March 26, 2015

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

Dear friends,

At least I don’t have to worry about losing things because I’m old. I have ALWAYS lost things. I misplaced my shoes so often as a preschooler that one day my mother surreptitiously placed them in walking mode by the front door and told me they were trying to escape because I didn’t take care of them. I didn’t really care if my saddle shoes got away, but the idea of sentient footwear scared the crap out of me.

The lost items usually turn up eventually. Remember last fall when my newsletter was without photos for a while because I lost my camera? Probably not, but it bugged me to no end and I stopped looking only after Tony bought me a new camera for Christmas. Well, I found my old camera last week in the pocket of an old coat. Woohoo.

If finding a camera that had been lost for 5 months felt good, imagine my glee at finding a recipe that’s been missing for more than two years.

I forget many of my original recipes until I stumble across them in a folder or on line, but I didn’t forget the individual quick tarte tatins I created in October 2012 I looked for that recipe everywhere. I thought it was gone for good until I unearthed it in a search for a soup recipe for a reader (see today’s Mailbag).

Shortcut tarte tatins! I’m so excited!

The French upside-down caramel apple pie usually takes at least two hours to make. The apples alone require an hour of poaching in the caramel mixture, and baking them with the pastry eats up another 30 minutes.  I used a microwave to partially pre-cook the apples and pastry, reducing the time to about 30 minutes. As I wrote two years ago, there are some trade-offs. My apple tart isn’t upside down, and by preference, I made individual tarts instead of one large tart. But they taste really, really good.

I made a couple this week just to be sure. The caramel took longer to make than I remember, but the kitchen time was still minimal. After assembling, the tart is baked just 15 minutes, thanks to all the pre-nuking.

I have put this recipe somewhere safe. You may want to print and save it, too.

QUICK CARAMEL-APPLE TARTS

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• 1 1/2 gala or Yellow Delicious apples
• 1 disk refrigerated pie dough
• 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
• 3 tbsp. butter
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Peel apples, cut in halves vertically and remove cores, leaving apple halves intact. One at a time, place cut side down on a small microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power for about 30 seconds, until apple starts to soften but is still slightly firm. Set aside.

Spray the interior of three 4-inch ceramic tart pans with baking spray, or lightly grease and flour. Using a tart pan as a template, cut three six-inch circles from the dough, re-rolling scraps if necessary. Fit the circles into the tart pans and trim even with the rims. Prick in several places with a fork. Microwave one at a time at high power for about 30 seconds, or just until pastry puffs and no raw-looking spots remain, but dough is not yet crisp. Set aside.

Spread sugar evenly in the bottom of a small, heavy saucepan. Cut butter into six pieces and arrange evenly over sugar. Drizzle with vanilla. Cook over low heat, stirring only if necessary, until sugar has melted and cooked to a light golden color. Stir.

Remove from heat and working quickly with tongs, bathe each apple half in the syrup, then place cut-side down in a tart shell. Spoon most of the remaining caramel syrup over and around the apples. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for 15 minutes, or until crust begins to brown. Remove from oven. If desired, reheat remaining caramel in pan and drizzle over apples. Makes 3 tarts.

Note: The caramel slips off the apple even when drizzled on just before serving. The next time I make this dessert, I plan to cut each apple half in about 6 slices and press to fan the apple before nestling in the crust. The caramel should cling to the fruit more easily.

HELP U COOK

Earlier this month in his excellent blog, Cleveland author Michael Ruhlman wrote about cooking with your senses. You can read the whole post here http://ruhlman.com/2015/03/medium-wellcooking-with-your-senses /, but two points grabbed me. One was a simple tip to avoid burning nuts, and the other was a section about how important the sense of hearing is in cooking.

The two are linked in my mind because I burn a lot of foods, not just nuts, due to poor hearing. I have worn hearing aids since I was about 30, the result of an ex-husband shooting a gun next to my ear in a fit of jealous rage. (I’ve led an interesting life). I can’t hear bacon sizzling, soup bubbling or even water running. Timers are no help because I can’t hear the ding or buzzer from the next room. I bought an extra-loud timer and carry it with me from room to room when food is cooking. Still, if the TV is on I often don’t hear it anyway. (This is also why I miss telephone calls).

