August 29, 2018

Dear friends,
Zucchini brings out the curmudgeon in me. I have opinions. I have likes and dislikes.
I don’t like the floppy fried zucchini rounds, unbreaded and dripping with oil, that my mother served us growing up. I kind of sneer at zucchini breads and muffins because what’s the point if you can’t taste the zucchini? And I am anti any zucchini that is more than about 8 inches long. The skin is tough and the seeds become tiddlywinks.

I like just about everything else about this summer squash, which, chameleon-like, soaks up any flavor it touches. I like it stuffed and baked, layered with tomatoes in summer casseroles, cut into batons and tossed in pasta salads, even used as a stand-in for tofu in ma po bean curd.

So I was excited to see what contestants would come up with in the Seville Farm Market’s annual Zucchini Smackdown recently. I got to judge the fun contest this year. I came away with a terrific recipe for zucchini relish. It is sweet, tart and crunchy-good on a cracker smeared with cream cheese. If only I could grow zucchini, I’d made a ton of it.

The recipe was submitted by Laurie Racco of Medina. The winning sample was a family affair, she said, with plenty of spoons in the pot. Racco kindly forked over the recipe. But because gardeners probably have a lot more zucchini than recipes right now, I’m also sharing a recipe for bacon-studded zucchini slaw from my own files.

ZUCCHINI RELISH

5 cups finely chopped zucchini
1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
¾ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup pickling salt
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 ½ cups white vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. mustard seeds
1 or 2 drops green food coloring (optional)

In an extra-large nonmetal bowl, combine zucchini, onion and bell peppers. Sprinkle with pickling salt; toss gently to coat. Add enough cold water to cover vegetables. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for 3 hours.

Transfer vegetable mixture to a large colander set in sink. Rinse with cold water; drain.
In an 8- to10-quart stainless steel, enamel, or nonstick pot, combine sugar, vinegar, ¼ cup water, celery seeds, turmeric and mustard seeds. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Add drained zucchini mixture (and food coloring if desired). Return to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle hot relish into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving ½-inch head space. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes after water returns to boil. Remove jars from canner, cool and rack. Yields 5 half-pint jars.

SWEET AND SOUR ZUCCHINI SLAW
4 slices bacon
2 medium zucchini (8 to 10 oz. each)
Salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

Fry bacon in a 10-inch skillet until crisp. Meanwhile, shred zucchini with a hand grater or a food processor.

Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels. Add shredded zucchini to bacon fat in skillet. Season with salt and stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes, until glossy but still crisp.

Sprinkle sugar over zucchini, add vinegar and stir well. Turn heat to high and boil rapidly until vinegar is almost evaporated. Zucchini should still be fairly crunchy.

Transfer zucchini and any liquid remaining in pan to a bowl. Crumble bacon and stir into zucchini. Stir in caraway seeds. Cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Ciabatta pizza with chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, pesto, mozzarella, feta and Parmesan cheeses; grilled American, feta and fresh mozzarella cheeses on seeded brown bread with pesto, tomato and avocado; Szechuan stir-fry pork with eggplant, yellow squash, carrots, onion and pepper; spaghetti and meat sauce with walnuts.

What I ate in (from) restaurants last week:
Pulled pork, green beans, vinegar slaw and corn muffin from Old Carolina Barbecue in Fairlawn; a California roll, karaage (fried) chicken and salad at Tensuke Market in Columbus; thick lamb chops, garlic mashed potatoes and pan-grilled rainbow carrots at Wise Guys in Akron.

THE MAILBAG
From Maryann:
I have been inspired to work at making my own vanilla extract, as it appears most of the work is putting the vanilla beans into a clean jar with a tight seal and covering it with vodka. I guess I’m a vanilla bean snob, as I really can taste the difference when it is real vanilla, and I use it often.

The question is, where and how do I purchase bulk vanilla beans, how do I know which is the good stuff, and how do I avoid being part of the problem of Americans who, I am told, are decimating the vanilla planters’ business because we want too much vanilla?

Dear Maryann:
Unless you’re planning on going into business, you won’t need to buy vanilla beans in bulk; a big jar of homemade extract requires just five beans. That should simplify your search.

