November 26, 2014

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

My whole family, what there is of us, will be together on Thanksgiving. This year we are especially thankful.  Last year on Thanksgiving my brother’s wife was in the hospital with a stroke. My brother and his step sons had a hasty turkey dinner a couple of weeks later before driving 45 minutes to the hospital in Pittsburgh, as they did every day, to visit. Cathy didn’t return home until Christmas Eve.

Her health is still fragile and my brother is hobbling around on a broken ankle, so I’m preparing most of Thursday’s dinner and hauling it to East Liverpool. Joining us will be my loveable sister and her husband and son, and two of Cathy’s sons and their families – a dozen of us in all. I will cherish every moment, because who knows which Thanksgiving will be our last together?

As the years pass, the food on the table becomes both less and more important. It’s less important that every dish wows the diners, and more important that the food reflects family traditions and evokes memories of those no longer here. Still, I can’t bring myself to make my mother’s Spartan stuffing of cubed white bread with melted butter, salt and pepper.  Mom, what were you thinking?

I will also make the Bourbon-mashed sweet potatoes my brother requested and the homemade cranberry sauce with port wine and toasted pecans that everyone likes. These are not family recipes but ones I fell in love with as a food writer and shared with my family about 20 years ago. I guess that makes them traditional family recipes now.

I will not argue with my brother, even though our politics are different. I will not tell him how to roast a turkey after the fact, even though he’ll probably not roast “correctly.”  I will not rib him about his taste in wine or football teams. I’ll just tell him that I love them.

If only Mom were around to enjoy the truce.

APPLE-WALNUT STUFFING
•    3 quarts cubes of day-old bread
•    2 slices bacon, chopped
•    1/2 cup butter
•    1 cup chopped onions
•    3/4 cup chopped celery
•    2 cups peeled, chopped apples
•    1/3 cup broken walnut halves, toasted
•    1 tsp. dried thyme
•    1 tsp. crumbled dried sage
•    1 tsp. salt
•    1/2 tsp. pepper
Buy good bakery bread and let it sit overnight without a wrapper. Cut it into slices if necessary and then into 1-inch squares. Measure 12 cups into a large bowl.

Fry bacon until crisp in a large skillet. With a slotted spoon, transfer to the bowl with the bread cubes. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the skillet with the bacon fat. Add the onions and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring every minute or so, until the onion is soft and tastes sweet. Stir in the apples and cook 5 minutes longer. Add remaining butter and melt. Transfer everything in the skillet to the  bowl with the bread cubes and toss well to distribute the fat.

Add walnuts, thyme, sage, and salt and pepper and
stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes enough to stuff a 16-pound turkey.

Note: To cook the stuffing outside the bird, beat 3 eggs with 1 cup chicken or turkey broth. Pour over bread mixture and spoon into a greased casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until steaming hot all the way through.

HELP U COOK
Tomorrow I will enjoy my brother’s roast turkey and politely refuse his offer of leftovers, knowing my back-up turkey is at home soaking in brine. On Friday I will smoke the turkey in my Weber. I have compared grill-smoked turkey with moist, juicy birds expertly cooked in the oven, and grill-smoked wins hands down. Nevertheless, I’m supplying directions for cooking the bird two ways—on the grill and in the oven by the high-heat method, my second-favorite way to cook a turkey.

Turkey on the grill: Place a foil pan in the bottom of one side of a covered grill, and about 30 charcoal briquettes on the other side. When the charcoal is ashed over, place an oiled, unstuffed turkey on the grid over the pan, opposite the charcoal. Cover grill. The vents should be wide open.

Cook for 2 to 3 hours for a 10- to 18-pound turkey, turning bird top to bottom and front to back and adding more charcoal every 45 minutes. Do not open lid except when adding charcoal and turning the turkey. Roast until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees. Transfer to a platter, cover with foil and let rest for 30 to 40 minutes before carving.

Quick-roast turkey: Heat oven to 475 degrees. Place an unstuffed turkey on a wire rack in a large, shallow roasting pan, breast side up. The turkey must not hang outside the pan. Pour 1/2 inch of water into the pan. Roast uncovered in the lower third of the oven until the breast meat registers 160 degrees — about 1 3/4 hours for an 18-pound turkey
or 2 hours for a 22-pound turkey. Check the temperature of smaller turkeys sooner. If the turkey begins to brown too much, tent loosely with foil.

