September 30, 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,

Some people think I know a lot about gardening because I often write about my garden. What a laugh. The little I do know has come mostly from mistakes I’ve made.

My latest pear debacle is a good example. When our new pear tree produced hard pears that refused to ripen for the third year in a row, I finally sensed I was missing some key piece of pear-growing knowledge. I Googled “pears won’t ripen on tree” and learned that NO pears ripen on the tree. They are picked when hard, chilled for two to six weeks, and then ripened at room temperature. If allowed to hang on the tree past maturity, they will rot from the inside out.

All those pears we threw away…..

I wised up in time to rescue this year’s crop. A couple of dozen pears are now chilling in the crisper, awaiting an elegant fate.  Assuming they eventually ripen, I could make one of the pear recipes I’ve devised in the past – pear and blue cheese slaw, poached-pear fruit salad or frozen pear and ice-wine pops, to name a few. They were all delicious, but I want something different. I want to make a pear cake I can’t stop thinking about.

My friend, Nancy, brought me a slice of a spicy, moist apple cake as a birthday greeting. I immediately envisioned making it with pears because the flavors – ginger, honey and lemon – go so well with pears.  Instead of apples, I’d top the cake with a gorgeous fan of accordion-sliced pears.

I thought about the cake as I picked my rock-hard pears. I think about the cake every day as I peer at the drawer full of fruit in the bottom of my refrigerator. Will this be the year I finally taste a home-grown pear?

In a couple more weeks I’ll transfer the pears to the kitchen counter and by late October they should be ripe and juicy. They had better be. If not, I’ll cut down the damn pear tree and buy my pears from now on. Either way, I’m making that cake.

Those who like to experiment could add other pear flavor companions such as ground cardamom, almonds or walnuts. I liked the cake as Nancy baked it – but, of course, with pears.

The original apple cake recipe was from the New York Times.

PEAR CAKE WITH HONEY AND GINGER

pear kuchen

For the cake:
•    1/2 cup butter (1 stick), plus butter for greasing pan
•    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting pan
•    1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on pears
•    1/4 cup raw honey
•    3 eggs
•    1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
•    2 oz. candied ginger, diced
•    1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    2 tsp. baking powder
•    3 medium Bosc or Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and halved

For the glaze:
•    1/4 cup sugar
•    1/4 cup honey
•    3 tbsp. lemon juice

Make the cake:
Heat oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then add honey and whip for 1 minute, until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well incorporated, then whip for 2 minutes.

Stir in grated ginger, candied ginger and lemon zest. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder and add to bowl, mixing briefly to make a stiff batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.

With a paring knife, cut horizontal slits 1/8-inch apart on the rounded part of each pear half, slicing just partway through.  Arrange pear halves slit-side-up in a circle over the batter. Sprinkle cake with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Place cake pan on a baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer emerges dry. If cake is browning too rapidly, tent with foil until done. Cool on a rack, then carefully invert onto a serving plate.

Make the glaze:
Combine sugar, honey and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Paint surface of cake and pears  with warm glaze.

HELP U COOK

If, like me, you wondered about raw honey after reading the pear cake recipe above, here’s the scoop. Raw honey is honey in its natural state, as it comes from the hives. It contains pollen, bits of wax and maybe bits of bee wings, etc. It is cloudy and very thick.
Most honey sold in supermarkets is pasteurized and filtered so it looks clear and flows more easily. The pollen is filtered out.

Raw honey is used by some people to ward off seasonal allergies, although its effectiveness is in doubt, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, research has shown it to be an effective topical antibiotic and treatment for minor burns. Infants under age 1 should never be given honey.

TIDBIT

Once again that enterprising Boy Scout Troop 334 in Green will be turning cabbage rolls into cash on Saturday.

For the second year, they’ll be setting up a major cabbage-roll operation in the parish life center at Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, 1800 Steese Road in Uniontown. Dinners of two cabbage rolls with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, a roll and beverage will be available for eat-in or carry out from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The kind folks at Hermann’s Pickles in Garrettsville will again donate the kraut. They’re the wizards behind Nathan’s Famous Gourmet Sweet Horseradish Pickles, so you can bet their sauerkraut is good.

The dinners are $8 for adults and $6 for children. Bulk orders of cabbage rolls are available for $3 per roll, 6 for $16 or 12 for $30.

Pot luck panic
When I’m expected to take a dish to a pot luck, I freeze like a deer in the headlights. I know my contribution will be received with certain expectations. In my mind, nothing will be good enough. Usually I dither until the last minute and show up with something embarrassingly simple, like dried figs with mascarpone-rosemary dip.

Finally, I found someone who understands this. Read Kathi Purvis’ take on her shame at taking store-bought cookies to a potluck affair at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/food-drink/kathleen-purvis/article35204898.html.

THE MAILBAG

From Anne:
Tell John to check thrift shops for aluminum Dutch oven-type roasters and cookware, too. I use mine sometimes for a New England-style boiled dinner or pot roast with the carrots and potatoes. I actually buy the used roasters whenever I see them (along with Foley food mills) because there’s always someone looking for one.

