October 29, 2014

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

Please note: If your email address changes this year, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. Mimi’s minions cannot change the address for you in our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. After you have unsubscribed,  go to my website, http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Dear friends,
If you’re a carb slut like I am you’re going to love today’s recipe. Believe me, it’s worth the splurge.
At Punderson State Park, of all places, I fell in love with a comforting shepherd’s pie topped with buttery mashed potatoes and served in a bread bowl. The glorious, potato-crowned beauty was impossible to resist. The chef had returned the “pie” to the oven to warm up the bread and brown the potatoes before serving. It was delicious.
Punderson’s version appeared to have been made with brioche or another buttery bread. My conscience wouldn’t let me go there. Instead, I used regular frozen bread dough, knocking off a few hundred fat calories but retaining the carb-heavy theme of the original.
For the filling, I made a classic hamburg gravy bumped up red wine, fresh mushrooms and thyme.  To gild the lily, I drizzled the mashed potato topping with truffle oil just before serving.
Using frozen bread dough – the kind that comes three loaves to the bag in the supermarket freezer case – is a time-saver, but you can certainly make your own dough if you prefer. If using frozen dough, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and allow for about a 3-hour rise.
Each bread bowl is just 4 to 5 inches in diameter, making it a tidy (but hearty) one-dish meal. I envision all kinds of occasions appropriate for this elevated comfort food – game nights with friends, football-watching parties or any apres-snow sporting event. All three elements of the dish – bread bowls, stew and potatoes – may be made up to a day in advance for quick assembly just before eating.
If you’re worried about the carbs, share one as I did with my buddy, Nancy. One-half was plenty for us, and even Tony ate his in two sittings.

SHEPHERD’S PIES IN BREAD BOWLS

Featured image

4 small round loaves of white bread, about 5 inches in diameter, purchased or homemade (recipe follows)
Mashed potatoes (see note)
1/2 cup sliced carrots
2 tbsp. oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef
Salt, pepper
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 tbsp. flour mixed with 1/4 cup water
4 tsp. truffle oil

Prepare the bread bowls and potatoes and set aside.

For the beef filling, place carrots and about 1/4 cup water in large saucepan or chili pot. Cover and steam over medium-high heat until carrots are almost tender. Drain and set carrots aside.

In same pot, saute mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. When edges begin to brown, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil along with the onions and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Crumble beef into the pan and stir well. Brown, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Add red wine, increase heat to medium-high and simmer until wine has evaporated. Stir in water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat. Stir in flour mixture and simmer, uncovered, until mixture thickens to the consistency of gravy. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

To assemble, place the bread bowls on a baking sheet and ladle in the beef mixture. Top with the mashed potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees in top third of oven for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are lightly browned.  Before serving, drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of truffle oil. Makes 4 hearty servings.

Note: Use 2 1/2  lbs. potatoes and the usual butter, milk, salt and pepper for the potato topping, mashing until fluffy but not runny.

BREAD BOWLS
1 1/3 loaves (1-lb. loaves) frozen bread dough
Vegetable oil

Thaw bread dough according to package directions. Cut the full loaf into thirds, yielding 4 pieces of dough.

Press one piece into a square and fold in thirds, like a letter. Press and fold again, using the opposite sides. Shape into a tight ball, pinching the seams firmly. Place seams down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with remaining three portions of dough, using two baking sheets. Oil the tops of the dough balls and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 3 to 4 hours.

Bake at 350 degrees

Wanted: Curious Cooks

In the cookbook biz they’re called beta testers. They’re the friends, relatives and colleagues who test recipes one last time before a cookbook goes to print.

I’m looking for volunteers to test some incredibly quick and easy dessert recipes for my long-overdue cookbook. (A monkey could have written War and Peace in the time I’ve spent on this project).
I’ve already tested the recipes about 20 times each but I’m still nervous; hence the request. If you’re interested, shoot me an email and I’ll respond with more details before you make a commitment. Use my home email – janesnow@akrobiz.com – and put “recipes” in the subject line.
Thank you, thank you.