When done, remove from oven, transfer to a platter and cover tightly with foil. Let rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving. The turkey will continue to cook during this period, so do not skip this step. Serves 12.

HELP U COOK II
What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? Break a teensy bit with tradition and ignore the recipe on the can of pumpkin. Use my recipe instead, which I usually make with homemade roasted and pureed pumpkin, but which works great with canned pumpkin, too. The spices are bold and the texture is heavenly, thanks to the cream in the filling.

Tony and I polished off one of these last weekend, thanks to a tradition started by my mother – pre-Thanksgiving “tester” pie. You’re welcome to steal the idea. It’s delicious.

ULTIMATE PUMPKIN PIE
•    1 or 2 small pumpkins, about 2 or 3 lbs. total
•    Pastry for a 1-crust, 10-inch pie
•    1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water
•    3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
•    1/4 cup granulated sugar
•    1 tbsp. flour
•    1 tbsp. molasses or dark corn syrup
•    1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
•    1 tsp. ground ginger
•    1/4 tsp. fresh-grated nutmeg
•    1/4 tsp. ground cloves
•    1/4 tsp. salt
•    2 cups pumpkin (cooked, drained and pureed if  fresh)
•    3 eggs
•    1 3/4 cups cream
•    2 tbsp. brandy, Bourbon or rum
Roll out pastry and fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie pan. Crimp edges. Brush edges with egg-water mixture. If desired, roll out scraps and cut into the shapes of leaves. Brush with egg-water mixture and bake the leaves on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden.

In a large bowl, combine sugars, flour, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir in the pumpkin.
In another bowl combine eggs, cream and brandy. Slowly pour into the pumpkin mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour into pie shell.

Bake on the middle oven rack at 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the filling comes out clean. When wiggled, the filling should still move slightly in the center. Cool. Decorate with pastry leaves if desired. Makes 1 pie.

THE MAILBAG
From Linda Z.:
I was just reading about your Lemon Wafer Crunches in a December 2013 email and wondered how to find the recipe.  I looked on your blog and it doesn’t go back that far and I must not understand the search process. Is there a way to link to your recipes online?  Thanks!

Dear Linda: Sorry, but we have no search function on my website or blog. Mimi Vanderhaven publishes my newsletter and handles that end of things, and we originally agreed not to make past recipes available in case I wanted to turn them into a cookbook. Our thinking has changed since then, but posting the recipes – especially earlier ones — and creating a search function is time-consuming and I don’t want to impose. I have all of the recipes on my computer and although they aren’t alphabetized with a search function, I can usually find them and satisfy requests.

(Note from Jane’s Tech Folks: We are working on a new site for Jane, which includes a search function. You can find it here . The Lemon Wafer Crunch recipe can also be found here .)

Here’s the cookie recipe you want:

LEMON WAFER CRUNCH
•    1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. (10 tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
•    1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
•    1 tsp. vanilla extract
•    2 tbsp. loosely packed, finely grated lemon zest
•    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
•    1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
•    1/2 tsp. baking powder
•    1/4 tsp. baking soda
•    1/4 tsp. salt
•    Coarse sugar
Cream together butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Blend in vanilla, zest, and juice, stopping once to scrape sides and bottom. Mixture will look curdled. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing until blended.
On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into an 8-inch-long log and roll in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Twist the ends to seal. Chill for 2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap dough and roll the cylinder in the coarse sugar, pressing gently so sugar crystals adhere, and rocking cylinder back and forth to keep its rounded shape.

Cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or just until the edges are a light golden brown. Cool 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Note: The recipe is from Bev Shaffer’s “Cookies to Die For.” I added some leftover cranberry sauce to half the dough to create spiral cookies (press each piece of dough into rectangles, stack one on top of the other and roll up like a cigar before wrapping and chilling.)

From Mary D.:
Famous Dave’s pickles are delicious.  They’re sweet-hot and sold at Marc’s.

Dear Mary: Yay! More pickles!

From Olga:
Not sure if this will sound weird to you but
I was cleaning out the refrigerator and found two blocks of cream cheese. The expiration date is February 2014. Can I still use? Thanks.