If possible, buy vanilla planifolia beans, also called Bourbon vanilla, which are considered superior to vanilla tahitensis. Most planifolia beans are grown now in Madagascar; and tahitensis in Papua New Guinea, although the orchids that produce both kinds of beans have been planted as far afield as Uganda and even, lately, in California.

Demand for vanilla is very high, and the “decimation” you mention is the result of growers (especially in Madagascar) skipping steps and hurrying beans to market. That has affected the quality of some of the beans. This year’s harvest, which began in July in Madagascar, the premier producer, is expected to be large, which may bring down prices and temper the greed of producers, according to market reports.

Your best bet is to buy from a reputable source, such as West Point Market or vanilla expert Patricia Rain at vanillaqueen.com.

HOMEMADE VANILLA EXTRACT
5 vanilla beans, sliced open lengthwise
2 cups vodka

Place the beans and alcohol in a lidded jar, cover tightly and store in a cool, dark place, shaking once a week. The longer the beans steep, the stronger the vanilla will be. Steep for several months to a year for the best flavor. Pour into decorative bottles if desired, including a piece of vanilla bean in each one. Cap tightly.

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August 22, 2018

Dear friends,
Once upon a time we planted a plum tree. I wanted a Mirabelle plum like the perfumed yellow plums I tasted in Paris in 1997. Tony wanted a Japanese plum and he’s the one with a shovel, so we bought a Satsuma.

That was 10 years ago. It took us two years to discover we must plant two plum trees — and both had to be Japanese — if we wanted fruit. We planted a second Satsuma and waited for them to get busy.

We don’t know who’s to blame for being coy. We do know it took eight long years for the sparks to fly between the plums. When it did happen, it must have been like Angelina and Brad in that secluded bungalow in Tahiti, because the result was hundreds and hundreds of little plums. I mean a lot. So many that the limbs of the plum trees are cracking under the weight.

The plums are about the size of a walnut, with purple skins and a deep magenta interior. They are tart-sweet, with a flavor not as complex as that of a Mirabelle but still delicious.

Remember Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day? Tony has been leaving boxes of plums. If you want some, give us a call. Meanwhile, I have been preserving plums. I made a roasting pan full of baked plum confiture to package and freeze and one tray of prunes. I will not dry more plums, even though they’re delicious, because removing the pits is god-awful. It takes forever, and a week later, my cuticles are still purple.

Baked plums are the way to go. Even if you don’t have a couple of profligate plum trees, you may want to buy some prune plums for this recipe. It involves minimal work. I simply washed the plums, removed any stems or blemishes and dumped them into the pan I use for roasting turkeys.

The plums baked down to a thick compote that can be spread on toast, spooned over yogurt, used as a glaze for roast pork or turned into an ice cream topping. The skins dissolve into the fruit. The seeds may be removed before storing, or just spit them out when you encounter them (warn your friends so they don’t break a tooth).

My roasting pan was 10- by 14 inches and I used 1 1/2 lbs. of fruit. But you may use any size roasting pan and fill it with at least one packed layer of whole small plums such as prune plums. I filled my pan with about a layer and a half. The plum confiture may be frozen in rigid containers or freezer bags.

ROASTED PLUM CONFITURE

1 1/2 lbs. small plums such as prune plums or Satsumas
(or as many as needed to at least cover the bottom of your roasting pan)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar or to taste
(Flavorings such as a vanilla bean, cinnamon stick or star anise if desired)

Wash plums, removing bits of stems and blemishes. Place whole plums with pits in a roasting pan. The plums should at least cover the bottom of the pan. Add water. Place in a preheated, 350-degree oven and roast uncovered for 2 hours.