HELP U COOK

As long as it isn’t carved (or is very recently carved), you can make a pie from your Halloween pumpkin, no matter how large or bulbous. Although experts recommend using small, round pumpkins for pie, any pumpkin will do. The benefits of using little pie pumpkins are that they’re sweeter and less stringy than large ones.  But sugar and a food processor can level the playing field.

Cook the pumpkin whole in a giant pot of boiling water or on a cookie tray in the oven. Many cookbooks recommend peeling and cubing the pumpkin before cooking, but trust me, that’s a nightmare. You can reduce baking time if desired by cutting the pumpkin in half and scraping out the strings and seeds before placing it in the oven. Boil or bake (at 375 degrees) until a fork goes into the flesh easily. The time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkin. After it has cooled, you can easily peel off the rind and scoop out the strings and seeds if you haven’t already done so.

Cut the pumpkin flesh into chunks and puree in a food processor in batches until very smooth. Pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and drain away enough of the moisture to achieve the proper texture for pies. It should be the consistency of canned pumpkin. Refrigerate and use within a day or two or freeze in 2-cup portions, the amount called for in most pie recipes.

Pumpkin seeds: Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp but don’t wash them. The moisture from the pumpkin – let’s face it, the slime – helps salt stick to the seeds.  Toss each cup of seeds with one tablespoon vegetable oil and one teaspoon salt. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and bake at 250 degrees for an hour, or until the seeds are dry

THE MAILBAG

From Paul M.:
Does anyone know where to find Canary melon? I was at Sweet Pea Cafe in Fairlawn the other day, and the fresh fruit cup included a yummy melon.  When I asked, I was told it is Canary melon, sometimes called yellow honeydew.  It has a bright yellow smooth skin with a cream colored flesh.  I had never had it before.  When I asked where to get it, I was told to try Marc’s.  I found some pale yellow-skinned honeydews at Marc’s, and tried it, but it had green flesh like regular honeydew and was a little mushy, although very sweet.  I loved both the flavor and the texture of what they had at Sweet Pea.

Dear Paul: Sam’s Club carries the bright-yellow melon you want. Read the tag to make sure you don’t buy a lemon melon, which looks similar.

From Sandra:
As usual I bought way too much candy for the door-knockers we get in my neighborhood. The bowl of miniature Milky Ways made me think of a Milky Way cake recipe you ran once. Or am I imagining it? I never made it, but now I have more time (not to mention candy).

Dear Sandra: Your memory is fine. That is not a cake I could forget. The recipe is from the candy bar manufacturer.

MILKY WAY-PECAN CAKE
6 large Milky Way candy bars, cut up
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
Milky Way icing (recipe follows)

Melt candy bars with 1 stick butter over low heat. Stir well and set aside. With a mixer, cream sugar and remaining 1 stick butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.

In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in nuts and melted candy.  Pour into a greased and floured Bundt pan or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes in the Bundt pan or 55 minutes in the oblong pan, or until cake tests done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from Bundt pan. Spread icing over cake.

MILKY WAY ICING
2 cups packed brown sugar
6 tbsp. cream
2 large Milky Way candy bars, cut up
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 tbsp. butter

Stir together sugar and cream in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil exactly 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in candy bars. When melted, beat in vanilla and butter. Spread over cake.

Please tell your friends about my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/See-Jane-Cook/485076374882661. A link to this newsletter is posted weekly on the site.

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

CONTACT JANE
The only way Mimi and I can keep this newsletter going is by increasing the number of readers in order to attract underwriters. Please share this newsletter with your friends and urge them to subscribe. It’s free! If you have a food question, recipe request or comment, E-mail Jane Snow at jane@janesnowtoday.com Please put “FOOD” in the subject line.

ABOUT JANE SNOW
Jane Snow is the former food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. Her work has appeared in newspapers nationwide. She has won two James Beard Awards for food writing and has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, Tony, a sushi chef and owner of Sushi Katsu, an Akron sushi bar.

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October 15, 2014

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

Please note: If your email address changes this year, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. Mimi’s minions cannot change the address for you in our email list. The procedure is easy. Just click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of a newsletter. After you have unsubscribed,  go to my website, www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Dear friends,

I should have seen it coming. The green tomato glut was inevitable by mid-August, when the first blush appeared on my tardy summer crop, and farmers at local farm markets admitted they were selling tomatoes trucked in from southern Ohio.