Dear Anne: I know just the kind of roaster you mean, and it’s heavy-duty – just what John wants. Thanks for the tip.
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.

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September 23, 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 only reason I’ll ever make pizza on a grill again is that Tony said it was the best pizza he has had in his life. OK, maybe I’ll tackle this nightmare again. The burns on my arm are starting to heal.

Part of the hassle was my own fault. I was too lazy to move the grill, even though I knew I’d have to reach across hot coals to add the toppings. Had I shifted the grill a quarter turn, I could have slid the pizza side to side rather than front to back, exposing my forearm to enough heat to cook a leg of lamb.

Even so, the whole process is a hassle. Why not just shove the damn pizza in the oven rather than pre-cook the toppings and schlep the dough, olive oil, salt and pepper, tongs, pizza peel, plates, mitts and the toppings outside where you will stand over – and I mean directly over – hot coals making one single-serve pizza at a time? Just poke me in the eye with a meat fork, why don’t you?

I launched this project at the urging of a reader, Robin of Creston, who wrote, “One area of cooking still on my list this summer that hasn’t gotten accomplished is learning to create grilled pizzas.  I’ve gathered a few recipes but would love your suggestions and input.  Could you provide us with an appropriate recipe and instructions so we can make grilled pizzas? “

Many people do make pizza on their grills and claim to enjoy it, so I’ll resist the temptation to give Robin the phone number of my favorite carry out. One helpful bit of information is that grilled pizzas are necessarily New York-style thin and crisp. Thick crusts would burn before they cooked through. Also, gas grills are probably easier for pizza-making than charcoal, which is what I used. I figure using  gas is almost cheating, though. If you crave adventure (and true smoke flavor), go for charcoal.

Grilled pizzas are made by placing a thin round of pizza dough directly on a greased grill grid over hot coals. After one minute or less, the dough is flipped and moved to the cool side of the grill, where it is topped and then moved back over the coals for one minute to cook the bottom of the dough.

Tip: The grid should be oiled and very hot to prevent the dough from sticking.

The process is very fast. The toppings have no time to warm up, so they must be pre-cooked and at room temperature.  Adding the cheese first, directly to the just-cooked  top of the dough, helps it melt. If you want to warm the toppings more, slide the pizza back onto the cool side of the grill and cover with the vents open.

Tip: Line up the grill grate so you can slide the pizza with the flow rather than across the rods.

When the dough is over the coals, watch it closely because it can burn in a New York second. Lift the edge with tongs to check its progress. Slide it off the heat when the bottom is blistered and dark brown.

Before starting, have everything – equipment, toppings, dinner plates – lined up within reach of the grill. I placed each 12-inch dough round on its own dinner plate on floured parchment paper and covered them with plastic wrap (after flouring the top of the dough) so they wouldn’t dry out. I didn’t want to deflate the risen dough by stacking them.

I used a thin pizza peel to move the crusts around the grill, but simplified the initial placement on the grill by picking up the piece of parchment on which a raw dough round was resting and inverting it directly onto the grill. If you floured the parchment, the dough will separate from the parchment rather than sticking to it and going up in flames.

As you’ve probably gathered, a charcoal fire is built on one side of the grill, leaving the other side cooler. Use enough coals to last through three pizzas. If you’re using a gas grill, heat one side to hot, then reduce the heat to medium for cooking. Brush the grid with oil before you begin and between each pizza. Remove the grid from the fire to do this or you, too, will burn your arm in a flare-up.

Make the dough rounds small enough to fit on half of your grill. The dough recipe I used, From King Arthur Flour, makes three 12-inch pizzas. One at a time, they fit on one side of my full-size kettle grill.

As far as equipment goes, you’ll need two oven mitts and long tongs. A thin pizza peel is handy but not essential. A brush for applying olive oil and utensils for the toppings round out the must-haves.

Before hauling the dough outside, I grilled the toppings for the pizza I made for my husband. His favorite pizza is ham and pineapple, so for each pizza I grilled a large ripe tomato to squish and spread over the crust, two ½-inch-thick slices of fresh pineapple, and a few thin slices of ham. The pizza also was topped with shredded mozzarella and crisp sage leaves that I fried in the kitchen. Yes, the pizza was really good.

jane-snow-pizza

GRILLED PIZZA WITH PINEAPPLE, HAM AND FRIED SAGE
•    3 cups all-purpose flour
•    1 1/4 tsp. salt
•    2 tsp. instant yeast
•    1 cup (about)  lukewarm water (see note)
•    2 tbsp. olive oil
•    18 large sage leaves
•    Vegetable oil
•    3 large, ripe tomatoes
•    4 slices (1/2 -inch thick) fresh pineapple, cored
•    5 oz. thin ham slices
•    Salt, pepper
•    1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

Combine flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a heavy stand mixer. Stir well. Add water while mixing to make a smooth, soft dough. Note: Use 1/8 cup less water in summer (or in a humid environment), and 1/8 cup more in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

If kneading with a stand mixer, it should take 4 to 5 minutes at second speed and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl. Don’t over knead; it should hold together but can still look fairly rough on the surface.

