December 13, 2017

Dear friends,

I know you are busy so I’ll get right to it. This week’s recipe is a party snack you can assemble in 15 minutes while fighting a sinus headache, making soup and cleaning the house. I know because I did it Saturday when my sister phoned to say she was dropping by with her husband for a visit.

Dee and her family live in Burton so I don’t get to see them every day. In fact I hadn’t seen them since August, so I was excited. Luckily, I didn’t have to clean and cook too much. On a company-cleaning scale of “deal with it” to “you could eat off the floors,” my sister’s visits are a comfortable three — “vacuum and remove major chunks of debris.”

I did want to treat Rob and Dee to a yummy snack, though, so I thawed a sheet of puff pastry and began chopping olives I had bought earlier that week. I put the olives in a dish on the counter along with finely crumbled feta, grated lemon zest and a tiny bit of minced rosemary from the potted bush I’m trying to keep alive in the mud room.

After rolling the puff pastry sheet into a larger rectangle, I evenly sprinkled each ingredient over it, folded it as for a palmier, and cut the resulting log into slices. The slices baked up golden brown, and deliciously fragrant with the pungent ingredients.

A palmier is a French sweet pastry that is said to resemble pigs’ ears or elephant ears. I simply switched the sugar filling for savory ingredients that would make it party-worthy. Or sister-worthy, in my case. Frozen puff pastry, sold in most supermarkets, makes the palmiers an elegant last-minute treat.


Olive and Feta Palmiers

• 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
• Flour
• 3/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
• 4 oz. (about 3/4 cup) finely crumbled feta cheese
• 1/2 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary
• Grated zest of 1 lemon
• 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water

Thaw pastry according to package directions. Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and unfold pastry onto the flour. Roll to a 11-by-14-inch rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the olives, then the feta, rosemary and lemon zest.

Fold one long edge toward the middle. Fold the other long edge toward the middle. Then fold each toward the middle again, pressing down. Fold one long log on top of other and press with hands to form a cylinder. Basically, each side is folded in on itself twice, then the two sides are folded together to form a log.

With a sharp knife, cut pastry log into 1/2-inch slices. Place the slices flat on the floured work surface and with your palm, flatten each to about 1/4-inch thick. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush tops with egg mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until pastries are crisp and golden. Cool. Store loosely covered at room temperature. Makes about 20.



With a bit more sauce, KFC’s new Nashville Hot Chicken might be worthy of the name. Might. It’s hard to tell from the skimpy dribbles of red sauce Tony and I got with our order last week.

What I tasted I liked. My chicken wasn’t pressed, as it is in Tennessee, but it did come with a dill pickle chip. Coleslaw and a biscuit rather than the typical white bread was served alongside. The heat was just a mild sting that built in my mouth but not Tony’s. He couldn’t detect the heat. Real Nashville chicken, even the milder choices, is so hot I have to eat a meal in two or three sittings, pausing to let my mouth recover.

While no one is likely to mistake the Colonel’s Hot Chicken for the real thing, it may help you endure until your next authentic Nashville Chicken fix. The chicken comes as extra-crispy legs and thighs, extra-crispy tenders or as a patty in a sandwich

What I cooked last week:

Skillet meat loaf, roasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes; scrambled eggs with ham, bell pepper and onions; roast chicken, quinoa and farro salad with roasted butternut squash, pomegranate arils and Moroccan-spiced vinaigrette; palmiers with feta, kalamata olives, lemon and rosemary; ham and lentil soup.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Grilled chicken Caesar salad at Rockne’s; Nashville hot chicken, a biscuit and slaw at KFC in Wadsworth; chicken breast with mushroom sauce, green beans, roast potato chunks at Tangier; pepperoni, sausage and onion pizza (the Cleveland) at Pizza Fire in Montrose; a dry, rubbery mozzarella and basil omelet with about a tablespoon of filling, and chopped fruit, fried potatoes and tea at Burntwood Tavern in Montrose.



From Jenny K.:
In response to your discussion of dry-brining a turkey, for the last few years I have dry brined. About three to four days ahead, I have the butcher prepare a turkey for spatchcocking (take out the backbone and break the breast bone to flatten the bird).  I then rub it with the dry brine, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate. For the last eight to twelve hours I uncover it and leave it in the fridge for the skin to dry out so that it will have crispy skin once it is cooked.

I have tried every which way to cook a turkey and this is by far the best. Spatchcocking assures me that the turkey cooks more evenly, without the breast getting done before the rest of the bird. Dry brining is so much easier than wet brining! The result is just as moist if not more so. The texture of the meat is much better, also.

Dear Jenny:
I haven’t tried it but I am already a convert. Thanks.

From Carol B.:
Jane, I thought you might enjoy this:
Haute Dots of Sauce

Dear Carol:
The debate over minimalist restaurant plating techniques continues to rage, and this NPR essay makes an excellent argument. Writer Nina Martyris calls the dots and smears of sauce decorating tiny portions of food “Pollock on a plate,” and to me, sums up the objections succinctly: “The precision blobs and artful smears look exquisite on Pinterest and Instagram, but they certainly don’t allow you to satisfyingly dunk your crust of bread in them.”


I, too, have struggled to drag a bite through enough dots to impart a hint of what the sauce tastes like.  Even when the sauce is pungent, there’s often too little of it to tell. Is that grapefruit I taste? Mint and thyme? I want more sauce, dammit.


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