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 made a lovely Indian coconut curry Saturday that my husband spurned.

“It needs soy sauce,” he said before doctoring it up beyond recognition.

In the decade before moving to Akron, Tony worked in elegant sushi bars in Tokyo, Honolulu, New York City, Chicago, Aspen, Los Angeles and Scottsdale, Ariz. I picture him poring over the Yellow Pages in these glittering gastronomic capitals, searching for a Bob Evans or an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. How can a sophisticated sushi chef have such otherwise callow tastes?

Anyway, don’t take Tony’s word for it. Trust me, the curry was excellent.  It also is easy to make and minus a few hundred calories thanks to baking rather than sautéing the main ingredients.

I stumbled across the recipe in a magazine, “Clean Eating,” in my doctor’s office. I was writing down ingredients when she sailed into the exam room and told me to just take the magazine.

I changed the recipe considerably, but the basic technique of baking the chicken and vegetables in the yogurt marinade is the same. Not only is this more healthful than sautéing, but it’s a lot easier.

I worried that the flavor of the sauce would suffer from such short contact with the meat, but the sauce is terrific all by itself. It has a depth and balance of flavors I’d expect from a much more complicated recipe.

Too bad Tony missed it.

INDIAN COCONUT CHICKEN CURRYPRING PEA SOUP WITH MINT

Jane-snow

•    5 cloves garlic, chopped
•    Zest of 1 lemon
•    Juice of 1/2 lemon
•    1 cup plain Greek yogurt
•    1 tbsp. peeled and grated ginger
•    1 tsp. ground cumin
•    1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
•    1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
•    1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks
•    1 large sweet onion, peeled, halved and cut into wedges
•    1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
•    Salt, pepper
•    2 tbsp. vegetable oil
•    2 tsp. garam masala
•    1 tsp. ground turmeric
•    1 tsp. ground coriander
•    2 cups crushed tomatoes
•    1 cup coconut milk (chill can and use only the thick white part)

At least three hours before serving, combine half of the minced garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, yogurt, ginger, cumin, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne in a medium bowl. Mix well.  Stir in chicken, coating thoroughly. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Spread chicken and yogurt mixture on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Scatter onion and bell pepper around chicken. The meat and vegetables should fit in a single layer. If not, use two baking sheets. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are softened.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and the garam masala, turmeric and coriander. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add tomatoes and coconut milk and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until reduced and slightly thickened.
Taste and add salt if needed.

When the chicken and vegetables are done, add to sauce and simmer 5 minutes longer. Serve with steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.

TIDBITS

As pesto did in the 1980s, aioli has reached its peak of popularity and tumbled into the realm of the nonsensical. The word is slapped on menus now with no regard to its actual meaning. The Provencal sauce, or condiment, is supposed to be an emulsion of garlic, olive oil and eggs – essentially, a very garlicky mayonnaise.

Here in Ohio at least, the term devolved into a catch-all that means, loosely, “flavored mayonnaise.” Citrus aioli, on inspection, turns out to be lemon mayonnaise. And, god help us, aioli can even be a thin herb salad dressing slathered on a BLT like I had in a restaurant last weekend.

While the menu didn’t mention condiments, I asked the waitress to hold the mayo. When the sandwich was delivered, I pointed out the white glop to the waitress who assured me, “That’s not mayonnaise, that’s aioli.”

Next time I’ll ask her to hold the ketchup, mustard and relish, too, on the off chance.

THE MAILBAG

From Karen B.:
Jane, you tempt us with the pea soup recipe, rack of lamb (been there, done that) but no recipe for the Apricot Pilaf?  I know I could find something online but would love your rendition.

Dear Karen: Sorry to leave you hanging. The pilaf recipe isn’t new, but I forget it’s new to some of you. Here it is.

APRICOT PILAF
•    2 tbsp. butter
•    1 medium onion, chopped
•    1 1/2 cups white or basmati rice
•    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
•    1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
•    1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
•    1/4 tsp. ground mace
•    Salt, pepper
•    2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) chicken broth
•    1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
•    1/2 cup pecan halves

Melt butter over medium heat in a 6-quart saucepan. Slowly sauté onion in butter until limp. Add rice and stir well to coat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, mace, salt and pepper. Add broth. Stir in apricots. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender and broth has been absorbed.