If making the pizza now, place dough in a greased bowl, turn dough to coat all sides, cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.

If making the pizza the next day, as I did, rise just 45 minutes and then refrigerate, covered, overnight. Remove pizza from refrigerator and let warm for 2 hours at room temperature before continuing.

Cut dough into three pieces. Roll each piece on a floured surface as large as it will go (probably about 8 or 9 inches); cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Uncover and roll to a 12-inch circle. Place each dough circle on a piece of floured parchment on a large dinner plate or tray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 1 hour longer, until visibly puffy.

While the dough rounds rise, build a hot charcoal fire on one side of a full-sized grill. If using gas, preheat to high, then reduce to medium for cooking.

Inside on the stove, heat about ¼ inch vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in a few sage leaves at a time, frying for 5 to 10 seconds or until the leaves shrivel and curl but still are green. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

When fire is hot and coals are partially ashed over, brush the grill grid with oil and heat until hot. Place the tomatoes, pineapple and ham slices on the grill. Turn with tongs, removing each ingredient when it is warmed through and marked by the grill. The tomatoes must cook longer, until they begin to slump. Cut ham into strips and cut pineapple into bite-sized chunks. With clean hands, mash tomato in a bowl. Arrange all of the toppings, including the cheese and sage, near the grill. Spread the coals over one side of the grill. Remove the grill grid, brush again with oil and return to the grill.

Have the dough disks, salt and pepper, olive oil, a pastry brush, tongs, mitts and pizza peel handy. Remove the plastic wrap from one dough disk and brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Lift it, still on the parchment paper, and flip it, oiled side down, directly onto the hot grid over the coals, pulling away and discarding the parchment paper. Straighten the dough with tongs if necessary.

Brush the top of the dough disk with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the underside for about 1 minute, until it is dark brown (check by lifting a corner with the tongs). Slide a thin pizza peel under the dough and flip over, raw side down. Immediately slide to the side of the grill away from the coals.

Sprinkle one-third of the cheese over the browned crust. Top evenly with one-third of the crushed tomato, pineapple and ham. Season with more salt and pepper. Slide the pizza directly over the coals and cook for about 1 minute, until the underside is dark brown. With the pizza peel, transfer to a plate and scatter some of the sage over the top. Repeat with remaining dough disks and toppings. Makes 3 thin pizzas, each serving 1 to 2 people.

HELP U COOK

It’s quince season. I know this because I found a motherlode of the fruit while walking my dog in Akron’s Highland Square last week. The “hedges” that partly encircle the block around FirstMerit Bank and Mustard Seed Market are actually quince bushes. Look closely and you’ll see dozens of the ripe yellow fruit hanging from the branches and rolling onto the sidewalk.

Quince look like small, misshapen apples or pears. They are hard and yellow with a white interior and are inedible when raw. Even in this state, they emit a faint aroma of citrus and vanilla, which blossoms into full-on lusciousness when cooked. The alchemy of heat even changes the color, from white to pink.

To cook  quince, measure out 2 pounds, pare the skin, remove the cores and cut the fruit into hunks.  Combine in a saucepan with about ¾ cup sugar and 4 cups water. Flavorings such as a vanilla bean, star anise and sliced ginger may be added if desired. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Cover loosely and simmer for about 50 minutes, until the fruit is soft and pink.

If using the fruit right away, strain, saving the liquid for other uses (over ice cream, in cocktails, etc.). If using later, refrigerate in the poaching liquid. Poached quince may be frozen.

THE MAILBAG

From John:
I am a food-ignorant bachelor who uses the oven three times a year. My old Granite-Ware roaster had several scraped-away areas of the finish when I inherited it from my grandma. I trashed it, then I bought a T-Fal roaster at Target. By the second washing the T-Fal had started to peel away in a few spots. I threw it away, too. I do not want to ingest the coating, which always comes off.

OK, I zipped thru the Internet and saw an All-Clad aluminum no-peel unit that has a cover. I want the cover, as I sometimes cook stuffed peppers, etc. that would spray all over the oven. It was $137.

Do you know a place locally that has this aluminum roaster with lid, big enough for an 18-pound turkey? I looked at Kmart, Target and Kohl’s. Seems they stock low-priced junk. I do not know if I need that grate on the bottom or not.

Dear John: Macy’s carries All-Clad. So does Western Reserve Cookery in Hudson and Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table (stores in the Cleveland area). I do not use a roaster for cooking turkeys. The high sides and lid results in steamed meat. I use a shallow roasting pan, no lid, no grate. Good luck finding what you need.

From Cynthia Holzheimer:
I love the zucchini recipes you’ve been running!  Here are two that I have been using all summer.  The “lasagna” is not quite the cheesy squash casserole a reader requested, but it might be close.  It came from a good friend in Perrysburg about 30 years ago. The cake is from my mother-in-law, about 35 years ago. Zucchini never goes out of style.

