Tomato Pizza

Dear Friends, 
Graham Elliot drilled me with a stare as Joe Bastianich lounged nearby, sneering. I stood at the bare kitchen counter, coiled for action.

“One stunning pizza!” barked Gordon Ramsay, forefinger stabbing the sky. “You have 60 minutes. Go!”

Well, not exactly. But that’s what it felt like last week when I decided to make a   pizza from scratch without glancing at a recipe, like the MasterChef contestants do. I had just watched Luca win the whole shebang with a 60-minute three-course meal of pan-seared   duck liver on brioche with caramelized peaches; tamarind-balsamic glazed short ribs with chanterelle mushrooms and sunchoke-truffle puree; and basil panna cotta with tomato jam and mascarpone honey cream. Surely I could make one stinkin’ pizza.

I cook without recipes all the time, and create new recipes weekly for this column. But I  rely on techniques, not specific recipes. When I want to make Béarnaise sauce I still have to look it up. I know I’ll use eggs, butter and tarragon, but who keeps proportions for something like that in their memory?

Excuse me for harping on this issue (I know I wrote about it at least once before), but I’m equal parts amazed and skeptical when I watch the MasterChef contestants dive into a pile of ingredients and produce a soufflé, say, without consulting Julia. A buerre blanc, yes. Braised short ribs, sure. But a panna cotta, for crying out loud?

I’ve made pizza enough times to know the techniques but not enough to memorize a recipe. I began tossing ingredients into the bowl of my mixer – four cups of bread flour, a teaspoon of yeast, a teaspoon salt. Then while the motor ran, I added water in a slow stream until a dough formed around the beater. I pinched it. Dough isn’t supposed to feel like modeling clay, so I added more water until it was soft but springy.

After kneading the dough for five minutes with the mixer, I let it rise in a bowl on the stove for about 45 minutes. I preheated the oven to 450 degrees while I shaped and topped the dough.

My pizza turned out pretty good. Joe Bastianich probably wouldn’t have been impressed, but is he ever, by anything?

Truthfully, I screwed up a couple of times. I used just one teaspoon of salt, when recipes call for two teaspoons for that amount of flour. The biggest screw-up was with my new pizza stone. I couldn’t figure out how to get the floppy uncooked pizza onto it. I floured my pizza paddle and shaped the pizza directly on top. The pizza would not slide off the paddle into the oven even with the help of a spatula. I learned later I should have coated the paddle with cornmeal instead of flour. I doubt even that would have worked.

Plan B was pushing and squishing the pizza onto a baking sheet and reshaping it into some semblance of a circle. I removed the stone from the oven and used just the baking sheet. The pizza turned out great, but I bet Gordon would have sent me home anyway for being such a dunce.

Before I began shaping the second hunk of dough I called Tony at the restaurant to tell him there was homemade pizza for dinner. “I’m excited!” he shouted without a trace of irony. That made my day. Before he even tasted the pizza, I scored with the only judge who counts.


  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup water

Place flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. With the paddle blade, mix briefly. With mixer running at medium-low speed, add water a little at a time until a dough forms and gathers around the paddle. Stop the mixer and feel the dough. If it feels like clay, add more water with the motor running until dough is soft but not sticky. Change to the dough hook and continue mixing on medium-low speed for 5 minutes (this kneads the dough).

Remove dough from mixer and, with floured hands, knead until smooth and elastic. This should just take three or four turns. Place in a greased bowl, turn dough to grease top, and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a warm place for 1 hour or refrigerate to rise overnight.

Divide dough in half and place one portion in a freezer bag. Freeze for later use. Stretch the remaining dough into a 15- to 16-inch circle. Place on a pizza pan or baking sheet.


  • 1 pizza dough shell
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes

Make pizza shell according to previous recipe. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons olive oil over unbaked pizza shell and spread evenly over dough. Sprinkle lightly with salt  and half of the Parmesan and mozzarella. Scatter all of basil over the cheeses. With a serrated knife, cut  tomatoes into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange in a single layer over pizza. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, until dough is brown. Cut into wedges to serve.


To get a crisp crust on pizza, you need a pizza stone or unglazed terra cotta tiles. The tiles can be found at a tile store. Take your oven rack and have the tiles cut to fit. The tiles may be left in the oven. They will held spread the oven heat  more evenly.