While rice simmers, spread pecan halves on a cookie sheet and toast at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Cool, then chop. Stir pecans into rice before serving. Makes 6 servings.

From Frances Labriola, Akron-Summit County Public Library:
Most of the books on the James Beard Awards List and all of the titles you mentioned are available here at the library. You can place a hold by going to our catalog here: http://www.akronlibrary.org/ . If you don’t have a current card you can register for a temporary one here: https://catalog.akronlibrary.org/selfreg .

Dear Francie: I didn’t know the library had so many new cookbook releases. That means we can try a couple of recipes before shelling out a chunk of money for a cookbook. In the future, that’s just what I’ll do. Thanks.
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.

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April 8, 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 planted a bunch of sugar snap peas last week, and I’ve been craving pea soup ever since. Not the hearty winter soup made with a ham bone, but the suave chilled soup a friend served last summer. It was pureed until silky smooth, with a deep richness that spoke of cream and butter. We couldn’t get enough of it.

Even though my peas haven’t had time to even sprout, and half of them have probably been dug up and carried off by chipmunks anyway, I had to have that soup. So I did what my friend did – bought a bag of frozen peas and made it anyway. It was as good as I remembered – velvety and rich-tasting, with just a dab of butter and no hint of cream.

That’s right, no cream. When my friend handed over the recipe, I was surprised the ingredients were so austere. The deep flavor comes from leeks, peas, broth and just 2 tablespoons of butter. You could lose weight on the stuff.

The soup was the opener for Easter dinner with Tony, which was pretty good considering there was no chocolate. The soup was followed by rack of lamb cooked on the grill and Apricot Pilaf, a Moroccan-spiced rice dish I came up with years ago and resurrect regularly.

I felt bad that I didn’t have an Easter hat, a concept I had to explain to my Japanese husband. I felt worse that I didn’t have a chocolate bunny to gnaw on, although that spectacular rack of lamb did help ease the pain.

SPRING PEA SOUP WITH MINT

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• 2 tbsp. butter
• 2 or 3 medium leeks, about 2 cups sliced
• 1 to 2 tsp. salt (to taste)
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/8 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
• 3 cups shelled fresh peas or 1 package (16 oz.) frozen peas, thawed
• 1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves
• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
• Mint leaves for garnish

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Trim off root end of leeks. Slice leeks lengthwise and wash thoroughly under running water, removing any grit from between the layers. Thinly slice the white and very light green parts only, discarding dark green leaves.

Measure out 2 cups. Add the sliced leeks and 1/2 tsp. salt to the butter in the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until leeks are very limp.
Add the broth, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add peas and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in mint leaves. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl or pitcher and stir in lemon juice. Add more salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then cover and chill. To serve, pour into bowls and garnish each portion with a mint leaf. Makes 6 servings.

GRILLED RACK OF LAMB
• 2 lamb loin racks, 8 chops each
• Salt, pepper
• 1 handful of soaked hickory chips

Prepare a charcoal fire of about 30  briquettes on one side of  a lidded grill. Trim excess fat from the lamb racks, leaving just a thin layer where the fat is present. Heavily salt the racks on both sides with about 2 teaspoons per rack. Sprinkle all over with fresh-ground pepper. Liberal seasoning is crucial. Soak the wood chips in hot water.

When the coals are ashed over, spread to an area large enough to accommodate both lamb racks, keeping on one half of the grill. Scatter wood chips over the coals. Place the lamb racks on an oiled grill directly over the coals. Lightly brown the lamb on both sides with the grill lid off. With tongs, move lamb to the side of the grill opposite the coals. Cover with lid, leaving vents wide open. Cook for 15 minutes without removing lid.

