July 31, 2014

Tony and I are in Japan visiting his family this week, so I left behind this previous column for you to enjoy. I’ll have lots to report when we return.

Dear friends:

The neighbor’s bushes are loaded with black raspberries. This week I have watched them plump up, turn a gorgeous purple-black, then slowly shrivel on the vines. I’ve been tempted to pick the neglected bounty and  turn it into black raspberry vinegar. So far, I have resisted.

One way or another, a few jars of homemade vinegar will grace my cupboard shelves by the end of summer. I love to use mellow fruit vinegars in salad dressings when I want a less assertive flavor than my usual French vinaigrette provides. I also like to splash herb vinegar in a sauté pan as a substitute for wine in reduction sauces. Tarragon vinegar reduced with the pan juices, enriched with a knob of butter and drizzled over sautéed chicken is a fast-food wonder.

Making fruit vinegar can be as easy as heating a couple of cups of distilled or white-wine vinegar in a saucepan, mashing in a cup of fruit, and letting it steep for a few days until the vinegar is flavored. The mixture is then strained, bottled and refrigerated.

Some books call for canning the vinegar in a boiling water bath after steeping, but the experts at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service say the step is not necessary. Strict cleanliness must be observed, however, to prevent the introduction of bacteria.

The complete lowdown can be found here, but basically you should:

  • Use only glass containers to store homemade vinegar, and sterilize them in boiling water for 10 minutes before filling.
  • Wash lids in hot, soapy water and scald in boiling water.  Containers and lids should both be hot when filled.
  • Use unblemished herb sprigs and fruit, discarding wilted or discolored herbs  and blemished or rotten bits of fruit. Wash herbs and fruit thoroughly.

The basic formula is 3 sprigs of herbs or 1 to 2 cups of fruit (whole berries or diced peeled fruit such as peaches) per 2 cups of vinegar. For citrus flavored vinegar, use the zest (colored part of the rind) of one orange or lemon per two cups vinegar. Heat the vinegar but do not boil before adding the flavoring agents.

If you’re like me, it will take you forever to use up a pint of flavored vinegar. So I usually keep one cup for myself and  pour a cup into a pretty bottle to give as a gift to a foodie friend.

Black raspberry is my favorite flavored vinegar. I like it even better than the more popular red raspberry vinegar because it has a richer, more pronounced flavor. All I need now are the black raspberries, and I know just where to get them.

RASPBERRY VINEGAR

  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups unblemished black raspberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Heat vinegar in a medium saucepan to at least  190 to 195 degrees, but do not boil. Meanwhile, gently wash raspberries and blot dry with paper towels. Remove pan from heat, add raspberries and mash gently with a sterilized potato masher. Pour into a glass container, leaving some headspace. Wipe rim with a clean, damp cloth. Cover tightly and place in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 weeks to develop the flavors.

Strain vinegar through a damp cheesecloth or coffee filter one or more times, until no cloudiness remains. Discard fruit.

Heat vinegar almost to a boil. Pour into sterilized glass containers and cap tightly with clean corks or sterilized lids. Store in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. May be used immediately. Makes 2 cups.

TARRAGON VINEGAR

  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon

Wash vinegar in cool water, discarding any discolored or wilted leaves. Dry on clean paper towels. Place two sprigs in each of two 1-cup glass jars or containers.

Heat vinegar in a saucepan to 190 to 195 degrees. Pour over herbs in containers, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Tightly cap with clean lids. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 1 to 2 weeks, shaking jar occasionally. When desired strength is reached, discard herb sprigs and heat vinegar almost to a boil. Pour into sterilized glass containers and cap tightly with clean corks or sterilized lids. Store in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place.  Makes two cups.

HELP U COOK

Ever since my friend, Nancy, suggested I use a potato masher to break up ground beef in a skillet, I’ve been on the lookout for other ways to use the gadget.   As I peeled eggs for egg salad yesterday, I mentally yelled, “Eureka!”   I got out the potato masher and reduced a half-dozen  eggs to crumbles in about 10 seconds. It worked amazingly well – much better than the fork I used to use.