Stir in sugar (and flavoring if using). Continue roasting about one hour longer, or until the plums have melted into a thick mass. If necessary, add more water during cooking to prevent the plums from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts confiture. Cool, then refrigerate some to use now and freeze the rest.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Dried plums; plum confiture; cherry tomato, fresh mozzarella and pesto salad; avocado toast; egg salad; pan-fried German sausage sandwiches with fried onions and peppers, Silver Queen corn on the cob (from Seiberling Farm in Norton) and watermelon.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Tandoori chicken, rice pilaf and potato-stuffed naan at Jaipur Junction in Hudson; half of a spicy Italian sub from Subway; two chili-cheese dogs and a couple of fries at The Hot Dog Shoppe in East Liverpool; grits, one over-easy egg and one biscuit at Bob Evans; a sausage sandwich with onions and peppers at the Rogers Community Auction and Flea Market in Rogers, Ohio; a plain cake doughnut from L&B Donuts in East Liverpool; two more chili dogs and fries at The Hot Dog Shoppe; a ribeye steak, plain baked potato and buttered green beans at Pondi’s in Lisbon.

THE MAILBAG
From Molly:
I just read your blog and in response to finding burrata, Heinen’s carries it for those readers who fancy a drive. Pretty sure that a few dairy stands at West Side Market have it too, but again, there’s that drive. Penzey’s is across the street from the market, though, so that’d be a good second stop for those who venture north.

As for Caribe, some years back I bought a whole pig from Whittaker’s stand at West Side Market and dropped it off at Caribe. They cooked it and I served the delicious meat at a party. I don’t remember what Caribe charged to roast the pork but I remember it being reasonably priced. It was superb.

Dear Molly:
An entire roast pig from Caribe! That would be heaven.

From David F.:
I would recommend Sherman Provision in Norton for lamb, but you might need to call ahead and order what you need. One of my earlier visits to this butcher shop was over the Greek Orthodox Christmas, and I opened the door to allow a customer to leave the store with a whole lamb — not something I was used to seeing walking into a chain grocery store!

Sherman’s is old-school. It’s family-run, with people behind the counter who actually know the meats cuts, and can offer advice on preparation. They are also some of the nicest folks you’d want to meet.

Dear David:
You aren’t the only one to recommend Sherman Provision for lamb. And I agree that Michael and Mauri OBrodo and their employees are the best. The business can be found on the Internet at shermanprovision.com.

From Susan B.:
Regarding your question of where to buy lamb — the great West Side Market in Cleveland. Definitely there are a few vendors selling fresh lamb. I bought my veal there for years.

At various holidays, especially Easter and Christmas, lamb is featured. My Old Country family from Yugoslavia, Germany and Austria, which immigrated to Cleveland and Akron in the 1950s, shopped at the market weekly. My mother-in-law made the best weiner schnitzel, always with veal pounded thin. It was a tradition to serve it at Christmas with homemade spaetzle and her delicious cucumber salad. West Side Market has Old World food!

From Sharene:
I used to buy my lamb from the West Side Market at a lesser price than the supermarkets. However, it’s been over a year now so I cannot be certain of the prices these days. Good luck!

Dear Sharene, Susan and David:
I will try both Sherman Provision and West Side Market for lamb at reasonable prices. I guess I was hoping to luck into a situation like a few years ago, when a friend and I split a lamb from a farm her friend owned. The lamb was tender and delicate and the price was just about wholesale. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime steal.

August 15, 2018

Dear friends,
If you’re anything like me, you’ve waited all year for tomato season. You gave winter tomatoes the cold shoulder in the depths of January and maybe succumbed to just one or two packages of grape tomatoes in March, immediately ruing the purchase of those red herrings that look like the real thing but taste as if they were grown on Mars.

I get it. I do not eat off-season tomatoes, either. I never have. I remember picking around them in the salad bowl as a child. So when July and August roll around, I am absolutely avid to eat my way through the garden.

As I write this I’m snacking on purple Cherokee cherry tomatoes. Big yellow and pink-streaked tomatoes are lined up on the kitchen counter. The vines out back sag under the weight of the harvest. I love them all, but how will I use them up?

I froze a peck of the large tomatoes whole to use in chili and soups next winter. About four big tomatoes or five medium take the place of a large can of peeled plum tomatoes. The skins slip off in the kettle as the tomatoes thaw and slump, and I remove the skins with tongs.

I have made a couple of salads of halved cherry tomatoes tossed with pesto. I dispatched a few tomatoes in BLTs. Tony has eaten a few sliced, salted and topped with Kewpie mayonnaise. And still they come.

