February 25, 2020

Dear friends,
I don’t know what happened last week. I got tropical fever or something and my intentions wilted. I barely turned on the stove.

Oh, I still ate well. I had a fabulous brisket-and-apple hash breakfast at an almost 70-year-old diner in Jupiter, Fla. I found the seafood restaurant of my dreams, a dressed-down place with eight tables, super-fresh local seafood and a line out the door in Port Salerno. And the Greek church next to my campground in Hobe Sound pitched a couple of big white tents, tuned up the balalaikas and dished up a smorgasbord of homemade Greek food at its annual festival. Tony and I partook.

The slow-simmered Greek lamb shanks were a treat on a rainy night in Florida. They would be a treat on a cool evening anywhere. Braised lamb shanks are a common Greek dish, although the style varies. Some have a lemon-wine underpinning; some a tomato base. The local church went with the latter.

I found this recipe that is very similar to the shank Tony and I enjoyed. Cooking it will fill your house with cozy aromas. I promise to fill my camper with delicious aromas of some sort this week, but I need inspiration. What have you cooked lately?


2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt, pepper
3 tbsp. flour
2 lamb shanks, fat trimmed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup water
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
3 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. While the oil heats, season the lamb with salt and pepper and sprinkle with flour, dusting evenly. Brown shanks on all sides in the hot oil. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the water and stir, scraping browned bits from bottom of the pan.

Return the shanks to the pan. Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, cinnamon, allspice, oregano, and thyme. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour or longer, until the meat is very tender. Check the lamb often to make sure the edges and bottom of the pan are not burning., adding more water if necessary Sprinkle with the parsley just before serving. Makes 2 servings.

Adapted from greekboston.com.

I almost snorted my coffee through my nose when I stumbled across a parody in The New Yorker of a food newsletter I get every week.

The article, “What Not To Cook This Week,” is a hilarious spoof of the New York Times’ newsletter, “What To Cook This Week.” In the original, the Times’ Food Editor Sam Sifton suggests meals made with the Times’ recipes both old and new. In the spoof, not so much. Max Cohn writes, in part:

“Seven-Pot Garlic Spaghetti With Anchovy-Lime Breadcrumbs
This ‘simple’ dish requires you to use more pieces of large cookware than you actually own,” Cohn cautions before continuing with the “recipe,” and

“Spatchcocked Micro-Pheasant Avec Creme Monet
You know only 18 percent of the words in this recipe.”

The list goes on.

Somehow, Cohn caught the cadence if not the substance of Sifton’s writing. I’m actually a big fan of the New York Times Food section and Sifton, who manages to keep the section relevant and exciting in this age of instant-Google recipe gratification. And I do not find his weekly newsletter at all precious. Still, the New Yorker’s takeoff is gut-busting.

Both the New Yorker and the Times are touchy about allowing non-subscribers a peak at their brilliance, but you may be able to access the parody here: https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/what-not-to-cook-this-week.

What I cooked last week:
Chicken and cheese quesadillas.

What I ate in/from restaurants, etc.:
Grilled grouper over a salad with pears, jicama and a ginger-coconut dressing at Moir’s Food Shack in Jupiter, Fla.; a gordita with chicken and black beans from Taqueria Solavino taco truck in Hobe Sound; a Cuban sandwich, sweet plantains and cafe con leche from Wow Cuban Cafe in Hobe Sound; chicken tacos from Taqueria Solavino taco truck in Hobe Sound; conch fritters, steamed clams in a spicy broth and a Bud Light at King Neptune in Port Salerno; barbecued ribs, slow-cooked marinated chicken quarters and fresh corn tortillas from Gallo de Oro Tortilleria in Stuart; brisket, apple and chile hash with eggs over easy, toast and coffee at the Olde Lighthouse Diner in Jupiter; braised lamb shank, rice pilaf, green beans and moussaka at a Greek church festival in Hobe Sound; various dribs and drabs at Tony favorite restaurant, Mikata Buffet in Stuart.