ZUCCHINI LASAGNA
•    1/2 lb. ground beef or turkey
•    1/2 onion, chopped (more if it is small)
•    Oil
•    15-oz. can chopped tomatoes
•    2 tbsp. tomato paste
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1 tsp. oregano, crushed or chopped
•    1 tsp. basil, crushed or chopped
•    4 medium zucchini, cut on the diagonal 1/4-inch thick
•    1 cup cottage cheese or ricotta
•    1 egg
•    2 tbsp. flour
•    Shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown meat and onion in a 10-inch skillet in a bit of oil over medium heat.  Drain off grease if necessary.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices, reducing heat and simmering for 5 minutes.

Slice zucchini. Beat together cottage cheese and egg. In an 8- or 9-by-12-inch baking dish arrange a layer of zucchini slices. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour.  Spread with all of cheese/egg mixture, half of meat mixture, and sprinkle generously with mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another zucchini layer, a tablespoon of flour, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes in an oven or 12 minutes on high power in a microwave (cover with waxed paper.) It should be bubbling and the zucchini should be fork-tender. Let stand for 10 minutes for easier cutting.

Thoughts: I used ground turkey to keep this relatively vegetarian. The original recipe called for tomato sauce, but the taste was even fresher with chopped tomatoes. If you have fresh herbs they should be tripled. I have experimented with a Greek version with ground lamb and feta cheese, and it is quite good.

ZUCCHINI CHOCOLATE CAKE
•    2 1/2 cups flour
•    1/2 tsp. ground allspice
•    1 tsp. cinnamon
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    2 tsp. baking soda
•    4 tbsp. cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s dark)
•    1 cup packed brown sugar
•    1 cup white sugar
•    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
•    1/2 cup oil
•    3 eggs
•    1 tsp. vanilla
•    1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt
•    2 1/4 cups grated zucchini, skin and all
•    1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together flour, spices, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder. With a mixer, beat sugars with butter until light and fluffy. Stir together oil, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk or yogurt. Beat in liquid mixture and flour mixture alternately in three additions each. Fold in zucchini.

Pour mixture into a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes or until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan. When cooled, frost with desired frosting.  We prefer to eat it without.

Dear Cynthia: Thanks for adding to our zucchini recipe stash.

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September 16, 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,

On Sunday afternoon, the day before delivery, Tony asked whether the refrigerator I bought would fit. For the fifth time, I told him I had measured the doorways and the fridge and it would fit. Jeez.

“How about width and height?” he countered.

“Uhhh….I think it will fit.”

“You THINK?”

I dug through my purse for fifteen minutes to find the scrap of paper on which I’d jotted the measurements. “It’s 70 inches tall,” I said triumphantly, “which leaves plenty of room to fit under the overhead cabinet.”

I wish. At midnight we were relocating pitchers and cookie sheets in preparation to rip out the cabinet. We couldn’t reschedule because we had already pushed back delivery once because the old fridge was still – uh – messy.

As I write this Monday afternoon we have an ugly swath of 1950s wallpaper high along one kitchen wall, counters piled with pitchers, vases and baking sheets, and the shiny new refrigerator of my dreams.

My requirements were lots of refrigerator  space and a door that didn’t bang into the stove. Space is tight in my circa 1939 farmhouse kitchen. I didn’t care about freezer space, ice makers or stainless steel, which is a nightmare to keep clean. I definitely didn’t want a side-by-side with its reduced refrigerator space.

What I got was a stainless steel side-by-side LG door-in-door refrigerator. The stainless was the only finish available, and the side-by-side feature came with a twist: The fridge side is a lot wider than the freezer side. This baby has tons of chill space, yet the fridge-side door is slim enough to miss the stove when I throw it open. I’m happy, and Tony is thrilled with the crush/cube ice maker. Whatever.

Anyway, with all the fridge-cleaning last week I didn’t have a chance to create a new recipe. I did modify a favorite, though, to use up the first picking of Sun Gold tomatoes from my garden. The savory clafouti recipe I ran last September has become a favorite. This time I replaced half the flour with masa harina (fine corn flour) and added the fresh, sweet kernels from an ear of corn.

The corn, corn flour and sweet cherry tomatoes  mingled with goat cheese and eggs to produce a full-flavored yet delicate pan soufflé. The heady aroma of fresh chopped thyme perfumed the kitchen when it came from the oven.

I love this quick, summery entrée. I’ll make it again tonight if I can find the goat cheese and eggs in my new refrigerator.

TOMATO AND CORN CLAFOUTI

janesnow-tomatoclafouti
•    3 cups cherry tomatoes
•    Kernels from 1 ear corn (about 3/4 cup)
•    3 oz. French-style goat cheese
•    1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
•    1/4 cup flour
•    1/4 cup masa harina
•    4 eggs
•    1 1/4 cups milk
•    1/2 tsp. salt

Place whole tomatoes and corn in a buttered, 1 1/2 -quart gratin dish. Scatter grape-sized gobs of the cheese evenly over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with thyme. Whisk together the flour, masa harina, eggs, milk and salt. Pour into dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes, or until puffy and golden. Makes about 6 servings.