 

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July 23, 2014

Dear friends:

I adore homemade succotash –fresh corn kernels warmed in butter with just-picked green or lima beans. I have beans from the garden and corn from down the street, but I resisted this week. I wanted to make a new kind of succotash I saw on Japanese TV.

Tony and I get a Japanese TV station on satellite feed, and my favorite programs are the evening dramas (“World’s Best Doctor!”) and the cooking shows. I can’t understand a word, which I figure is a bonus with the cheesy dramas and barely a hindrance with the cooking shows.

Last week Tony and I watched as a beaming woman bowed to the camera and presented a plate of corn and edamame with lacy fried edges. It looked so good that I was barely daunted that we missed the part where she actually made the recipe.

“Ooooh,” we both breathed as Tony stopped the action. The corn kernels and green soybeans were perfectly separate. They did not appear to have been breaded or dunked in batter. They were bare except for the intriguing brown wisp ringing each kernel and bean.

Tony translated: “Sweet and salty,” proclaimed the young girl chosen to taste, her hand in front of her mouth like a fence (the polite way in Japan to talk with your mouth full).

I spent all evening and the next morning in the kitchen trying to figure out the recipe. I thawed edamame and slipped them from the pods. I cut corn from the cob. I dusted them with flour and deep fried them. I dusted them with cornstarch and deep fried them. I fried them naked. I coated them with foamy egg white. No dice.

Finally I decided to forget the TV recipe and create a new one. I would lightly coat the vegetables in a lacy tempura batter seasoned with togarashi (a Japanese chili-pepper powder), finely grated lemon zest and grated ginger. I would make some Japanese ponzu (lemon-soy) sauce for dipping.

The resulting dish is a far cry from the TV recipe in all but one respect: It’s salty and sweet. It’s also crunchy and gingery, with a bright tang of lemon.  It may be the perfect summer cocktail snack.

“Mmm. Wonderful!” Tony pronounced.

Sometimes it pays to screw up.

GINGER-LEMON CORN & EDAMAME TEMPURA

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  • 8 oz. frozen edamame, thawed
  • 3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (1 medium ear)
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp. finely grated ginger (see note)
  • Salt
  • Dash of togarashi or cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • Ponzu sauce for dipping (optional, recipe follows)

Remove edamame beans from the pods, discarding pods. Combine beans and corn kernels in a small, deep bowl with the lemon zest, ginger, a dash of salt and a dash of togarashi. Stir.

Heat about 1 ½ inches of the oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Bring to 350 degrees, or heat until an edamame bean dropped in the oil immediately bobs to the surface and furiously sizzles.

While the oil heats, stir together flour and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add ice water and stir briefly. Some lumps should remain. Pour over vegetables and stir to coat. In batches, drop by heaping tablespoons into the hot oil, spreading slightly with the spoon. Fry for about 1 minute, or until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Note: I grated the ginger on the large holes of a box grater and then chopped it fine.  Grating fresh ginger on the small holes or with a Microplane grater will produce ginger juice, but not much ginger.

QUICK PONZU SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • Dash of cayenne

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

TIDBITS

Tony and I are going to Japan again to visit his folks, and this time I am determined not to leave my notebook stuffed with food notes on the plane. Hopefully, that means I’ll have lots to report, from the silly to the sublime. We’ve already planned our first two meals – miso ramen and some Hokkaido pork specialty I can’t pronounce. Tony’s brother, Osam, will pick us up after we’ve chowed down and soaked in an onsen – hot springs – at Sapporo’s awesome New Chitose airport (http://www.new-chitose-airport.jp/en/).  I could spend my whole vacation in that airport. Seriously.