From Pennie:
What’s up with bone broth? I thought all broth was made with bones. At least, the stuff my mom made was. What is the difference between bone broth and broth?

Dear Pennie:
The difference is time. Regular meat broth is simmered on the bones for a couple of hours, maybe slightly more. Bone broth is simmered for 12 to 24 hours to leach the minerals from the bones. It contains more nutrients than regular broth. More flavor, too.

February 19, 2020

Dear friends,
In the back of a pickup by the side of the road were two big coolers filled with ice and shrimp. Tony and I had been eyeing the setup for a couple of weekends, after spotting the sign: “Gulf shrimp. $12 a pound.”

A woman in rubber gloves fished out a couple of handfuls of the large beauties, shell-clad and with their heads still on — a pretty good clue that the shrimp were fresh. They were also wild, several rungs up the flavor ladder from the pasty farm-raised crustaceans most of us are used to.

Even before the shrimp made it to our fridge, I was plotting ways to use them. Ultimately I decided to make old-school shrimp scampi but with couscous for heft and wilted fresh arugula from the pot flourishing on my porch. I know you probably don’t have street-corner shrimp vendors or pots of arugula ready for plucking, but this is shrimp season in stores, too, and spinach is a good stand-in for the arugula.

My shrimp scampi couscous takes almost no time to make (about 15 minutes after you peel the shrimp and cook the couscous). Buy shell-on shrimp because they are more flavorful.

This recipe made just enough for Tony and I to split 60/40. Tony ate the lion’s share, then later wolfed down two brioche buns smeared with butter. So if you are a really big eater, you might want to double this. Then again, we don’t call Tony “The Anaconda” for nothing.


1 cup pearl couscous
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. minced onion
1 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp. butter
3/4 lb. large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups packed arugula or spinach, washed
Coarse sea salt

Cook couscous according to package directions and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic and onion until softened. Add wine, raise heat to high and boil until reduced by half. Add butter and stir until melted. Add shrimp and cook 30 seconds, turn with tongs and cook 30 seconds longer.

Add arugula and fold until it starts to wilt. Divide among two plates for entrees or four plates for starters. Sprinkle each portion with coarse salt before serving. Eat with large spoons.

Note: Often I skip deveining shrimp, but the flavors here are delicate enough to warrant removing the vein. And in this dish, I like the way the shrimp curl after deveining.

What I cooked last week:
A grilled hamburger on a brioche roll with mustard and onions, and sliced tomato with Kewpie mayonnaise and fresh basil; sliced tomatoes with basil, Kewpie mayo and Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning (Tony’s purchase); sizzled ham, melted mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwiches on brioche; tomahawk rib steak, chopped salad, baguette and a Dreaming Tree pinot noir.

What I ate in/from restaurants, etc.:
California roll, beef in puff pastry, a buffalo chicken wing, a fried sugar doughnut, pineapple and melon at Mikata Buffet in Stuart; a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich, slaw and fries with iced tea at the Lazy Loggerhead in Jupiter; a steak and chorizo quesadilla from the Taqueria Solavino taco truck in Hobe Sound; cafe con leche and chicken croquettes from Wow Cuban Cafe in Hobe Sound; a detox smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe; eight oysters on the half shell, a baked stuffed oyster, steamed crawfish, beef in puff pastry and a couple of bites of cheesecake at Mikata Buffet; Jamaican meat pie and lentil soup from the Jupiter El Sol Farmers’ Market.


From Amy G.:
I use cake mixes a lot and when they changed the size I also noticed that my recipes weren’t turning out the same. I called Duncan Hines and they just sent me a bunch of free coupons. I figured out that if I bought two cake mixes of the same kind and added exactly five tablespoons of extra cake mix to one of them, all my recipes were fine again. Then you store the leftover cake mix for future use. I’m thinking that most of the recipes posted use the old size of cake mix. Just a guess. Duncan Hines did tell me that my recipes should be the same with the decrease in size. Not true. Hope this helps.

Dear Amy:
That is about as good an answer to the shrinking cake mix problem as we will get. Thank you for taking the time to help.

