June 22, 2017

Dear friends,

No potatoes. No cabbage. No macaroni. A bag of carrots was the only fodder I had for a picnic salad to go with the ribs that were slow-smoking on the grill. “I’ll make carrot slaw,” I thought. “I bet no one has thought of that before.”

Ha! The Internet and a zillion food bloggers have ensured that every dish I dream up these days has been dreamed up before. When I Googled “carrot slaw,” I got 675,000 hits.

The way I deal with this overload is to ignore it. I create most of my recipes without looking at versions that have come before. That is the only way I can remain fresh and come up with something new tailored to (hopefully) your tastebuds and mine.

The slaw recipe was also tailored to my pantry. I had just bought a bag of walnut halves, so I toasted some in a skillet for added crunch. I found some crumbled feta in the fridge and added that, too, for little bursts of creaminess. The herbs in pots out back were ready for harvesting, so I plucked some basil and rosemary to add freshness to a mustard vinaigrette. Everything came together in a slaw that not only is unique — I think — but delicious.

Make that 675,001 hits for “carrot slaw.”

CRUNCHY-CREAMY CARROT SLAW

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  • 4 cups grated carrots (on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Grate carrots into a medium-size serving bowl. Scatter walnut pieces in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until nuts are golden brown. Cool, then add to carrots with feta cheese.

In a small lidded container combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, mustard, basil and rosemary. Shake well to combine. Pour about half of dressing over carrot mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Add more dressing only if needed. Season to taste with more salt. Makes about six servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:

Scrambled egg, ham and feta cheese on a toasted baguette with hot sauce; grill-smoked ribs with Tennessee rub and spicy barbecue sauce, carrot and toasted walnut slaw; strip steaks with wine sauce, balsamic-roasted cauliflower.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Thai chicken salad at Panera; a Coney dog and a sugar-free country apple pie ice cream cone (1 scoop) at Boss Frosty’s in Wadsworth; soft Indian paratha bread dipped in egg, fried, and folded around curry-seasoned chicken and sautéed onions (the Frankie) at Greedy Girl Restaurant in Cleveland Heights; a BLT at Rockne’s in Fairlawn; huitlacoche spoonbread, half a Cuban sandwich and half a chorizo-sweet potato-pineapple burrito at Nuevo Modern Mexican Restaurant in downtown Akron; and a steak sandwich and excellent fries at the Canal Boat Lounge in Canal Fulton.

Note: In my defense, I couldn’t cook for a few days after I fell and injured a shoulder. I’ll be back in the kitchen soon.

THE MAILBAG

Dear friends: I know summer is dawning and you’re busy, but could you spare a minute to dash off a note? Tell me how your tomatoes are growing and whether you lost herbs last winter like I did (my thyme and tarragon mysteriously died).

Tell me where I can buy good, reasonably priced lamb, because I’m stumped.

Tell me where you go for Thai food. Tell me where I can buy naan. Tell me whether you like my
what-I-ate-last-week feature or if you’ve heard quite enough.

Basically, just write.

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June 9, 2017

Dear friends,

My husband’s citizenship and English classes finally paid off last weekend. He has been attending classes three evenings a week since February in his quest to finally become an American citizen. No, he didn’t pass his naturalization test yet (that’s scheduled for June 26); even better, we got to attend the annual English as a Second Language potluck picnic at Patterson Park in Akron on Saturday.

The spread was humongous and as diverse as I’d hoped. I hovered near a stack of San Salvadoran pupusas before the meal began, waiting for the signal to dive in. I snagged one of the corn cakes stuffed with pork and nibbled while I surveyed the other offerings. There were dishes from Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and Guatemala. I lfound a pot of Thai chicken curry and a big tub of Nepali chatpati, a crunchy-spicy snack with a dozen or more ingredients. Rebecca Jenkins, the ESOL coordinator, steered me to circlet of Nepali fried bread the size of an onion ring, and returned later for a sliver of Mexican tres leches (three milk) cake.

Tony’s contribution was big platters of inari sushi (pockets of sweetened tofu skin stuffed with seasoned sushi rice) and homemade tamago (a seasoned, layered omelet). I took an all-American dessert: Red, White and Blue Bread Pudding.

The pudding is assembled in five layers — three layers of custard-soaked bread cubes interleaved with a layer of blueberries and a layer of halved strawberries. I sprinkled the fruit layers with sherry for extra flavor. Although my bread pudding was way prettier than Tony’s offerings, his platters were empty when we left while only half of my pudding had been eaten. Go figure. The pudding tasted great, though, and would be a wonderful Fourth of July dessert.

