July 25, 2018

Dear friends,
I turned on my oven during that god-awful sweat fest last week (I don’t have central air) and it turned out to be worth it. In my mid-summer hunger for all things corn, I came up with a recipe for tamale pie made with a Cuban picadillo filling and a jalapeno-spiked cornmeal crust that for once was more biscuit than cake.

I can still taste it, and that isn’t just the Tums talking. The casserole was seriously delicious, and walked that fine line between comforting and hip. Picadillo, as you may or may not know, is a spicy version of ground beef hash that’s practically the national dish of Cuba. It is usually served au naturale with black beans and rice. I gave it a twist by blanketing it with a jalapeno-cornmeal crust. The bare bones of the two recipes are from “A Taste of Cuba” by Linette Creen.

I thought about putting some first-of-the-season corn in the crust, but I had already scarfed down the half-dozen ears I bought at Seiberling Farm in Norton. You can add a half cup of kernels if you want. Likewise, you may use fresh or pickled jalapeños or omit them from the crust, but I would recommend buying green olives for the filling if you have none on hand. They add a salty acidity that cuts right through the fattiness of the meat.

This is a modest meal that can be assembled in 15 minutes. In the half-hour or so it took to bake, I repaired to the patio with a gin and tonic. You may substitute a mojito if you want.

JALAPENO TAMALE PIE

Picadillo:
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 packet Sazon Goya or 1 tsp. ground annatto (achiote) or turmeric
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/4 lbs. lean ground beef
1 can (14.5 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup halved pimiento-stuffed green olives
Salt, pepper to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and when warm, stir in Sazon Goya, annatto or turmeric. When the oil is hot, add onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until onion is limp. Stir in cayenne and cumin.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add ground beef, breaking it up and cooking until it is no longer pink. Chop the canned tomatoes and add them along with the juice. Partially cover pan, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Most of liquid should be gone. If not, simmer uncovered until about a half-cup of liquid remains. Stir in olives and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cornmeal crust:
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp. white all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. milk
1 egg
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. minced fresh or pickled jalapeno

Stir together cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a measuring cup, combine milk, egg and olive oil and beat with a fork. Pour over the cornmeal mixture and stir just until smooth. Stir in the jalapeños.

To assemble, spoon meat mixture into a lightly greased, 2-quart casserole. Spread cornmeal batter evenly over meat. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Makes 4 servings.

TIDBIT
I didn’t know Jonathan Gold well, but I admired his writing tremendously. It was as intricate and delightful as a Mozart symphony, and made the rest of us look like hacks in comparison.

Gold, the only food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, died Saturday after a lightning-swift bout of pancreatic cancer. He was just 57.

Gold’s restaurant reviews in the Los Angeles Times, Gourmet magazine and LA Weekly were poetic commentaries on life, class and culture as well as food. I reveled in the way he could turn a phrase or sum up a restaurant or a certain L.A. lifestyle in one or two sentences, like this:

“Most great cooking is about deliciousness. (Chef Jordan) Kahn’s is about the intersection of perception and space.”

and this:
“…Spago’s cooking flickers around the edges of memory and desire while never quite succumbing to them.”

and this:
“Lucques is what you might think of as an aspirational restaurant, a place that sculpts Southern California life into not what it is, but what it should be. Even if you spend an eccentric amount of time at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, your stone fruit salad with ricotta salata is never going to look like Suzanne Goin’s does, partly because you don’t know how to cut the nectarines in precisely the right way, but also because you are never going to persuade the farmer to give you her very best box of nectarines.”

For a treat, search out some of Gold’s reviews and settle in for the symphony.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Cold tomato soup with mojo shrimp; brined, grilled pork chops, grilled corn; open-faced sloppy Joes on buttered, toasted ciabatta buns; avocado and fried egg on toast; tamale pie.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
A double cheeseburger with sautéed onions at Whattaburger in Wadsworth; roast pear and blue cheese flatbread, taco lettuce wraps with chicken at the Cheesecake Factory in Legacy Village; gyoza dumplings at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo; a cheeseburger and fries from Swenson’s.

THE MAILBAG
From Gillie Aked, Bridgnorth, UK:
I regularly by XL eggs (local new-laid from farmers market) to make scrambled eggs and omelettes, as it doesn’t matter about size. Also, they make great hard-boiled eggs for salads and egg mayonnaise (hard-cooked in American!). With a little care they can be cooked so that the centres are just slightly runny which is perfect halved on a salad. I also use the whites for meringue and the yolks for mayonnaise, just adjusting the proportions of sugar to egg white and oil to yolk. The only thing I don’t use them for is cake baking where the size really does matter.

