November 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

Four days after I met my husband he told me he loved me.

“You can’t possibly,” I scoffed, having heard that line before. “You don’t even know me.”

“Well, I really, really, really like you,” he responded.
That’s how I feel about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I really, really, really like to. So when I dine out on Thanksgiving and offer to bring three or four dishes, I really, really mean it. So can you imagine my chagrin when I arrived at my brother’s last Thanksgiving and saw the sideboard loaded with pies still in their bakery boxes?

When my brother called Sunday to ask if I’d bring my cranberry sauce and bourbon-mashed sweet potatoes to this year’s feast, I agreed and angled for cornbread stuffing.

“No, we have that handled,” he said. And for dessert?

“We’re making two pumpkin pies and buying a pecan pie,” he said.

“Could I maybe bring a pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust?” I wheedled.

Oh, yes. I think the gingersnaps cinched it.

So I get to make cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and a favorite cheesecake I haven’t had in years. I can’t even remember where I got the recipe but I’ve never found a better one. The cheesecake is rich
and creamy with a pronounced pumpkin flavor and just the right balance of spices.

By the time you read this my kitchen will smell like warm pumpkin and I’ll be wrist-deep in cornbread stuffing. Yes, I’m making the stuffing anyway, to go with the turkey I’ll roast Friday for Tony and me here at home. We won’t actually sit down to another Thanksgiving dinner. I just really, really like Thanksgiving leftovers, almost as much as I like to cook them.

P.S.: Tony and I were engaged two weeks after we met, so I guess he wasn’t handing me a line.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

  • 1 1/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 12 walnut halves
  • Whipped cream

Mix cookie crumbs and butter. If grinding in blender, break up cookies first. Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes; cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Beat cream cheese, one cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in large bowl on medium speed until smooth.
Add pumpkin and mix well. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on lowest speed of mixer.

Pour over crumb crust. Bake at 300 degrees until center is almost firm, but still wiggles slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least three hours or overnight before serving.

For decoration, place two tablespoons sugar and walnuts in small pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar caramelizes and coats walnuts. Do not allow to burn. Spread on foil, separating nuts. Cool. Remove cheesecake from springform pan. Top with whipped cream and garnish with candied walnuts.
HELP U COOK
To skim or not to skim the foam that rises to the surface of homemade stock? I usually swipe away a few spoonsful and then and then say, “Screw it.”

Does it affect the flavor or just the looks? I found a guy who seems to know all about that scum.
Skimming is for aesthetic purposes,” writes Bruce Goldstein at stackexchange.com.

“The scum is denatured protein, mostly comprising the same proteins that make up egg whites. It is harmless and flavorless, but visually unappealing. Eventually, the foam will break up into microscopic particles and disperse into your stock, leaving it grayish and cloudy. The more vigorously your stock bubbles, the faster this process will occur.

“If the grayness or cloudiness bothers you but skimming is not an option for some reason, you can always remove the micro-particulates later through the clarification process used to make consommé.”

If you don’t want to skim, you sure as heck don’t want to clarify. Trust me.

TIDBITS

A waitress at a restaurant Tony and I visited last week couldn’t contain her enthusiasm for the food at a taco restaurant down the street. Odd, no? Well, she was right. We checked out the other restaurant a few days later and loved the tender corn tortillas, the spritz of lime, the fresh herbs and inventive fillings. Get yourself to the Funky Truckeria and see what the fuss is about.

Two food truck chefs – from the Orange Truk and Wholly Frijoles – opened the small restaurant about a month ago. They merged their recipes and styles to come up with menu items such as the Southern Cali Mahi Mahi Taco with blackened mahi, feathered cabbage, avocado, fresh pico de gallo, queso fresco, chipotle crème, micro cilantro and lime on a soft flour tortilla; and the Tequila Lime Chicken Taco with lime-marinated chicken, chipotle crema, sautéed onions, queso fresco, micro cilantro and lime on a grilled corn tortilla.