After more fickle hot/cool/rainy weather, my first picking ripened all at once in September, but the next wave was arrested by a nasty, early fall.

Although my tomato crop was meager, dinner last Thursday gave me reason to smile. Thanks to the bad weather, we dined on cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes with grilled shrimp, bacon, and goat cheese-thyme vinaigrette. Although I would have preferred a peck of sun-ripened tomatoes, that dinner was a fine consolation prize.

As with most of my recipes, the ingredients on hand dictated the meal. A clutch of green tomatoes, picked from the vines I yanked up and discarded, sat in a garden cart by the back door. In the fridge I found a few slices of bacon, half a log of goat cheese and a frozen block of raw shrimp my live-in sushi chef had brought home from his restaurant. With the pen and paper I keep on the kitchen counter I jotted down the outlines of a recipe, then filled in amounts and adjusted ingredients as I cooked.

Thick slices of green tomato are shallow-fried in a heavy skillet until the crust is crisp and the tomato just begins to yield to a fork. The burner should be on medium-high to prevent the crust from burning while the interior softens. The skewered shrimp are sizzled briefly in a grill pan or another skillet. I used two parallel skewers to make the shrimp easier to turn (they won’t slide around the skewer). Large shrimp will need no more than a minute over high heat. The bacon was cooked earlier in the day.

To serve the dish as an entrée, as I did, stack three tomato slices and lean two skewers of shrimp (6 shrimp altogether) against the stack. Shower the stack with bits of bacon and drizzle everything with the dressing. For appetizer portions, use two tomato slices and one skewer of shrimp.

Maybe an early fall isn’t so bad.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES WITH SHRIMP, BACON AND GOAT CHEESE VINAIGRETTE

(Serves 3 as an entrée, 6 as an appetizer)

  • 3 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
  • Goat cheese vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 18 large raw shrimp, pan grilled (recipe follows)
  • 4 to 6 medium-large green tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Cook the bacon until crisp; crumble and set aside. Prepare the vinaigrette and ready the shrimp for pan grilling.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick slices and choose the 12 best for frying. Place near the stove. Also near the stove place a  shallow bowl containing 1 cup flour, another containing 2 beaten eggs and another containing the 1/2 cup cornmeal, remaining 1/2 cup flour and the salt, mixed well.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour in about 1/4-inch of oil. When the oil is hot, coat the tomato slices very lightly with the flour, knocking off excess. Dip in the egg and coat evenly with the cornmeal mixture. Fry in batches in the skillet, avoiding crowding, until the crusts are golden brown and the interiors are soft but not mushy. Drain on papers towels. Add more oil between batches as necessary. When the last batch is in the skillet, pan-grill the shrimp.

For entrée portions, stack three tomato slices on each of three plates. Lean two skewers of shrimp against each stack, and garnish with crumbled bacon. Drizzle with dressing and serve. For appetizers, use two tomatoes slices and one skewer of shrimp for each serving. Makes 3 entrée or 6 appetizer servings.

GOAT CHEESE-THYME VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. softened French-style goat cheese (chevre)
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme

Combine olive oil, vinegar and salt in a small bowl or jar and mix well with a fork. Mash goat cheese into the vinaigrette, then beat with the fork until smooth. Stir in thyme. Beat again just before serving. Refrigerate leftover dressing.

PAN-GRILLED SHRIMP

  • 18 large raw shrimp
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 12 short wooden skewers, soaked in water

Peel shrimp, leaving on tails. Place in a bowl or plastic bag with 2 tablespoons of the oil, mixing to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes. Thread three shrimp on two parallel skewers, leaving a small space between each shrimp. Repeat with remaining shrimp and skewers.

Heat a wide skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat bottom with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cook shrimp skewers, in batches if necessary, turning once, until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 1 minute. Do not overcook; shrimp will continue cooking off the heat. Makes 6 skewers.

