December 28, 2018

Dear friends,
First came the Vietnamese noodle soup, pho. Then came the Japanese noodle soup, ramen. The two Asian soup trends steamrolled across the country, leaving pho and ramen restaurants in their wake. Except in the Akron-Canton area, where restaurants devoted to the slurpy, soul-warming ramen are scarce.

Oh, sure, you can find bowls of ersatz ramen on restaurant menus, but no restaurants devoted to the stuff until now. Ramen Katsu, a sister restaurant to my husband’s former restaurant, Sushi Katsu in Akron, has opened in Green with a menu absolutely brimming with ramen. There’s miso ramen, shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, vegetarian ramen and build-your-own ramen. A tiny problem: the broth is too sweet for my taste. The toppings and noodles are stellar, though.

But before you get to the main part of the menu, zero in on the appetizers — specifically, a version of edamame that is worth the trip alone. The green soy beans are usually served in their pods, salted and steamed. Diners peel off and discard the pods and eat the tender beans. At Ramen Katsu, you’ll want to linger over the pods awhile before discarding them. That’s because the pods are seasoned with plenty of chopped garlic, sesame seeds, chili pepper flakes and salt. Getting to the beans inside is a delicious journey.

The pods at Ramen Katsu are almost tender enough to eat, and I did chew on a few of them although they’re meant to be discarded. Either way, you’ll get enough of the seasoning to make your mouth sing.

I think the restaurant uses a homemade seasoning mixture with chili flakes. I used a more traditional Japanese seasoning called “shichimi togarashi,” which is a number of ground dried chili peppers mixed with other seasonings such as dried seaweed, black pepper and dried orange peel. It is sold in little shaker bottles in Asian food stores. I also added white sesame seeds, salt, Chinese chili oil and of course, garlic. Here’s my version:

SPICY GARLIC EDAMAME

1 package (12 oz.) frozen edamame (in their pods)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 heaping tablespoon)
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp. shichimi togarashi (available in Asian stores)
1 tsp. coarse salt (sea or kosher)
1 tsp. Chinese chili oil

Remove frozen edamame from wrapping and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for about 3 1/2 minutes, or until the beans are warm and completely thawed.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add oil. When oil is hot, stir in garlic, sesame seeds, togarashi and salt. Cook and stir until garlic is golden and mixture is fragrant. Add beans and continue to cook, scooping and stirring, for 1 minute or until beans, oil and spices are thoroughly mixed.

Pour into a bowl and drizzle with chili oil, adding more or less to taste. Toss again and serve. Makes 3 to 4 servings (or 1 if you’re Tony).

Here’s a bonus recipe for a cookie so good I made it twice this month.

ORANGE BUTTER COOKIES

1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ⅔ cups cake flour or more all-purpose flour (cake flour gives a finer texture)
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 packed tsp. freshly grated orange zest
1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

FOR THE ICING (Jane’s version):
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 orange

Position two oven racks in top and bottom third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk flours, baking soda and salt together. In a mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and orange zest at medium speed until light and smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of bowl frequently. Add egg and mix. Add one egg yolk and mix. Add remaining egg yolk and mix. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment, leaving about an inch between cookies. Press each one down lightly with 2 fingers to flatten to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Leave any ridges and valleys on top of cookie intact, but smooth the edges.

Bake about 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through. Cookies should be pale but baked all the way through. Cool. From Julia Moskin in the New York Times.

For the icing: Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl. Grate the zest of the orange (just the colored part) into the bowl. Juice the orange and stir in 3 tablespoons until smooth. Add more juice if necessary to make a thin icing that slowly drips from a spoon. When cookies are cool, dip the tops of the cookies in the icing. Set aside to dry. Store in lidded containers at room temperature or freeze.

TIDBITS
Cookbooks I want to buy, from the Chicago Tribune’s annual best cookbooks books list:
• “The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes” by James Briscione with Brook Parkhurst. This is no ordinary book about flavor mashups. IBM’s Watson supercomputer was used to compare chemical compounds in various foods and match ingredients that have similar traits — green beans with pineapple and olives with chocolate, for example. This is exciting stuff for a recipe developer.

• “Dorie’s Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan. This book, filled with luscious cookie recipes (the chocolatey World Peace Cookie is already famous) from the inimitable Greenspan, won the James Beard Award for Best Baking and Dessert Book this year.

• “The Adventures of Fat Rice” features 100 recipes from the “cult favorite” Chicago restaurant Fat Rice. I can’t wait to try Macau-inspired dishes such as minchi, a Macau meat hash, and Po Kok Gai, a Portuguese-Chinese mashup chicken curry with olives. This is flavorful cooking with an exclamation point.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Mexican eggnog; scrambled egg whites and avocado on toast; potato and spinach soup; pot roast with wine and thyme, sautéed cauliflower rice with vegetables; pancakes, bacon and eggs; pickled eggs; homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons; mini microwave fruitcakes soaked in Grand Marnier; potato salad; no-knead bread; truffled risotto with pan-grilled shrimp and an antipasto platter; potato salad.

What I ate out last week:
A hamburger slider with onions from Hamburger Station in Akron; a California roll from Sushi Katsu in Akron; a pickle dog (beef hot dog with mustard, onion and grilled dill pickle spear) from the Stray Dog Cafe in Akron.

THE MAILBAG
From Beth B.:
Re: West Point Market alternative — I really like the Miles Farmers Market on Miles Road in Solon. Superior produce, great meat, pretty decent baked goods and prepared foods (not as nice as West Point Market, though), and lots of specialty items. I try to go there every time I’m up on the East Side for an appointment or errand. The Heinen’s stores in Hudson and especially in Brecksville are pretty swell, too. Wish I hadn’t donated my West Point cookbook during one of my purges.

Dear Beth:
Regretfully, I can’t find mine, either. I’m sure the University of Akron Press would be pleased to sell us copies. The Bookseller in Wallhaven probably has some used ones available, too.

From Jane S.:
You have to try coquito. It is a coconut version of a type of eggnog using cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and 151 rum. Generally it is made at home and is served in small glasses. There are several recipes on the internet and youtube. Ask any Puerto Rican friend about it.

Dear Jane:
Coconut cream AND sweetened condensed milk? Maybe I should just glug a bottle of Karo. Anyway, coquito sounds wonderful to this coconut lover, although far too sweet for me to try. Others may want to give it a go, though.

From Amy:
Are you sure your killer brownie recipe is correct? Both the West Point cookbook and the Beacon Journal say 2/3 cup evaporated milk.

Dear Amy:
The reader who questioned the cookbook and Beacon Journal recipe said the batter was so soupy it would not firm up. That is why I offered MY version, created before the cookbook came out and given to me in pieces-parts by the Vernons. I am sure my recipe works. Russ Vernon told me, in an interview promoting the book, that he didn’t want to give away TOO many secrets. Maybe the correct brownie recipe was one of them. Can anyone else comment on the Killer Brownie recipe in the “West Point Market Cookbook?”

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