The English classes, by the way, are under the aegis of Project Learn of Summit County. Even though Tony has been in this country for more than 30 years and speaks very passable English, he has been taking classes at the International Institute in Akron in preparation for the citizenship test. Sadly, his vocabulary is being rid of charming phrases such as “Project Runaway” and “pickle little” (a small cucumber). Darn it.

Here’s my bread pudding recipe:

RED, WHITE AND BLUE BREAD PUDDING

22 oz. sturdy white sandwich bread
6 tbsp. butter, melted
6 cups milk
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
2 cups blueberries
1 cup halved or quartered strawberries, depending on size
2 tbsp. dry or medium-dry sherry

Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a very large bowl. Drizzle with butter, tossing to coat evenly.

In another large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Beat in sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread cubes and let stand several minutes while you butter a 9-by-12-inch baking pan.

Ladle about one-third of the bread cube mixture into the prepared pan. Scatter blueberries over the bread cubes. Drizzle evenly with one tablespoon of the sherry. Cover evenly with another one-third of the bread cube mixture. Scatter strawberries over the bread and drizzle with remaining sherry. Top with remaining bread cubes and custard mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour, or pudding is puffed and edges are brown. Makes about 8 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Rosemary crackers; deconstructed chicken stir fry with rice sticks and spicy orange sauce; red, white and blue bread pudding; thick strip steaks with red-wine sauce, an arugula and Parmesan salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and Japanese sweet potatoes.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Stir-fry bowl of quinoa, sauteed greens with garlic, and grilled chicken in red curry at Mustard Seed in Highland Square; pesto and chicken pizza at Pizza Fire in Montrose; pupusas, coconut curry, chatpati, tres leches cake and more at the Project Learn picnic; eggs, bacon, grits and toast at Tony’s favorite restaurant, Bob Evans.
THE MAILBAG

From Kathi: Re: Removing the back bone from the chicken when you spatchcock. I always cut up both sides with heavy-duty poultry shears, but I never discard it; it goes into the big resealable freezer bag that lives in the freezer, where I stash all the wing tips, necks and fat globs pulled off the cavity. When the bag is full, it becomes stock.

Dear Kathi: Geez, you’e organized. You have shamed me into starting my own frozen-chicken-parts bag.

From Debbie: You can get the Korean dish bi bim bap at Sung’s Restaurant at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. I think it’s $13. I always get the egg over easy so the yolk runs down into the rice. You can get it with chicken, beef or tofu.

From Tom: I just saw the tip about the Columbus restaurant offering dol sot bi bim bap. While I will be putting this place on my list for the next time I visit Columbus, I wanted to let you know there is a very good version of dol sot bi bim bap at Seoul Garden on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. Actually, all of the Korean food is pretty darn tasty there.

By the way, the spicy “sauce” the gentleman mentioned that you drizzle onto your bi bim bap is usually a combination of gochujang, rice wine vinegar, and I’m guessing probably a little sugar. Happy eating!

Dear Debbie and Tom: Thanks for the closer-to-home recommendations. I am not crazy about many Korean dishes (I loathe kimchi), but I will give bi bim bap another try. Gochujang, for the uninitiated, is Korean fermented hot chili paste.

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June 1, 2017

Dear friends,

I am afflicted with food obsessions. I have written about my ongoing watermelon obsession, triggered by a contestant on Jeopardy! who told Alex she eats a watermelon a day (I do not approach her consumption level). I also used to have a peanut butter obsession that began when a doctor lamented in his newspaper health column that he ate too much peanut butter. “Heyyy,” my subconscious apparently thought, “here’s something I can get into.”

My new obsession is rosemary crackers. I thought I could tame the itch simply by avoiding Big Lots, where I discovered the phenomenal Sfiziosi Il Grano D’Oro Di Puglia — loosely translated, the golden wheat crackers of Puglia, the latter a region of Italy where the product is made.

The chubby little square crackers are made with semolina flour, white wine, olive oil, rosemary and other good stuff that produces a texture like no other — kind of sandy like shortbread, but with a satisfying crunch.

I had this obsession tamed by avoidance until I saw a bag of semolina flour at Acme. Then the rosemary I planted last month started shooting up like crazy. I had already read the list of ingredients on the bag of crackers. The recipe slowly came together in my mind.

I baked three batches of the crackers, tinkering with ingredient amounts to adjust the texture and intensify the rosemary flavor. The second batch tasted exactly like rosemary shortbread sans sugar, and I can see it as a crust for, say, quiche. Maybe later. The third batch was close, and that’s the recipe I am sharing. Although the crackers are delicious, I hope that consuming about 50 of them in two days(Tony ate the rest) has cured my rosemary-cracker obsession. Now onto Popsicles.

