February 20,2019

Dear friends,
Although the thermometer says “summer” here in Florida (the temps are in the 80s this week), the produce says “winter.” Root vegetables are plentiful. Everything else, not so much.

I did get a watermelon that turned out to be from Guatemala and cost $7.50, I discovered at the cash register. Strawberries from Plant City and citrus fruit from nearby groves are in season, but most tender vegetables are not. The tomatoes I find at vegetable markets are as hard and tasteless as those in Ohio supermarkets at this time of year. Maybe that’s due to the type of tomato planted here — thick-walled for bruise-free transport.

Which is why I served carrots last week with my very summery meal of steamed stone crab claws with melted butter. The crab claws, plucked from the water, quick frozen and bought not a half-mile from the source in Everglades City, tasted like the ocean.

The carrots managed to taste summery, too, thanks to a high-voltage lemon dressing. I used equal parts olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

I cut the carrots into batons and cooked them briefly in a lidded skillet with a bit of butter and salt. Most carrot salads feature raw carrots, but I think the vegetable tastes best when heat transforms the starches to sugars. Why butter and not olive oil? Because everything tastes better with butter. I tossed the carrots with the dressing, sliced green onions and grated Parmesan and chilled. The salad was simple but so good I’ll be making it often, no matter what the weather.

COLD LEMON CARROTS

4 or 5 medium carrots cut in batons (1/4- by 2 1/2 inches)
1 tbsp. butter
Salt
2 green onions, sliced
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Place carrots and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When butter melts, swirl to coat the carrots and skillet and sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until almost soft. Transfer to a bowl and toss with green onions, olive oil, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Chill. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Savory chorizo and corn bread pudding in the slow cooker (I burnt it); carrot salad with lemon dressing, steamed stone crab claws with melted butter.

What I ate in/from restaurants, etc.:
Seasoned hamburger patty, cottage cheese, lots of fruit at Pogey’s in Okeechobee; strips of grilled sirloin steak, grilled onions and bell peppers and a bite of refried beans at Pueblo Viejo in Okeechobee; half a ham and provolone sub from Subway; spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, Italian bread and homemade white cake with delicious dripping icing at the Okeechobee Shriners Hall ($8 including karaoke!); a heart-shaped Bavarian doughnut dusted with powdered sugar at Dunkin’ Donuts (my Valentine’s treat); a Cuban sandwich and plantain chips from Mervis’ in Ft. Pierce; a spinach, banana, mango and ginger smoothie at the Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Port St. Lucie; an Indian taco (chili, lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese on fry bread) and a frozen chocolate banana at the Seminole Indian Field Day and Rodeo in Brighton; pulled pork, roast beef, corn bread, lima beans, a brussels sprout, a dab of mashed potatoes and a sugar-free chocolate cookie at Golden Corral in Okeechobee.

THE MAILBAG
From Pat K.:
I am a native Clevelander living in Las Vegas. We moved here a little over a year ago, but before that we lived in Jupiter, Fla., for 14 years. You are so right about there not being any local fresh fish markets. The best way to get fresh fish is to make friends with someone who has a boat! If you ever take a ride to Jupiter, one of my favorite restaurants was the Galley Grill Also a great Cuban restaurant is Copacabana.

In Palm Gardens, there a Mediterranean restaurant called Aladdin where you can get a gyro lunch special for $9.99. I wish I could find something that compares here in Vegas!

Dear Pat:
I have had some awesome food in Vegas, including tins of fresh caviar served on a tavern-sized bar made of ice. Ah, the good old days of expense accounts. Sorry I can’t return the favor with great, reasonably priced Vegas suggestions. I am so glad you wrote, though. I will try some of your Florida favorites. We have already been to Jupiter once and now we will go back.

What’s up with the lack of fish markets? Two other people who live here wrote, agreeing with us on that score.

From Char K.:
Regarding peeling garlic, tell your readers to put a clove or two in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds, depending on the size. The peel will come right off. I think I learned this trick in a microwave class years and years ago. Occasionally the clove will pop and get hot, but put a knife through the end of the clove and the skin comes right off.

Dear Char:
Never heard of this. I tried it and it works! My usual method is to just smash the cloves with the flat side of a knife. That works, too.