THE MAILBAG

From Joy in Canada:
Hi, Jane. Here’s another recipe you’ll want to give a go with that abundance of zucchini you have. The Recipe comes from James Barber’s “Peasant’s Alphabet Cookbook,”

Mr. Barber, who died in 2007, was at one time a food critic for the Vancouver Province newspaper, host of the popular Canadian Urban Peasant cooking show and a cookbook author.

PROVENCAL BAKED VEGETABLES

•    1 onion, sliced
•    1 medium eggplant, sliced
•    2 tomatoes, sliced
•    1 medium zucchini, sliced
•    Salt and pepper to taste
•    4 cloves garlic, chopped
•    1 tsp. dried basil
•    1  tsp. dried oregano
•    1 cup shredded mozzarella
•    1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
•    3 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an oven-proof casserole dish and place alternate slices of onion, eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini in the dish.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Drizzle the oil over top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and browned and the vegetables have softened. Serves 4.

My notes: If you have fresh basil and oregano, even better.. Just add more to your own taste. I use olive oil. Don’t cut back on the garlic.. It’s an important part of the recipe. I have omitted the onion at times (picky eaters), still very good. I’ve also used finely grated Asiago cheese in place of Parmesan as I prefer the Asiago. Good with either one.

Dear Joy: I wouldn’t dream of skimping on the garlic. Ever. Although the recipe isn’t clear, I recommend seasoning each layer rather than just the top. This might qualify as the squash, tomato and cheese casserole Amber requested last week.

From Cynthia:
I, too, was looking for a classic squash casserole this summer and had a hard time. I combed all my Southern cookbooks and church cookbooks. I found this one, which I have attached and modified. The original called for all the squash to be oven roasted, but it is much faster (and cooler) to do that portion on the grill. My husband does the grilling and usually adds a seasoning and salt mix to his vegetables, so add this if you want. I made the casserole without cheese, but it would be easy to add in the last step before baking. I imagine in the taste buds in my mind that Asiago would be terrific. I have another batch of grilled squash and may test that theory today. Thanks for all your creativity!

YELLOW SQUASH CASSEROLE
•    4 lbs. yellow squash (10 medium) trimmed, halved lengthwise
•    Olive oil
•    2 medium onions chopped
•    1 green pepper, chopped
•    1 red pepper, chopped
•    7 tbsp. butter
•    Salt, pepper
•    2 1/4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (about 4 slices)
•    1/4 cup flour
•    1 3/4 cups chicken broth
•    1 cup sour cream
•    Assorted grated cheeses, 1 to 2 cups

Grill squash halves with olive oil brushed or sprayed on cut surface. Store overnight in refrigerator, covered, and most of the excess liquid will drain off the squash. Cut into 1/4-inch slices.

Saute onion and peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil until limp. Season with salt and pepper. Combine with prepared squash in a large bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat and add bread crumbs, tossing to combine. Spread on large baking sheet and toast in oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes or until dry and crisp.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, whisking occasionally. Whisk in sour cream. Pour over squash mixture and stir gently until well combined.

Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with half the bread crumbs. Spread squash mixture into dish evenly. Sprinkle with desired cheese and remaining bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Adapted from “Gourmet Today,” edited by Ruth Reichl.
Dear Cynthia: This sounds delicious and creamy. I might add some minced fresh herbs such as thyme or tarragon. A layer of seeded chopped tomatoes might be good, too. Thanks for helping out.

From John:
I seem to remember a recipe for pulled pork, rub and Carolina BBQ Sauce that was in the Beacon several years ago. Lost the recipe in a divorce and was wondering if the recipes were in your cookbook? I’d love to have them again.

Thanks for your help.

Dear John: I can relate. I once lost a reciprocal saw in a divorce. Not as painful as losing a barbecue recipe, but still. The recipe is indeed in my book, “Jane Snow Cooks” (available from the University of Akron Press if it still exists when you read this). An easy way to get recipes I created for the Beacon Journal is to click on the “newspapers” database on the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s website (www.akronlibrary.org). Search my byline and the recipe name or main ingredient.

About this recipe I wrote: “Let’s just get all the Texans riled up and be done with it: The best barbecue in the world is the pork barbecue produced in the back hills and piney woods of the Carolinas.

“The succulent pulled pork (pulled as in shredded, not sliced) is served in a pile or heaped on a bun and topped with coleslaw. Making this ambrosial barbecue at home was a quest of mine for years.  I finally got it down pat.”

YANKEE CAROLINA
PULLED PORK BARBECUE
•    1 pork butt roast, 4 lbs.
•    1 quart charcoal briquettes
•    4 small chunks of hickory wood
•    2 tbsp. black pepper
•    1 tbsp. salt
•    1 tbsp. paprika
•    1 tsp. dry mustard
•    1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Bring roast to room temperature while preparing the fire. For the fire, pile the charcoal on one side of a covered grill and light. Soak the hickory chips in water. When the coals are white around the edges, combine pepper, salt, paprika, mustard and cayenne and rub it evenly over the roast.