Wiki-How can tell you everything you need to know about using a pizza stone ( The most important point are:
•    Dust the pizza peel with  corn meal to help the uncooked pizza slide onto the stone or tiles.
•    Never put a pizza stone into a hot oven or it may crack. Place it in the oven before preheating.
•    Don’t put a frozen pizza onto the hot pizza stone for the same reason.
•    Don’t soak a pizza stone in water or wash it with soap. Use plain running water only.
•    Don’t try to remove oil that has soaked into the stone during cooking. The oil helps season the stone.


From Becky:
I cook with round steak a few times a month in the winter months. I cut the round steak in serving-size pieces, brown in butter then add one sliced onion and salt and pepper and barbecue sauce ( how much sauce will depend on your taste and how much round steak you are cooking). Then I add  water to cover meat, cover the pan and cook over medium heat until the meat is tender and the water is almost gone. This leaves a gravy.  My family just loves it and we use the gravy over mashed potatoes.
It’s a great idea for round steak  and Sunday dinner.

Dear Becky: That sounds really good, but again, I can’t bring myself to pay $5 or $6 a pound for round steak when cuts from the loin are on sale for $6 to $7 a pound.

From Jodie Grasgreen DeLamatre:
My brother is an excellent baker and is in the Pillsbury Bake-Off for the second time. This year, he needs people to vote for him.  See information below.  He truly is an excellent baker. 
Ok, my Brown Sugar Topped Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake is a semi-finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.  For the next two weeks, people need to register at and vote for my recipe to be in the finals.  If I make it to the finals, the Bake-Off is the second week in November in Las Vegas. You can see a picture of my coffee cake and click to get the recipe if you want to make it.

Dear Jodie: I voted for your brother, who lives in Houston, Tex., and also for a couple of local contestants. Janet Gill of Canton entered a Mocha Cappuccino Pull Apart Coffee Cake that looks amazing, and Dennis Deel of Wooster entered a Cheesy Chorizo Breakfast Pizza.

The public is choosing 33 finalists from the 60 recipes in the Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts category. Voting in two other categories in this year’s contest – Amazing Doable Dinners and Simple Sweets and Starters – already has closed. In all, 100 finalists in the three categories will be chosen by the public to cook at the finals in November.

From T.K.:
Is there any way to find or buy morel mushrooms beside traipsing through the woods in the spring and stepping on a snake? Yikes!

Dear T.K.: I like a person who begins thinking about spring in mid-September. Yes, there’s a way to get your hands on morels other than hunting them, but it’s not painless. West Point Market in Akron buys from local foragers in the spring and sells the fresh mushrooms at the going rate, which is upwards of $40 a pound.

Please tell your friends about my Facebook page at A link to this newsletter is posted weekly on the site.

And don’t forget about my new blog site (, where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters and more and bigger photos.

Stretching Summer Corn Season

Dear Friends,

I’ve been eating raw corn.  This summer the fresh corn has been so tender that sometimes I haven’t even bothered to cook it. The ears I bought this week were a different story. The cooler weather is giving the kernels a tougher exterior. The corn isn’t as sweet as it was a month ago, either.

Instead of giving up on corn for the year, I’ve given up eating it raw. I’m messing with it more than I did when it was tender. I sauté it with green beans or roast it for salsa. I turn it into corn pudding.

I’ll be serving a lot more corn pudding now that I figured out how to make it in small batches in 15 minutes or less, including cutting the corn from the cob. This isn’t your mama’s corn pudding. The texture is so light and airy it tastes almost whipped.

The corn pudding is thickened with cornstarch and microwaved. It is enriched with egg yolk stirred in near the end of the cooking time to prevent it from curdling. Fresh from the microwave, a bit of butter and shredded pepper Jack cheese are added and given time to melt before pouring the pudding into custard cups for cooling.

If you’re in a hurry you can cool it in the freezer for about 20 to 30 minutes before serving. The pudding thickens as it cools. It tastes even better than raw corn, and is just a tiny bit more trouble.