The menu is all tacos with the exception of a couple of appetizers (nachos, risotto balls). The fresh décor is industrial Day of the Dead. The prices are easy to swallow.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for brunch. Can’t wait to see what that’s about. The restaurant is in Norton Plaza at 3200 Greenwich Road. View the weekly menus on Facebook at TheFunkyTruckeria.

THE MAILBAG

From Kevin Scheuring:
I’m curious as to why you suggest cooking a turkey breast to 170 degrees?

Dear Kevin: Because that’s what the experts (i.e., the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line) recommend. The recommended temperatures have fluctuated over the years, as the shape of turkeys have changed (the breasts are bigger now) and the science of food safety has advanced. I know that, bottom line, turkey meat must be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees, the temperature at which salmonella bacteria is destroyed.

So why 170 degrees? And why do the experts recommend cooking the thigh meat to 180 degrees? Hmmm. Curious, I phoned the Turkey Talk-Line. Flavor and texture are the reasons. “Thighs have to be really well done to taste good,” the Talk-Line pro said. “Otherwise it will taste like rubber bands.”
Breasts may be cooked to 165 degrees, she said. Cooking them to 170 degrees gives you a cushion to make sure the salmonella baddies are dead.

Everything you need to know about roasting a turkey, including time tables and techniques for roasting, grilling and deep frying, is at http://www.butterball.com/turkey-talk-line. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the subject that interests you.

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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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,

With all of the one- and two-person households in this country (comprising more than two-thirds of Americans), most people must either round up a bunch of friends and family for Thanksgiving dinner or eat turkey for two weeks.

There is an alternative, which I’m sharing for singles and couples: turkey breast. At its simplest, roast turkey breast is made by plopping a whole or half bone-in breast in a shallow pan and roasting at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes per pound, until an instant-read thermometer registers 170 degrees.

But why go basic for the most important feast of the year? Since you’re reading this newsletter you probably love to cook, so I suggest you go with my favorite way to serve turkey breast. I made the recipe (adapted from a Cooks Illustrated poultry book) seven years ago for my husband’s fiftieth birthday. A skinless turkey breast is boned, butterflied and brined, then rolled with a stuffing of ancho chilies, raisins, garlic and parsley. The roast is grilled, slice and napped with a chipotle cream sauce. It is kick-butt.

Serve the Southwestern turkey breast with jalapeno cornbread stuffing and mashed potatoes for a memorable Thanksgiving dinner for two or three. Or make a whole, double turkey breast for a Thanksgiving dinner for six.

CHILI AND RAISIN-STUFFED TURKEY BREASTS
•    1/4 cup kosher salt
•    2 quarts water
•    1 whole (two lobes) skinless turkey breast, boneless or bone-in, split
•    1 cup raisins
•    3 dried ancho chilies
•    4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
•    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
•    Salt, pepper
•    1 tbsp. melted butter

The day before serving, combine salt and water in a pitcher and stir. Set aside.

Remove skin from turkey breasts. If they are bone-in breasts, bone them: Starting at the thinner, rounded edge (not the thick edge where the breasts were joined, slip a thin, sharp knife between the meat and the bones. Continue cutting horizontally close to the bones, lifting meat and folding it back like a book. When you reach the thick side, cut the meat away from the breast bone and discard bones.

Turn the breasts cut-side up on the counter. Where the thick and thin portions of each piece of the meat meet, make a horizontal slice to within one-half-inch of the thick edge. For each breast, fold back the meat along the cut to create a large, flat piece of chicken of roughly even thickness. This is called butterflying the meat.

Place both breasts in a large, zipper-lock plastic bag. Stir the salt water and pour into the bag. Seal and refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours.

Place raisins and chilies in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak until plumped and softened, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and discard water.
Remove stem and seeds from chilies and tear into large pieces. Combine raisins, chilies, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Prepare a large charcoal fire (about 25 briquettes) on one side of a covered grill (cover removed).