Scatter the hickory chunks over the pile of coals (do not spread). Place grid on grill. Place roast on grid, on the side away from the coals. Cover and adjust top vents so they are one-quarter open. Bottom vents should remain fully open.

Cook pork for 4 hours, opening lid as infrequently as possible. It should not be necessary to add more coals.

Remove roast from grill and tightly seal in a double thickness of foil. Bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 210 degrees.

Unwrap roast and place on a cutting board. Shred the meat with a fork. Lightly dress with barbecue sauce (preferably Carolina vinegar-based), or pass the sauce at the table. Pile the meat on hamburger buns and top with coleslaw.

Makes 8 servings.

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September 9, 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 was too hot and too lazy to cook much of anything last week besides a truck load of candied, spiced nuts. I mean a lot. My friend Dorena and I made about 35 cups’ worth for Michele Sandridge’s surprise 60th birthday party.

Although the recipe is not difficult, it is more involved than just tossing some nuts, spices and sugar in a skillet and stirring until the sugar melts. That’s how I usually make spiced nuts. This time I made a sugar syrup to pour over the nuts and spices in a bowl, then transferred the mixture to a baking sheet and baked it until the syrup hardened. The result is a cross between peanut brittle and regular spiced nuts, and it’s addictive.

Before Dorena has a chance to rag me about how “I” made the spiced nuts, I confess that she made most of the batches. The nut-making ran late into the evening, and my energy flagged.

Michele is worth the effort. We’ve been through a lot together since we became friends about 15 years ago. We made three wedding cakes in our underwear (it was hot) and sprayed my kitchen cabinets with batter. We made and served a coconut-chocolate cake at a charity function in a pink flamingo-themed outfit (her) and a grass skirt and coconut bra (me). We canned jelly in the heat of August. We shared Friendsgiving on many a crisp November day. We grieved together when my mother was dying, and rejoiced together in the birth of her granddaughter.

Some of my wackiest times in the kitchen have been with Michele. She is also an extraordinary human being, and I’m not alone in my admiration. More than 200 people showed up wish her a happy birthday Sunday. Her sisters and a co-worker threw the party and did the heavy lifting. Dorena and I just made a few nuts.

Speaking of nuts, Dorena and I are making zany kitchen memories, too. At one point we heard a noise in the driveway and I timidly tiptoed out to check on my car. Dorena barged past me with a baking sheet held aloft in her be-mittened fist.
“This is hot,” she warned loudly. “I’ll hit him and burn him at the same time.”

Keep that woman away from the potato masher.

The candied nuts didn’t go as far as I thought they would. They seemed to have settled in the container overnight. The mystery was solved the next day when Tony and I hopped in the car to visit the Canfield Fair. He reached in the back seat and hauled out a quart container of the candied nuts.

“You spent a lot of time making these,” he said defensively. “We can’t just give them all away.”

THE BEST CANDIED SPICED NUTS

•    4 cups inexpensive roasted, salted peanuts
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
•    1/4 tsp. cumin
•    1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
•    1/2 cup sugar
•    1/4 cup water
•    1 tbsp. butter

Line a large baking sheet with foil and grease well. Combine peanuts, salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne in a medium bowl. Combine sugar, water and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a hard boil and boil for 1 minute without stirring.

Pour sugar syrup over nuts and spices in bowl and stir well coat every nut and distribute spices evenly. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir nuts and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer, until syrup is sticky but not liquid.

Remove nuts on foil sheet to a counter to cool. When cool, break up with hands and transfer to a tightly lidded container for storage. Makes 4 cups.

HELP U COOK

I use a wide range of nuts, a little at a time. I can’t keep all of those nuts fresh, so I freeze them. A quick toast in the oven removes the stale texture and any off flavors they pick up in the freezer. Toasting, I think, improves the flavor of even fresh nuts. Just spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 to 400 degrees until the edges begin to brown.

The papery skins on some nuts, such as walnuts and hazelnuts, can be bitter when toasted. To remove most of the skins after toasting without going – well, nuts – rub the warm nuts in a dish cloth.

MAILBAG

From Jodie Grasgreen DeLamatre:
While the rest of the higher education world is looking for more sustainable/healthy food for their students (http://food-management.com/production/antioch-strives-meal-program-fit-colleges-philosophy), our beleaguered University of Polymers is privatizing to bring Steak ‘n Shake and Chick-fil-A to their students. Ironic that they couldn’t figure out how to manage their food service since they actually have a major in hospitality management.

Can’t wait to try your seafood boil.  Have done many Ohio-style clambakes, which are similar;  will try this soon!

Dear Jodie: I’ve been waiting for a backlash to the University of Akron’s ridiculous decision to wipe out its food service department and replace it with a mass-food contractor and fast food. Why aren’t people riled up about this? More jobs are going down the tubes, along with the income generated from the many community events catered by the dining staff.