From Carol C.:
I just read your recent newsletter and I highly recommend the garlic peeler from Pampered Chef. To me it was worth the dollars. It’s a rubber tube, open on both ends. Drop the cloves in the tube, roll it on a flat surface or between your hands, and skins come right off. The other part of the peeler is a gadget that slices the garlic once peeled. I hated what I paid for it, but for me, who has horrible arthritis in my fingers, it was worth it.

Dear Carol:
Donna G.also recommended this gadget, which costs $22 to $26, according to various websites. That IS steep for a little rubber tube, but I just may buy one. Can anyone think of a hardware-store alternative?

From Argery G.:
I have had a taste for cheesecake lately. I now live in new Jersey not far from New York City. While I have eaten many different types of cheesecake here, nothing is as good as Lou & Hy’s…in particular, the chocolate cheesecake.

My mom gave me a printout that appeared in a blog by the Summit County Historical Society dated 2-16-13 with a recipe referencing you as the source from an Akron Beacon Journal article on 10-15-03 with a recipe for the plain cheesecake. I tried making it and I also added some Baker’s chocolate another time for a chocolate version. It was good, but the cake wasn’t as dense as I remember. I think the whipping cream was too loose as the cake is a little too loose even after refrigeration. The recipe didn’t specify it but I added the confectioners’ sugar to the whipping cream. I baked it in a water bath but the top still cracked. I was using a 10-inch springform pan and I baked it at 325 degrees for about an hour.

Do you recall this article? I’m wondering if you have any updates on the recipe that was originally posted.

Dear Argery:
The former chef of Lou & Hy’s gave me the recipe after he retired and that’s the one I printed in 2003. It makes way more than one cheesecake. I cut down the recipe for my cookbook, “Jane Snow Cooks,” but unfortunately I did not bring a copy with me to Florida and the digital copy is on a computer at home.

I do know that the cheesecake is baked for more than two hours, not one hour, so I’m not sure that the recipe you referenced is correct. Here is the original recipe, straight from Tage Hojefeldt, the late chef. Be careful to not over beat the batter, which will produce an airy rather than a dense cake.

When I tested the recipe, I baked it in three graduated springform pans, the kind sold in a set. I baked the cakes directly on the oven rack, not in a boiling water bath. The key to producing a cheesecake that doesn’t crack is to bake it until it is mostly but not quite set. The center should still jiggle. It will firm up as it cools.

LOU & HY’S CHEESECAKE
Crust:
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
10 tbsp. melted butter

Cakes:
8 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
2 3/4cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pint (2 cups) sour cream
9 eggs
2 half-pint containers whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Cherry, blueberry or pineapple pie filling
Whipped cream if desired

For the crust: Stir and toss crumbs with melted butter. Press equal amounts into the bottoms of four 8- or 8 1/2-inch-round springform pans, or a 9 1/2-, 8 1/2- and 7 1/2-inch pans. Set aside.

For the cake: In a 5-quart mixer bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly beat in flour, then sugar. Add salt and sour cream and beat until smooth, scraping down sides occasionally with a rubber spatula.

Add eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until egg is incorporated. Bowl will be very full. Turn off mixer. Scrape bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until batter is uniformly mixed.

In a very large bowl, beat whipping cream until slightly thickened. While beating, slowly add sugar, vanilla and lemon juice until soft peaks form.

Pour one-fourth of the cream cheese mixture into the bowl with the whipped cream and fold until incorporated. Add half of remaining batter and fold again, then fold in remaining batter.

Pour over crusts in springform pans. Place in a boiling water bath and bake in a preheated, 325-degree oven for about 2 1/2 hours; or place pans directly on oven shelves and bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven until cheesecakes are almost set. To test for doneness, gently shake pans. The cheesecakes should still wiggle slightly in the centers. Without the water bath, baking time will be about 40 minutes for a 7 1/2-inch cake, 50 minutes for an 8- to 8 1/2-inch cake, and 60 minutes for a 9 1/2-inch cake.

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Before serving, run a sharp knife between the cake and sides of the pan. Release the clamp, spread the sides and lift the sides off the cake. Top with pie filling and decorate with whipped cream, if desired.

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