Check it out. But first I have a request. While I’m gone will you shoot me a quick email about anything noteworthy you consumed on your vacation this summer? I love reading that kind of stuff, and I’m sure others do, too. When I get back, we’ll swap stories. The reader who sends the best email (describing the most unusual, fabulous or bizarre food) will receive a free copy of my cookbook, “Jane Snow Cooks.” Don’t forget to put “Food” in the subject line of your email.

CHIP, CHIP HOORAY – NOT!
Lay’s four new potato chip flavors are missing the boat. (Missing the dhow, to be precise). The flavors – bacon mac & cheese, cappuccino, wasabi-ginger and mango salsa – are tame compared to the chips we found last week at Tink Hol, a Cleveland Asian market. While the Lay’s basil chips I tried did not sing with flavor, Tony liked the seaweed-flavored chips he chose. We both passed on a third flavor, Lay’s hot chili-squid – me for aesthetic reasons, Tony because he didn’t want to come off as a hog.

Lay’s has offered exotic-flavored potato chips for years, but they’re sold mostly in other countries. Some examples: Caviar (Russia); Garlic-Prawn (Spain); crab (Ukraine) and, inexplicably, vegetable soup (Russia).

I’m glad I’m traveling to Japan soon, which has sensible potato chip flavors such as cola, salad and pickled plum.

THE MAILBAG

From Tammy Jo:
I stopped at Papa Joe’s for lunch recently and saw fried “Walleye Cheeks” on special. I’ve heard of fish cheeks at area sushi restaurants but was intrigued by the fact that it was a luncheon special. My internet search revealed the fact that many types of fish yield tasty cheeks – however, walleye was not mentioned as one of them.

Could you give us some background on this delicacy? My boyfriend and I go salmon fishing twice a year in New York and when our captain cleans our catch the heads, spines and tails are tossed to the seagulls. I’d love to pipe up and order Cap’n Bob to “save the cheeks”! Are they really “all that”?

Dear Tammy: Apparently so. Tony doesn’t serve fish cheeks at his sushi bar, although he does offer yellowtail collar (the bony but delicious crescent just behind the gills. Maybe you should ask Cap’n Bob to save both the cheeks and the collar.

Many connoisseurs consider the cheeks to be the best part of a fish. They are sweet and tender, with a scallop-like texture. If Cap’n Bob gives you the whole head rather than mess with the cheeks, just dig them out with a sharpened spoon. Resist the urge to bread or batter and fry the cheeks (I’m thinking walleye) as you would a fish filet. Cheeks should be cooked simply, such as sautéed in butter, to allow the texture and flavor to shine.

From Bruce E.:
I am trying some backyard foraging. Yesterday I enhanced my ramen packet with lambs quarter and nodding wild onion.  I enjoy your newsletter.

Dear Bruce: The additions can only improve those ramen packets. Although my husband loves them, I could never choke one down until I saw chef David Chang on “Mind of a Chef “ sprinkle the seasoning packet directly on a block of dried ramen and eat the crunchy noodles without cooking them. Try it. It’s weirdly good. Anyway, happy foraging.

From Cheryl S.:
Would the wines clash with each other if I served pinot noir with cherry wood-smoked rack of lamb with a cherry-merlot reduction? My husband got a great deal on a pricey bottle of pinot noir and I would rather drink it than cook with it. Or should I use a lesser pinot for the sauce?  I’ve always heard that you should drink the same wine that you cook with.

Dear Cheryl: I think you have exactly the right idea. I wouldn’t cook with a pricy bottle of wine, either. When I used to make boeuf Bourguignonne, I would cook with a cheap but drinkable pinot noir and serve it with a French Chambertin.  My rule is, “Don’t cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink.” That’s doesn’t mean you have to drink it with that dish, just that it should be palatable. The cherry-merlot reduction will not clash with the pinot noir; it should be delicious.

From Cheryl:
About buying too much corn and using it up – you can use a Food Saver.  It comes with plastic bags – it sucks all of the air out of the bag so you can freeze the corn right on the cob.  We just finished up last year’s corn and it’s just as fresh now as it was then.  The cobs were a little wet but the corn was fine.