Here’s what Gary Goldberg, director of dining services and administration, had to say in March in the Buchtelite about the inadvisability of outsourcing dining services: “You talk about millions of dollars that we give back (to the university) every year. And from our relationship with students, it’s not the same when it’s an independent company. They’re not bleeding blue and gold…it’s just a different dynamic. I think (outsourcing) is a very short-sighted approach to something that’s not actually a problem.”

From Anne Caston:
Since zucchini are so prolific in these parts, it’s no wonder there is always an abundance of recipes for them and still more demand for new ones.  With that in mind, I wanted to share a recipe that my mom used for years for a Zucchini (mock apple) Pie.  It’s so easy that even a non-baker like me can make one and it’s a great way to use up those extra-large zukes that may not be as tender as the earlier-picked ones.  And, you might even fool your family into thinking they are eating apple pie!

ZUCCHINI “APPLE” PIE

•    1 large zucchini
•    2 tbsp. flour
•    1 1/4 cups sugar (I prefer brown sugar)
•    1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
•    1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
•    2 tbsp. lemon juice
•    Dash of salt
•    Dash of nutmeg
•    9-inch unbaked pie shell

Topping:
•    1 stick (8 tbsp.) margarine or butter
•    1/2 cup sugar (again, I use brown)
•    1/2 cup flour

Peel zucchini; cut lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Cut into slices to resemble apple slices. Cook 10 minutes in enough water to keep from burning. Drain. Mix remaining ingredients with zucchini and pour into pie shell.

For topping: Pulse margarine, sugar and flour in a food processor and crumble over pie. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

From Pennie:
Your column last week inspired me to share my favorite sweet use of zucchini. So easy! All you do is process your peeled or mostly peeled zucchini until it is a puree. You may want to drain it a little if it is really wet. Then just substitute it for pumpkin in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe. I use the recipe from the Libby’s pumpkin can — not the ready-made pumpkin filling, but the one with just pumpkin.

I used to make it when my kids were small. They would love it. Then I would tell them that it was zucchini pie, not pumpkin pie and they would freak out and refuse to eat any more. I was able to fool them twice but no more than that.

It tastes like pumpkin but with a more delicate flavor. The color is a little darker than pumpkin after baking — not green but not orange, either. It is just delicious.

Dear Pennie: Thanks for teaching me something new. I never would have guessed zucchini could be pureed and used as pumpkin.

From Amber in Fla., formerly Bath:
Speaking of squash, an elderly aunt, now deceased, made a wonderful summer squash, tomato, and cheese casserole. Sadly, I never thought to ask for recipe. Anyone have one?

Dear Amber: I don’t have a cheesy squash casserole in my repertoire. If someone sends us a recipe, I’ll pass it along.
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.

September 2, 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 apologize to every zucchini muffin maker I’ve ever dissed. I used to think zucchini breads, cakes and cookies were pointless because zucchini has zero flavor, few calories and little or no vitamins. Why bother?

Wrong.

I looked up the nutrition profile of summer squash Monday as I was writing this and found that, although low in calories (about 35 calories per cup, sliced and cooked), summer squash has a fair amount of vitamins C and A, is a good source of potassium,  is low-glycemic and is a great source of antioxidants. So yes, it’s worth the trouble of grating into dessert batters.

The nutrient content of zucchini and other summer squash (yellow, pattypan) vary slightly, but are comparable. They also taste very similar and react the same in recipes, so feel free to substitute whatever kind you grow or buy.

This is all good news to me because my two plants are producing a lot of yellow squash.  I usually control the summer squash onslaught by picking them small, but lately the harvest has overwhelmed me.

So far I have mostly diced and stir-fried the squash with a splash of my homemade stir-fry sauce.  I’ve also made one batch of ratatouille and one side dish of lightly steamed zucchini ribbons with butter and chopped tarragon. Now I need to step up the creativity.

This week I’ll make the yummy grape tomato, mushroom and zucchini salad I devised once for a Beacon Magazine column. I’ll substitute my home-grown little SunGold tomatoes for store-bought grape tomatoes. Regular white mushrooms may be used instead of Portobello.

For another idea, I checked out the from Seville Farm Market’s annual Zucchini Smackdown, held this year on Aug. 15. There at the top of the list of winners was my friend and former coworker, Olga Reswow of Wadsworth. She won the sweets category with a decadent-sounding chocolate zucchini bread. Other entrant’s recipes can be found at http://www.sevillefarmmarket.blogspot.com/. You’ll have click on a link under one of the photos.

Finally, I found my third interesting  recipe in an old issue of Our Ohio magazine. The fluffy casserole is made with zucchini, Cheddar cheese and cornbread mix. While it’s not Emeril’s andouille spoon bread, I’d eat it.

veggies

TOMATO-ZUCCHINI SALADOW COUNTRY BOIL

•    1 package (6 oz.) whole portobello mushroom caps
•    1 small zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
•    1 small yellow squash, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
•    3 tbsp. olive oil
•    1 pint grape (or small cherry) tomatoes
•    2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
•    2 tsp. Parmesan cheese
•    1 tsp. finely minced garlic
•    Coarse salt to taste

Wash and dry mushroom caps and place in a bowl. Place zucchini and yellow squash (you should have 2 cups total) in another bowl. Drizzle mushroom caps with 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub to coat. Drizzle squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat.