Dear Olga: Your question doesn’t sound weird at all, because I have a 3-month-old block of cream cheese in MY fridge. The key is whether it has been opened or not. Sealed cream cheese will last quite a while. When it goes bad, you’ll know it. Open and see if there’s any mold. If not, and if it smells sweet, enjoy.

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November 19, 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,

How can such a simple recipe – three ingredients and a crust – produce such a spectacular dessert? You will want to print this and make it for Thanksgiving. Don’t hesitate. Just do it.

Tarte Tatin Aux Poires is a glistening, golden-brown upside-down pear tart. The quartered pears embedded in the flaky pastry are glazed with a butter-rich caramel.

The dessert is based on tarte Tatin, the classic French upside-down apple tart. This pear version, from Patricia Wells’ “Bistro Cooking,” is even easier to make than tarte Tatin, in which halved apples must be arranged just so. Here, peeled and quartered pears are caramelized with butter and sugar in a skillet, then dumped willy-nilly in a springform pan lined with foil. The pastry is draped over the pears and tucked down the sides.

In the oven, the pastry swells and fills all the nooks and crannies between the caramelized pears. When inverted onto a platter, the glossy pears are nestled like gems in the enveloping pastry.

The French butter pastry – pate brisee – comes together quickly in a food processor. It may be made well in advance, and in fact is best if it rests at least an hour in the refrigerator.

Wells suggests baking the tart in a “10 1/2-inch clear-glass baking dish or a special tin-lined copper tart Tatin pan.  Since I don’t have a glass baking dish in the proper shape, and Le Creuset’s non-copper Tatin pan is $110 from Williams-Sonoma, I think I’ll stick with my makeshift foil-lined 11-inch springform. It worked just fine.

CARAMELIZED UPSIDE-DOWN PEAR TART

pear

– Pate brisee (recipe follows)
– 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
– 7 to 8 firm pears, preferably Bosc or Anjou, peeled, quartered and cored
– 1/2 cup sugar
– Crème fraiche or sour cream for serving (optional)

Make the pate brisee, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least one hour.
In a 12-inch heavy skillet (I recommend cast iron), melt the butter. If you do not have a 12-inch skillet, use 2 smaller skillets, dividing the ingredients.

Stir in the pears and sugar. The pears should fit in a single layer. If not, remove some of the pears. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring carefully from time to time so the pears and sugar do not stick. Increase heat to medium-high (the directions specify high heat, but I was afraid the caramel would burn). Cook until the pears and sugar are a deep, golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes longer, shaking pan or stirring often.  Allow the caramel and pears to become a true deep brown but do not burn.

Pile the pears into a foil-lined, 10- or 11-inch springform pan. Roll out the pate brisee slightly larger than the pan. Place the pastry on top of the pears, tucking a bit of the dough around the edges and down into the pan.

Bake at 425 degrees on the center oven rack for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately place a heatproof platter top-side down on the pan and invert the tart onto the platter. Tap the bottom of the pan to release any pears that may stick. Slowly remove the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature, passing a bowl of crème fraiche or sour cream, if desired, to spoon over the tart. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

PATE BRISEE
(Flaky Pastry)
1 to 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
7 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/8 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. (more or less) ice water

Place 1 cup of flour, the butter and salt in a food processor. Process just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to hold together. Do not let it form a ball. Transfer to waxed paper and flatten into a disk. If dough seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Roll on a lightly floured surface according to recipe. (For easier rolling, I remove the dough from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before rolling.)

TIDBITS

Kevin Scheuring, who makes the case for Texas chili in a letter below, is The Spice Hound, a local purveyor of bulk spices at reasonable prices. He carries dozens and dozens of spices, from Himalayan pink sea salt to Caribbean hot curry, most of which he packages and sells in $1 portions. Kevin’s spices can be found year-round on Saturdays at the Coit Road Farmers Market at Coit and Woodworth Roads near 152nd Street in Cleveland. For a product list and other market locations, check out his website http://www.spicehoundcleveland.com.

THE MAILBAG

From Cindy P.:
I rarely eat anything fried and almost never fry anything at home. So, my version of Brussels sprouts involves slicing each sprout into 1/4 – inch slices. I put them in a baking dish, and drizzle them with olive oil. Sometimes I toss in bacon, walnuts, and capers. Salt to your taste then roast, stirring so they get evenly cooked, and even a little crispy and brown. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction just before you serve. They are nice and crispy when they are fresh — not so much the next day.