Dear Cheryl:  I have a food vacuum packer and the food preserved that way does taste fresher. But unless the food is bone dry, the moisture gets sucked into the seal, which then separates. Plus, those rolls of specially made bags are expensive. I don’t need the aggravation. I usually do it the old-fashioned way with zipper-lock bag, which I finally learned how to seal.

From Michele:
Speaking of shortcuts in the summer–you grated your own coconut???

Lucky Vitamin www.luckyvitamin.com has Bob’s Red Mill flaked and shredded unsweetened coconut at a reasonable price — just FYI.  I’m going to try your ambrosia, it sounds heavenly.

Dear Michele: Me, grate raw coconut? Those days are over. I buy unsweetened grated coconut in the freezer section of Asian food stores. But truthfully, I was too lazy to retrieve the sack from my basement freezer, so I used regular sweetened coconut in the ambrosia.

July 16, 2014

Dear friends:

If the corn seems late this year, chalk it up to your corn-crazed impatience. When you bite into that first local ear later this week, it will be right on time.  Mid-July is the normal onset of the corn season in Northeast Ohio.

Most local growers expect to begin picking late this week or next week, they say.

“We expected it Monday then we expected it today (Tuesday). Now we’re expecting it Thursday,” said a worker at Graf Growers. “The cold nights slowed it down. Call first because anything can happen.”

Don’t believe the corn is right on time? I didn’t either. I felt cheated when I couldn’t sink my teeth into an ear on the Fourth of July. So I dug up reports (mostly mine) from years past and found starting dates that range from July 5 (2010) to July 25 (2002, after a cold spring and June drought). In 1985, the first local corn was picked on about July 20; in 1997, July 23; 2005, July 8; and 2011, about July 21.

Nevertheless, when June segues into July next summer, I’ll probably be wondering where the damn corn is. Maybe we’re impatient because the memory of summer corn is so sweet.

I will buy way too much corn this week, thinking it couldn’t possibly be enough. After eating a couple of steamed and buttered ears one day and a couple the next, I’ll look for a way to use up the rest before the sugars turn to starch. Maybe I’ll use the excess in this luscious corn chowder from Emeril Lagasse.

SOUTHERN-STYLE CORN CHOWDER

  • 4 oz. bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell peppers
  • 5 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 7 ears)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled russet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat and cook the bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers and corn to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Pour the chicken stock into the pot and stir to combine. Use a whisk if necessary to break up any lumps. Add the potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Season the chowder with the salt and cayenne and stir in the cream. Serve with the bacon and parsley as garnish.

From Emeril Lagasse in Food & Wine magazine.

HELP U COOK

Don’t overlook Swiss chard among the heaps of lettuces and other greens in stores and at farm markets this month. It comes in a variety of colors – red- and yellow-veined are especially attractive – and it’s a nutritional powerhouse. Chard is high in vitamins C, A and B as well as copper, iron, magnesium and potassium.

If picked young, the leaves may be used in salads. Larger heads should be washed very well (dirt hides in the folds) and added to soups, stir fries and curries. Or sauté some leaves in olive oil with chopped garlic and serve as a side dish.

THE MAILBAG

From Kevin:
(In a Mailbag answer last week) you may have confused asafetida with epazote. Asafetida is a resin usually compounded with wheat flour and gum arabic. It’s awesome stuff.

Dear Kevin: You’re right. My leaf was epazote. My brain is failing me.

From Amy Z.:
Russo’s is on the Boston Township/Cuyahoga Falls border. Boston Heights is a couple of miles north.

Dear Amy: Thanks for correcting my slip.

From Kristi Perry:
The flank steak sandwich (from the June 25 newsletter) was a hit, big time.  It even drew attention from folks on the neighboring blanket at Blossom (who Googled the recipe before leaving).  It went together great, sliced great and was not messy at all.