I’ve known for years how important hearing is to cooking. So does Ruhlman. He writes:
“… often overlooked as a fundamental cooking sense is hearing. When I cook bacon, for instance, I start it in water. The gentle heat of water begins to render the fat and the bacon will never go above browning temperature; it’s cooking, but it can’t burn. But once I hear that pan crackling, I know that the water is almost gone; rendered fat can get very hot, and so I must attend to the pan.”

If only I could hear that well. Anyway, I’ve burned not only bacon but many pounds of nuts because I can’t hear the timer’s ding.  Ruhlman has a simple solution. Place a nut on the counter next to the stove while the tray of nuts is toasting. If you’re a neatnik when you cook, you’ll want to clean up that nut every time you glance its way, reminding you of the nuts in the oven.

THE MAILBAG

From Judy:
I have been boiling bones from roasted chickens and turkeys for years. Didn’t think to call it the trendy little name of “bone broth.” Ha! However, I have never added apple cider vinegar to help leach the bones. And I don’t simmer for 24 hours either and I still manage to get a congealed broth once it’s been in the fridge overnight. I will try the vinegar next time though. I just started to freeze the au jus from the pot roast from the Crock-Pot. I am going to use the accumulated beef broth in my next beef stew.  Keep the newsletters coming. I always manage to pick up a good tip or two. Happy spring.

Dear Judy: Happy spring to you, too! I like your tip on saving the juice from pot roast. The accumulated juices also would deepen the flavor of pan sauces.

From Mary, Rocky River:
Would you mind sharing the kale, lentil, & sausage soup recipe you mentioned in your March 14, 2012 newsletter?

Dear Mary: Yikes. I have no idea how to find that recipe. I save all of my newsletters but they are identified by date, which is not very useful. In my paper files (so retro), I found a recipe for sausage-lentil soup, so here’s what I’m gonna do. I will print that recipe and hope someone out there finds and sends the lentil-sausage-kale soup recipe. To add kale to the sausage-lentil soup, wash and de-stem the kale and parboil the leaves in water for two to three minutes.  Drain the kale and simmer it in the soup for at least 15 minutes before serving.

LENTIL SOUP WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE

• 2 cups lentils (not quite 1 lb.)
• 6 cups beef broth
• 2 large carrots, cut in 1/4-inch slices
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp. oregano
• 1/4 tsp. pepper
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1/2 lb. hot Italian link sausage, browned and cut in 1-inch pieces
• Parmesan, parsley for garnish

In a soup pot, combine lentils, broth, carrots, onion, garlic, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables and lentils are tender, 20 to 40 minutes. Add wine and sausages. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, until flavors are well blended. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Makes 4 servings.

From Susan Rainey:
Last fall you had a column about how much work sauerkraut was, with crocks and canning and on and on you went.

Please consider this:
http://leitesculinaria.com/98209/recipes-single-quart-sauerkraut.html . Thanks for your newsletter.

Dear Susan: I think we discussed the one-quart sauerkraut recipe in a subsequent newsletter, but maybe not. My brain has reached the tipping point, and for every new thought that goes in, one leaks out. At any rate, thanks for mentioning Leite’s Culinaria, one of my favorite food blogs. Check out the one-ingredient ice cream on the page that opens from the link.

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March 18, 2015

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

Dear friends,

Two-plus years after Tony’s son left home to work and snowboard in Vail, Colo., we’re finally reconnecting. Tony closed the sushi bar last Saturday for a four-day trip to Denver and Vail to ski and catch up with our 21-year-old. In photos Nico looks thin and fit. On the phone he sounds mature. As I write this, pre-trip, we can’t wait to see him.

My newsletter will be short this week, to give myself time to pack and round up chocolate Easter bunnies to take to Nico. If I have an extra half hour or so, I’ll make  some Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Crunch Brownies, too.

The brownie recipe is compliments of Erin Johnson, a contestant in the Lauren Braman Memorial Chili Cook-Off I judged a couple of weeks ago at Copley High School. Erin won the dessert category with the crunchy layered brownies. She found the recipe in Taste of Home magazine, she said.