Dear Cindy: Your sprouts sound great. They would be a nice side dish for Thanksgiving.

From Debbie Minerich:
Hi Jane, here’s a tip for your readers regarding baking a pumpkin for pie. I found that a grapefruit knife works very well to separate the strings from the pulp and the pulp from the rind. Slice the cooled pumpkin into strips no wider than the blade and run the serrated, curved knife along the flesh to pull off the strings. Sometimes the pulp pulls away from the rind without scraping a knife between the two.

Dear Debbie: What a great idea. Now I have to go buy a grapefruit knife. I own a zucchini corer and a mint muddler but for some reason, no grapefruit knife.

From Janice:
In reading your chili comments this week I had to write to tell you the only chili recipe I use is the one you had in your Beacon Journal column many years ago. It has cinnamon and chocolate in it
and it is the best!! My whole family loves it!

From Dan, Kent:
I especially enjoyed reading your comments in today’s newsletter (11/12) on making chili.

Since you published it in the ABJ in 2004, the following chili recipe is the only one I use, and I usually double it and freeze much of it in portions for a quick meal over rice, spaghetti or salad greens, as a pizza topping or all by itself. Now that we’re no longer eating meat, I just leave it out and add a can of black beans. Best chili recipe ever.

JANE’S CHILI
– 1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– Salt, pepper
– 2 tbsp. pure chili powder
– 1 tbsp. ground cumin
– 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 1 tbsp. oregano
– 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
– 1/2 tsp. (or to taste) cayenne pepper
– 4 (14.5-oz.) cans whole plum tomatoes
– 1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans, drained
– 2 oz. broken Mexican chocolate or 1/4 cup chocolate chips
– 1 1/2 tbsp. packed brown sugar

Brown ground beef and onions together in a large pot. Spoon off some of the fat, leaving some in for flavor. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, coriander and cayenne. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes.

Drain juice from tomatoes into pot. Dice tomatoes and add to pot. Add beans and stir well. Stir in chocolate and brown sugar. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until flavors are blended.
Serves 8.

Dear Janice and Dan: I’m flattered, especially since a few eyebrows were raised when I first created the recipe (chocolate? cinnamon?). I still love it, too, although I’ve been on a quest lately to clone Acme’s Cactus Chili.

From Kevin Scheuring:
I like to challenge people to make a pot of chili without any tomato at all. The sauce is made with whole dried chilies that have been rehydrated and pureed. Ancho, New Mexico mild, and guajillo are great choices and make a great sauce without any need for tomatoes. This can be a real eye-opener for people who think of chili as a spiced tomato sauce. Chili is best when tomato is never more than a supporting player.

Keep up the good work!

Dear Kevin: Now you’re talking like a Texan. I’ve had Texas chili in Texas and have even made it myself (no beans, thickened with cornmeal the cowboy way). While I concede that historically it is “real” chili while ours is merely a pretender, I prefer our fake tomato-based version. Real Texas chili can get bit too real for me. Eyes aren’t the only thing it opens, if you get my drift.

From Holli Mallak:
While my heart and home are in Akron, my husband and I have lived in Shanghai, China since January 2013. It’s been a great experience — but of course, I have a food question.

I quickly realized when I came here that egg rolls as we have in the U.S. aren’t offered here. (Or if they are, I haven’t been able to find them.) I did get over that craving and have moved on to doufu mapo, dan dan and xiaolongbao.

Recently I went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch. It was a teppenyaki place (tangent: It looked like a hibachi table. But they called it teppenyaki. I’m so confused) that offered a variety of set lunches. I ordered a noodle/miso soup/tofu set. When it was delivered, on the side in a condiment bowl was a spicy mustard — the same spicy mustard that I associate with egg rolls in the U.S. (Not those lame spicy mustard packets, but rather the sinus-clearing yummy stuff.)

So is this spicy mustard a Chinese, Japanese or Asian condiment?

Dear Holli: I am so jealous. Have you eaten any red-cooked Chinese dishes yet? How about Shanghai soup dumplings – the kind where the soup is INSIDE the dumplings? They could replace your egg roll craving.