P.S.: Don’t forget to come see us at the Seville Farm Market any Saturday until the end of September from 9 a.m. to noon at the corner of State Route 3 and High Street.

Dear Kristi: Finally, something I didn’t goof up! Glad you liked the recipe.

I love your Seville Farm Market and encourage everyone to drop by sometime this summer. The prices are low and the farmers are friendly.

From Linda:
Have you any idea how to make pesto without a blender or food processor? Would my Mouli do it?

Dear Linda: The classic way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle. The basil, garlic and a bit of salt are pounded until smooth, then you add nuts (walnuts or pine nuts) and pound the snot out of them. Keep pounding while you drizzle in olive oil. Then stir in grated Parmesan. Just before using, beat in some butter.

How are your triceps? Considering the physical labor involved in the mortar-and-pestle method, your Mouli food mill certainly is worth a try. Vegetables are pureed in a food mill, so why not basil and nuts?

July 9, 2014

Dear friends:

Ambrosia is so old-school that I never make it. I couldn’t live down serving something that contains miniature marshmallows. I secretly love it, though, and eat it every chance I get at pot lucks.

So it’s no surprise that I pounced on a recipe for ambrosia in an Asian grilling cookbook. This ambrosia is cool!

For a July 4th picnic I rounded up fruit and grated coconut, and made sure I had limes, a chile pepper, shallots and Vietnamese fish sauce (nam pla) on hand. The fresh mint was available in gobs near my greenhouse.

No, this is not your grandmother’s fruit ambrosia. It’s a little bit hot and just slightly sweet, with an overlay of the complex flavors of Southeast Asia.

The recipe in the cookbook, “Asian Grilling” by Su-Mei Yu, makes just four servings and includes two fruits –pineapple and apple or mango – so I tinkered with it. I doubled the amount of pineapple and added luscious, ripe cantaloupe and pitted dark-red cherries. I also doubled the dressing. I made the salad a few hours before the picnic but won’t do that again. As my amended recipe instructs below, the fruit should be tossed with the dressing just before serving. Otherwise, the juices that seep from the fruit and combine with the dressing threaten to overwhelm everything.

The only drawback to this ambrosia is that it doesn’t contain miniature marshmallows. I guess I can live with that.

ASIAN FRUIT AMBROSIA

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  • 6 tbsp. grated coconut (preferably unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 fresh serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 mangos, the flesh diced
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup diced cantaloupe
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup halved and seeded fresh sweet cherries
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • Grated zest of 2 limes
  • 12 mint leaves, torn and bruised

Dry-roast the coconut in a small skillet over high heat, stirring to prevent burning, until coconut is golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Cool.

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, sea salt and minced chile. Set aside.

Just before serving, combine the diced fruit, shallots, lime zest and mint in a large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve. Make about 8 servings.

HELP U COOK

My fridge overfloweth with green beans. Hooray! The little beauties are haricots vert, the slender, tender beans with the French pedigree. I planted two short rows two weeks apart to extend my green-bean season. The first picking Sunday yielded a couple of quarts. That’s a lot for two people and a dog (Oscar likes the occasional bean), so some will go into the freezer.

Home-frozen green beans taste fresher than commercially frozen beans, I’ve found. That’s why I’ll go to the bother of freezing at least half of my summer bounty. I usually blanch the beans (drop them into boiling water for a minute, then stop the cooking and set the color with an ice-water bath). But I’ve been reading in gardening forums about the high quality of green beans frozen without blanching. I plan to try that with at least some of the beans. The method: Wash, dry very well and either vacuum pack or place in zipper-lock freezer bags, sucking out as much of the air as possible with a straw before sealing the last quarter-inch of the zip.

I’m all for shortcuts, especially in the summer when I’d rather be picking raspberries or reading a novel on the porch.