Uncover and test temperature of racks with an instant-read thermometer. When done, the internal temperature of the meat should be 145 degrees for rare and 160 degrees for medium. The meat probably won’t be done at this point, however. Move the racks directly over the hot coals and continue to cook, turning once, until desired temperature is reached – probably 10 more minutes or so. The final cooking over the coals with crisp the exterior.

Remove meat to a platter and let rest at least 5 minutes before carving into individual chops. Two racks should feed 4 adults although in my case, I ate two thick chops, Tony ate an entire rack and we split the leftovers the next day for lunch.

TIDBITS

Cookbooks are so expensive and the array so extensive that choosing carefully is imperative. But how?

One way I narrow down the choices is by studying the list of books nominated for a James Beard Award. This year’s book  awards will be handed out in 12 categories on April 24 in Chicago. The list of nominees – three in each category – is available for perusing at http://www.jamesbeard.org/awards/books-broadcast-journalism .

Books I want to check out soon: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere, a finalist in the Baking category; Cooking Light Mad Delicious: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing by Keith Schroeder, in Focus on Health category; and The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History by Ana Sofía Peláez and Ellen Silverman, and My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz, both in the International category.

I can’t resist the new sandwich and salad menu at West Point Market’s Beside the Point Café. Specifically, I can’t resist the idea of a pork belly sandwich. It’s one of seven new sandwiches, all of which sound enticing except maybe the Quinoa Griller. But knowing the chefs at West Point, they probably make even grilled quinoa tasty. The menu also includes two new salads, the Fiesta Bowl and the Pilgrim. I’m betting on turkey and cranberries in the latter.

THE MAILBAG

From Arlene, Keizer, Ore.:
I have recently moved to the West Coast after spending 15 years in Akron. Unfortunately for me, I have not landed in a great food spot. I miss many things about the Akron dining scene. One of my true simple pleasures was the chips and salsa served at El Rincon on Arlington. I’ve never had any salsa quite like it and I miss it dearly. The smooth texture is difficult to find and nothing I’ve had since tastes nearly as good. Do you or any of your readers have a copycat recipe worth trying? Thank you!

Dear Arlene: No Dungeness crabs? No giant blackberries? No fresh salmon? Sorry you didn’t land along the coast or in Oregon’s wine or berry regions, but hopefully the good stuff isn’t too far away.

The salsa you describe sounds like picante sauce – the smooth version of chunkier salsa.  While I don’t have El Rincon’s recipe – assuming it’s made and not purchased – I did find a yummy-sounding picante sauce recipe on Chow.com. For a true picante sauce, blend it until smooth. And although the recipe calls for broiling the ingredients and finishing in a slow cooker, I would simply roast the vegetables on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until they are thoroughly cooked and beginning to char, removing each as it reaches that point. Then blend with the salt and vinegar. Here’s the recipe as it was written:

SLOW COOKER PICANTE SALSA
• 3 ½ lbs. tomatoes, cored
• 1 large red onion, peeled and cut in half
• 4 to 10 jalapeños (choose your heat), stems removed
• 4 garlic cloves, smashed
• 1 to 2 tsp. kosher salt
• 3 tbsp. white vinegar

Broil the tomatoes, onion, jalapeños, and garlic in the oven until the peppers get blackened, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on your oven. Using tongs, transfer the broiled ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours. Use tongs to transfer the ingredients to a blender. Add the salt and vinegar. Pulse until the salsa reaches your desired consistency. Be careful not to blend it into sauce — you want there to be little chunks. (No chunks if you’re going for a true picante sauce).
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.

April 1, 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,

The photo that accompanies this week’s newsletter is not an April Fool’s joke. It is a reverse hard-boiled egg with the yolk on the outside and the white in the middle.  I spent a lot of time making this sucker after watching a Japanese scientist explain the process – in Japanese – on the Tokyo TV station we subscribe to. The scientist was the first to successfully duplicate a technique described in a Japanese cookbook that dates to 1785.

I was less successful. I whirled that egg so vigorously in a pair of pantyhose (more on this later) that the white and yolk separated and then combined again, producing an egg that was yellow through and through. It was still pretty cool, though.