My husband the sushi chef says the mustard you were served was Chinese, not Japanese. He grew up in Japan and apprenticed in Tokyo, and never came across the mustard there. And to clear up your confusion, a hibachi is a charcoal grill, while teppanyaki is a table with a flat metal griddle built in. Typically, chefs cook your meal on the griddle as you watch. Benihana was a pioneer of teppanyaki restaurants in the U.S.

From Mike:
We just finished a jar of Wickles Pickles that we bought at Root Candles in Medina (of all places).  Truly delicious.

Dear Mike: Thanks for sharing that info. I’ve gotta get me some Wickles Pickles.

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.

November 12, 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,

I saved one of those “best things I ate on vacation” emails, going back to it again and again. I didn’t print it because it wasn’t a vacation memory, but I didn’t discard it because the dish sounded so good. I’ll let Pennie describe it:

“The best thing I ate all summer was an appetizer special at Papa Joe’s for the month of June. It was shaved Brussels sprouts, flash fried and dressed with Balsamic and sweetened walnuts. Absolutely incredible. Never heard of such a thing. I hope they make it a regular menu item.”

The bad news is the dish did not become a regular menu item. The good news is we have the recipe, so it doesn’t matter.  Executive chef Joe Alvis gladly generously shared the recipe, and I filled in a few of the blanks (how to make candied nuts, serving sizes, etc.) when I tested it.

This is not an easy dish to make in a home kitchen.  The Brussels sprouts must be sliced incredibly thin, which will be a challenge unless you’re a phenom with a knife or you use the slicing disk of a food processor. Dressing must be made, walnuts must be candied and parsley leaves must be plucked one by one from the stems. Everything must be very dry when it goes into the hot oil or you risk frantic foaming and popping.

The dressing recipe Joe sent, by the way, is made with cider vinegar, not the Balsamic vinegar Pennie remembers. It is sweetened with honey and drizzled over the mound of crisp parsley, capers and Brussels sprouts. The candied walnuts are added at the end.
I toasted the walnuts in a dry skillet and candied them in the same skillet on the stove top rather than in the oven, using a minimum of sugar. I loved the results. Instead of a hard candy coating, it was lacy and crisp.

CRISPY FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

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•    1 lb. Brussels sprouts
•    1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
•    3 tbsp. capers, drained
•    1/2 cup chopped candied walnuts (see note)
•    Vegetable oil for deep frying

Vinaigrette:
•    1/4 cup cider vinegar
•    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
•    1 1/2 tsp. whole-grain mustard
•    1 1/2 tsp. sugar
•    1 tbsp. honey
•    Salt, pepper

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar, shake well and set aside.

Slice Brussels sprouts very thin, preferably with the slicing disk of a food processor. A mandolin may be used instead, or a steady hand and a sharp knife. Place the sliced sprouts in a bowl next to the stove along with the washed and thoroughly dried parsley and the thoroughly drained capers. Line a platter or baking sheet with paper towels. Nearby, place the candied nuts and a large bowl.

Heat at least 1 1/2 inches of oil in a fairly wide, deep kettle (I used a chili pot) over medium-high heat. Test the temperature of the oil by dropping in one caper. If it sizzles madly, place remaining capers in a fine-mesh ladle (or other appropriate utensil) and lower into oil. Cook until crisp and golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove from oil and drain on the towel-lined platter. Repeat with parsley. In batches, deep-fry Brussels sprouts until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Season everything lightly with salt.

Just before serving, combine Brussels sprouts, capers and parsley in a large bowl. Drizzle with just enough of the dressing to coat. Gently toss. Mound on four salad plates. Scatter candied walnuts over each portion and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Note: For lacy, crisp, lightly candied walnuts, place the chopped nuts in a heavy, dry skillet over medium-high heat. Shake and stir until the nuts begin to take on color. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the nuts and continue to cook, stirring lazily, until the sugar has melted and turned a tawny brown. Immediately transfer to parchment paper or a lightly buttered plate. Break apart any clumps when cool.

HELP U COOK

If you live in Texas, never mind. Scroll down to The Mailbag, because my tips for making chili won’t make sense to you. Texas has an entirely different definition of “chili” than the other 49 states. The rest of you, especially the chili-challenged, read on.

I would like to help rid the Earth of chili that tastes like hot gazpacho, or tomato broth studded with cubes of green pepper, or kidney beans and ground beef on a playing field of canned tomato sauce. I have tasted all of these “chilis” and in fact made a version of that last one in my younger days. I couldn’t figure out how to get chili to taste like chili.