From Jill N.:
Do you ever use butter powder? I was given some this past week. As I read about it I am hearing it is very flavorful. I buy my butter from Hartzler Dairy out of Wooster. Just wanted to hear from someone who actually used it.

I grew up next to my granddad’s farm and when he stopped milking, my parents started buying that homogenized stuff. I stopped drinking milk. I do get some a few times a year when we visit some friends that still have milking cows for their family. But I don’t like the taste of the milk you buy at the stores today.

Dear Jill:
Until you wrote, I had never heard of butter powder. If it is indeed flavorful, I will buy some and skip the butterfat. Please let me know. Does anyone else want to chime in?

Your note about raw vs. pasteurized milk took me back to my childhood, when my family visited friends who owned a farm. My brother and I were (and still are) milk lovers, so the woman gave us big glasses of milk fresh from the cow. It freaked me out. While I knew milk came from cows, that glass of fresh milk put too fine a point on it. City kids.

From Bill:
Do any of your Cuban places that you try to visit make a dessert that has flan on the top and a coffee-flavored chocolate cake on the bottom? We had this delight in the Tampa area with a caramel syrup, house-made vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream doots.

Dear Bill:
Really? Really? You are killing me. I want it now and will scour Florida until I find it. And I will feel awful after I eat it because I gave up sugar, remember?

From Chris O.:
Your question about what to do with cacao nibs reminded me of a chocolate seminar I went to in 2013 at a preventative medicine practice. The handout I got tells you everything you ever wanted to know, and more, about cacao and nibs. I forgot about grinding nibs in with my coffee. Gotta try that one. Here’s the gist of the cacao nibs info:

“Raw cacao nibs are what is found if you crack open a raw cacao bean. They have a pleasant strong, dark, bitter chocolate flavor. Sprinkle them over breakfast cereal, grind them into a powder using a coffee grinder, mix them with goji berries and raisins for a trail mix or blend them into smoothies. Grind with coffee beans in making coffee.”

From William B.:
If I could afford cocoa nibs, I would make a white chocolate fudge and stir the nibs in like nuts. I might also add chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans to it, too — as a surprise.

From Chris R.:
I LOVE the added crunch of cocoa nibs in my favorite chocolate chip cookies. My son adds nibs to his smoothies.

Dear readers:
Thanks for all of the suggestions. About 10 years ago, a chocolate company sent me an unbranded packet of nibs and asked me to let them know if I figured out a use for them. I was busy and didn’t get around to it. Better late than never, eh?

February 12, 2020

Dear friends,
I hope you are well. I hope you are warm. My wish for all of you this week is to feel like a million bucks while digging your toes into sand on a beach somewhere. Sadly, that is not the case for many of my friends, who share snapshots of ice-encrusted lawn ornaments and report everything from the sniffles to the flu.

I can’t cure what ails you but I can offer comfort in the form of a steaming mug of broth infused with ginger and tangerine. This is a chicken soup you can make in minutes, even if you’re too ill to make chicken soup. It’s a snap.

Have someone bring you some fresh ginger, a tangerine or orange, and a carton of bone broth. If you’re feeling chipper you could make your own chicken bone broth in a slow cooker with these instructions: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/275943/slow-cooker-chicken-bone-broth/. If not, do not despair. In the last year or two just about every broth manufacturer has rushed to market with its own brand of bone broth — at a premium price, but still.

Heat the broth. Cut an inch of fresh ginger root into thin slices. Add it to the simmering broth with strips of the tangerine peel. Simmer for 10 minutes. Squeeze the juice from that tangerine and add it to the broth. Steep it for 10 more minutes. Discard the peel and slices of ginger. Ladle it into a mug. Ahhhh.


32 oz. chicken bone broth, from a carton or homemade
A 1-inch piece of ginger root
1 medium tangerine or orange

Begin heating broth in a small saucepan. Peel ginger and cut into thin slices. Add to the broth. Cut zest from half of the tangerine or orange in strips with a sharp vegetable peeler. Be careful to leave behind the bitter white pith. Add zest to broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer very gently for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, juice the tangerine or orange, straining out pulp and seeds. You should have about 1/3 to 1/2 cup. After 10 minutes, remove broth from heat, stir in juice and let it steep, covered, for 10 minutes longer.