So I dreamed up a new side dish last week to showcase summer tomatoes in all their evanescent glory. It’s a kind of roasted Caprese salad of lightly baked sliced tomatoes in all sizes and colors, arranged on a platter with roasted red onion.

This colorful still life is strewn with baby (or chopped) basil leaves, coarse sea salt and cracked black pepper. Two globes of burrata cheese are nestled among the tomatoes. When the cheeses are cut into, the cream flows.

You may have a hard time finding burrata, a fresh mozzarella cheese shaped into a bubble with cream and bits of mozzarella inside. Although it is on every trendy restaurant’s menu, few supermarkets here carry it yet. I found it at West Point Market in Fairlawn. You could substitute balls of fresh mozzarella cheese if desired.

I served this side dish on a white turkey platter, and it looked stunning. It used up a lot of tomatoes, too.

ROASTED TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS WITH BASIL AND BURRATA CHEESE

Olive oil
1/2 of a large red onion
32 cherry tomatoes, different colors if possible
2 medium-size tomatoes, different colors
Coarse sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup tiny basil leaves or shredded basil
2 4-oz. globes of burrata cheese

Line two baking sheets with foil. Film the foil with olive oil. Cut onion into 1/4-inch slices and arrange on a sheet. Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves and arrange on sheets, cut sides up. Cut the medium tomatoes in 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on sheet. Drizzle everything with olive oil. Roast in a 400-degree oven for about 25 minutes, until the cut sides of the cherry tomatoes just begin to puff and the onions are soft. Cool to room temperature.

While the tomatoes and onion bake, bring cheese to room temperature. When the vegetables are room temperature, arrange on a platter, separating the onion slices into rings. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with vinegar. Scatter basil over all. Place cheeses on the platter and cut into the globes at the table, spilling the cream over the tomatoes. Makes 4 servings.

TIDBITS
GOT MY MOJO GOING:
If only Caribe Bakery were easier to get to from my home in Copley. If only the 40-minute drive didn’t involve a boatload of traffic, potholed streets, several turns, getting lost (once) and a confusing exit off I-71 (the “off ramp” mentioned on MapQuest is a couple of miles long).

Sigh.

Still, when the memory of the hot, annoying drive fades, I’ll probably try to talk Tony or a friend into giving the restaurant another go. It is simply splendid.

The Cuban-Puerto Rican food at Caribe is as good as any I’ve had anywhere. The succulent roast pork is falling apart and dripping with juices. It is dished up in big chunks, with the occasional piece of rind honeycombed to a crisp. Piles of black beans and rice and fried sweet plantains are scooped into pressed-foam containers. They are just two of the many side dishes possible with dinners.

Ah, but those empanadas and Cuban sandwiches. They are impeccable. The deep-fried empanadas feature a world-class crust and a spicy ground beef filling folded into mashed potatoes. The Cubanos are classic hot sandwiches of Cuban bread made on the premises and filled with sliced ham, that incredible roast pork, white cheese, dill pickles and mustard, welded together in a sandwich press. The $16 full sandwich we ordered (small and medium also are available) came in four pieces, each about 7 inches long and individually wrapped. That was four hefty sandwiches, for cripes sakes.

The “bakery” is beyond down home. Customers line up at one corner of a big U-shaped counter, steam tables on two sides and bakery cases on the other. The number of choices is staggering and look drop-dead delicious lined up on the steam tables behind glass. There are reddish stews and skewers and roasts and all manner of pork, chicken and beef preparations sending out tendrils of aroma that mingle above the cases and draw the diners forward.

The menu on the wall is in Spanish. Even if you’re fluent, you may have to ask an English-speaking server for help.

Everything is served cafeteria-style in to-go containers that you can take next door to a spacious room of utilitarian tables and chairs. The utensils are plastic, the napkins are paper and you may have to wipe off a table before you sit down. Who cares?

Caribe Bake Shop is at 2906 Fulton Rd. on the West Side of Cleveland not far from Ohio City. The phone is 216-281-8194. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The bakery-restaurant has a bare-bones site on Facebook.

MAKIN’ BACON: We’re deep into BLT season at my house, which no longer is messy since I began cooking bacon in the oven instead of in a frying pan. A brush-up may be in order.