While coals heat, remove turkey from brine. Rinse and pat dry. Place meat cut-sides-up on a counter. Spread chili mixture to within 1/2 inch of the edges of the meat. Roll up jelly-roll style, tucking in ends so no filling leaks out. Tie each roll in three places with kitchen string. Sew up any gaps with cotton thread.

Brush turkey rolls all over with melted butter. When the coals have ashed over, scatter a handful of soaked hickory chips over the coals. Place meat on the opposite side of the grill from the hot coals. Close lid, positioning vents wide open. Roast for about 20 minutes. Turn and reposition turkey rolls. Replace lid and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey registers 165 to 170 degrees. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the heat of the grill. Check with a thermometer after 45 minutes.

Remove from heat, cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting each roll in half-inch-thick slices. Serves 6. Recipe may be cut in half to serve 3.

CHIPOTLE CREAM SAUCE
•  1/2 cup cream
•  1 tsp. mashed, canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

Whisk cream with chilies in a small saucepan and simmer until reduced by half. Dribble a tablespoon of sauce over each portion.

TIDBITS

David Lebovitz was making a pie when all hell broke loose in his neighborhood in Paris last weekend. On Monday I checked his blog, Living the Sweet Live In Paris, to make sure all was well. He, his partner and his friends are fine but his local outdoor market and restaurants were the scene of bombings, he wrote. Everyone is shaken up.

Lebovitz returned to the kitchen later to finish making a pecan pie with Bourbon and ginger, a new recipe he found in “First Prize Pies” by Allison Kave. The pie is very special, he wrote, and served a function beyond nourishment: “I was happy to have this pie sitting on the counter after all that happened this weekend. It made us feel a little better.”

Find the recipe here: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2015/11/bourbon-ginger-pecan-pie-recipe-thanksgiving/#more-21615.

THE MAILBAG

From Iris Stacey:
Thank you always for your awesome recipes! I’ve tried many of them, and they have become some of our favorites.

My Nana used to make wonderful apple turnovers or hand pies. I think she just used her homemade pie crust, but I don’t remember how she prepared the apples – use them like making an apple pie or cook them first? After they were baked, she would sprinkle them with confectioners’ sugar. I would love to make them myself, but my attempts have failed. Would you have a recipe that might help me out? I asked both my mom and aunt, but they didn’t remember. Thanks.

Dear Iris: My mother made apple turnovers and they were awesome, too. She used raw apples, cinnamon, sugar and flour, as she would for a pie. They were way too flaky to be called “hand pies,” though, so I suspect your grandmother’s turnovers were different.

Southern hand pies often were made with dried apples and the pies were fried, such as in this recipe from Southern Living magazine http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/fried-apple-pies-1:

You recall that your grandmother baked the pies, though. Try this recipe with a pre-cooked apple filling from Cooking Light: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/apple-hand-pies-0.

From Jodie:
A reader asked where to get Russian tea biscuits: The same place to go for the best Jewish rye bread in the world — Davis Bakery, Cleveland.

Dear Jodie: Excellent suggestion. The beloved bakery has locations in Woodmere and Warrensville Heights. Here’s more information: http://davisbakery.net/locations.php.

From Tammy Jo:
I recently began hunting (my husband is an avid hunter). Last weekend I shot my first deer!
My sister would like to make an authentic English mincemeat pie with venison. Our deer processor will give us spicy sausage, hamburger, sliced tenderloins and inner loins. My sister isn’t sure which to use for her mincemeat pie recipe. Any ideas? Thanks!

Dear Tammy Jo: Making authentic mincemeat is a project. I assume your sister doesn’t want to go Merrie-Olde- England authentic, because the mincemeat of Old England contained as much meat and suet as fruit, and was made with very little sugar. Our tastes have changed. I found a more modern version – with venison, no less – on a trusted King Arthur Flour site at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/mincemeat-pie-or-tarts-recipe. The cut of venison isn’t specified, but after studying the recipe I would guess a roast. Because your roasts are being turned into ground beef and sausage, your sister will have to use the inner loins.

