As I type this, Tony is bronzing a dozen ears of corn on the grill, the latest salvo in his endearing attempt to cook me well. He has grilled T-bone steaks and eggplant, made the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted, and served me Japanese curry, tamago (Japanese sweet omelet) and cantaloupe macerated in plum wine.
I didn’t know the man could cook. Sure, he’s a chef, but a SUSHI chef who deals primarily in raw seafood and rice. Until now he has played dumb in the kitchen while encouraging me to make all of our meals. After 10 years you’ve been outed, pal.
But how can I be annoyed when he is taking such good care of me while I recover from knee replacement surgery? I can’t.
Tony has had a couple of misfires, true. Lunch one day was a platter of peanut butter, pesto and Cheddar cheese sandwiches, a startling combo he admitted he had “just made up.” And I had to get tough one day as he hungrily eyed a 4-pound sack of frozen corn I had used for two weeks as an ice bag. No, he could not cook and eat corn that had been frozen and thawed repeatedly. Besides, this was Ohio in the middle of fresh corn season.
Slowly I have learned to hobble to the kitchen with a walker and fetch my morning yogurt. I have graduated from reheating coffee and carrying it back to the living room in a big plastic glass (to prevent slop-overs) to actually making the coffee. And although I’m in no hurry to elbow Tony out of the kitchen, I did make soup with his help on Saturday.
Because of my limited mobility and endurance, the soup had to be quick and easy to make. I sent Tony to the store for a tube of breakfast sausage, a bag of spinach and some potatoes, and we set to work.
Tony actually did almost everything while I emptied cartons of broth into a soup pot and instructed.
Some of you already may have guessed we made Potato and Greens Soup, one of my old favorites.
This version was different, though, because of the broth. Typically the soup is made by simmering peeled and chunked-up potatoes in chicken broth until falling-apart tender, then mashing the potatoes right in the pan and adding browned bulk sausage, handfuls of fresh spinach and cream.
For years I’ve substituted fat-free milk for the cream, and this time I used a wonderful Thai-flavored broth in place of chicken stock. If you can find the broth, snap it up. It is “Thai Coconut Curry Culinary Broth” made by College Inn and sold in a 32-ounce aseptic box. I have not seen it in any supermarket, but I have found it twice at R Grocery Outlet (also known as Sommers), the indoor surplus-groceries retailer at Hartville Marketplace in Hartville.
The Thai broth turned my old favorite into an entirely different soup – slightly exotic but still comforting, with underlying flavors of coconut and lemongrass. If you manage to get your hands on some of the broth, buy extra because it would be spectacular in any number of dishes. I’m looking forward to big bowlfuls of Thai steamed mussels.
I have tried to duplicate the broth with no success so far. Of course, the soup is plenty good enough with plain chicken broth.
One last note: I’m only telling you about this find because, in my current mobility-compromised state, I won’t be shopping at the mega market any time soon. But in the coming months when my knee has healed, I trust you won’t be as greedy as I was on my last trip to the store when I bought every last box of broth on the shelves. Please, show some restraint.
THAI POTATO AND GREENS SOUP
2 aseptic boxes (32 oz. each) College Inn Thai Coconut Curry Culinary Broth (or chicken broth)
5 medium-large potatoes
1 lb. bulk (not link) sausage (the kind that comes in a plastic tube)
1 cup fat-free or 2 percent milk
8 oz. fresh spinach leaves, washed and drained
Place broth in a soup pot and bring to a simmer. While broth heats, peel potatoes and cut into big chunks. Add to broth, cover and simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes, until potatoes are falling-apart tender.
With a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the pan, leaving some of the potato slightly chunky.
While the potatoes cook, brown the sausage in a skillet. After mashing the potatoes, transfer sausage to the soup pot with a slotted spoon. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in milk and return to a boil. Stir in spinach and simmer for a few minutes, until spinach is wilted. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
One of the bright spots of my recent hospital stay was a visit by a dear friend, Chuck Montague, who came bearing chocolate. Lilly Handmade Chocolates to be precise, from the artisan chocolate shop of the same name in the Tremont area of Cleveland.
The hands making the chocolates belong to Chuck’s son and daughter-in-law, chefs Joshua and Amanda Montague. Each extreme-gourmet chocolate was exquisite, but none more so than a filled white chocolate gilded with a pink leopard print. It featured a creamy center of orange liqueur and blood orange and passion fruit reductions enrobed in Valrhona white chocolate. Ask for the “Frou-Frou” when you visit the shop, which you should do immediately. The website is http://www.lillytremont.com.
Although my shelves are stuffed, I can’t resist buying cookbooks at flea markets and yard sales. There’s no such thing as too many cookbooks, right? If you agree, you won’t want to miss the used book sale Oct. 1 at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s main location in downtown Akron.
The library and its branches regularly host book sales to raise money and cull older titles from both the library and volunteers’ collections. The Oct. 1 sale is unique in that it will feature only cookbooks. The Friends of the Main Library have amassed hundreds of cookbooks for the sale, which will be held just outside the gift shop during library hours. Happy hunting.
From Laura Lea Frank:
I found my mom’s recipe for green tomato mincemeat from the 1930s if you’re interested. Most (modern) recipes for mincemeat don’t have any meat in them This one takes suet (people still buy it at meat counters to feed the birds).
Dear Laura: You bet I’m interested. Thanks for sending this heritage recipe from your mother, Rose Conley of Tallmadge.
GREEN TOMATO MINCEMEAT
1 peck of green tomatoes, ground
1/2 peck of apples, peeled and ground
2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. ground allspice
1 cup vinegar
5 pounds brown sugar
3 cups finely chopped suet
Combine ground tomatoes, apples spices, vinegar and sugar in a large kettle. Cook slowly for 3 hours. Cool. Stir in the suet. Can in glass jars. Makes about 8 quarts. Recipe may be halved.
Note from Jane: Because canning recommendations have changed since this recipe was developed, I suggest you freeze the mincemeat in pie-sized (5-cup) portions instead.