I love reading your column — I feel quite nostalgic for the ten years I spent living in Hudson and buying the Beacon Journal every day, devouring the cooking pages so I could “cook American” like my friends. I have Hudson friends coming to stay soon with me in the UK — in the rural county of Shropshire where we still have a weekly cattle auction — and shall take great delight in introducing them to one of our five local butchers where the meat hangs in the window, the hams and cold meats are all home-cooked, and the pies and pasties are baked on the premises. Thank you for keeping my memories going.

Dear Gillie:
Your note is so lyrical I have to share all of it. Now I am nostalgic for rural England, where I spent some of my happiest vacations with my mother. Thanks for writing.

From Debbie:
I do not have the recipe for Jack Horner’s pancakes but I have attached a family favorite that I have been making for 40 years. I add blueberries when they are readily available. The batter also makes great crepes — just thin by adding additional milk and pour into a crepe pan. I may purchase the club soda your reader remembered and try it rather than milk. By the way, I use Rumford Baking Powder, which makes very light pancakes.

LIGHT PANCAKES
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 tbsp. oil
1 cup milk (or more)

Blend dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add egg, oil and 1 cup milk. Mix until smooth. Add more milk if batter is too thick.

Portion batter onto a preheated griddle or skillet brushed with oil. Flip when bubbles begin to appear or bottom appears to be golden brown. Continue cooking until bottom is golden brown. Makes 16 4-inch pancakes.

Dear Debbie:
I’m sorry we can’t find Jack Horner’s recipe, but any pancake is a winner in my book. Thanks.

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July 18, 2018

Dear friends,
The tomatoes I planted in May and lovingly tended with hoe and Miracle-Gro are green and getting bigger. I pray for a ripe one before summer ends. A row of eggplants, pollenated by hand with a Q-tip, have grudgingly produced three little blue-black nubs that may or may not flourish. The beets and carrots are anyone’s guess, and the zucchinis so far are non-starters.

Meanwhile, a handful of seeds Tony raked into the soil and ignored are growing wildly, producing green beans by the double handful. Last weekend we harvested more beans than I will use in a month, and we didn’t even finish picking the row.

The garden gods have a sense of humor.

I’m trying to be a good sport about Tony’s cache of green beans, but I’m annoyed every time I open the refrigerator. I thought at first we’d eat them quickly and be done with them, but there are far too many.

So far we’ve dipped them into hummus and had stir-fried green beans in Szechuan sauce as a side dish with steak. I don’t like frozen or canned green beans, so those options are out. Any other ideas? I’m desperate.

Sunday I figured I’d dream up a palatable green bean salad — an antidote to the ubiquitous version with sweet-and-sour dressing — and came up with a dish that should be good for a few quarts. It features just-tender beans shocked bright-green with cold water and glossed with a sesame oil-garlic dressing. The dressing is simple because who wants to be in the kitchen when it’s so hot?

I cribbed the dressing from a New York Times recipe for cucumbers, and it goes very well with the beans. A word about those beans — like Julia Child, I am not a fan of crunchy green beans. While for most recipes they should not be cooked until stewed and limp, neither should they be whisked from the fire before the last bit of rawness alchemizes into sugar. Half-raw green beans are nasty.

While I wait for my garden to grow, I will be eating a lot of this salad and hoping someone sends me some more flavorful, fresh-tasting green bean recipes. Please hurry.

SPICY SESAME GREEN BEANS

1 lb. fresh green beans
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Canola or olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Trim and wash beans. Cook in a big pot of boiling water until no raw taste remains, about 5 minutes. Drain in a sieve and refresh under very cold tap water to cool the beans and intensify their color. Drain well.

While the beans cook, combine the remaining ingredients (except sesame seeds) in a small lidded jar. Shake well. Transfer the beans to a 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Add dressing and turn to coat the beans. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight, turning occasionally.