To cook bacon to a lovely, straight, almost grease-free crisp, line a couple of rimmed baking sheets with a double thickness of paper towels. Arrange raw bacon strips close together in a single layer on the sheets. A pound of bacon will cover about 1 1/2 baking sheets. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven until the bacon is brown and looks crisp, 30 minutes or so depending on the thickness of the bacon. Don’t worry if the bacon strips are still bendy; they will become crisper as they cool slightly.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Roasted eggplant Parmesan; blackberry frozen yogurt (yuck); cantaloupe and prosciutto, and roast tomato and red onion salad with burrata cheese; grilled sockeye salmon with cucumber-dill sauce, sautéed yellow squash and cherry tomatoes with sea salt; BLTs and corn on the cob; sugar-free blackberry pie; purple Cherokee cherry tomato and pesto salad, roast pork with mojo seasonings, just-dug thin-skin baby potatoes halved and roasted with olive oil and coarse salt; pesto; roast plum confiture; high-protein chocolate ice cream.

What I ate out last week:
Spicy Thai salad (half) with chicken at Panera; a beef empanada, Cuban sandwich, yuca (baked?) with onions, fried sweet plantains and Cuban roast pork at Caribe Bake Shop in Cleveland; nine sweet and savory zucchini dishes, including zucchini relish and chocolate zucchini bread, as a judge at the Zucchini Smackdown at the Seville Farmers Market; sugar-free vanilla yogurt with chopped peanuts at Menchie’s.

THE MAILBAG
From Marty L.:
I loved reading the note from your fan in the U.K. It brought back memories of when we lived in Scotland in the military in 1973. I was surprised that their meat markets had poultry just hanging in the windows, and other meats just sitting out on the counter. The butcher had a beef hind quarter there that he would slice off whatever size piece you ordered. They also had fresh eggs sitting there without refrigeration. The temps in Scotland were never that hot, but the practices never changed for the summer months. We just made a return trip to Scotland this July and I was amused that they still leave the eggs out on the shelf without refrigeration. Why is that safe there and we are so obsessive about refrigerating our eggs in the U.S.?

Dear Marty:
The reason is a strain of bacteria that arose in the early 1980s in U.S. chicken breeding flocks, but has not yet traveled abroad. Salmonella entideritis is capable of infecting eggs in the shell, transmitted directly from the mother hen. Until this new bacteria mutated, unbroken eggs were thought to be incapable of harboring bacteria. That is still the case in Europe and Japan, where I’ve seen cartons of eggs stacked on the floors of supermarkets. So it’s still safe to eat raw eggs and store them at room temperature in Europe and Japan, but chancy here.

August 8, 2018

Dear friends,
It’s peach season, that time of year when I used to feel like Forest Gump with a box of chocolates. With peaches, I never knew what I was getting. They could be candy-sweet and dripping with juice or as dry and tasteless as cotton.

Then I wised up. Here’s how to buy a juicy, sweet peach rather than a dry, flavorless one: Check its provenance. The closer to home the peach was grown, the better the chance it’s a good one. That’s because peaches soften but do not ripen after they are picked. Fruit that has far to travel usually is picked while still firm and unripe, to cut down on bruising on the journey.

There are exceptions. Some California growers are shipping a relatively new hybrid developed there that arrives as sweet and juicy as peaches grown down the street. Many growers aren’t, though, so if my only option is a California peach, I usually buy one to test before committing.

If the peaches in the store are firm but from Georgia, North Carolina or even closer states, I will buy some and soften them on my kitchen counter. I am usually rewarded with juicy, sweet peaches. Of course, the best peaches are the ones from a nearby orchard, but the season is brief here in Ohio and we must make do.

This summer I have eaten my share of South Carolina and Georgia peaches while waiting for Ohio’s crop to ripen, which it is doing right now. I rarely make peach pies because of my promise to stay away from sugar, but this summer I yearned for one so badly that I caved — in a tiny sort of way. Instead of an entire, glorious pie I made muffin-sized peach-caramel upside-down pies.