  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. flour
  • Dash of salt, pepper
  • 1 cup half and half or milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tbsp. butter, in pieces
  • 1/4 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese

Place corn kernels in a 2-cup glass measure, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high power for 1 minute, until corn is tender. Remove from oven and stir in sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt and pepper. Stir in the half and half or milk and beat with a fork until smooth. Microwave on high power for about 2 minutes or until the mixture boils and rises to the top of the mug. Remove from oven and gently stir. Do not stir rapidly or the pudding will become watery as it cools.

Slowly drizzle, drop by drop, about 4 tablespoons of the hot mixture over the egg yolks in a custard cup, beating rapidly to prevent egg from curdling. With a rubber spatula scrape egg mixture into the pudding mixture in mug and stir slowly but thoroughly. Microwave on high power for about 25 seconds or until custard just starts to boil. Add butter and and cheese and let stand for 2 minutes to melt. Stir gently. Pour into 3 or 4 custard cups. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes, until pudding is set but still warm. Serve warm or chilled.




Check out my recipe for a killer tomato tart in  From Garden to Table, my new eating-fresh blog on HGExpo the Online Home & Garden Show’s website ( Last week I was up to my patootie in heirloom tomatoes and there was a half container of ricotta cheese in the refrigerator. So I lined a tart shell with a ricotta-herb custard and layered slices of tomato over it before baking. What a way to eat tomatoes.  Mmmm.

Fine dining deal:
You can’t beat the price of the weekly four-course tasting menu at Vaccaro’s Trattoria in Bath Township. Every Wednesday and Thursday evening the Italian restaurant  offers a chef’s menu or four courses  PLUS four wines for $35. What a bargain. The only rule is you must reserve in advance by phoning 330-666-6158.


From Michele:
Janie  girl, I gave you that jar of Uncle Gizzy’s Horseradish. I buy it from Uncle Gizzy at the Hartville Flea Market. When in season, he has a table under the outdoor produce concourse. It’s the BEST!

Dear Michele: Thanks for jogging my memory. It IS good horseradish. Thank you for the gift, in case I  forgot that, too.

From Jean Barron:
Uncle Gizzy’s Horseradish is sold at flea markets. I’ve seen it at Four Seasons on Sundays in Campbell, which is on Route 422 near Youngstown and at Jamie’s on Saturdays in South Amherst, Ohio. I’m not sure if they set up at Hartville. They used to set up regularly but I’ve noticed lately that they are not there every flea market day. I spoke to the vendor and got a phone number: 330-524-4240. He will soon be heading for Clearwater, Fla., so P.M. needs to get in touch with him ASAP.

Dear Jean: That was so nice of you! Thanks.

From Janet:
Ah yes, round steak! As you said, tough as shoe leather! However, my mother prepared round steak in a way that my grown sons still refer to as “Grandma’s Great Good Steak.”

She would cut the round steak into about six pieces, the original about three-fourths-inch thick.

She would then pound flour, salt and pepper into it with a knife. (I use an aluminum tenderizer.) My aunt used the edge of a saucer to produce something akin to cubed steak but with the flour imbedded into it.

You then sauté in butter to brown it and be careful not to overcook. It turns an economical cut into a treat. I would say that this is the basis for country fried steak.

In our family this was especially wonderful in spring with a nice mess of morels on the side of course also sautéed in butter. Real butter, not margarine. A tip of the hat to our Belgian heritage that makes a sacrament out of butter.

Dear Janet: Years ago round steak was an inexpensive cut that many cooks (including my mom) turned into Swiss steak. The meat was pounded with flour and salt and braised in liquid (usually water) for a couple of hours, until tender. We used vegetable oil, not butter, and at my parents’ house the mushrooms came from a can. I like your version much, much better.If round steak was less expensive I’d try it. But I’ll be darned if I’ll pay $5 a pound for a tough piece of meat.   From Joan: I’m serving breakfast to several friends and plan to serve crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and topped with blueberries.  What would you serve with this menu? I plan to have some kind of meat — bacon, sausage or ham. Any ideas? Love your emails. Thanks loads.   Dear Joan: I’d make a big pile of bacon because who doesn’t like bacon? Bake it on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Also, offer a platter of cut-up fruit, a bowl of Greek yogurt and another bowl of homemade granola. The crepes are pretty substantial, so I’d go fairly light with the rest. Another idea: Eggs gently scrambled with smoked salmon and chives, lightened near the end of cooking with a spoonful of sour cream. Breakfast is a great way to entertain, isn’t it? 