For your next deer, you might consider getting a few roasts. I use them for all kinds dishes, from shredded-meat burritos to jerky (after slicing, of course).

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November 12, 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,

When I saw a recipe for an almost-flourless chocolate cake a couple of weeks ago, I had a brainstorm. I would try to make a pumpkin version of that rich, custard-y, slumped cake. Oh, boy. A totally new take on pumpkin.

I’m glad I did a Google search for “pumpkin custard cake” before I started. I created almost the exact cake for See Jane Cook in October 2012. Yikes. Am I becoming one of those people who repeat themselves as they get older except I do it with food, and in print? (If you notice this, send me an email. I’m serious.)

I’m equal parts terrified and gratified. I’m terrified that I totally forgot an entire cake. I’m gratified that, thanks to my poor memory, I have a terrific new (to me) recipe. In the 2012 article I described it as a cross between a cake and a soufflé “with a mousse-like texture and prominent pumpkin flavor accented with grated orange rind, vanilla and pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon.” The description jogged my memory, but to solidify it in my mind, I had to make the cake. I did, and it was delicious. I hope to heck I don’t forget it again.

In some oven-friendly cardboard mini cake pans I found at TJ Maxx I will bake little pumpkin soufflé cakes for the Countryside Conservancy’s Local Food Swap next Tuesday. This will be my first food swap. A couple of readers have been urging me to participate in the monthly events, where local food-lovers meet, mingle and trade homemade or home-produced food items. I will take four or five of the little cakes and three half-pint jars of my vanilla, quince and star anise brandy.

I would love it if some of you came to the swap, too. We can be first-timers together. Any kind of homemade item is welcome, from easy quick breads to seasoning mixes. Most of the food isn’t “gourmet.”

Take your contribution in small portions so you have several items to trade. Participation is free but you must sign up in advance. The swaps are held the third Tuesday of each month at various locations. This month’s venue is Summit Artspace in downtown Akron. For more information, go to https://countrysideconservancy.worldsecuresystems.com/BookingRetrieve.aspx?ID=61588.

If, like me, you forgot about this fab pumpkin cake, here’s the recipe. It could be the hero of the dessert table at Thanksgiving.

pumpkin 016
PUMPKIN SOUFFLE CAKES
•    1 1/2 cups canned or fresh pumpkin puree
•    6 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
•    Pinch of nutmeg
•    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
•    2 tsp. vanilla
•    8 large eggs, separated
•    1 cup sugar
•    1 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind
•    Salt
•    Pinch of cream of tarter
•    1/2 cup cake flour

Grease and flour a 10- to 11-inch springform pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using homemade pureed pumpkin, drain it in a fine mesh sieve until it is about the texture of canned pumpkin.

Place puree in a small bowl and microwave for 1 minute on high power, or until hot. Beat in butter a tablespoon at a time. Stir in nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks in the bowl of a mixer to combine. Continue beating while gradually adding 3/4 cup of the sugar. Beat at medium-high speed until mixture is thick and lemon-colored, and drops in a ribbon when the beater is lifted. Beat in orange rind, a pinch of salt and pumpkin mixture until smooth. Scrape into a large bowl.

In a clean mixer bowl, beat egg whites with the whisk attachment until frothy. Add cream of tartar and increase speed to high, beating until soft peaks form. Continue beating while adding remaining ¼ cup sugar a little at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Sift together flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt onto a piece of waxed paper. Pour back into sifter. Stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture to lighten it. Add half of the remaining egg whites and sift some of the flour over the batter. Gently fold. Continue folding remaining egg whites and sifted flour into the batter just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until cake begins to shrink from the sides of the pan and center is set. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge and remove springform sides. Cool completely. Top with whipped cream dusted with nutmeg, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

TIDBITS

Mike Vrobel of Copley has been a busy guy. Not only does he continue to write his well-received food blog, Dad Cooks Dinner (www.DadCooksDinner.com), but he just published his third book.

