all, from the vendors at the ballpark. I love them sizzling and slightly charred from the grill. I love all-beef, beef and pork and mystery meat dogs. I adore celery seed-dusted Chicago dogs and lean Sabrett wieners bought from New York City sidewalk vendors. In fact, I love every kind of hot dogs except chicken and turkey dogs, which are abominations.  And don’t even mention tofu dogs.

Sadly, advancing years and a waistline I must watch like a hawk preclude much hot dog chomping these days. Ones I recall with special fondness are the natural-casing gourmet wieners from the meat case at West Point Market, and those all-beef Sabretts. If I knew where I could get one of the latter, I might treat myself.


From Barbara:

You have written many times about your “sun dried tomatoes.”  Can you share the recipe?  I usually can all my produce, but the tomatoes sound wonderful.  When you freeze them, do you use just a zip bag or the food saver machine?

Dear Barbara: I’ve shared the recipe before for my half-dried tomatoes but I’m happy to do so again. Last weekend I planted two Sun Gold tomato seedlings so I can make more this summer. Even though every celebrity chef and Internet food blogger now touts half-dried tomatoes, I still think I invented them. (Just like I thought I had invented chicken paprikas in 1974.) I’ve been making them for years.

Cut cherry tomatoes in halves, place cut-sides up on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake uncovered at 300 degrees until the tops are dry to the touch but the tomatoes are still soft and pliable. The baking time will vary depending on the size of the tomatoes. Half-drying concentrates the flavors but doesn’t dry them out. I think half-dried tomatoes have a better texture and flavor than fully dried ones. I use them all winter in salads.

For long-term storage, cool then freeze in snack-size zipper-lock freezer bags.