While Erin’s chili didn’t take home a ribbon, I gave it high points for originality and flavor. It is actually a creamy soup made with jalapenos and chicken. She based it on a recipe for Jalapeno Popper Chili from the Internet, but changed it so thoroughly that it is her own recipe now.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP CRUNCH BROWNIES
•    1 cup butter, softened
•    2 cups sugar
•    4 eggs
•    1/2 cup cocoa powder
•    1 1/2 cups flour
•    2 tsp. vanilla extract
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
•    1 cup creamy peanut butter
•    2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
•    3 cups crisp rice cereal

In a large bowl, mix cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture until blended. Spread into a greased 9- by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 24 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Spread marshmallow creme over cooled brownies. In a small saucepan, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from the heat; stir in cereal. Spread over top. Refrigerate until set. Cut into bars. Makes about 3 dozen.

Note: Brownies may be made from a box mix, Erin says, and the recipe continued from the marshmallow crème.

CREAMY JALAPENO CHICKEN CHILI
•    3 tbsp. olive oil
•    1 small onion, diced
•    6 canned jalapeno pepper slices, diced (leave some seeds for extra heat)
•    3 cloves garlic, minced
•    Salt, fresh-ground black pepper
•    1 1/4 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
•    2 teaspoons chili powder
•    Pinch of crushed red pepper
•    1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chilies
•    1 1/2 cups milk
•    1 can (14 oz.) cannelloni or navy beans, drained
•    1 can (14 oz.) corn, drained
•    8 oz. cream cheese

In a large saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion, jalapeno, and garlic until tender. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then add to the saucepan along with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in chili powder and crushed red pepper. Lightly brown chicken on all sides.

Stir in can of diced tomatoes, milk, corn, and beans and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Add more milk if too thick. Ladle into bowls.

THE MAILBAG
From Pam:
I am on board to try the Cuban baked cornmeal pudding — what a great gluten-free dessert! But since I don’t have a bottle of dark rum in the liquor cabinet and don’t drink rum so don’t want to buy a whole bottle, can I substitute some kind of rum flavoring, do you think?

Dear Pam: Sure. In fact, I used diluted white rum (the kind sold for cooking). You could substitute a teaspoon of rum flavoring for the tablespoon of dark rum in the recipe, with no big change in flavor.

From Cheryl P.:
I was looking for a way to use up some oatmeal before it went bad and I came upon a delicious recipe.  This one is from a 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine, called “Baked Oatmeal.”  I added some chopped cinnamon almonds and used dried cranberries  instead of raisins.  It’s almost a cross between a cake and a shortbread.  Very delicious, especially on these cold mornings!  Leftovers can be heated in the oven or microwave.

Cheryl:
This is another great gluten-free recipe. Thanks for sharing.

BAKED OATMEAL
•    3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
•    1 cup raisins
•    1/4 cup sugar
•    2 tsp. baking powder
•    1 tsp. cinnamon
•    3/4 tsp. salt
•    1/2 cup applesauce
•    1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
•    1/2 cup milk
•    1/4 cup oil
•    2 eggs

Combine oats, raisins, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk applesauce with yogurt, milk, oil and eggs. Stir into oat mixture. Pour into a greased pan. (The original recipes says to use an 8-by-8-inch pan but we like it a little crunchy so I use a 9-by-11 or 11-by-7-inch pan. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. You can also bake it right away but decrease time to about 40 minutes. Serve with brown sugar sprinkled over top.
Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to 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.  Then go to  http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/ ), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

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

For years I put up with men grunting, “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” so maybe it’s fate that I’m going Paleo. Not all-out caveperson nuts-and-berries Paleo, just the broth. Paleo Diet adherents call it “bone broth,” a term that, like Starbucks’ venti-size nonsense, I refuse to use. (Aren’t all beef and chicken broths made from bones?)

Meat broths as a healthful snack were popularized by the Paleo Diet, a low-carb eating plan that basically forbids anything our Paleolithic ancestors wouldn’t have eaten. That right, no Cheese Doodles. The broth component recently spawned the broth restaurant trend, which I sneered at in my Jan. 14 newsletter. Lunch at Panera set me straight.

Panera now sells Broth Bowls, which are far different from the cups of broth peddled by trendy New York restaurants. The cups of broth come plain or garnished with healthful stuff such as few slices of mushrooms or fresh-grated turmeric. My Panera’s broth came in a bowl with about a tablespoon each of lentils and quinoa, some wilted spinach and kale, a few edamame beans, a few squares of red bell pepper and a hard-cooked egg, cut in half. Tony’s version had soba noodles and sliced chicken. The broth was beef, we guessed, and it wasn’t great.

