November 14, 2018

Dear friends,
I saw a bumper sticker last week that I have GOT to get. It said, “I used to be cool.” In truth, though, cool was never my style. I’ve always been one beat too early or too late.

I first visited New York City in the early 70s, when it was horrifyingly filthy and Times Square was a sea of sex shops. Not cool.

I knew South Beach in Miami Beach as an ultra-cheap place to stay while on union business until it was slowly transformed into an ultra-hip location for fashion shoots. By the time my $60 room at the Edison Hotel soared to $250 a night, I was gone.

On the other hand, remember the fascination with Tuscany, which was ragingly hip in the 1990s. I finally got there in 2000.

The only good thing about this trend is that I still hold out hope of getting my hands on a cronut.

With food, I’ve usually been ahead of the curve. I had to be a trend-sniffer in my job, and it was easy when word of almost every new cookbook, menu item and grocery store product landed on my desk.

People are still discovering warm goat cheese salads, for example. I see it on restaurant menus and in magazine food features. I printed a recipe for Alice Waters’ original version in about 1985.The salad is one of the few dishes I didn’t passionately embrace and then discard. It shows up on menus today because it is still cool.

It is also delicious, with just the right heft to ease you into a multi-course dinner. I made the salad for my brother and his wife on Sunday, followed by roast beef with sour cream gravy and my perennially cool sugar-free pumpkin pie for dessert.

Classically, the salad is a lush plate of baby greens centered with a marinated, crumbed disk of goat cheese that has been baked just until it begins to slump. Crisp, thin croutes are served alongside. The warm cheese is spread on the croutes and eaten in rich, alternating bites with the palate-cleansing greens.

Of course, I updated the recipe. From laziness (and because it never seemed to matter), I skipped marinating the inch-thick disks of cheese. I didn’t roll them in crumbs, either. Nor did I dress the greens with French vinaigrette. I subbed a lip-smacking caramelized apple vinaigrette that was as good as it sounds, and scattered toasted walnuts and crumbled bacon over the greens. The vinaigrette was a happy discovery in “The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2” by Amanda Hesser.

Like the classic warm goat cheese salad, my autumn version is timeless. Still, if I see it on a restaurant menu in 10 years, I’ll scream.


6 cups mixed baby salad greens
1/2 of a French baguette, sliced thin
4 1-inch-thick rounds of chèvre cheese, about 6 oz.
Caramelized apple vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 strips crisp bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces

Gently wash greens, roll up in a clean kitchen towel and return to refrigerator.
Spread both sides of bread slices with a scant amount of butter. Place on a baking sheet and toast in a 400-degree oven until edges begin to brown and bread is hard. Remove from oven and set aside.

Place cheese rounds on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Bake at 400 degrees just until cheese starts to slump, 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer greens to a medium-sized bowl and toss with just enough of the dressing to gloss the leaves. Divide among four salad plates. With a thin spatula, transfer cheese rounds from the baking sheet to the center of each plate of greens. Scatter bacon and walnut pieces over salads. Place 3 or 4 baguette croutes on each plate. Makes 4 salads.

(From “The Food52 Cookbook, Volume II”)
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Gala apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup canola oil

Combine ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and the brown sugar in a small skillet and cook over medium heat. Stir and cook until the mixture turns a dark caramel color and begins to thicken. You will start to see big foamy bubbles on the surface. Add the apples and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and put in a blender, along with the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, the thyme, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Whoosh until blended. Then, with the motor running, slowly add the oil, blending until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and season with salt and perhaps a splash more vinegar. Refrigerate unused dressing.

What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled strip steaks with crushed pepper, butter-roasted baby potato halves, roasted dumpling squash wedges dusted with Parmesan; Szechuan stir fry with tofu, green beans, carrots, bell pepper and scallions over rice; roast chicken thighs withTony’s homemade hot sauce, roast baby potatoes, sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic; warm goat cheese salad, roast beef with sour cream gravy, mashed potatoes, baked butternut squash chunks with dried cranberries and butter, sugar-free pumpkin pies.

What I ate in/from restaurants this week:
A grilled Thanksgiving sandwich of turkey, munster cheese, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pureed butternut squash at Melt in the Montrose area of Bath Township; crispy chicken and bacon salad with warm pita wedges at Alexandris in Wadsworth; pineapple and ham pizza from Rizzi’s in Copley; Greek souvlaki (marinated pork skewers), rice pilaf, coleslaw and half of a pumpkin cookie at Farmer Boy Restaurant in Springfield Township.

From Beth B.:
Brimfield Bread Oven (mentioned last week) also has a stand at the new Countryside Public Market in the Northside Lofts building on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. I’ve enjoyed traveling vicariously with you through France!

Dear Beth:
Thanks. That’s just the push I need to check out the new Akron farmers’ market. More information can be found at

From Pennie:
Regarding grits/polenta, they are some of my favorite foods. I have had much success with reheating solidified grits and polenta in the microwave. Amazingly, the original texture comes back. One of my current favorite restaurant dishes is the three ginormous meatballs on a bed of cheese polenta at Bravo! in Summit Mall in Fairlawn. Because eating that would use up pretty much my whole day’s calorie allowance, I just have half and bring the rest home for later. Reheats beautifully.

Regarding Stouffer’s restaurants, I have fond memories a homecoming dinner at Top of the Town in the new Erieview Plaza on East Ninth Street in Cleveland, near where the Galleria is today. The wind and rain dragged us by our umbrellas across that large, open plaza. Later, when I worked in downtown Cleveland, the restaurant was a spot for a very special occasion. Stouffer had another location in the same office building — a bustling basement cafeteria with good-quality, reasonably priced food.

When I moved to Richfield, one of the most beautiful spots was the Stouffer farm at the corner of Broadview (Wheatley Road) and Brecksville Road.This was where the family lived and made their butter. The view from the farmhouse was as idyllic as the picture on the menu you posted. Overlooking the Cuyahoga Valley, there were apple orchards, a picturesque lake and a barn. The orchards are now overgrown, the buildings are gone and the property is now filled with a large office park. The sweeping view of the valley remains. I could never understand why Stouffer didn’t preserve it, as something like Bob Evans’ Farm in southern Ohio.

Ah, well. Thanks for the memories.

Dear Pennie:
No, thank you.

From Dorothy:
Years ago I worked in the Federal Building in downtown Cleveland. We would go to Stouffer’s in Erieview for special birthdays, etc. It had good food and atmosphere. Also, about 65 years ago my sister-in-law and husband had a small wedding dinner at Stouffer’s on the Square. The service and food were very good. I miss Stouffer’s restaurants.

Dear Dorothy:
Thanks for sharing your memories of an era long gone.

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