I melted some sugar in a 4-inch skillet, stirred in cold butter and transferred two teaspoons to each of six muffin-tin cups. I arranged three peach slices over the caramel and topped them with rounds of puff pastry dough cut slightly larger than the holes of the muffin tins.

The pastry puffed and browned in the oven, while the peaches slumped into the caramel. When done, I inverted the baked tarts onto a tray, pounding on the muffin tin to loosen the pastry and caramel.

By the end of the day I had eaten three of them — not a whole pie, but still. Luckily, Tony ate the rest.

CARAMEL-PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN TARTS

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 peaches
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cold butter, in pieces

Butter a muffin tin with six cups. Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface to smooth out creases and enlarge the pastry slightly. With a biscuit cutter or drinking glass slightly larger than the muffin cups, cut out six rounds. Set aside.

Over medium-low heat, melt sugar in a small (preferably 4-inch) skillet or saucepan., stirring often. Do not allow sugar to burn. When the melted sugar is a rich amber color, stir in the cold butter bit by bit. Remove from heat. With a measuring spoon, place 2 teaspoons of the caramel in the bottom of each muffin tin cup.

Peel the peaches and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices Arrange 3 slices over the caramel in each cup. Place a pastry round over each cup, tucking in edges.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Cool 2 or 4 minutes, then invert the muffin tin onto a tray or cookie sheet, pounding the muffin cups to release the tarts. Transfer to dessert plates with a spatula. If desired, reheat remaining caramel and spoon more over the tarts. Makes 6 servings.

TIDBITS
Question of the month:
Does anyone know where lamb can be bought at a reasonable price? Lamb is my favorite meat, but supermarket prices have soared. I would even consider buying a half or whole lamb from a farm (butchered and wrapped) if the price isn’t too ridiculous (often the case at boutique farms). Thanks for any advice.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Skinny eggplants roasted with sweet soy sauce; pan-grilled strip steak with blue cheese crumbles, French potato salad with garlic and mint; cantaloupe with prosciutto, cherry tomato clafoutis; lettuce-wrap chicken tacos with avocado and cucumber; beef stir fry with zucchini and yellow peppers; caramel peach upside-down tarts.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Curry noodles with chicken and vegetables at House of Hunan; chili dogs with mustard and onion from the Sassy Dog cart at Copley Circle; a beef turnover (fatayer), kibbee with homemade yogurt and mujadara (lentils and caramelized onions) at the Lebanese Festival at Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Catholic Church in Fairlawn; an appetizer sampler of beef samosa, vegetable pakoras, sliced sausage and chicken skewers, and potato-stuffed naan bread at Jaipur Junction in Hudson (excellent).

THE MAILBAG
From Trudy J.:
My grandmother used to make bean soup. She added summer savory to the pot and a big dollop of sour cream at the end. Delicious!

Dear Trudy:
A friend of Hungarian heritage also adds sour cream to her bean soup. It is indeed delicious.

From Janet B.:
I am looking forward to trying your recipe for green bean and potato soup because we have a lot of beans from our garden. But how many pounds (approximately) is 2 quarts of beans? Thanks very much.

Dear Janet:
One quart of green beans equals about one pound. While looking up the answer in my well-thumbed copy of “The Victory Garden Cookbook” by Marian Morash, I saw that she has a recipe for shell bean and green bean soup with pistou. So I guess I didn’t invent THAT idea, either.

From Pat S.:
I’ve been following your laments about an over-abundance of garden green beans. I have the same dilemma in summer. Here’s a very tasty and healthy recipe originally from Food Network Kitchen. I’ve adapted it by adding ginger and scallions.

SPICY TURKEY AND GREEN BEAN STIR FRY
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
4 scallions, cut in 2-inch pieces
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 small half-sour pickle, finely chopped
2 tsp. Asian chili paste such as sambal oelek
2 tsp,. grated fresh ginger
1 cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dry sherry or rice vinegar
2 tsp. cornstarch

Cook rice according to package directions. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Toss beans with 1 1/2 tbsp. of the oil and the sugar on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil 4 minutes. Stir, adding in scallions. Continue to broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until beans are tender and charred.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 3 minutes Add garlic, pickle, chili paste and ginger and cook about 3 minutes more.

