October 16, 2019

Dear friends,
It started with a mesh bag of ginger Tony found two weeks ago at Tink Holl Asian store in Cleveland. He held it up. I shook my head no. What would we do with a whole pound of ginger?

“But it’s only $1.50,” he pointed out.

Thus began out ginger fest. I put it in soups and stir frys. I sprinkled some on roast Delicata squash. The stash slowly dwindled. We still have slightly more than a half pound left, but I have a feeling a lot of that will get used in Mongolian beef sauce. Last weekend I made a batch of the sauce, marinated some beef ribs in half and used the rest as a glaze after grilling. Holy cow! Mongolian barbecued beef ribs!

Tony couldn’t get enough of them. Could I make more of the sauce, he asked, as he scraped the last spoonful from the pan into a custard cup. What did he plan to do with it? “This would taste good on anything,” he said.

I slathered the sauce on beef ribs because I wanted to riff on that Chinese restaurant staple, Mongolian beef. I found beef ribs in the new Meijer’s store in Stow, which I checked out for the first time last week. If you can’t find beef ribs, the sauce would taste just as good on pork ribs.

Mongolian beef stir fry, by the way, is probably an American invention. i couldn’t find a mention of it in any of my serious Chinese cookbooks, nor in an Internet search for foods of Mongolia. And anyway, the meat would probably be mutton in Mongolia, not beef.

No matter. Enterprising Chinese restaurant chefs in America came up with a winner when they combined soy sauce, brown sugar, plenty of garlic and lots of ginger to make the flavorful, sweet sauce. I added lemon juice to balance out the sugar a bit and amped the flavor with a splash of sherry.

The sauce recipe may be doubled or tripled and kept on hand to brush on….well, anything.


1 tbsp. chopped ginger
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. sherry
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 lbs. beef ribs
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. cornstarch

At least two hours before you plan to cook, in a very small saucepan, combine ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, soy sauce, water, sherry, lemon juice and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let steep at room temperature for at least an hour.

Place ribs in a large zipper-lock plastic bag. Pour half of the soy sauce mixture over the ribs and squish to distribute evenly. Seal bag, refrigerate and marinate for 45 minutes, turning once.

Drain ribs, discarding marinade. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and place on a rack to air dry for 15 minutes at room temperature. Build a medium fire in a charcoal or gas grill, or use an indoor electric grill, as I did.

While grill heats and ribs dry, heat remaining soy sauce mixture over medium heat. Place the 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl and stir in enough of the soy sauce mixture to produce a smooth slurry. When sauce in pan comes to a simmer, add cornstarch slurry, stirring rapidly until the sauce is smooth and thick. Set aside.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup cornstarch in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Roll the ribs in the cornstarch and tap off the excess. Grill over medium heat until the ribs are brown on all sides. You may have to press parts of the ribs into the grill. The cornstarch coating must come in contact with the grill to brown.

Remove ribs from direct heat (or turn to low heat if using electric), cover the grill and continue cooking until the ribs are done. This should take about 10 minutes, depending on desired degree of doneness.

Transfer meat to a platter and liberally brush all over with the thickened sauce. Serves 2 to 3.

Wunderbar pickles
It’s Oktoberfest month at Aldi’s, which is a big deal for the German food retailer. For shoppers, too. The shelves are stocked with imported German goods that appear just once a year.

My favorite German Style Pickles are back, and I missed them so much I bought several jars. The pickles are slightly sweet and slightly spicy. Another find this month is jars of cornichons — the tiny pickles served with pate — at a laughably low price ($1.50 a jar). I bought four jars for hostess gifts.

Have you found anything great in stores this month?

Freekeh, bleh!
I finally checked out Meijer’s in Stow, primarily to buy some freekeh. I have been intrigued by descriptions of the Middle Eastern grain, which is green wheat whose bran has been burned off, imparting a smoky flavor.

Maybe I cooked it wrong. I followed the basic instructions on the box of Bob’s Red Mill and produced a pot of beige grain so bland Tony and I couldn’t eat it (the dog loved it, though).

Does anyone have tips for making this stuff taste better? I’m open to suggestions.

Meijer’s seemed to me like just another mega Wal-mart. Am I missing something?

What I cooked last week:
Sheet pan Moroccan chicken tenders with pomegranate molasses in a bowl of freekeh, sautéed kale and roast vegetables; creamy coconut-lime cauliflower soup with peanut-chile crumble; pan-seared shrimp with Criollo mojo marinade; grilled Mongolian beef ribs and roast Delicata squash; whole tandoori chicken roasted with carrots and peppers and chopped salad.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Half of a raisin pink-ribbon bagel at Panera.

From Ron C.:
On your corn meal mush with sausage: Back home in the Altoona, Pa., area and farther east we call that “scrapple.” Yummy. Good with maple syrup.

Dear Ron:
My paternal grandfather, who was from Newcastle, Pa., made scrapple but I seem to remember it had objectionable pig parts in it. I was never brave enough to taste it. I WOULD like to taste goetta, that fried oatmeal and sausage loaf that’s popular in Cincinnati. Anyone know where I can find it around here?

From Stephanie:
I see you like Delicata squash. Where do you buy them in this area?

Dear Stephanie:
I bought a couple at Dunkler’s Farm Market in Copley. I also saw them at Mustard Seed Market. Check farm markets and upscale food stores.

From Marlene H.:
We had fried mush growing up, too. It was a family favorite. Our dilemma was we loved it two ways (both ways even for dinner): 1. Swimming in maple syrup. 2. Smothered in Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce. Sometimes we’d have a plate of each. Thanks for reviving delicious memories!

Dear Marlene:
I never thought of having it with spaghetti sauce, although I do that with its cousin, polenta. Great idea. Maybe a sprinkling of Parmesan, too.

From Dorothy T.:
What fond memories of corn meal mush! Whatever would not fit in the bread pan, we would eat right away like cream of wheat while it was still hot, with lots of butter and maple syrup. The next morning my mother would slice it, dust it with flour and fry it in bacon fat. Again, we would have it with maple syrup. I am definitely making it this weekend. Thanks for the memories.

Dear Dorothy:
I wonder what today’s children will remember from their childhood dinner tables. I hope enough family recipes are slipped in among the taco nights and carryout pizza to keep the thread of memories going.

From Deb B.:
Another Noomer here! I love it and it works. Glad it works for you, too.

Dear Deb:
I got messages from both fellow Noom subscribers and those who want to sign up after I wrote about the diet plan. One reader pointed out that new members get 20 percent off the price if given a code by the user who recommended it. I checked it out and sent a code. If anyone else wants the discount, please email me.

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