“Rotisserie Turkey” debuted in late October as an e-book and in paperback just in time for Thanksgiving. The book covers the basics of cooking the big bird on the grill and moves on to 29 recipes for whole turkeys, turkey breasts, brines, glazes and side dishes bathed in the drippings.

The book is $2.99 for the Kindle edition and $8.99 for paperback from Amazon.

THE MAILBAG

From Jane S.:
For the guy looking for Russian tea biscuits, they are available at Heinen’s. FYI, the brown sugar pear clafoutis from Orangette’s blog are terrific.

Dear Jane: Thanks. With all those pears in my crisper (they ripened perfectly), I need all the pear recipes I can get. I found the recipe you recommend at
http://orangette.blogspot.com/2013/10/it-made-impression.html/. It sounds like a winner.

From Diana:
My dad has a pear tree and he gave me lots of pears and so I made pear butter in the Crock-Pot! Originally it called for 6 cups of sugar, but it was delicious with only 1 cup of sugar.

Dear Diana: Good idea. Others who want to try this should peel, core and chunk up enough pears to fill the slow cooker half full. Add sugar, 1/2 to 1 cup pear or apple juice and spices if desired (cardamom would be delicious). Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours, until pears are very soft. Puree in a blender or food processor. Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks or freeze.

From Mickey Shankland, Rittman:
Here is my favorite meat loaf recipe — a bit different maybe.

MEAT LOAF MICKEY

•    2 1/2 lbs. meat loaf mix (ground beef and pork)
•    3 eggs
•    1/2 green pepper, chopped
•    1 1/2 tsp. oregano
•    1 tsp. garlic salt
•    2 tbsp. minced onion
•    3/4 cup barbecue sauce (I Use Sweet Baby Ray’s)
•    1 cup Grapenuts cereal
•    1 tsp. Lowery’s Seasoning Salt
•    1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
•    4 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
•    6 oz. shredded cheese (any kind)
•    1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
•    Bacon Strips

Mix everything except bacon strips with half of the tomato sauce. Shape into 2 loaves in a baking pan. Spread remaining tomato sauce on top and then bacon strips. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Serves 12.

From Virginia Braun:
This weather turns my mind to winter cooking like chili and meat loaf. I call it steaming up the windows — which begins with preserving foods for later. Your recipe is similar to my mom’s favorite from years ago. She only used Wonder’s white bread crumbs so I gave it up years ago when I switched to whole grains. Do you too use white bread?  If so, many label whole wheat breads still contain lots of white flour so do you think they would work? We just returned from St. Augustine, Fla., and my husband had a Cuban meat loaf sandwich at Mango Mangoes. (His only non-fish meal in 10 days.) He found it to be the best he’s ever eaten and the reluctantly given bite I had was awesome! They’d give no info out about their special spice mix. That same meat loaf-loving husband makes a pretty mean slow cooker one himself. The grandchildren asked for the recipe to give their mom! Keep steaming up those windows and sharing the results with us!

Dear Virginia: If your husband figures out a recipe for that Cuban meat loaf, I hope he shares. As for bread crumbs, I use whatever fresh bread I have on hand (except rye). Whole-grain bread makes great bread crumbs. Just tear the pieces into chunks and pulse them in your processor.

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.

November 6, 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 just spent 30 minutes getting a head of cauliflower ready to roast and I’m nowhere near done. I still have to make homemade harissa and an orange and onion salad before the recipe is ready for the table. Jeez. I’m not against spending a few hours in the kitchen, but for a side dish??

Recipes within recipes (first make harissa, page 60….) is one of the problems with “Mad Delicious, The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!” by Keith Schroeder. The book won a James Beard Award last year. I checked it out of the library in my cookbook preview project. I’m trying recipe from library books to see which are worth buying.