From Joan:
I’m serving breakfast to several friends and plan to serve crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and topped with blueberries.  What would you serve with this menu? I plan to have some kind of meat — bacon, sausage or ham. Any ideas? Love your emails. Thanks loads. 

Dear Joan: I’d make a big pile of bacon because who doesn’t like bacon? Bake it on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Also, offer a platter of cut-up fruit, a bowl of Greek yogurt and another bowl of homemade granola. The crepes are pretty substantial, so I’d go fairly light with the rest.  

Another idea: Eggs gently scrambled with smoked salmon and chives, lightened near the end of cooking with a spoonful of sour cream.  

Breakfast is a great way to entertain, isn’t it?

Grilled PIE!

Dear Friends,

If you can grill a pizza, why not a regular pie? That was my goofy idea last week when peaches were plentiful and an outdoor cooking demo loomed.

Here’s how my reasoning worked: The pizza I grilled on top of my stove last summer at a friend’s urging turned out great. So maybe I could do the same thing with peaches at the Copley Creekside Farmers’ Market, where the cooking equipment consisted of a propane burner and a gas grill.

This time my goofy idea worked. Who knew? With a grill and a few peaches, you can make a terrific dessert. The bonus for those of us still living in the stone age without central air conditioning is that we don’t heat up the kitchen.

Technically I made a galette, not a pie. That’s a French tart  in which a layer or two of fruit is arranged on a circle of dough, and the edges folded toward the middle to hold in the fruit. Galettes usually are made free-form on a baking sheet. Because of the space constraints of a grill, I used an 8-inch cast-iron skillet.

The grill at the market was propane, but the technique will work with charcoal, too. Just build a medium-low fire and use a grill with a lid. The heat can be managed by moving coals under or away from  the skillet during baking.

Other types of fruit may be used instead of peaches. Try this pie with blueberries, pears, plums or apples.

The pie takes about 40 to 60 minutes to grill, depending on the heat of the fire and the thickness of the dough and fruit. It’s done when the fruit is soft and the pastry on top is flaky when you pinch off a smidge.



  • 1 homemade or refrigerated pie dough disk
  • 2 cups sliced peaches
  • 2 tbsp. sugar (more or less, depending on sweetness of peaches)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • Dash of salt
  • Egg wash, optional (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water)
  • Sugar for dusting

In a lidded grill, build a medium-low charcoal fire or preheat gas grill to medium-low. Fit dough into a 7- or 8-inch cast-iron skillet. If you do not have a medium skillet, use two nested metal pie pans.

In a bowl, toss peaches with sugar, flour and salt. Pour into pastry-lined skillet. Fold excess pastry around edges over the filling to make a 1 1/2-inch overlap. If using egg wash, brush on exposed pastry and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place over medium-low coals, cover grill and cook for 30 to 50 minutes or until fruit is soft and crust is golden brown. Makes 1 pie.


I’ve been freezing blueberries and blackberries like crazy for use all winter in my morning yogurt. Long ago I stopped freezing berries on cookie sheets, then transferring to freezer bags. The process, recommended by experts, ensures that the berries won’t stick together and freeze into a solid block.

My simple methods works just as well. I wash the berries in a colander or sieve and spread on towels on my counter to dry for a couple of hours. When no moisture remains, I transfer to freezer bags and sprinkle with sugar (actually, Splenda), then freeze. Those who have limited freezer space or are just lazy like I am should try this method.


When people ask if I miss my old job as food editor of the Beacon Journal, I always say “No,” but I’m lying. I miss the cookbooks. Just about every new cookbook crossed my desk, sent by publishers in hopes of a review. Now I’m reading other people’s reviews and salivating for a peek at books such as “Pok Pok”  by Andy Ricker and “Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey” by John Currence.

Those are two of the big fall cookbooks previewed in The Tasting Table this week. For a taste of the newsletter’s cookbook roundup, click here.

And if you know any publishers, give them my new address.


From P.M.
Can you tell us where you found Uncle Gizzy’s Hot Horseradish???  We have been unable to locate it.

Dear P.M.: This is embarrassing. I have no memory of that brand, other than a vague familiarity with the name. Oops, I just checked the fridge, and there’s a jar in there. My guess is someone sent it to me. At any rate, I have no idea where you can buy it. Does anyone else?