Transfer beans and dressing to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss. Makes 6 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled hot dogs, corn off the cob with butter, sea salt and esplette; pesto; Chinese smashed cucumbers with sesame-garlic dressing, grilled strip steaks with wine and blue cheese sauce, stir-fried green beans, dirty martini; green bean salad with spicy sesame dressing; over-hard eggs, fried tomato, sliced avocado and a peach.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
McDonald’s cheeseburger Happy Meal with fries; a beef cheek taco and a taco al pastor at Mexico City Margarita Bar and Grill in Akron’s North Hill; Subway spicy Italian half sub; pulled pork, coleslaw and collard greens at City Barbecue in Fairlawn; a slice of pineapple and ham pizza (Tony’s turn) from Rizzi’s in Copley.

THE MAILBAG
From Beth B.:
You wondered who buys extra-large eggs. Among the buyers are devotees of Ina Garten’s recipes, which is practically everyone I know, because extra-large eggs are all she specifies. It’s kind of a pain in the butt because you end up with more extra-large eggs than you need and have to make room for two cartons in the fridge. So I hard-cook them and eat them for snacks.

Dear Beth:
Thanks to you and Ellen for pointing that out. Mystery solved. But what about those jumbo eggs? Read on.

From Noreen:
My husband likes a jumbo hard-boiled egg with his breakfast. I buy them from a local farmer, and thankfully, it’s one of the few things he can make himself. He makes several at a time.

I have a question about cabbage. What is the correct way to wash it when it will be used for coleslaw?

Dear Noreen:
Although he is gamely trying, your husband is barely making a dent in the world’s jumbo egg production. I will continue searching for answers to the mystery of who buys them and for what.

To clean cabbage for coleslaw or any other use, remove the outer layer of leaves and if the next layer is pristine, wash it under cool, running water and pat dry. If the next layer is not pristine, remove that, too, and then wash. Individual leaf-washing is not necessary because cabbage is so tightly packed that dirt and germs cannot travel far beyond the surface.

From LJR:
Do you have a recipe for a good dipping sauce for fried dumplings?

Dear LJR:
Yes, many of them. I usually just ad lib, but I dug up one I’ve been using for years for one of my favorite appetizers, Vietnamese pork in lettuce leaves. The recipe is so good I’m sharing the whole thing for those who don’t already have it in their files.

VIETNAMESE PORK IN LETTUCE LEAVES
1 lb. ground pork
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 minced green onion, including top
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
20 Bibb lettuce leaves
Fresh mint leaves

In bowl, combine all ingredients except lettuce and mint leaves. Mix gently but thoroughly with fingertips and form into 20 sausage-shaped logs about
three inches long and one-half inch thick. Chill.

Thread meat on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water, two pieces of meat per skewer. Grill on a charcoal grill or broil until cooked through.

To serve, slide pork logs off skewers and ask guests to place a pork log and two mint leaves in a Bibb lettuce leaf. Wrap to form a neat packet, and dip
into the sauce. Serves six as an appetizer, four as a main course.

Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and serve in small bowls.

July 11, 2018

Dear friends,
The berries made me do it. I try to avoid desserts, but the black raspberries in my wild patch between the garage and the garden are so prolific this summer I couldn’t resist making a pie.

When I break my no-dessert rule, I tend to do it with flair. But homemade raspberry pie is so spectacular in itself that no flair needed — just crust, berries, sugar, flour and salt. Anything else would be gilding the lily.

I got most of my pie-making mistakes out of the way early in my career so that now I can turn out a gorgeous pie with no sweat. Believe me, it took a lot of pies to reach this point, so I’ll share some of my hard-earned tips to make pie-baking a snap for you, too.

I usually make pies without consulting a recipe, but I urge you to do as I say, not as I do. For starters, fruits require varying amounts of sugar and thickener (flour, cornstarch, instant tapioca) depending on the type of fruit and how ripe it is. Riper means sweeter, so less sugar is needed. And blueberries, for example, are juicier than raspberries and require way more thickener. Unless you can memorize the proportions for each fruit, at least glance at a recipe when you make a fruit pie.

I’m supplying a basic, all-purpose recipe for a berry pie, but by “berry” I mean raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry and other fairly dry berries. Not strawberries, elderberries or blueberries.

Then there’s the dough. Its composition is a subject that could fill a couple of columns — more if you take a deep dive into chemistry. Whether to add butter for flavor, lard for extreme flakiness or a combination, or stick with solid vegetable shortening because it is handy, are legitimate questions I won’t explore today. Suffice it to say I usually use shortening because it’s always in my refrigerator.…unless I want to impress, then I use lard. Unless I’m making a tart crust (pate brisee), when I use butter.

