May 29, 2019

Dear friends,
I am not exactly dieting, as you can see from my Gut Check below. Last week I ate, among other things, shrimp Louie, stewed warm rhubarb over cold strawberry yogurt, Thai papaya salad and Chinese dim sum. In two weeks I’ve lost five pounds.

How? By eating fresh, really flavorful food and laying off everything else. No more potato chips at 9 p.m. just because Tony found big bags for 99 cents at Dollar General. No more toast with nuggets of Kerry Gold butter and a scattering of sea salt. No more big, juicy hamburgers with fries.

I am doing this for my health, not my looks. That ship has already sailed. Also in the past are the deprivation diets that left me hangry and sad. Not worth it. Instead I am eating just really delicious, mostly healthful food. (Yeah, I had an egg tart at dim sum on Memorial Day. So sue me.)

One of the best dinners I had last week was a cookbook failure. I tried Chinese dry-frying but I didn’t have half the ingredients in the recipe and the sauce wouldn’t reduce and the fish started to fall apart so I just said screw it and plated it.

That fish was awesome — spicy but not too hot, with earthy flavors chiming in from across the Chinese spectrum. There was tingle of ginger, a pow of garlic, notes of soy sauce and sesame oil, a touch of Szechuan chili oil, and sherry to mellow it all out.

If you make the sauce one day and the fish the next, this can be a quick dinner.

SZECHUAN FLAVOR BRAISED COD

1 lb. cod fillets
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sherry
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. Szechuan chili oil
5 scallions
2 tsp. minced ginger
2 tsp. minced garlic

Sauce:
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp. sherry
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sweet soy sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar

To finish:
2 tsp. sesame oil

Pat fish dry. Rub fillets with salt and sherry and set aside. Measure and/or chop remaining ingredients. Combine sauce ingredients in a lidded jar and shake well. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the scallion greens for garnish.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 4 tablespoons vegetable oil and the Szechuan chili oil. Sauté scallions, ginger and garlic for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add fish fillets and cook until bottoms begins to brown.

Pour sauce over fish and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes, spooning sauce over fish occasionally, until fish is cooked through. With a spatula, transfer fish fillets (including the crunchy browned bits on the bottoms) to a small platter. Pour sauce in pan over fish. Drizzle with the sesame oil and garnish with the reserved scallion greens. Serve with steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.

HELP U COOK
Although Chinese dry-frying didn’t work for my fish, I use it frequently for vegetables. The technique is simple: Heat a small amount of oil — say, a tablespoon — in a large skillet. Add the vegetables and seasonings and stir. Then add one-half to three-fourths cup water or broth, clap on the lid and cook over high heat until the liquid evaporates. Uncover and stir again. If the vegetable isn’t done yet, add more liquid and repeat. This allows you to cook vegetables with enough fat to carry the flavor, but not enough fat to constitute frying.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Microwave scrambled egg and ricotta on toast; tomato, shiitake and eggplant sauce over spaghetti squash; warm stewed rhubarb over cold strawberry yogurt; Szechuan braised cod, stir-fried green beans with sesame oil; hamburger patty with sautéed onions and mushrooms; chicken and cabbage soup; fava beans with olive oil and fresh tarragon; shrimp Louie salad with lemon dressing (from a New York Times recipe); Thai ripe papaya chicken salad.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Chicken, bacon and blue cheese chef’s salad from Sam’s; Thai mussels and a cucumber martini at the Merchant Tavern in Akron; hummus and a chicken shawarma bowl at Shawarma Brothers in Cuyahoga Falls; Thai chicken skewers and brussels sprouts salad from Earth Fare; a small cabbage roll at Euro Mart in Uniontown; one-fourth of a ham and cheese sub from Subway; dim sum at Bo Loong in Cleveland (shao mai, a pan-fried dumpling, a pork dumpling, half a steamed pork bun and an egg tart).

THE MAILBAG
From Kristi Perry:
Just a reminder that your favorite little farm market is open now on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Come check out the Seville Farm Market. We are a producer market so everything you purchase will have been grown or made by the vendor. Our market runs through the end of September. Parking is close by and free.

At this time we have strawberries and rhubarb and spinach and lettuce and some baby kale along with bread, English muffins and sweet treats. There are plants, flowers and herbs. I hope to see you soon.

Dear Kristi:
You will indeed see me soon. The Seville Farm Market at Maria Stanhope Park is one of my favorites because prices are generally lower than at the bigger markets, and everything I have bought there has been exceptional (including Kristi’s homemade English muffins). Check it out at sevillefarmmarket.blogspot.com.

From Carol B., Cuyahoga Falls:
I got excited when I saw that you made “pan-grilled bell pepper strips,” but you didn’t give a recipe. I suppose it’s something you just whip up, but I’d love to know whether you seasoned them or added other ingredients. Since I can’t fit into my clothes anymore and I refuse to buy the next size up, I’m trying to minimize meats and maximize veggies in my diet.

Also, are you still happy with the Instant Pot? I’m thinking of getting one, but I’m afraid it will be just one more thing to clutter up my small kitchen.

Dear Carol:
Nah, I hate that Instant Pot. I think I am just technology-averse. Mine is in the basement, used twice.

Regarding the red pepper strips, I just glossed a cast-iron skillet with oil and cooked them over medium-high heat, lid on, until they softened a bit, then seasoned them with chunky sea salt. Nothing special. When three-packs of bell peppers are on sale at Aldi, I snap them up and use them as a side vegetable with dinner.

I sympathize about the tight summer clothes. I let my guard down in France and just kept eating like a lumberjack through fall and winter. Ten pounds later, I joined the Internet diet program, Noom. I’m down 5 pounds in two weeks and eating more mindfully.

From Carrie:
Any chance you will share the recipe for the pineapple mousse pie you made for your brother? I LOVE pineapple! Years ago you shared your mom’s pineapple cookie recipe. I’d love to have this one too.

I was recently reminiscing about Foley’s seafood pasta salad, which was a favorite for a long time. Whoever moved in after Foley’s kept it on the menu for a while (was it Ken Stewart or was someone in there between?) as “Former Owner’s Seafood Pasta Salad.” I would love to have that recipe. Any idea where to find it? Did the Beacon ever print it?

Dear Carrie:
My mother’s pineapple pie recipe has been shared before as Angel Food Pie. I’m glad to reprint it, because it is one of my favorites. It uses raw egg whites, so use pasteurized or be careful where you source them.

As for the salad, a friend who worked for both Foley’s and Ken Stewart’s in Akron (no owner in between), says the Former Owner’s Salad on Ken Stewart’s initial menu was iceberg lettuce topped with ground chipped ham on one half, shredded American cheese on the other half, and a garlic Italian dressing over all. She doesn’t recall a seafood salad. Does anyone else?

MOM’S ANGEL FOOD PIE
2 egg, separated
1 cup drained, crushed pineapple
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. (scant) cornstarch
1 cup cold water or the juice from the pineapple
Dash of salt
1 baked, 9-inch pie shell

Beat egg yolks with a spoon or whisk in a medium saucepan. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, pineapple, water and salt. Cook and stir over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat.

Whip egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into warm pineapple mixture. Spoon into pie crust. Chill.

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