I have been obsessed with eggs since watching a February episode of the Japanese TV program Cool Japan, which devoted an hour to the country’s fascination with eggs. The reverse egg was just one of the amazing things the Japanese do with eggs. They somehow mold hard-cooked eggs into flower and star shapes for children’s lunch boxes, infuse hard-cooked eggs with wasabi, soy sauce or salt, and make many-layered omelets that are so popular entire stores are devoted to them.

I’m lucky to have an endless supply of the sushi-bar version of the layered omelets, called “tamago,” which my husband makes the traditional way by hand in a square skillet he brought from Japan. The thick omelets, flavored with dashi (fish broth), sake and a pinch of sugar, are served at his sushi bar in narrow slices as part of an array of sushi or sashimi.

I have been eating eggs lately in broth bowls (see the March 11 See Jane Cook) and have come to prefer soft-set yolks. They are firmer than soft-boiled but not quite hard-cooked. They are creamy and delicious. I put the eggs in water, bring to boil, cover and let it steep off the heat for exactly 6 minutes. Then I stop the cooking in very cold tap water. Yum.

In Japan, raw and hard-cooked eggs garnish all kinds of dishes, including the ubiquitous curry and ramen noodles. A bowl of rice topped with a raw egg is a staple breakfast item. Eggs are eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  The Japanese are third in the world in average per person consumption at 347 annually.  In comparison, Americans eat an average of 251 per person each year, according to the International Egg Commission.

One of the reasons Japan outstrips us may be that salmonellosis enteritidis, a relatively new bacterium that can contaminate eggs inside the shell, hasn’t made it to that country yet. Consequently, eggs not only may be safely eaten raw but are stacked in supermarket aisles at room temperature, a shocking sight for Americans who are warned to keep them cold. Eggs are branded, and it’s not unusual for a store to carry 15 different brands.

But back to the reverse hard-boiled egg. It looks so cool you may be tempted to make a few for Easter. Even if you fail, it’s a fun project. First, warm an egg in hot tap water to enlarge the yolk. Slip it into a length of hosiery (one leg’s worth). Position the egg at the midpoint and secure it with knots on either side of the egg. Holding one end of the hose in each hand, whirl the egg in a circle until the hose is completely twisted like a rubber band on a toy airplane. Then pull to untwist the hose. Repeat again and again for 5 to 10 minutes. The yolk will migrate to the outside of the egg, encasing the white in the middle. You can tell when this happens by shining a small led flashlight through the egg in a dark setting. The light will stream through a regular raw egg, while the reverse egg will be opaque.

Place the egg in a small pan of warm water. Gently heat to just below a boil. Continue to heat for about 15 minutes. Place in ice water or very cold tap water. Peel when completely cool.

My egg cracked in the hot water, even though I did not jostle it or bring it to a boil. The crack was fairly large, but cooked egg quickly sealed it and it continued to cook. Use older eggs so the shell slips off easily.

Here’s a video that demonstrates the technique: http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/learn-make-reverse-hard-boiled-eggs-yolks-inside .

If you opt for more traditional eggs for Easter, you might want to try a deviled egg bar. Cleveland author Michael Ruhlman came up with the idea last summer while promoting his cookbook, “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient.” He starts by cutting the eggs in half through the “equator” and cutting a thin slice from the bottoms for the egg halves to rest on. Devil the yolks, he says, and top the eggs with anything from a slice of grilled hot dog and ballpark mustard to — my favorite – smoked salmon and a sprig of dill, with the egg resting on a cucumber slice.

Other suggestions from Ruhlman for a mix-it-up deviled egg platter:
The BLT: Top with crisp crumbled bacon, tiny cubes of tomato and julienned romaine lettuce;
The Japanese: Sautee shiitake mushrooms and toss with miso paste and rice vinegar; pile on eggs and garnish each with a chive tip;
The Vietnamese: Scallions, lime juice, fresh mint, cilantro, jalapeno and Asian fish sauce.