I am providing basic recipes for a food-processor pie dough and handmade pie dough. Generally, dough that is made by hand with a pastry blender will produce a pie crust that is more tender and flaky than processor-made dough. However, if you freeze the ingredients (including flour) you can increase the quality of processor dough.

I am also sharing a recipe I developed once to mimic the texture of the ultra-tender, almost cookie-like crust of the fabulous pies at Waterloo Restaurant in Akron.

To boil all this down:
!. Chill the dough ingredients.
2. Do not knead and squeeze the dough except for the processor dough below.
4. Look up the correct amount of thickener for the type of fruit you use.
5. Add sugar to taste to the filling.
6. Don’t forget a pinch of salt.
7. For the wow factor, brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar so the finished pie glistens.

This recipe is from “The Pie and Pastry Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum:

FOOD PROCESSOR PIE DOUGH
(For a 2-crust, 9-inch pie)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
14 tbsp. cold solid vegetable shortening (3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp.)
9 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a zip-lock plastic bag and place in freezer. Cut shortening into small cubes (about 3/4 inch), wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes. This is easier if you use shortening sold in sticks.

Place the flour-salt mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse to combine. Add the frozen shortening and pulse until the shortening is the size of small lima beans. (Toss with a fork to see better.)

Add ice water and pulse until most of the shortening is the size of small peas, some a little larger. Divide the mixture between two gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bags (reuse the one in which the flour was chilled). Holding both sides of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the dough through the plastic by alternately pressing it with your fingers and the heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

The dough will be very flaky, but if you adore flakiness, fold the dough in thirds like a business letter and roll with a rolling pin between two sheets of plastic wrap; cover and chill briefly if dough begins to soften. Repeat with second half of dough.

Wrap each piece of dough with plastic wrap and flatten into chubby disks. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes or preferably overnight. Roll as described in the recipe below.

This recipe is from “Pies & Pastries” by Janet Pittman:

BASIC HANDMADE PIE DOUGH
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening
7 to 8 tbsp. water

Stir flour and salt together in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. Add 7 tablespoons of water while tossing with a fork. If dry crumbs remain in bottom of bowl, add 1 more tablespoon water and toss.

Gather dough in your hands and gently shape into two flat balls. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough on a lightly floured surface into two circles about 3 inches larger than the inside diameter of the pie pan (12 inches for a 9-inch pie pan). Continue according to the directions below for Berry Pie.

This is my recipe:
COOKIE-LIKE PIE CRUST
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chilled lard
2 tbsp. cold butter
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add lard and butter in chunks. With a pastry blender, cut fats into flour until bits are about the size of peas.

Beat egg and milk together. Drizzle over flour mixture, tossing with a fork. Gather into a ball. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half. On a well-floured board, roll each portion of dough into a 12-inch circle. Continue according to directions below for Berry Pie.

SUMMER BERRY PIE

Pastry for a 2-crust pie
4 cups fresh raspberries or blackberries
1 cup sugar or to taste
(or 1/2 cup Splenda granulated and 2 tbsp. sugar)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Milk
Sugar for sprinkling

Roll dough into 2 12-inch disks. Roll one of the disks loosely onto your rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch pie pan. Gently ease dough into the bottom and up and over the sides without stretching. Allow dough to overhang the rim.

In a medium bowl, combine berries, sugar, flour and salt. Mix by gently turning over the ingredients with your hands or a spoon. Transfer to the pastry-lined pie pan. Cut decorative slits in the second disk of pastry. Loosely roll onto your rolling pin and unroll over filling. Center the dough disk and turn the edges of the top and bottom disks under together to form a rim slightly larger than the pie pan. Decoratively crimp (press) the dough rim with your fingers or a fork to seal the top and bottom disks together.

Brush the top pastry with milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Cover the crimped edges all the way around with a strip of foil. Bake in a preheated, 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 20 to 30 minutes longer, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbly. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 6 to 8 wedges.
I serve the warm pie in bowls, splashed with cold milk.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Two hard-fried eggs on crunchy seeded toast with pesto and blue cheese; barbecued ribs; an almost sugar-free black raspberry pie; hummus and crudities; cold tomato soup with dill, mojo sautéed shrimp.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Rotisserie chicken, sautéed kale and cornbread from Boston Market; pepperoni pizza from Rizzi’s in Copley.

THE MAILBAG
From Jan C.:
I am a true lover of good steak tartare, which is extremely hard to find in the Akron or Canton area. We were at Ken Stewart’s Lodge last week for a birthday celebration and, behold, there it was on the menu. It was absolutely perfect and delicious. My hubby and I split one portion of the table-side Caesar, which was quite large. He had steak and frites which came with a whole roasted head of garlic.