Whisk chicken broth with soy sauce, sherry and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add the beans and scallions to the skillet with the turkey, stirring 1 minute. Add the soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Serve with the rice. Makes 4 servings.

Dear Pat:
Thanks. This should use up Tony’s remaining crop of green beans.

From Michele B.:
I will definitely try the ham and bean soup with pesto. It looks delicious. My grandmother made a ham and bean soup with “dumplings” — basically dough boiled in the broth. We called it “pot pie.” Someone once told me it was a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. I’ve only tried it twice. Her recipe gave no amounts and no recipe for the dumplings. I came close the second time. I don’t understand when people won’t share their recipes.

Dear Michele:
I can help with that recipe. My grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch and made “pot pie” often. I once printed directions in Recipe Roundup in the Beacon Journal. Readers said the soup part was made with chicken or ham hocks, potatoes and onions, but there’s no reason the noodles wouldn’t work in green bean soup.

“POT PIE” NOODLES
4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. butter
1 egg
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in butter. Make a well (depression) in the flour and break the egg into the well. With a fork, stir flour into the egg a little at a time while gradually adding enough milk to make a soft dough.

Dust dough with flour and roll out as thin as possible. With a sharp knife, cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Drop the dough squares into soup one by one and stir to prevent them from sticking together. Simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until noodles are tender.

August 1, 2018

Dear friends,
The summer soup I made last week was no big deal but it was everything. It was good old green bean and potato soup, but elevated to the sublime.

In the summers of my childhood and probably yours, too, the big soup pot came out when green beans were in season. They were called string beans or snap beans then, and they were the basis of at least one gigantic, cheap meal in mid summer. My mother would toss a ham bone, handfulls of green beans and cubed potatoes into a pot and boil everything until the meagre shreds of ham fell from the bone and the vegetables were soft. Really soft. We ate the soup with buttered bread.

I was reminded of the meal after I asked for ways to use up the boatload of green beans Tony grew. I got a few recipes for bean salads and side dishes, a recommendation to roast the beans (which I do) and two huzzahs for canned dilly beans. But the suggestion that stuck with me was the one for green beans, potatoes and ham. Could I elevate it enough to appeal to more sophisticated tastes?

I started by making a rich stock with a meaty ham bone (I got mine at Honey Baked Ham). I simmered the bone for about three hours, until the broth had lots of flavor. Already I was way ahead of my mother’s soup. Then I cut the beans and potatoes into smaller pieces than Mom did, added salt, and gently simmered them in the stock just until the potatoes were tender — about an hour less than my mother did.

The soup already tasted pretty good, but the capper was a spoonful of pesto stirred into each bowlful. This is how the French amp up the flavor of their Provencal vegetable soup, pistou. The French version of pesto does not include Parmesan cheese, but I like the umami undertone the cheese contributes. The garlic, basil and olive oil in the pesto melt into the soup and infuse every spoonful with bright Mediterranean flavors.

Those who have made green bean and potato soup before won’t need a recipe, although I measured ingredients in order to provide one. If you intend to wing it remember three things:
1. Buy a really meaty ham bone. Mine had plenty of meat on it after I sliced off at least a pound for sandwiches and to add to the soup at the end.
2. Simmer the meaty bone a long time (about 3 hours) to make a rich stock for the soup.
3. Cut the vegetables into fairly uniform 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces and use enough to provide a good ratio of vegetables to broth — in other words, more vegetables than our moms used.

This is what I call a great way to use up green beans.

SUMMER GREEN BEAN SOUP WITH PESTO

1 very meaty ham bone
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 lbs. peeled potatoes, diced in 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 quarts (about) fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp. salt
Basil pesto (preferably homemade)

Cut excess meat from ham bone, leaving at least a cup or two on the bone to flavor the broth (just eyeball it). Dice enough of the ham cut from the bone to equal 1 1/2 cups, reserving remaining ham for other uses.

Place meaty ham bone in a 2-gallon soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, partially cover and adjust heat until it gently simmers. Simmer for about 3 hours, adding a quart of water midway through if necessary, to keep pot about three-fourths full. Taste broth for richess after three hours and if satisfied, remove ham bone. You should have about 3 quarts of broth (a 2-gallon pot will be not quite half full).

