October 12, 2016

Dear friends,

Dinner tonight is a hunk of French bread, horseradish pickles and low-fat cottage cheese. I have lost my husband and chief cook to deer season. While he hunkers in a tree somewhere, I lie supine in a tilt-back chair, heaving myself upright and hobbling around the house only to let the dog out, limp to the bathroom, or fetch a snack from the kitchen.

This is week six of my recovery from a total knee replacement. I appreciate all the encouraging emails, and I thank Dorena and Marty for visiting and bringing food. I have graduated from a walker to a cane, and from hard drugs to Tylenol. I even drove a car – briefly – last weekend.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, and why you won’t be seeing an original recipe from me yet again this week. It’s because cooking has become an extreme sport. OK, we’re back to me. Sadly, I can’t stand long enough to chop an onion and a head of cabbage, let alone brown them in a skillet.

Before this painful operation, I thought I’d enjoy a couple of weeks in bed with Tony supplying a steady stream of savory tidbits and cups of tea. Then life would get back to normal. Ha! I was in too much agony to eat for the first two weeks, and now that the pain has subsided to merely a wasp-stinging-me-in-the-leg level, Tony is off to the woods. Just kill me.

I hope next week or maybe the week after that I will resume cooking. Until then it will be cottage cheese, carry out and Lean Cuisine for me, and a reheated recipe for you. Luckily, I have a lot of truly great recipes lying around. I had forgotten I even had this recipe for gingered beef from local legendary Thai chef Sue Fogle. I can’t wait to make it again.

2 tbsp. beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. brandy
1 tbsp. peeled and chopped ginger
2 tbsp. black bean sauce (sold in Asian markets)
1 tbsp. orange marmalade
1/2 cup quartered and sliced onion
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp. slivered red bell pepper
2 tbsp. chopped green onion

Place beef and flour in a plastic or paper bag and shake to coat the meat. Heat about one-eighth inch oil in a large, heavy skillet. Brown beef on all sides in the oil. Add brandy and stir well. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain any remaining oil and brandy from skillet.

In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger, black bean sauce and marmalade and stir for 2 minutes. Add onion and oyster sauce and stir 2 minutes longer. Return beef to pan and stir over heat for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and stir over high heat for a minute. Spoon mixture onto plates and sprinkle with slivered peppers and chopped green onions. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

4 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1 tbsp. vinegar

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add shortening by teaspoons. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until the bits are pea-size and evenly distributed.

With a fork, beat together water, egg and vinegar. Drizzle into the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to moisten evenly. Cut briefly with knives or a pastry blender to work in any remaining dry flour. Do not stir or knead. Gather dough into 2 balls, wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 2 days. Dough also may be wrapped well and frozen.

Western Fruit Basket is alive and kicking in downtown Akron. Last week I mistakenly said it had closed based on a visual scan of the vacant corner where it used to do business at Broadway and East Market Street. The new owners let me know the Greek grocery/restaurant/bakery/gift basket business changed hands two years ago and moved a couple of doors down the street to 115 E. Market St.

The store always has baklava on hand, as well as spanakopita, galataboureko and various other Greek pastries. Kataifi, the shredded wheat-like pastry a reader asked about last week, may be ordered, says Meela Magois, who owns the shop with her father, Greg.

If you visit around lunch time, try a fresh-made lamb or chicken gyro, a specialty, for just $4. The menu also includes hard-to-find Greek dishes such as pastitsio, moussaka and Greek spaghetti. The phone is 330-376-3917 and the website is http://www.wfbasket.com.

From Debbie Minerich:
I enjoyed your recent article and recipe for mac and cheese and have attached a family favorite that was passed along by my husband, Bill, whose Boy Scout Troop makes it on camp-outs. Most times we just “eyeball” the amount of ingredients rather than rely on accurate measurements. We also like to heat our home-canned stewed tomatoes to top the baked casserole with prior to serving. Enjoy!

8 oz. macaroni (elbow or shells)
1 to 2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. sour cream
2 cups cottage cheese
8 oz. cream cheese, cut in cubes
8 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Partially precook macaroni until it is a bit firmer than al dente. Drain and return to pan. Heat oil in a small skillet and sauté chopped onion until translucent.

Combine all ingredients in the macaroni pan and mix well. Pour into a buttered, 2-quart baking dish. Cover with a lid or foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Dear Debbie: Thanks for sharing your family favorite.  I like the idea of the tomatoes.

From Molly C.:
Jane, for the person, O.R.  looking for kataifi, it may be found at Aladdin’s Baking Co. on Carnegie in downtown Cleveland. Aladdin’s is just down the street from Progressive Field (go Tribe!). Here’s a link: http://www.aladdinbaking.com/con1.html.

My favorite Middle Eastern restaurant is Nate’s on West 25th, a few storefronts north of the West Side Market. Highly, highly recommend for anything on the Middle Eastern menu. I can’t speak for the deli choices as I’ve never eaten anything other than the delicious Lebanese fare.

Dear Molly: Thanks for the valuable advice. I’ve heard of Nate’s but never visited. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll drag Tony away from Chinatown on our next trip to Cleveland, and have lunch at Nate’s.

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