The premise of “Mad Delicious” hooked me, and I like the way the recipes are written. Beside each ingredient is an explanation for why it’s included. Most of the science is pretty basic – citrus juice tightens chicken skin, sugar promotes caramelization, stock is richer than water – but Schroeder surprised me more than once with a technique. For example, in a penne pasta recipe he toasts the dry pasta in a skillet and cooks it risotto-style to produce a creamy sauce without the cream.

The proof is in the tasting, though, and I’m still mulling over whether the two recipes I tried are good enough to buy the book. Ground turkey in lettuce wraps was a fun dinner made yummier by my last-minute addition of hoisin sauce. I’ve made this dish before and I like my recipe better. Then again, this was a healthful version made with ground turkey rather than pork. I’ll give it a B plus with my addition of hoisin.

Ok, the roast cauliflower with a raisin paste and Moroccan spices is now done. I am underwhelmed. I guess I won’t buy the book. I might make the lettuce wraps again, though, and I’m looking forward to trying that new pasta technique.

janesnow-lettuce

SRIRACHA-SPIKED TURKEY WITH BIBB WRAPS

2 tbsp. sriracha sauce
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 lb. ground turkey
1/4 cup sliced green onions
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 minced Thai chilies
8 leaves bibb lettuce
1 cup matchstick-cut cucumber
1 cup matchstick-cut carrot
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Combine sriracha and oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook 3 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Add the onion and ginger. Stir for a minute. Add the turkey, raise heat to high and cook 6 minutes, stirring until meat is scattered throughout the pan. As long as nothing is burning, keep the heat cranked and the turkey moving.

When the turkey is cooked through and slightly crisped, turn off the heat. Toss in the green onions, lime juice, peanuts, fish sauce and Thai chilies. Fold to combine.

Divide the turkey mixture evenly among the lettuce leaves. Top each with 2 tablespoons cucumber, 2 tablespoons carrot and 1 tablespoon cilantro (and a squiggle of hoisin sauce, if desired). Serve with fresh lime wedges. Makes 8 wraps, two per serving.

HELP U COOK
Thanks to our pear tree and my newly gained knowledge of the art of pear ripening, I have more pears than I can eat this autumn. To use them up I’ve been making simple pear tarts for Tony. If you already know how to do this, forgive me. If not, here’s how to throw together an extremely quick, lower-calorie (than the classic version) pear or apple tart:

Thaw one sheet of puff pastry according to package directions. On a lightly floured surface, roll it with a rolling pin until large enough to fit inside a 10-inch springform pan, with 1/2-inch excess all around. Fit into bottom of pan, pressing the excess up the sides. Trim off the corners and use them to patch any torn areas.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel three firm pears, cut in fourths lengthwise and trim away the cores. Cut each fourth in half lengthwise, yielding 8 pieces per pear. Arrange in a pinwheel fashion (one end pointing toward the center, one toward the rim) around the outer edge of the pastry. The pear pieces should almost touch. Arrange another circle of pear pieces inside the first, and so on until the pastry is covered. You may have to peel more pears.

Dot top of tart with about one-half tablespoon butter cut into bits. Dust lightly but evenly with powdered sugar. Use more sugar if fruit is tart; less if it is sweet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, until the fruit is soft and the pastry begins to brown. Cool slightly, then remove the sides of the pan.

Makes 1 tart.
TIDBIT

The winner of the Ken Stewart’s meatloaf face-off was bartender Carol Giacobone. I misspelled her last name in my Oct. 21 newsletter. Sorry, Carol.

THE MAILBAG

From Mary, Rocky River:
I purchased vanilla beans in bulk online. They’ve been in my fridge for months and have since shriveled and have a light white coating on the ends.  Are they still good? Can I still make homemade vanilla if they’re too shriveled to cut and scrape out the seeds?  What proof vodka is used?