“I could do better than this,” I said. Heck, Howdy Doody could make better broth.

I loved the idea, though:  A meal of whole grains, vitamin-rich veggies and lean protein in enough broth to fill you up. This definitely isn’t soup. The solid stuff is piled in the middle, with the broth taking up most of the bowl.

That evening I began testing recipes for my own broth bowls. Over the space of a week I came up with several variations in not only the grain, veggie and protein components but the broths themselves.

I doctored up canned broth, made classic homemade broth and made Paleo-style broth. The difference between classic and Paleo broths is that in the latter, an acid – typically apple cider vinegar – is added to break down and leach nutrients from the bones; and the bones are simmered for at least 24 hours for the same reason.

Paleo adherents claim the minerals, collagen and amino acids derived from the bones can alleviate everything from arthritis to cellulite. While not the cure-all proponents profess, the long-simmered broth is nutritious.

I made long-simmered chicken broth, classic beef broth and long-simmered beef broth. The homemade broths were, of course, better than the canned. But even my doctored-up canned broth was better than Panera’s and the resulting broth bowls were even more satisfying.

 

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ASIAN BEEF BROTH

• 1 tbsp. oil
• 1 small onion, halved and sliced (about 1 cup)
• 4 cups beef broth, canned or homemade
• A 1-inch piece of ginger, sliced thin
• 1/4 cup Madeira
• 1 tbsp. soy sauce
• 1/4 tsp. sugar
• 1 star anise
• 1 tsp. sesame oil
• Salt to taste

ASIAN BROTH BOWL

• 1 recipe Asian Beef Broth (see above)

Additions:
• 1/2 cup very thinly sliced mushrooms, simmered in broth for 5 minutes before serving. Shave mushrooms on a mandolin if possible.
• 1 cup cooked barley
• 1 cup spinach leaves
• 1 large sweet potato – Peel and cut raw potato into 1-inch cubes. Spread on a greased baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.
• 3 oz. beef sirloin, cut into thin strips and briefly stir-fried OR
• 4 eggs, hard-cooked for 5 minutes
• 1/4 cup edamame beans – Microwave a handful of pods for 1 minute on high power, or until tender. Remove beans from pods.
• 2 green onions, sliced thin

Heat broth, adding mushrooms 5 minutes before serving. Place one-fourth of the barley in each of four medium-sized soup bowls. Divide spinach leaves among bowls, piling on top of barley. Top each with about 3 tablespoons of the roasted sweet potato.
Top with meat strips or hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved. Ladle broth and mushrooms around ingredients in center of bowls. Scatter edamame beans and green onions over all. Makes 4 servings.

THAI CHICKEN BROTH

• 6 cups chicken broth, canned or homemade
• 4 cloves garlic, smashed
• 4 quarter-size pieces of ginger, smashed
• 4 sprigs cilantro
• 1 tsp. fish sauce
• Peeled (not grated) zest of 1/2 lime
• Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and slowly simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes longer. Strain. Makes about 5 3/4 cups

THAI BROTH BOWL

• 4 cups Thai chicken broth (see above)

Additions:
• 1/2 cup cooked brown basmati rice
• 16 small leaves of kale, par-boiled in water for 2 minutes or until desired tenderness
• 1 large carrot – Cleaned and cut in wide, paper-thin strips with a vegetable peeler; par boil in water for 2 minutes
• 3 oz. cooked chicken breast, cut in thin slices
• Juice of 1/2 lime
• 4 tsp. crushed peanuts
• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Pile the rice, kale, carrot and chicken in the center of 4 medium soup bowls. Ladle about 1 cup of the broth around the ingredients in each bowl. Squeeze some lime juice into each bowl. Top with crushed peanuts and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

HOMEMADE CHICKEN BROTH

• 3 1/2 lbs. chicken backs, necks, legs, wings, etc.
• 1 onion with skin, halved lengthwise
• 1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut into chunks
• 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
• Cold water
• Salt to taste

If a darker broth is desired, roast chicken parts at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until they begin to brown. Place roasted or raw chicken parts in a large slow cooker. Add onion, carrot, vinegar and cold water to cover. Cover with lid and cook on high power for 1 hour, then turn to low power and simmer for 24 hours.