True heaven. If I had a wish for a last meal, this would be it. Caesar, steak tartare and an extra-dry vodka martini with anchovy or blue cheese olives.

Dear Jan:
There’s a reason they became classics, right? I used to like steak tartare and then carpaccio, and long ago I was crazy about Caesar salad. I think it’s time to resurrect the recipes.

From Nancy S.:
You probably can’t answer this recipe question, but here goes. I still miss Jack Horner’s pancakes. The recipe was never divulged as far as I know, but would you speculate on which type of recipe (buttermilk or no, baking powder, baking soda, etc.) so I can experiment in order to recreate them?

I thought I remembered a waitress there said club soda was one of the ingredients but it couldn’t have been too expensive a recipe to make, as they made a lot of pancakes for breakfast. Thanks for any help you can provide.

Dear Nancy:
I never had the pancakes at the classic Akron restaurant, so I can’t help you. Maybe someone reading this was a cook or waitress at Jack Horner’s and can provide a clue.

From Rachel A.:
The hubs and I were SO excited to see that you’d tried Pots & Pans. How was it? We’ve been on the lookout for island fare locally and just learned of P&P this week, and have plans to stop by in the next few days.

The best we’ve found to date is actually a quick day trip away, at Ena’s Caribbean Kitchen in the Linden neighborhood on the east side of Columbus. It was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. My guy had the curry goat with rice and beans and fried plantains. I had the Sunday brunch special of shrimp and grits, and let me tell you, I would WALK there on a Sunday just to get that meal again. The sauce was fabulous, the shrimp plump and perfectly cooked, and the Cheddar/smoked gouda grits were drool-worthy. We also shared a spicy Jamaican patty (like an empanada, with a spiced beef filling) while we waited. Two meals and snack came to $22 and we were both so, so satisfied.

If your readers are looking for an island taste on their local travels, please send them Miss Ena’s way.

Dear Rachel:
I’m a fan of Jamaican food, so I will try Ena’s Caribbean Kitchen. In return, I hope you and others try Pots & Pans in downtown Akron. I wasn’t thrilled with my food there — it needed more spice in the jerk and a better balance of seasonings overall. But I am hoping the food and fumbling service improve, because this family restaurant is the kind of place I like to support.

From Mary Ann:
Regarding your item about sauerkraut, my grandmother loved kraut, which she made herself as long as she could. She also developed a taste for canned kraut. But she missed both when she was put on a reduced-salt diet in her 80s.

She was smart and inventive about food. She rinsed the kraut many times with fresh water, wrung it out and rinsed some more. With that prep, her doctor approved and she was the most popular person at her assisted living facility. I do the same with green beans, which I love even from the can but which are way too high in salt.

Dear Mary Ann:
A lot of salt-sensitive people are mentally thanking your grandmother for the tip today.

July 4, 2018

Dear friends,
I began cooking because I love to eat. I was just a kid then watching Galloping Gourmet and yearning for coq au vin and homemade cake. I began really cooking in my 20s, to duplicate at home the dishes I read about or had eaten in restaurants in New York, Boston and Atlantic City.

Yes, I got around back then. Now, not as much, so I’m back to cooking dishes I’ve read about. I have waited and waited for a local Chinese restaurant to start serving the caramel duck and chicken that’s been so popular lately, but I might as well be wishing for a unicorn. It ain’t gonna happen in Akron, Ohio. So I made it myself.

My version is very different from the stir-fried dish born on the West Coast. It’s summer, so I fired up the grill and roast-smoked a whole spatchcocked chicken. Beforehand I dry-brined the bird with a mixture of salt and fresh ginger ground together in a food processor.

When the chicken was almost done, I made a caramel sauce spiked with orange juice and finished with more ginger. The base of the sauce is simply water and brown sugar, simmered until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens. The sauce is sweet and caramel-y, but not nearly as sweet as it sounds. Vinegar, ginger and orange juice, along with soy sauce and garlic, give the sauce dimension.

This chicken dish is gorgeous enough to serve to company, but delicious enough to want to hog all to yourself.