THE MAILBAG

From Annie Fry:
Another possible substitution for garlic is asafoetida powder or hing. It is available in Indian food stores.  According to Wikipedia, it is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, a perennial herb that grows 1 to 1 1/2 meters tall. The species is native to the deserts of Iran, mountains of Afghanistan, and is mainly cultivated in nearby India. As its name suggests, asafoetida has a fetid smell but in cooked dishes it delivers a smooth flavor reminiscent of leeks. By its physiology, it appears to be related to fennel and dill.

Dear Annie: I used asafetida (dried grayish-brown leaves, as I recall) in Mexican dishes in the distant past. I appreciate the information.

From Karen M.:
I recently had candied pecans on a salad at Todaro’s. They
had a clear coating on them and were wonderful. Just wondered if you knew
how to make them. Thanks!

Dear Karen: You don’t mention whether the nuts were spiced or plain, so I’m going with plain. Although I haven’t had Todaro’s version, candied nuts are pretty standard. They’re also very easy to make. Here’s a basic recipe:

CANDIED PECANS

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add butter and sugar. Heat, stirring once or twice, until both butter and sugar have melted. Toss pecans in mixture and transfer to waxed paper to cool. Makes ½ cup. When completely cool, candied nuts may be stored in a tightly closed lidded jar.

From Eric:
I absolutely adore the Navajo Tacos from Russo’s restaurant. I get some every time I’m in town, visiting my parents. Unfortunately, I now live in Michigan and it is impossible for me to get the tacos on a regular basis. I heard that you have the recipe, and I was wondering if it would be possible to share it so that I can make the tacos whenever I have the urge. Please let me know. Thanks.

Dear Eric: Chef David Russo of Russo’s Restaurant on State Road at the Cuyahoga Falls/Boston Heights border gave me the recipe in November 2001 for Second Helpings, the Internet newsletter I wrote for the Beacon Journal. But beware: making the fabulous tacos isn’t easy. Back then I wrote, “The tacos are time-consuming to make (it took me two hours and I’m fast), but the results are worth it — puffy, deep-fried Navajo bread topped with a spicy, Cajun-Southwestern ragout of shrimp, peppers and fresh vegetable salsa.”

I’m hungry just thinking about them.

DAVE RUSSO’S NAVAJO TACOS

SALSA:

  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Combine everything in a bowl, stirring well.

SEASONING MIX: 

  • 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground New Mexican dried chili pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground guajillo chili pepper (or use all New Mexican pepper)

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar.

FILLING:

  • 1 tbsp. toasted corn meal
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 14 oz. of your choice of chicken, steak (cut into strips about 2 inches long and 1/4-inch thick), or peeled shrimp 
1 red bell pepper, in julienne (very thin) strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 medium red onion, julienned
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth

In a dry skillet over medium heat, shake corn meal until toasted medium dark. Set aside. 
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon seasoning mix over chicken, steak or shrimp, coating all sides. Add the meat or seafood to the hot oil. Brown meat, stirring constantly (if using shrimp, sear on both sides and remove from the pan and set aside). 
Add peppers, onions and 1 tablespoon of seasoning mix to pan. Cook, stirring, about three minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Stir in toasted cornmeal, then tomatoes and broth (if using shrimp, return to pan now). Simmer 3 minutes, until sauce has reduced and thickened. Keep warm.

FRY BREAD:

  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Slowly mix in warm water with a fork. Stir until soft, but not sticky. If too sticky, add a touch more flour. Gather into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes. 
Pull off egg-size balls of dough. Pat or roll into flat disks 1/4-inch thick. Press thumb into center of dough round and pierce several times with fork. 
In a large skillet, bring 3 cups of vegetable oil to 350 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry the cakes 30 seconds on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble tacos, place one fry bread on a plate, spoon on some of the filling, and place a second fry bread overlapping the first. Spoon on more filling. Top with salsa and a dollop of sour cream. Makes about 4 servings.