Uncover and cool to lukewarm. Pour through a strainer into a large bowl. Place strained broth in refrigerator overnight. Remove and discard solidified fat from top of broth. Reheat to use immediately, seasoning to taste with salt, or measure into freezer bags or containers and freeze for later use. Makes about 2 quarts. Broth may be made in a soup pot on the stove according to the beef broth directions that follow.

HOMEMADE BEEF BROTH

• 4 to 6 lbs. beef meat and bones, about half and half (use marrow-rich bones such as ribs, shank and knuckle)
• 1 medium onion, unpeeled, cut vertically in half
• 1 or 2 large carrots, cleaned and cut into chunks
• Salt
• 2 sprigs fresh or dried thyme
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Place beef in a single layer in a roasting pan. Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Transfer to a large stock pot. Deglaze roasting pan with water and add to pot. Add enough additional cold water to cover the meat and bones by at least 1 inch. Add onion, carrots, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and vinegar. Bring to a boil and remove any scum that floats to the top. Reduce heat to low, cover and barely simmer for 8 hours, adding more water if necessary to keep meat and bones covered.

Remove bones, meat, onion and vegetables from pot with a long-handled strainer or slotted spoon. Save meat for soup. Pour broth through a strainer into a large bowl. Refrigerate until fat solidifies, at least 6 hours. Lift fat from top of broth and discard. Reheat and season to taste with salt to serve immediately, or measure into freezer bags or containers and freeze for later use. Makes about 1 gallon, depending on amount of bones and meat and size of pot. Broth may be made in a large slow cooker with less meat, bones and water.

HELP U COOK

•    Don’t bother peeling the onions you add to the pot when making chicken or beef broth. The onion skin  helps deepen the color of the broth.
•    Chicken broth may be made with uncooked or cooked bones, but browning them in the oven will deepen both the flavor and color of the broth. Likewise, using beef bones browned for as little as 30 minutes in the oven will produce a richer-tasting broth.
•    Chicken broth may be made with mostly bones, but beef broth requires meat for flavor. Use about half as much meat as bones.

THE MAILBAG

From Coondog O’Karma:
I found a recipe for bone broth in Dogs Naturally magazine (http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/reasons-your-dog-love-bone-broth/ ). I was hoping to use this to flavor and enrich my doggies’ daily meals, but am worried about the antibiotics and hormones they feed to animal/bone providers.  Could you suggest some organic meat producers in the area that can provide a true, natural product?  I don’t care if I eat steroid/antibiotic-tainted products, but don’t want to feed them to my pets.

Dear Coondog: Timely letter! In a quick check, I found antibiotic-, hormone-free beef bones in the freezer case at Mustard Seed Markets in Bath and Solon. Try Mustard Seed or other natural-foods stores.

If you want to buy right from the farm, check out the Eat Wild Ohio website, http://www.eatwild.com/products/ohio.html , where you’ll find contact information for several local beef producers that raise beef without the use of antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified feed.. Single copies are $26.

From M.S.:
Could dates or figs be substituted for raisins in the Cuban rum-raisin pudding recipe? Neither my husband nor I care for raisins but the recipe sounds good and easy.

Dear M.S.: Just about any dried fruit may be used instead of raisins. I think chopped dates would complement the flavors well.

From Donna Dickens:
My husband went to the New York Spaghetti House in Cleveland since age of 5 — he’s now 75 — and begs for brown sauce as they made it. The frozen sauce you can buy in stores is not the same. Any suggestions?

Dear Donna: I’ve printed recipes for versions of that sauce a couple of times but can’t locate the recipe on my computer. Can anyone help?

Please note: If your email address changes, you must re-subscribe to my newsletter in order to continue receiving it. We are unable to 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.  Then go to  http://www.janesnowtoday.com, to sign up under your new address. Thank you.

Please tell your friends about my blog site (https://janesnowtoday.wordpress.com/ ), where you can find not only each week’s newsletter but archives of past newsletters.

 

March 4th, 2015

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

Dear friends,

I ate Carolina barbecue, shrimp tacos and shrimp and grits. I enjoyed strawberry shortcake at a strawberry farm and a two-fisted grouper sandwich at a seafood festival. But the most memorable meal of my recent Florida sojourn was a Cuban feast at the modest Havana Delights Café in Bartow, Fla.