Here’s a link to order a signed copy of Ruhlman’s egg book, which is up for a James Beard Award: http://blog.ruhlman.com/my-books/ ;  and here’s his recipe for perfect deviled eggs:

BASIC DEVILED EGGS

jane-snow
•    24 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
•    3 tbsp. minced shallots
•    2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1/2 cup mayonnaise
•    2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
•    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
•    1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)
Cut a thin slice from both ends of the eggs, then slice them in half crosswise. Remove the yolks to a mixing bowl and reserve the whites. (You can discard the ends or press them through a sieve and add them to the Japanese or Vietnamese garnish below.)
Combine the shallot, lemon juice, and salt and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, cayenne (if using), and the shallot mixture to the yolks. Mash the yolks with a fork, stirring to combine all ingredients until the mixture is uniform. This can all be done up to 12 hours before serving, if kept wrapped and refrigerated.

Shortly before serving, spoon the mixture into the egg white halves (or put the yolks into a plastic bag, snip off the corner, and pipe the yolks into the whites).

THE MAILBAG

From Judy in Arizona:
My cardiologist has put me on a low-sodium lifestyle. Soy and salt are restricted in my cooking now and the No-salt  seasoning alternative interferes with my medication so I can’t use it. Help, everything tastes awful. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Dear Judy: I assume you’re aware of low-sodium soy sauce. If the sodium content is not within your doctor’s prescribed daily consumption level, try using vinegar as a flavor enhancer. Fresh herbs, of course, do wonders for almost any food. I can’t imagine cooking without salt. Maybe someone who has been there, done that can help with more suggestions.

From Francie Labriola, Akron-Summit County Public Library:
I found this in a Recipe Roundup column from the Beacon Journal in 2004. Hope it helps.

BROWN SAUCE OF NOTHERN ITALY
•    5 oz. prosciutto fat or larding pork, ground
•    14-by-5-inch piece (about 2 1/2 oz.) pork rind, boiled for 10 minutes and drained
•    2 lbs. rump or shank of beef, cut into chunks
•    1 lb. boneless veal shank, cut into chunks
•    4 to 5 lbs. cracked beef and veal bones, with marrow
•    1 ounce dry mushrooms, soaked in tepid water for 20 minutes, squeezed dry and chopped
•    2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
•    2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
•    2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
•    1 clove garlic, chopped
•    2 whole cloves
•    1 tsp. salt
•    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
•    1 cup red wine
•    1 bouquet garni (1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1 crushed bay leaf, sprigs of parsley and 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram tied into cheesecloth bundle)
•    1/3 cup flour
•    1 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained, seeded and chopped
•    3 quarts boiling water
•    Additional salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven. Line bottom of roasting pan that can be used on stovetop with prosciutto fat or larding pork. On top place pork rind, beef rump or shank,
veal shank, beef and veal bones with marrow, mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cloves, 1/2 tsp. salt and the black pepper. Cook on the range top over low heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the meat starts to brown, add the wine and bouquet garni. Cook, stirring, until wine is almost
evaporated. Remove from heat, sprinkle with flour, and stir well. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly over very low heat for 1 minute.

Add tomato pulp and mix well. Add boiling water to cover and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer (do not boil) for 5 minutes. Scum will start to rise. Remove it with a spoon or ladle until it ceases to accumulate.
Place in oven, partially covered, so that steam may escape, and cook for 4 hours, being very careful that it barely simmers.

Take out of oven; remove beef, veal, and pork rind, and reserve for other uses. Strain liquid, discarding vegetables, bones, and bouquet garni, into a saucepan. Simmer until liquid is reduced to 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups), removing fat from surface with spoon or ladle. Allow to cool.

Place liquid in refrigerator, uncovered, until remaining fat has hardened on top and can be scraped off. Taste for seasoning, and, if flavor
is weak, boil to reduce water content further and remove any scum that rises to surface.

Sauce may be kept in refrigerator or freezer. If kept in the refrigerator, it must be removed and brought to a boil every 3 or 4 days before storing again.

Dear Francie:
I knew I had seen that recipe somewhere. Thanks for sending it in for the reader who misses the sauce from the old New York Spaghetti House. I don’t know if this is it, but it sounds good.
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.