With a slotted spoon or long-handled strainer, remove zest strips and slices of ginger. Ladle broth into mugs. Makes 4 cups.

My friend, Linda Amstutz, has written a charming book I hope you’ll read. We bonded more than a dozen years ago over shared interests in food and writing. We formed a writers’ group together to work on our books. I abandoned mine. She just published hers, “The Bicycle Messenger,” available on Amazon.

The novel is a page-turner about children of the French resistance during World War II. It is set in the south of France, where Linda now lives. The tale switches between 1941 and 1995. There is danger, intrigue involving a valuable work of art, and a romance between the narrator — an annual visitor to France, like Linda used to be — and one of the boys, now grown.

What may interest my newsletter readers, besides the well-told tale, is Linda’s irresistible descriptions of French meals, snacks and cocktail tidbits. This woman loves the food of France, and it shows.

Here’s a tiny taste: “Each of us took a plate, Jean put a slice of cheese, half a fig and a few nuts on them and poured some of the dark tawny-colored fortified wine in each glass. Without further conversation we sipped and tasted and almost as one we sighed — such an elegant combination of flavors and textures.”

Linda is the friend Tony and I visited in September 2018 in southwestern France. The meals at her home were unforgettable. For me, reading her book was like talking to a friend. Don’t try it on an empty stomach, though.

The hot sauce I mentioned in last week’s recipe is Cholula, not Chalula, my friend, Martha, points out. And the seafood restaurant in Hobe Sound, Fla., I’ve been frequenting is the Catfish House, not Crawfish House. Sorry for the errors.

What I cooked last week:
Charcoal-grilled fresh mackerel with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano; conch salad (Tony’s creation) and tortilla chips; charcoal-grilled skirt steak with Mongolian barbecue sauce, steamed rice and fried plantains.

What I ate in/from restaurants, etc.:
Indochina Noodles (spicy dish of wide noodles, ground beef, tomato, vegetables) at Krua Thai in Stuart, Fla.; chicken salad sandwiches, chips and cookies aboard a pontoon boat on an Indian River wildlife tour; a hotdog with mustard, onion and relish from Mr. Grumpy’s hotdog cart in Okeechobee; shrimp ceviche from Green Apple Produce in Hobe Sound; picadillo, red beans and rice, fried plantains and cafe con leche at Wow Cuban Cafe; edamame, deep-fried tofu with a soy-based sauce and chicken yakitori at Fugu Tei Japanese Restaurant in Hobe Sound (not great); coleslaw and a medium-rare hamburger with mustard, onion and tomato at Taste Casual Dining in Hobe Sound; a chorizo taco with grilled onions, cilantro and lime from Taqueria Solavino taco truck in Hobe Sound.


From Jenny K.:
Perhaps you or one of readers can help me solve this problem.

Once in a while I use a cake mix as a base for a recipe, usually changing it up in some way. Sometimes on the internet recipes the size of the cake mix is not mentioned. Is there a way to tell from the amounts of the other other ingredients listed whether the size is the “old” 18.25 oz. or the reduced 15.25 oz.? I know how to change the smaller size to fit older recipes, but if no size is listed or if there’s no date on the recipe I’m not sure if I need to add the extra 3 oz. of ingredients. I know that the size was decreased in 2016; but with no recipe dates, I’m just not sure what to do. Any ideas?

Dear Jenny:
Not to sound like a snob, but I haven’t used cake mixes in so long that I didn’t even know the size had changed. Those cheapskates! Can anyone help Jenny?

February 5, 2020

Dear friends,
Tony set the tone for our Florida trip the day the temperature dropped and it rained. As we huddled in our camper reading, he told me he was drinking Pomeranian tea. Maybe pomegranate? Whatever. Tony keeps coming up with these unwitting one liners, brightening even the rare cloudy day.