CHUBBY ROSEMARY CRACKERS
Chubby Rosemary Crackers.jpg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tbsp. finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (or more) white wine

Measure flours into the bowl of a food processor. Add rosemary and salt and pulse several times to mix. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil into the feed tube. Begin adding the wine is a thin stream, stopping when the dough forms one big clump. You may not need all of the wine, or you may need more.

Pat dough evenly into a 9-inch-square baking pan lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, cut into six strips in each direction to produce squares. Do not cut through to the parchment paper. Prick each square once with a fork.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and slide parchment and dough onto a cutting board. Cool 10 minutes, then remove paper and cut again to separate the squares. Cool completely before storing in a sealed plastic bag. Makes about 36 crackers.

 

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Baked chicken and rotini with three cheeses in a creamy tomato sauce; Italian sausage sandwiches, asparagus in balsamic vinaigrette and fried ripe plantains, and rosemary crackers.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A big salad with grilled chicken and spicy pineapple salsa at On Tap; sushi, a chicken stir fry and crystal shrimp at Katana’s Buffet in Jackson Township; a ham sub from Subway; California roll and tuna nigiri from the still-fabulous Sushi Katsu in Akron; chicken fattoush salad at Continental Cuisine in Fairlawn; 1/2 Coney dog and 1/2 pulled pork sandwich at Boss Frosty’s in Wadsworth (Tony ate the other halves plus a ham and plantain panini); thin-crust pepperoni pizza from Earth Fare, and ribs and hush puppies from Old Carolina Barbecue.

TIDBITS

These Gut Check lists are showing me that (1) I am just plain lazy and (2) I’m cheap, because none of my restaurant meals cost more than $20 last week. I have GOT to get out more. And cook more. Alas, I’ll probably never again have string of exciting meals in fancy restaurants because the expense account is gone. But I will try to add some variety.

As predicted, Tony dragged me to Katana’s again for the all-you-can-eat buffet.This time, the food was horrible. The sushi, which Tony liked last time, tasted like it had been left over from lunch or the evening before because the rice was so dry it was crunchy. The buffet items did not taste fresh, like last time. Even the custom stir-fried chicken and vegetables I had was dull and one-note. Dark-brown chopped garlic, soy sauce and hot pepper sauce were the only seasonings offered. “Do you have sesame oil?” I asked the chef. “What’s that?” he countered.
Nevermind.

Maybe the lesson is to go later in the evening on a busy night, after any leftovers are depleted and the steam tables are restocked with fresh items. Or just go down the street to Bombay Sitar.

THE MAILBAG

From Heidi:
I started to spatchcock chickens after indexing the Tony Rosenfeld book, 150 Things to Make with Roast Chicken (and 50 Ways to Roast It). His method is to sear the chicken skin side down in a hot pan and then pop the pan in the oven. But I have also grilled them. Such a satisfying way to cook a chicken!Dear Heidi: Yes, it is. And if you sear the chicken in a pan with weights on top (use a smaller lid and place a foil-wrapped brick or canned goods on the lid), you have the classic Italian Chicken Under a Brick. I forgot to mention that using poultry or kitchen scissors makes the job of cutting the chicken up the back very easy. Also, some cooks cut the chicken on both sides of the backbone and discard that bony piece before cooking.
From Mark:
We rendezvous with Columbus friends at Akai Hana for dinner or lunch on our weekend trips. I’m so happy to see the grocery (Tensuke) receive your high praise.Dear Mark: Tony and I haven’t tried the more upscale Akai Hana, which is part of the Japanese restaurant and retail collection, all in the same Columbus plaza and all jointly owned. There’s also a bakery I want to visit when my willpower is in peak form. The Japanese have a long tradition of making incredibly beautiful and delicious sweets.
From Mike:
I just read your newsletter about the Japanese market in Columbus. My daughter just graduated from The Ohio State University and still lives in Columbus for now. Often when we visit, we go to Japanese Oriental Restaurant on High Street a little north of campus. The name of the restaurant is a bit of a misnomer. I believe the owners are actually Korean and the menu has a majority of Korean items but also sushi and other Asian selections. But the best thing we have found is the Bi Bim Bap — particularly the one known as “Dol Sat.”A super-hot stone bowl arrives at the table with rice on the bottom and layers of meat and vegetables and a fried egg on top. You are given a hot sauce to add. All the items continue to cook and sizzle in the hot bowl. Everything is sort of stirred together but the best thing is leaving some of the rice at the bottom of the bowl because by the end it has become crispy and needs to be chipped off with a metal spoon given to you for that very purpose. It is awesome! The restaurant has a website, japaneseoriental.com, where the menu may be viewed.Dear Mike: I have had Korean Bi Bim Bap but not like this. I can’t wait to try it. Thank you so much for sharing your find.

 

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  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.