TIDBITS

Selling cabbage rolls made from an Old World recipe is the latest fund-raiser from the clever Boy Scouts of Troop 334 in Uniontown. These are the guys who stage the free cupcake feast (http://www.cupcakecampakron.com/) each spring.

The cabbage rolls, made from a scout’s grandmother’s recipe, will be served from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 25. For $8, diners get two cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, bread and beverage. Hot dogs will be available for picky eaters.

The event will be held at the Queen of Heaven Church’s Parish Life Center 1800 Steese Road in Uniontown. See you there.

THE MAILBAG

From Patty S.:
Jane, I am trying to find Uncle Gizzy’s phone number in Florida. Last year we bought horseradish off of him.  We would like to buy more to take to Colorado with us. Thank you.

Dear Patty: I don’t even know his real name. Maybe someone knows where the product is available in a local store in the off season. If so, I’ll pass along the information.

From M.L.:
Will tomato sauce react with a stainless steel pan and give my sauce a funny taste? I know not to use an aluminum pan, but I’m not sure about stainless steel.

Dear M.L.: Acidic foods such as tomato sauce will not react with your stainless steel pan. Common reactive cookware metals are aluminum, cast iron and copper.  Even with reactive cookware, I don’t think the food picks up enough flavor from the metals to be detected in most cases. A bigger concern is that the reaction between the metal and acid may cause light-colored sauces and soups to develop a grayish color when cooked for a long time.

From Marty:
I have read about the wonderful health benefits of sauerkraut if eaten raw and unpasteurized. It doesn’t seem that it would be hard to make if the ratio of cabbage, salt and the proper temperature are followed. Have you ever tried your hand at making it? Thanks for your help.

Dear Marty: I have never made fermented sauerkraut, although I’ve interviewed people who have. It’s not difficult to make, but to me it seems like a heckuva lot of bother unless you round up friends or family to participate in the project. First you have to shred all that cabbage, then salt it and pack it in a big crock with a weight on top. The fermentation process takes 4 to 6 weeks. And then you have to can it!! If I haven’t scared you off, you’ll find detailed instructions at the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation website, http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/sauerkraut.html.

I make a slap-dash fresh “sauerkraut” by wilting shredded cabbage with vinegar and salt in a skillet. If you want to try it, use about 1/2 head cabbage to 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar to 1/2 teaspoon salt. Wilt over medium-high heat while turning the cabbage with tongs. The amounts may be varied to taste.

Please tell your friends about my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/See-Jane-Cook/485076374882661. A link to this newsletter is posted weekly on the site.

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

CONTACT JANE
The only way Mimi and I can keep this newsletter going is by increasing the number of readers in order to attract underwriters. Please share this newsletter with your friends and urge them to subscribe. It’s free! If you have a food question, recipe request or comment, E-mail Jane Snow at jane@janesnowtoday.com Please put “FOOD” in the subject line.
ABOUT JANE SNOW
Jane Snow is the former food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. Her work has appeared in newspapers nationwide. She has won two James Beard Awards for food writing and has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, Tony, a sushi chef and owner of Sushi Katsu, an Akron sushi bar.

October 1st, 2014

See Jane Cook is a free weekly Internet food newsletter written by Jane Snow and published by Mimi Vanderhaven. Sign up at www.janesnowtoday.com to have newsletter appear every Wednesday (well, sometimes Thursday or Friday) in your email in box. Join us!

Dear friends:

The Japanese have a ferocious sweet tooth, and I’m seduced by the desserts and snacks every time I visit the country. Acres of real estate in shopping malls are devoted to gorgeous displays of sponge cakes topped with whipped cream and fruit, pound cakes in crinkly pastel wrappers and custards sold in clever pint creamery jars. The candy and cookie aisles in supermarkets take up more space than meat, and almost as much as seafood.

I held out against the fancy cakes and custards, but I couldn’t resist the ever-present stash of cookies my mother-in-law keeps on the low dining table in her living room. The table is the center of family life. It is where people sit to watch TV, entertain guests and eat meals. It is where I fell in love with ginger and peanut cookies.