July 2, 2014

Dear friends:

Spiced nuts are enjoying a renaissance. Warm nuts tossed with butter and fresh herbs debuted several years ago as an upscale bar snack. Now they’re so popular that restaurants are serving them as an appetizer, heaped on a plate.

Spiced nuts have been around for years, of course. In their previous incarnation they were candied with a touch of heat and often used as a salad garnish. The common denominator of the new spiced nuts is rosemary. Everyone who cooks and lives to write about it on the Internet has a recipe, it seems.

Martha Stewart adds garlic and onions; Marcus Samuelsson (Red Rooster in New York City) adds African spices, mint leaves and dried sour cherries; the Food Network’s Ina Garten uses maple syrup and chipotle powder.

The inspiration is the warm, buttery, rosemary-herbed mixed nuts served for several years as a bar snack at Manhattan’s Union Square Café. “Once you eat these you will never want to stop,” writes Nigella Lawson in on her website, www.nigella.com.

Lawson’s recipe calls for Maldon sea salt, an English import with triangular-shaped crystals that taste less salty than table salt. Any other flake-type sea salt may be used instead. If using regular coarse-grained sea salt, use slightly less. Use one-half the amount if substituting table salt or fine sea salt.

UNION SQUARE CAFÉ’S BAR NUTS

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  • 2 1/2 cups (10 oz. by weight) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
  • 2 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. Maldon or other sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine, and spread on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350-degree oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.

THE MAILBAG

From Jean Barron:
Just wanted to let you know that Uncle Gizzy’s Horseradish Sauce is back at the flea markets this summer. I saw it at Four Seasons in Youngstown on Sunday and at Hartville on Monday. So just in case the reader that was looking for it last fall didn’t get it before it headed to Florida for the winter, she can get it now.

Dear Jean: Thank you from all the Uncle Gizzy’s fans.

From Kelvin Rogers:
Hi Jane- I was wondering how much of the chorizo sausage is supposed to be in the Frijoles Charros recipe you just posted. Thanks!

Dear Kelvin: Unfortunately, the recipe was garbled in transmission. The chorizo wasn’t the only ingredient that contained a mistake in the amount. I hope nobody used one-half pound jalapenos, as the recipe stated. Here’s a re-run of the entire recipe, with (hopefully) correct ingredient amounts. Sorry for the confusion.

FRIJOLES CHARROS

  • 1 lb. dried pinto beans
  • 11 cups water
  • 2 jalapenos, stems removed
  • 1/2 lb. cooked chorizo Mexican sausage, crumbled
  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • For serving: Grated longhorn cheese (mild Cheddar), fresh tomato-onion salsa

Rinse beans under cold running water and discard damaged beans and small stones. Transfer to a large round slow cooker and cover by 3 inches with cold water. Let soak for 6 hours or overnight; drain. Or cover with cold water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil on the stove, boil for 2 minutes and let stand 1 hour, covered. Drain.

To the drained beans in the slow cooker, add the 11 cups water, jalapenos, chorizo, bacon, garlic and onion. Cover and cook on high setting for 3 1/2 to 5 hours. The beans must be covered with liquid at all times to cook properly. When done, they will be tender and hold their shape, rather than fall apart.

Towards the end of the cooking time, season with the salt and remove the chilies. Add the oregano, cumin and cilantro leaves. Let the beans simmer 1 hour more, uncovered, which will thicken them nicely.

Serve the beans in soup bowls, topped with grated cheese and salsa, if desired.   Makes 6 servings.

From “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.

From P.S. Simons:
This sandwich (the Flank Steak Picnic Sandwich) sounds awesome and I can’t wait to try it.  It sounds like a version of muffaletta  and just as tasty.  You say artichoke hearts – I can’t imagine that marinated wouldn’t be okay versus not marinated.  Any reason I can’t use marinated?

Dear P.J.: Although Mo didn’t specify, I have always used marinated artichoke hearts. Enjoy.