Add potatoes to pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, remove meat from the ham bone. Add beans and salt to the soup. Return ham-bone meat to the pot. Stir in reserved cubed ham. Simmer until the beans are tender and the flavors have blended, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Ladle soup into bowls. Stir a rounded teaspoon of pesto into each bowlful. Makes about 10 servings.

MORE GREEN BEAN IDEAS
From Nancy B.:
I have had a plethora of green beans in years past. I mean garbage bags of them. I donated them to the Food Bank and/or Good Samaritan Hunger Center.

From Fran S.:
Dilled green beans are easy to put up and last a long time. Occasionally I will use them as appetizers with cream cheese and dried beef. Roll them up and slice. Everyone loves them.

From Chris M.:
I like green beans roasted with halved garlic cloves and lemon slices, or simply with a handful of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese tossed on at the end of roasting. And I still enjoy green beans almandine.

From William B.:
For about a peck of green beans, saute about 2 cups of diced onion in about 1/2 cup olive oil until wilted. Stir in 3 or 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic, about 3 cups chopped fresh super-ripe tomatoes and about 1/2 bunch chopped parsley. Cook until the tomatoes start to soften. Dump in your washed and snapped green beans and stir well. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until very tender (maybe 1 to 2 hours). Salt and pepper to taste. Great way to use up beans you already cooked and have leftover. Dress beans with a final drizzle of olive oil before serving.

From Kathy:
I make a Caprese-style salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinaigrette, basil and green beans cooked until fork tender. You can eat it warm if you can’t wait but chilled is good, too.

From Joy:
I make Italian green beans with bacon, a fairlly quick recipe I got from “Better Homes & Gardens Farmers Market Cookbook.” Four slices of bacon are crisped in a skillet and most of the drippings are poured off. Butter is added along wth sliced carrots, cut and parboiled green beans and a clove of chopped garlic, and sauteed until the vegetables are al dente. Ground pepper and the reserved bacon, crumbled, are added to serve.

TIDBITS
Two miniature zucchinis have finally sprouted in my garden. Should I split and grill them with a lashing of sweet soy sauce or wait until they get bigger and stuff them?

If you have been luckier than I have, or know where to get an armload of the vegetables, you may want to bring a fabulous zucchini dish or two to the Seville Farm Market on Aug. 11. That’s when this year’s Zucchinni Smackdown will take place.

There’s no need to pre-register. Just take your sweet or savory zucchini dish, along with the recipe, to Maria Stanhope Park in Seville by 10 a.m. that Saturday. Please make it good, because I’ll be sampling the entries this year. Prizes will be awarded in three categories: best savory dish, best sweet dish, and biggest zucchini. Get cooking.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Butter-fried eggs with horseradish; cheeseburger patties on romaine leaves with horseradish pickles and a side of grapes; Genghis Khan (grilled Japanese thin-sliced marinated lamb), boiled corn on the cob, sweet potatoes; hummus with jicama dippers; salade Nicoise with gin and tonics; Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail; green beans, ham and potato soup with pistou; chocolate pudding.

What I ate out last week:
Just-picked corn, a gorgeous salad of home-grown lettuces, nasturtiums and other goodies, sliced cucumbers in a luscious creamy dill dressing and home-grown strawberries (!) at the home of friends, who harvested the vegetables and fruit just before we ate. Perfect.

THE MAILBAG
From V.H.:
I made a muffin microwave recipe in five mugs — three solid black, two mostly white, all of them the same size. I lined up the mugs and added all of the ingredients in each and microwaved them separately. The muffins in the white mugs were 1 1/2 inches taller than the ones in the black mugs. I didn’t realize the color of the mug would make such a difference.

Dear V.H.:
I doubt it was the color. The cups may be the same size but not the same thickness or composition. This was a maddening problem for me when writing my book. I finally used just one type of mug — a 12-ounce Fiesta. Then I discovered I had to account for WHERE in the oven I placed the mug. Center placement does not deliver the same cooking power as off-center placement does. And on and on. The bottom line is that microwaving is an inexact science.