The breakthrough came when I learned to use canned whole tomatoes and their juice instead of crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste or any other tomato product that comes in a can.  Don’t even use canned whole tomatoes AND any of these items or your chili will taste too much like tomato sauce.

Second, don’t be timid with the seasonings. Use a quarter-cup of ground cumin, for example, not a tablespoon. Heat it up with pure ground red chili peppers (preferably Hatch or Anaheim), not hot sauce or chili pepper flakes. And you won’t need “chili powder” because you’ve made your own with the cumin and ground chili peppers.

If you use beef broth, don’t add more than a cup or two. I usually don’t use any. This is chili we’re making, not soup.

The other seasonings are up to you.

But please, no green pepper.

THE MAILBAG

From Bee:
I discovered that stir frying is a good and easy method for preparing greens. I used mixture of dock, lambs quarter, purslane, Swiss chard and spinach. I also add wild mustard seed pods. I finished with oyster sauce as recommended in the recipe I used. I would definitely use this method again. Will do it outdoors next.

Dear Bee: Better hurry before the grill is buried under snow. I regularly stir fry broccoli rabe, spinach and kale, but I’ve never tried the other greens you mentioned. Good idea. The mustard seed pods would add a spicy note. I usually use my homemade stir fry sauce, but vinaigrette and other salad dressings – or just balsamic vinegar by itself – work well, too, I’ve found.

From Shirley Phillips, Hudson:
Check for Perky Pickles at Heinen’s in Aurora. I used to always find them there. However, I want to share my favorite pickle recipe:

CANDIED DILL SLICES
•    1 qt. Vlasic Hamburger Dill slices, drained
•    1 large onion, chopped
•    2 cups sugar
•    3 tsp. celery seed
•    2 tbsp. vinegar
•    1 tsp. pickling spice
•    1 clove garlic (more if you like)

Combine all but the pickle slices and mix well. Layer this mixture with the drained pickle slices back into the original jar.  Refrigerate at least overnight.

Shake the jar occasionally or turn upside down. If you turn it upside down, put it on a saucer or something because it tends to leak – and it’s sticky.

I have also used the same recipe but substituted midget dills for the hamburger dill slices.
They are really delicious; I have some in the refrigerator at all times.

Dear Shirley: I like the way you think – using already-made pickles, and sweetening them up. Your fervor for these pickles makes me want to try them. I’ll use Aldi’s dill pickle slices, though, instead of Vlasic. They are the amazing. If you haven’t tried them, pick up a jar.

From Bob, Silver Lake:
Giant Eagle also has tubs of horseradish pickles. They aren’t stocked with the rest of the pickles so you may want to inquire where they are. They aren’t as sweet as the Nathan’s but we like them.

Dear Bob: The photo you sent indicates the pickles are indeed Sweet Horseradish Chips, but from another pickle packer – Farm Ridge Foods. I’m impressed that you buy ‘em by the quart. Getting a horseradish buzz on, eh Bob? I’m going to pick up a jar. Like Nathan’s, they are refrigerated rather than shelf-stable. Thanks for the information.

From Iris:
I’m a sleuth when it comes to finding something on the Internet. I found a couple of sources for the pickles: http://www.delidirect.com  and http://www.walmart.com. Yes, Walmart! You have to order them online. But it is a 128-fluid ounce bucket of pickles. Don’t know if you want that much.

Dear Iris: That’s a lot of pickles. Puts Bob’s 32-ounce jar to shame.

From Linda W.:
Your last newsletter mentions a good sweet pickle with a bit of heat. Try Wickles Pickles. Occasionally I have found them at Walmart and specialty stores. They are wonderful.

Dear Linda: Wickles Pickles??!! That’s almost as good as Dick’s Perky Pickles! I must find some. Thank you so much. How have I missed hot-sweet pickles all these years?

From Jan C.:
FYI, a $9 (1-pound) bag of pistachios in the shell yields about 2 cups of kernels.  No wonder no one cooks with them.  Hope my biscotti are wonderful.  I am not cheap but the recipe only makes 24!

Dear

Dear Jan: I hear you. I would suggest going the bulk-foods route, but I have gotten some stale, tasteless pistachios in bulk-food bins.

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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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