From Michele Smith, Elkton, Md.:

Do you know anywhere in the Akron area that might have cooking lessons for children?  My grandson (age 11) has an interest in cooking and since I no longer live in Akron, I don’t get to spend the time I would like teaching him these things.  I am just thinking something like the basics (measuring) or even a one-day class. If you have any ideas, please pass them along. As always, thanks for your help!

Dear Michele: Occasional kids’ classes are held at Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson: Also try Linda’s Kitchen Bakery in Tallmadge, which occasionally offers baking classes for teen-agers:

Please tell your friends about my Facebook page. A link to this newsletter is posted weekly on the site.

And don’t forget about my new blog site, where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters and more and bigger photos.

Where’s the Beef?

August 28, 2013

Dear Friends,

When you see a sale on beef, I recommend loading up. The breeding herds  continue to shrink nationwide as ranchers send their cows and steers to slaughter rather than pay the rising cost of feed. Wholesale beef prices are up and supplies are down according to the latest reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economists expect beef prices to climb steadily through next year.

I beefed up my supply last week when I saw flat iron steak on sale in one store and sirloin on sale in another. Tony and I had two steak dinners and have four more on ice. Our steak dinners were not typical. One was a steak salad and the other was  my version of Chinese pepper steak, dreamed up because of the glut of produce ripening in my garden.

I used the top sirloin for the stir fry. Sirloin is probably my favorite
cut of steak because it has more flavor than pricier cuts such as ribeye, strip and filet mignon. That’s because sirloin comes from a muscle that gets more use than the others. However, when buying sirloin to serve as steak, always choose top sirloin. Bottom sirloin and sirloin tip, although advertised as steaks, are tougher cuts that should be braised rather than grilled. And don’t even get me started on round steak, which is roughly as tender as shoe leather. I laugh when I see ads featuring round roasts sliced to show a rosy-red interior. Either braise that roast for a couple of hours or plan on chewing each bite for about that long.

Top sirloin was a good choice for my unconventional pepper steak, based on a recipe for shredded Chili-Pepper Beef in “The Key to Chinese Cooking” by Irene Kuo. I used Kuo’s sauce recipe (slightly modified) and her technique for cutting the meat and vegetables into julienne (she calls it “shredding”), but used  lots of fresh bell and medium-hot peppers instead of dried.

Kuo slippery-coats the beef, a process that involves marinating the shreds, stirring them very briefly in hot oil and then draining. Slippery-coating tenderizes the beef, she says. It also flavors the beef and allows it to be stir fried in a flash when the dish is put together.

Kuo heats a cup of oil in the wok or frying pan, stirs in the coated beef shreds and drains through a sieve. I cheated and used a ladle-type strainer to retrieve the beef from the oil (a large slotted spoon would work, too), then poured the oil into another pan. This was easier than juggling a pan of  hot oil and a sieve. If you use my method, be quick, though, or the beef will cook.

Cutting all of the ingredients into the same size julienne not only is visually appealing, it gives the stir fry a pleasing mouth feel. I think it somehow contributes to the flavor, too.

This recipe was developed to showcase fresh peppers, so use any variety in any combination you want – red and green bell, hot green, hot yellow Hungarian, poblano, anaheim, etc. Let supplies and your heat tolerance be your guide. I used green bell, green medium-hot Nu-Mex and yellow medium-hot Hungarian peppers. The peppers you choose should be large enough to cut into shreds the same size as the beef.

The recipe that follows served two at my house. It may serve four at your house, as Kuo says, but I doubt it. It just tastes too good.



  • 1 lb. boneless top sirloin steak
  • 2 large celery ribs
  • 3 cups julienned fresh peppers, a mixture of sweet and hot
  • 1/2 cup julienned white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, slivered 
  • 1 cup vegetable oil


  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. dry sherry or white wine
  • 4 tsp. red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. roasted and ground Szechuan peppercorns (see note)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp. water
  • 4 tsp. sesame oil

Trim any fat from beef and cut meat across the grain into strips about 3 inches long and 1/4-inch wide. Place in 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. In a small bowl, combine ingredients for slippery coating and pour over meat, squishing bag with hands to coat evenly. Close bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and trim the celery, peppers and onion, discarding pepper seeds and stem. Cut vegetables into slivers the length and width of the meat strips. Place near stove. Measure out 1 cup oil and place near stove.