Dear Mary, The coating is probably crystallized vanillin, not mold. Check out this photo of the phenomenon: http://www.amadeusvanillabeans.com/pictures/vanillin.php. Then give them the sniff test. If they smell moldy, toss them. If not, bring them to room temperature and rehydrate the beans in vodka – any proof. No need to scrape out the seeds; use the entire pod. If desired, cut the pods into pieces to increase the surface area exposed to the alcohol.

From Cindy P.:
Regarding your search for the best meatloaf, I suggest you Google “bobotie” recipes. Bobotie is a South African meatloaf I first made more than 30 years ago. I don’t have much use for following recipes once I try making one, so I improvise. This style of meatloaf, with spices I love along with almonds, raisins, and chutney, is my absolute favorite. In fact, I don’t think I’ve made any other style meatloaf since I discovered this recipe. I’ve substituted other dried fruits, marmalade or fruity salsa instead of chutney; oats or breadcrumbs instead of bread; used beef/lamb/pork/ground turkey or combinations thereof, and it is always great.

Dear Cindy: How could I have missed bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tea, according to the BBC) all these years? According to Wikipedia, “It is thought to have originated from the Indonesian dish bobotok. Colonists from the Dutch East India Company colonies in Batavia (now Jakarta) probably introduced bobotie to South Africa. The first recipe for bobotie appeared in a Dutch cookbook in 1609.”

So it’s Indonesian filtered through Dutch settlers in South Africa. Or maybe Dutch as filtered through Indonesia and South Africa, as other sites claim.

The recipes are as varied as its history. Everyone agrees the dish is made with ground meat topped with an egg custard mixture and baked. Curry powder is almost universal. So is a binder of fresh bread, often soaked in milk. Quite a few recipes call for apricot jam instead of chutney. Almonds usually are added along with dried fruit such as raisins and apricots. Spices, in addition to curry, can include ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg and allspice – or none at all.

Of the recipes I found, the one that sounds the most like your version is at the Daring Gourmet, http://www.daringgourmet.com/2013/08/09/bobotie-south-african-meatloaf-casserole/. Can’t wait to try it.

From Geoff:
Many thanks to Debbie and Peggy for their recommendations on where to purchase unpasteurized apple cider.  As soon as I read them I went to the closest, Fruitland’s Farm Market in Deerfield, Peggy’s recommendation, and bought several jugs.  It was exactly what I’ve been looking for for years, a great sweet cider with lots of flavor.  As soon as it’s gone I’ll go to Walnut Creek, Debbie’s recommendation, buy more, and compare the two.  Thanks again to you both.

Dear Geoff: Here’s one more to add to your list:

From Marilyn:
My favorite cider is from River Styx Cider Mill at 8058 River Styx Rd., Wadsworth. They sell it out of a converted garage and make it out back in their little cider mill. Cash only and they say you can freeze it. It has a tart natural flavor and is not pasteurized.

From Beth B.: I grew up in Deerfield Township, and my mother still lives there. When visiting her last week, I stopped by the farm stand you mentioned, on Deerfield Circle. It has been advertising the unpasteurized cider on a sign for a couple of weeks. (I know that farm stand better in its previous incarnation as Larry’s Sohio.) The cider is from the nearby The Fruitlands of Carrington’s Farm, 3453 Wayland Road in Diamond, 330-654-2059. It is utterly delicious. My husband says it’s the best cider he’s ever tasted. There’s a family restaurant also on Deerfield Circle that is renowned for its gigantic pancake. I had it a couple of years go, and it was good and practically as big as a tire. I regret that I can’t think of anything else to recommend a trip to Deerfield, especially now that Berlin Reservoir has been lowered for the winter.

Dear Beth: Isn’t delicious cider and a pancake as big as a tire enough? Tony and I have eaten at the Circle Restaurant a couple of times and really like its down-home cooking. We have also stopped at the antique store/barn/warehouse between the farm stand and the restaurant. So that’s three reasons to visit Deerfield, which I’ve driven through thousands of times to and from my hometown of East Liverpool and first Kent State University, and then Akron.

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