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.

 

MOJITO GELATIN

 Image

  • 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.

HELP U COOK

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.
 

TIDBITS

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.

THE MAILBAG

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.

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