Combine sauce ingredients in a lidded jar and shake well. Set aside.

When ready to cook, place a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Next to the skillet, place a  ladle-type strainer or large slotted spoon and a pot or container that will hold 1 cup of hot oil. When the skillet is hot, add oil and heat until oil shimmers. Working quickly but carefully, add meat to oil and stir briskly in fast circular motions 5 or 6 times to separate the meat strips. Turn off heat and quickly transfer meat to a bowl using the strainer or slotted spoon. Pour oil into the nearby  pot or container.

Return skillet to medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil from the nearby pot. Add garlic and stir a few times. Turn heat to high and add celery, peppers and onions. Toss and stir for about 1 1/2 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add beef and stir fry 1 minute  longer. Shake sauce again and pour into pan, stirring rapidly to coat ingredients evenly.  Cook and stir for about one minute. Remove from heat. Serve over steamed rice. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Note: Dried Szechuan peppercorns are sold in Asian food stores. Toast them in a dry skillet until they begin to darken, then grind in a spice grinder.


Finding fresh local corn is easy, but where do  you go for home-grown melons? Not every farmer grows melons because they require lots of attention to stave off diseases such as powdery mildew. Local melons are worth the search because they’re usually much sweeter than those shipped in, which are picked prematurely and do not sweeten once they are cut from the vines.

I found a great source for home-grown seeded watermelons, candy-sweet cantaloupes and honeydews. Check out Seiberling Farm, where melons, just-picked corn, tomatoes and whatever else is ripe that day are sold from a tent that’s practically in the farmer’s field.

Seiberling Farm is located at 1147 Greenwich Road in Norton. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily including Sundays.

I’LL BE COOKING Thursday at the Copley Creekside Farmers’ Market. If all goes well I plan to make both grilled ratatouille and grilled peach pie for sampling. The demo is free, and I’ll have recipes to pass out. Join me from about 3 to 6 p.m. at 1245 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road just north of Copley Circle in Copley.


From Jan Cramer:
I got this recipe from a friend in Texas. At this time of year with the corn at its best, it is a great dish.  
I cooked the corn about 10 minutes on the cobb, let it cool, and then cut it off
to use it.


  • 1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 to 4 cups fresh corn kernels (may use frozen if necessary but not canned)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped mild green chilies
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole with butter or cooking spray.

In a food processor or blender, puree 1 cup of the corn. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in butter, eggs, and sour cream until well blended. Stir in remaining 3 cups corn kernels. 
Stir in the Monterey jack and the chilies.

Pour into prepared casserole.  Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Dear Jan: Yum. Adding Tex-Mex touches to corn pudding is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

An Oldie But a Goodie

August 14, 2013

Dear Friends, 

As you read this I’m frolicking on beach, working up an appetite for some Chesapeake blue  crabs. Tony, I and the dog are taking a rare vacation. Before I left, I came across a newsletter I wrote in March 2005, just after I met Tony. I think you’ll like the recipe and reading about our first date:

My hip female doctor calls it love food. It’s the first meal you make for a new love.

“I’m making luuuv food tonight,” she told me once during a checkup. We went over the menu while she took my blood pressure and pulse. I think she was serving bouillabaisse. The man was history within six months. (It takes that long to tell if a guy’s crazy, she contends). At least he had a good dinner.

Last week, I made love food. It was grilled chicken with a spicy orange Asian sauce, topped with a daikon-jicama slaw and strewn with fresh-chopped cilantro and toasted pine nuts, all resting on a bed of deep-fried rice sticks. Yeah, I went for it.

The meal was actually simple to make, though. I lit the charcoal fire at 10 p.m. and the meal was on the table 30 minutes later. The best part was exploding the noodles in hot oil. I love to drop thin rice noodles in oil and watch them puff up like one of those black fireworks capsules that turns into a fat charcoal-like snake on the Fourth of July.

When you’re making love food, you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So I grated, mixed and chopped everything in advance. The slaw was marinating in a sesame-orange dressing in a baggie. The pine nuts were toasted, the cilantro was chopped and the charcoal was glowing when he walked in the door. Within 10 minutes, the sizzling chicken was lounging on a plate against a pile of puffy noodles, ready for a few showy finishing touches.