Thread squash on skewers. Grill squash and mushroom caps over a medium charcoal or gas-grill fire, turning occasionally, until golden and tender but not mushy. Cool. Cut mushrooms into 1/2-inch cubes.

Place squash and mushrooms in a medium bowl. Cut grape tomatoes in halves and add to vegetables. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss well. Add basil, Parmesan, garlic and salt. Toss again. Serve at room temperature.

SACHA’S CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD
•    3 eggs
•    1 1/3 cups oil
•    2 cups sugar
•    1 tbsp. vanilla
•    9 tbsp. cocoa powder
•    2 cups flour
•    1/2 tsp. baking soda
•    1/2 tsp. baking powder
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, plus extra for sprinkling
•    2 cups packed grated zucchini

Combine eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and cocoa powder and in a bowl, whisking until smooth. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat with a mixer or by hand. Fold in nuts and zucchini.

Spray two loaf pans with vegetable-oil spray. Divide batter between pans (it will be thick). Sprinkle a few chopped nuts on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before removing from pan. Makes 2 loaves.

ZUCCHINI CASSEROLE
•    4 cups unpeeled, chopped zucchini
•    1/4 cup chopped onion
•    1 small box cornbread mix (Jiffy)
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1 egg
•    1 cup grated Cheddar cheese, set aside 1/2 cup

Combine all ingredients (less 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese) and stir well. Pour into a greased 8-inch-square baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top and bake an additional 15 minutes. Cut into squares to serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From Anne McMillan, Akron:
Ok since you insist on email, and I think of you often in connection to local food….

Last week was my first time at the Countryside Conservancy’s monthly food swap. Have you been? You have to sign up ahead of time. I took the very ordinary strawberry freezer jam, and the elegant peach rosemary jam to trade with other foodies. My haul from the swap was impressive, including granola, fresh Hungarian peppers, crabapple cinnamon sorbet, peach buckle, red onion jam and refrigerator sweet horseradish pickles. There were fresh eggs, homemade lavender shortbread, jams, pickles, baked goods and sauces. Everything is home sourced.  The Countryside Conservancy website (http://countrysideconservancy.businesscatalyst.com/learn-countryside-local-food-swaps.htm) has further info. It’s a great opportunity to taste regional Akron’s products. And a darn nice bunch of folks who welcomed us newbies.

I’m already plotting my next swap and made 3 batches of dilly beans (great with a Bloody Mary), 2 batches of red plum rhubarb jam and freezer lemon cucumbers. I have kilos of sea salt and I was thinking about making rosemary lemon flavored salt.

I went to The Rail when it first opened and I was very disappointed, but maybe just an off day. Louie’s is the bomb, I agree. Will check out Wolf Creek as we are always on the hunt for a good burger. I heard Burger-Fi was good, albeit expensive. One of the draws for me there is that you can get a combo fries and onion ring side order.

Dear Anne: Such an interesting, newsy email – thank you! I know about the monthly food swap and keep promising myself I’ll go. Your description may be just the impetus I need. Your rosemary-lemon salt sounds like the bomb.

From Sue Murphy, Hilton Head, S.C.:
Wasn’t sure if you were writing about the Mitch Allen I worked with at the Beacon Journal, but if he’s from Georgia he’s the one. Please tell him I still use his family’s cookbook he gifted to me and always refer to it when I’m not sure of my southern dishes. I so enjoy your blog. We’re in Ohio this week and finally getting some good corn along with Belgrade and Swensons. I’ll be 20 pounds heavier going home to Hilton Head!

Dear Sue: Yes, THAT Mitch. I wish he would adopt me so I could go to the family dinners. He is an elegant writer, too. Check out his Mimi columns at http://directory.mimivanderhaven.com/article/results.php?module=article&keyword=mitch%2Ballen&advsearch=&screen=2.

From Bill Bowen:
Sending you an email because you are so lonely. Just got back from a week on Cape Cod. I stuffed myself silly with seafood, mostly lobster rolls. Rumor had it that McDonald’s was putting them back on the menu but no such luck. I also had scallops, clams and of course fish and chips.

We stopped in Scranton, Pa. and went to (the suburb of) Old Forge for pizza on the way home. On the Mass.  pike they allow local farmers to set up produce stands (for free) if they are selling Massachusetts-grown produce. I bought a bunch of really deliciously good white peaches to munch on in the car. Your Low Country boil looked really good.

Dear Bill: Your vacation sounds great. I love Cape Cod and hope to get back there when Tony retires.
Interesting idea to allow local farmers to sell their home-grown produce to travelers on the turnpike. Ohio should do that at rest areas.

Your mention of Old Forge pizza piqued my interest, so I Googled and read about the town’s unusual (but fabulous-looking) pizza on Serious Eats (http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2013/08/old-forge-pennsylvania-pizza.html.) The pizza is definitely unique and worth a detour in the future.  Thanks for rescuing me from my email wasteland.
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.