Both are called “senbei” rather than cookies. Senbei are rice crackers. The cookies do not taste like they’re made from rice flour, however. They are thin and very crisp. The peanut cookies look as if they are made from a batter, with scenes imprinted on one side. The ginger cookies are also thin and crisp, but they are folded, pinched in the middle and encrusted with candied ginger. The ginger flavor is explosive.

I brought some of each back home for a friend who had tasted and loved the cookies my mother-in-law shipped to me last year. Shamefully, I ate the gift cookies instead of giving them to my friend. I couldn’t resist.

Now, almost two months later, I miss the cookies a lot. I have no idea how the peanut cookies are made. The ginger cookies appeared easier to replicate, so I gave them a try last weekend. While the cookies I produced are not exactly like the ginger senbei of Japan, they are crisp and very ginger-y. They are nothing like the ginger cookies sold here. I think they would make a wicked dessert paired with pear sorbet. I can’t say for sure because I ate every last stinkin’ one.

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JAPANESE GINGER COOKIES

  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. dry powdered ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • 4 tsp. water
  • ¼ cup very finely chopped candied ginger (use a food processor if possible)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, powdered ginger, cornstarch and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Whisk in oil and vanilla. Slowly add egg mixture to flour mixture, beating with the mixer until smooth.

Spread the candied ginger in 2-inch circles on the parchment paper, 2 inches apart. Eight or 9 circles should fit on each sheet. Use all of the candied ginger. Drizzle a tablespoon of the batter over each circle of candied ginger. Place the first sheet in the oven while finishing the second sheet. Bake about 15 minutes, switching top sheet to lower rack when first sheet is done. The edges should be evenly brown, but the cookies should still be soft enough to fold.

The moment the cookies come from the oven, release a cookie with a spatula from the parchment paper and fold in half loosely. For a more authentic look, press a finger in the center of the open edge, allowing the edges on each end to remain open. Continue with remaining cookies, working quickly.

Remove second sheet from the oven and fold as before. Cool completely, then return to oven and bake an additional 20 minutes at 300 degrees, until very crisp and dry. Makes 16 to 18 cookies.

HELP U COOK     

Those who like to make an extra pie or two to freeze during apple season usually want to know whether it’s best to bake the pie before freezing. Fruit pies may be frozen either way, according to “Farm Journal’s Freezing and Canning Cookbook,” by the editors of Farm Journal.

Baked fruit pies should be taken from the oven about 15 minutes early. The crust should be light brown. Cool, wrap well and freeze. Before serving, thaw the pie in its wrapping at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Unwrap and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until warmed through.

To bake frozen uncooked pies, unwrap (no need to thaw) and bake on the lower the oven shelf at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, then complete the baking at 375 degrees. The time will vary depending on the type of fruit.

THE MAILBAG

From Barbara Schmucker, Suffield:

My grandmother taught my mother how to make German meat dumplings, at least that’s what grandma called them.  They were wonderful.  All who knew the recipe has passed and the recipe was never written down.  I remember parts  5 pounds hamburger, a couple loaves of white bread that was torn the night before to dry out, chopped onions, and either sage or poultry seasoning.  I remember my father telling my mom that “it wasn’t enough bread and to keep adding more.”  There were 7 of us, may have been a frugal thing.  I remember mom getting beef bones from the butcher, roasting them and making the best beef stock ever.  We would squish all the ingredients together and form into baseball sized balls.  They were dropped into the beef stock and cooked gently until done.  Served in a bowl with some of the broth. I’ve tried to recreate but the recipe seems to be missing something.  I’ve googled “German meat dumplings” and “German meatballs.”  No luck.  Hopefully someone who has a German grandma makes these and/or passed the recipe on.  I would be grateful for any help!

Dear Barbara:

My Grandmother was German but didn’t make anything like that. I hope someone can help.

From Betty M.:

As a kid (8 to 14) growing up in Clermont County in southern Ohio, I remember our pawpaw tree.  It grew on the corner of our property.  My mother would actually wait for them to become ripe.  Unfortunately, so would our mailman.  Usually, he won.  I don’t remember getting to eat very many of them, but I do remember the banana flavor.

Dear Betty:

As soon as I find a tree I’m going to plant it and hope I live long enough for the tree to grow, thrive and produce fruit.