The café is way off the tourist trail so I was lucky to find it, thanks to the non-glamorous location of my friend’s brother’s home in central Florida where we stayed. Dorena and I were surprised he had never been to the Cuban restaurant. It’s the kind of mom and pop, authentic, easy-on-the-wallet place we all dream of stumbling upon.

I had a pork sandwich piled high with juicy citrus-marinated roast pork and caramelized onions, along with a side dish of maduros – fried ripe plantains. Dorena and I both nibbled on a ground beef-filled empanada with a tender, blistered crust. Dorena’s entree choice, crisp-fried marinated roast beef, was my favorite. The beef had been marinated in citrus juices and garlic before roasting, then shredded and fried with more garlic and lime and sour orange juices. It was ropa vieja elevated to sublime heights.

But forget about all that. Back home, while trying to figure out how to make the shredded beef dish (called “vieja” something on the menu but “vaca frita” in descriptions on the Internet), I came across another Cuban recipe I had to make immediately: a Cuban cornmeal pudding with raisins and rum. Vaca frita will have to wait. I am now obsessed with the rum-raisin cornmeal pudding I found in “A Taste of Cuba” by Linette Creen.

This is almost the perfect recipe. It is made with ingredients you probably already have in the cupboard, and it goes together very quickly.

Basically, you just warm milk in a saucepan and whisk in butter, salt sugar and cornmeal, stirring for a few minutes until it thickens. Eggs, rum and raisins are added before it’s poured into a casserole to bake.

You have more willpower than I do if you can wait for the pudding to cool to taste it. It smelled too good for dilly-dallying, so I dug right in. The warm pudding is creamy and rich. It is much lighter than the dense Indian puddings I’ve tasted. I liked the leftovers, too, when sliced them into wedges, as instructed, and served them with whipped topping. The flavors make this a good companion to Italian as well as Mexican and Caribbean meals. If you serve it after an Italian dinner, call it “Polenta Pudding.”

But what the heck, I ate most of it between meals, standing up at the kitchen counter. After returning from sunny Florida smack into a bone-chilling snow storm, it made life a bit more bearable for me.

CUBAN BAKED RUM-RAISIN PUDDING

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3 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal
4 eggs
1 tbsp. dark rum
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in butter, salt, sugar and cornmeal. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and thick and can coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and rum. Slowly whisk in ½ cup of the cornmeal mixture. Pour in a slow, steady stream back into the pan while whisking rapidly to prevent egg from setting. Stir in raisins.

Pour into a buttered, 8-inch round casserole and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until set. Cool slightly, then slice or scoop and serve. Makes 6 servings.

HELP U COOK
Making chicken broth is good project for a cold winter day. Even better is setting it to bubble and then leaving for the day or retiring for the night. I awoke one morning last week to the comforting aroma of homemade broth simmering in the slow cooker on the kitchen counter. The whole house smelled great.

Using a slow cooker to make broth is a no-fail, no-work way to stock your freezer for pennies rather than the 2-plus bucks per quart commercial broths cost. Just load a large slow cooker with 1 quartered onion, 1 chunked-up carrot and about 3 pounds of chicken backs, fat and excess skin removed. Cover the chicken with water, clap on the lid, start it on high to bring up the temperature , and then turn it to low for about 10 to 15 hours. Strain, package and freeze. Or, as I prefer, strain, chill and lift off the fat before freezing.

Tip: Use zipper-lock freezer bags and stack them flat to save space. I freeze broth in various amounts – 1 cup, 2 cups and 1 quart. Measure and label for use later in recipes.

THE MAILBAG
From Cheryl:
Just an FYI to pass on: The Facebook page for the cookbook “Recipes of Youngstown” has a new second edition of local recipes (many of them ethnic recipes people remember from childhood) on sale! Info is on the site, and it’s easy to join group.

Dear Cheryl: Thanks for the heads-up. The first edition was hugely popular, as no doubt the second will be. Proceeds will help restore Lanterman’s Mill at Mill Creek Park. The book will not be released until May 2, but may be pre-ordered from the Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s website at http://mahoninghistory.org/2015/01/30/recipes-of-youngstown/ . Single copies are $26.
From S.S.:
Regarding your item on rapini, I love the combination of cooked, drained rapini with crumbled feta cheese. We eat it often in my house.

Dear S.S.: That combination sounds heavenly. The salty cheese would be a good match for the bitterness of the rapini.
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