No matter what happens, at least I had a good meal.



  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. Asian chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • 1 2-inch chunk daikon radish
  • 1 2-inch chunk jicama
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. sesame oil

Everything else:

  • 2 oz. (or about 2 handfuls) thin rice noodles, uncooked
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Build a charcoal fire in a grill. Combine marinade ingredients and spoon half of mixture over the chicken in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

Grate the radish and jicama in a food processor or on a box grater. Combine remaining slaw ingredients and pour over grated vegetables in a zipper-lock bag. Set aside.

Gently pull and shape rice noodles into two flat disks. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, drop in one disk. As soon as the noodles expand (within seconds), remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining noodles. Set aside.

Remove chicken from marinade, discard marinade, and grill chicken over charcoal for about 7 to 10 minutes, until cooked through but still tender. Place a disk of noodles on each plate. Lean chicken against the noodles (give him two pieces if he’s hungry; otherwise divide chicken evenly between the two plates). Spoon reserved marinade over chicken. Top each portion with a nest of slaw. Shower with pine nuts and cilantro. Makes 2 servings. 


Jane’s Pretty Good Hamburgers

July 31, 2013

Dear Friends,  

I’ve always been a hamburger purist. I gently shape the patty from unadulterated ground beef, season with salt and pan-fry or grill to medium-rare with a caramelized exterior. My burger motto: Don’t mess with perfection. Then Gordon Ramsay issued an intriguing challenge on “Hell’s Kitchen”  — come up with a gourmet burger worthy of a $100  price tag on a fine-dining restaurant menu.

Yes, the humble burger is fetching some serious cash these days. At Hubert Keller’s three Burger Bars, patrons pay $60 for the Rossini, a Kobe beef burger with sautéed foie gras and shaved truffles in Madeira sauce on an onion bun. The Double Truffle Burger occasionally available at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne in Manhattan is $120 and features ground sirloin stuffed with boneless short ribs with foie gras, preserved truffles and shaved fresh truffles.

It comes with fresh horseradish and tomato confit on a Parmesan-poppy seed bun. I don’t think of any patty is worth  $120, even made with Kobe beef and lavished with truffles and foie gras.

It’s a sandwich, guys.

But back to reality. While the five remaining contestants on “Hell’s Kitchen” worked on their burgers, I worked on mine in my head. It could not be a salmon burger. What was JaNel thinking? I’m glad she eventually won the whole shebang, but she bombed the burger challenge. Challenge winner Jon had the right idea with his  Roman burger – start with ground beef, season it exquisitely and judiciously garnish.

A  few weeks later I finally made my own ultimate burger, and it was very good. Tony and I thought it the best we’d ever eaten. The seasoning was just so…so…  what the heck did I put in that burger, anyway? I couldn’t remember.

When I wanted to reprise it a week later for friends, I thawed  out three of those leftover glorious burgers and tasted. Hmmm. What WAS that haunting, luscious flavor? I rifled through six shelves of spices, hauling out likely  suspects. I did not want the burgers to taste like meat loaf. I added marjoram, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and sweet soy sauce, among other seasonings. I used 80/20 ground beef, not dryer chuck  or sirloin. I shaped it into patties, then went to work on the homemade buns and toppings.

In the end, my answer to Ramsay’s challenge was deeply seasoned slider patties on buttered and toasted homemade French bread, topped with  mozzarella,  pesto and slivered Vidalia onions.

“These are the best hamburgers I’ve ever had,” my friend, Doris, said.

I’ve tasted better. In fact, I tasted it a week ago. If I ever remember that recipe, I’ll share it. Meanwhile, I offer a recipe for last weekend’s  attempt at the ultimate hamburger. If any of you have paid big bucks for a gourmet hamburger, please tell me what was in it and whether it was worth the money. And if any of you have created a praise-worth burger with suavely seasoned meat and interesting toppings, please share your recipe. This could be my summer of the burger.



  • 2 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (not chuck or sirloin)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. garlic  powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp. sweet soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 20 small rounds fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 loaves French bread (preferably homemade), cut into 1/2-inch slices (40 slices)
  • Softened butter
  • 1 cup thinly slivered Vidalia onion
  • 7 tbsp. homemade pesto sauce

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, salt, garlic powder, marjoram, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, soy sauce and mustard. Combine thoroughly with hands. Shape into 20 patties about 3 inches in diameter. Sprinkle lightly with more salt. Grill hamburgers over a medium-hot charcoal fire until caramelized on both sides and medium to medium rare in the centers.