GRILL-SMOKED WHOLE GINGER CHICKEN WITH GINGER-CARAMEL SAUCE

Chicken:
1 whole chicken, about 4 lbs.
3 tbsp. salt
A thumb-sized piece of peeled raw ginger
Vegetable oil

Remove and discard giblet package if included with chicken. With poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut chicken up the back, on both sides of the backbone. Discard backbone. Trim any excess skin and fat. Wash chicken and pat dry. Place skin side up on a baking sheet. Press down firmly to flatten the chicken.

Place salt in a food processor. Drop the ginger in chunks through the feed tube while the motor is running. When the ginger is thoroughly chopped, rub the ginger-salt mixture all over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

About 1 1/2 hours before dinner, build a medium-large charcoal fire in one-half of a grill. Or heat a gas grill to medium. Brush most of the salt and ginger from the chicken. Lightly rub oil all over chicken. When the coals have completely ashed over, place chicken on grill grid on the side opposite the coals, skin side down and meatiest part of the breast toward the coals.

Cover with the grill lid, leaving vents wide open. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the thigh registers 160 degrees, turning chicken once during cooking. Remove chicken from grill, cover with foil and keep warm while making the sauce.

Caramel-ginger sauce:
1 tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 scallions, sliced thin

Sauté garlic in oil in an 8-inch skillet until softened. Add ginger. Remove from heat and carefully add water and brown sugar. Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil gently without stirring until mixture is a dark honey brown.

Carefully add vinegar and stir to dissolve any crystals. Stir in orange juice and soy sauce. Boil until sauce thickens to a glaze. Pour over chicken on platter. Scatter scallions over sauce and chicken. Serve with rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

TIDBITS
This is the weekend I’m liquidating my cookbook collection and also selling a bunch of kitchen equipment, from juicers and a Spiraletti to a jerky gun and a table-top grill. Yes, this is a tawdry yard-sale ad, but I justify slipping it into my newsletter because there will be lots of stuff for foodies. Come browse or just chat from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 6-7-8, at 4183 Copley Road in Copley.

Hummus redux
I made a mistake in my hummus recipe of three weeks ago. You will need to add some of the warm cooking liquid to the beans when you first begin to puree them, or the bits of beans will just hug the sides of the processor bowl instead of coming together in a fluffy puree. More cooking liquid is added at the end to achieve the proper consistency, as instructed in the recipe.

What I cooked last week:
Egg sandwich with pesto; hummus with crudités, grilled ribeye steaks, roast carrots with sea salt; spaghetti with meat sauce and walnuts; two hard-fried eggs with pesto on a slice of seeded whole-grain bread; grill-smoked ginger chicken with ginger caramel sauce, steamed rice; avocado toast.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants:
A California roll from Sushi Katsu in Akron; cavatelli with sauce Bolognese and a tossed salad at Scarsella’s Restaurant in Youngstown; corn on the cob and two barbecued (baked?) pork ribs at the Ribs, White and Blue Festival in downtown Akron; a habanero pork taco, Buffalo cauliflower taco and chips with homemade salsa and guacamole at a friend’s party, catered by the fabulous Funky Truckeria food truck.

THE MAILBAG

From Geoff:
Tell us about Tony’s new outdoor oven. Is it a smoker/grill combo?

How did City Barbecue’s pulled pork compare to my favorite, Old Carolina? I always had the opinion no one could top Old Carolina’s.

You asked for lunch recommendations. One of my favorite lunch spots in Fairlawn is the Bombay Grill. They have a daily lunch buffet at a reasonable price but I like ordering off the men and always start with a bowl of their Indian-spiced tomato soup which is, by far, the best tomato soup I’ve ever had.

Dear Geoff:
Now I HAVE to have some of that tomato soup. I tried Bombay Grill when it first opened in its new location at 117 Merz Blvd., but it hadn’t gotten its act together yet. I will try it again on your recommendation.

I thought City Barbecue’s pulled pork was better than any I’ve had anywhere at the restaurant’s VIP pre-opening party. A week later I visited the Fairlawn restaurant again and was disappointed. The pulled pork had lost that vinegar-swab juiciness. Still good, but maybe not quite up to Old Carolina standards.

Our old, handmade outdoor oven is by far the best thing Tony has dragged home from an auction. It is an oblong box of welded steel plates, about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, with a good-sized oven above a fire box that can hold charcoal or wood. Tony made a chimney for it. So far I’ve used it once to make a roast chicken. I’m going to add a pizza stone and make some flat breads next. Tony is a great scavenger, which is one reason we’re having the yard sale. Stop by and I’ll show you the oven.