Spread butter on both sides of each bread slice and grill or toast in toaster until they just begin to take on color. Place a burger on half of the bread slices. Top with mozzarella, then onions. Spread about a teaspoon of pesto on remaining bread slices and place on top of burgers. The heat from the burgers with soften the mozzarella. Makes 20 sliders.


Perhaps the most interesting food festival of the summer will be held this weekend in the Peninsula area. Farmers,  craft brewers, historians and craft food vendors have combined forces to present farm tours, chef demonstrations, a farmers market, antique tractor and tool display, canning classes and more beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 4.

The day begins with farm history displays at Heritage Farms on Riverview Road and includes 30-minute tours of five farms ($5 per farm per person); a food and farmers’ market from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bronson Church in Peninsula; a park ranger talk on the history of farms at  4:30 p.m. at the GAR Hall; special food samplings at various businesses; and a beer, wine and cheese tasting followed by a cooking demo and talk by chef Ben Bebenroth ($30) at the GAR Hall.

The Local Food Fest is a joint production of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and   Countryside Conservancy with support from local businesses. For full details, go to The evening tasting and demo requires advance reservation.


From Cheryl:
While visiting my cousin in North Carolina, we went to Lake Lure to the La Strada restaurant.  They served shrimp with Pina Colada Caramel Dipping Sauce, which was excellent.  We’ve been searching the web for something like it, but no luck.  Have you heard of it?  Do you know how to make it or something near to it?

I brought some home (lasts two weeks in the fridge), but want to know how to replicate it. Let me know.

Dear Cheryl: I had never heard of it, but then, I don’t dine at Red Lobster. Apparently the seafood chain serves shrimp with Pina Colada Dipping Sauce – no caramel, but close. I found the recipe below  on several Internet sites. I know the restaurant you visited wasn’t a Red Lobster, so I’m also including a recipe I created several years ago for a really luscious pineapple-coconut-ginger dipping sauce for coconut shrimp. My sauce has caramel undertones.


  • 1 cup pina colada mix
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. drained crushed pineapple
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. water

Mix pina colada mix, the 1/4-cup water, crushed pineapple, coconut, and powdered sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Let mixture simmer slowly for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Mix corn starch and water in a custard cup. Add to sauce and blend well. Simmer about 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Serve at room temperature.


  • 1 cup pineapple preserves
  • 2 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Set aside to cool. Refrigerate several hours or up to 5 days. Serve cold or at room temperature. The Recipe may be halved.

From Cindy Weiss:

Regarding crème brulee: Since I happen to love it, and it was a particular favorite at a Portland, Ore. restaurant (long gone), I asked for the recipe and the chef’s hints on forming the sugar crust, which was much thicker than usual. His hint was forming and cooling the sugar disks on foil-lined baking sheets in egg rings that were a perfect fit for the ramekins holding the egg custard bases. The chef’s technique probably could be used with either the torch method or your alternative, though I used to have success just using my broiler.

Thanks for this trip down memory lane!

Dear Cindy: That reminds me of the miniature crème brulees I once had that were topped with chocolate disks instead of caramel. The bite-sized chocolate brulees were served warm, and the chocolate was placed on top at the last minute so it was just beginning to melt as you ate it.

From C.J.:
About those pesky birds eating your blackberries as they ripen:  Dollar-store pinwheels and wind-spinners work. I have a horrible time with netting so I don’t use it any more.  I find that keeping things moving scares the birds!  I only lost a handful of blueberries this year because I hung the spinners on my bushes themselves on branches that stuck out further. 

Oh, and I was meaning to also say about the mowing of the garden?  We’ve been doing that for years now.  We even use a weed-whip around the plants.

I learn something new every year.  This year, it’s that broccoli and Brussels sprout plants look very, very similar, but Brussels sprouts have far more branches which, of course, need to be removed which I just did this morning.  I wish you great gardening.

Dear C.J.: I have to remove the branches from the Brussels sprouts? I had no idea. I seem to learn something new every week, thanks to friends like you.