Most days have been sunny here in Hobe Sound, our new location after two winters at a campground in Okeechobee. We are near the beach. We are near seafood. We are near all kinds of Caribbean, Mexican, Guatemalan, Japanese and Thai cuisine.

Sorry, but I can’t tell you about the fancy waterfront restaurants with seafood appetizer towers. In retirement my haute cuisine veneer has peeled away, revealing what I’ve been all along — a lover of homespun dumps that serve food packed with flavor.

I’ve been getting my seafood at Crawfish House, a clapboard shack with house trailers out back. It has been around forever. Hush puppies come with the hand-breaded, fresh fried shrimp.

After a movie one night, we found get-down Jamaican cuisine at a kiosk in a mall. We made a u-turn on the way out of the mall after seeing plates of deliciousness on tables in the food court. I scanned the food purveyors and deduced the food was from 876 Jerk. It was, and our meal was terrific.

We get our Cuban fix at Wow Cuban Cafe, by a stroke of luck located not a mile from our campground. We are addicted to the cafe con leche. We buy a Cuban sandwich and split it for lunch at the beach. We get sides of fried plantains and black beans and rice. The slow-roasted marinated pork looks delicious.

We have found a great little Thai restaurant, Krua Thai, and noted a few sushi places we want to try. We’ll probably never get to, though, because Tony fell in love with a Japanese-Chinese place recommended last week by the woman who cut my hair. Mikata Buffet in Stuart is not bad at all for a buffet restaurant. The sushi is made to order and the rice is properly cooked and seasoned, a rarity. The stir frys and other hot table items taste better than the microwaved junk at most buffets. But jeez, do we have to dine there every time it’s Tony’s turn to pick? So far, yes.

If my husband is tired of my choices, he hasn’t complained. My go-to is either a Mexican grocery near us that has a few homemade items, or a tortilleria in Stuart that sells its own fresh-made corn tortillas and a mysterious selection of meals. Maybe none one day. The next day, a couple of Styrofoam containers filled with palomilla steak dinners will be stacked in the glass warming oven. A pan might hold deeply marinated, oven-roasted chicken quarters. Maybe the one clerk will sell some to Tony. Maybe not.

My obsession lately has been the tall plastic take-out glasses of shrimp ceviche from our next-door Mexican grocery, Green Apple Produce and Carniceria. Northern Mexican ceviche is not like the vinegary, oil-slicked variety most of us know. It is more gazpacho than ceviche, and in the version I like, the shrimp is cooked.

The little grocery stocks a tomato-y broth with tiny cubes of sweet onion, cucumber, avocado and jalapeno, adds a jolt of lime juice and packs the glass with six fat shrimp. Chopped cilantro adds a grassy note.

I recreated the recipe back at our camper in order to share it with you. It is a substantial, slimming lunch for calorie counters. It is usually served with homemade corn tortilla chips, the sturdy kind that can hold up to a dunking.

Tony likes it with Pomeranian tea.


24 large raw shrimp in shells (about 3/4 lb.)
1 cup peeled and seeded, finely diced (about 1/4 inch) cucumber
2 fat Italian plum tomatoes, trimmed and finely diced
3/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tsp. hot sauce (preferably Mexican such as Chulula)
2 cans (11.5 oz. each) V-8 juice
2 tbsp. ketchup
Juice of 2 limes
Salt, pepper to taste
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and finely diced

Bring about 1 quart of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Dump in shrimp and cook for 1 minute. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking, or drench under running cold water until the shrimp are cool. Remove shells and tails and drain shrimp on paper towels. Place in a medium bowl.

Add cucumber, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno and cilantro. In a small bowl, stir together one can of the V-8 juice, the hot sauce and the ketchup. Pour over shrimp and vegetables. Add second can of V-8 and lime juice and stir gently but thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Just before serving, stir in avocado. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 4 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Pearl couscous salad with tuna, cucumber, radish and tomatoes; Sonoran shrimp ceviche; pasta with caramelized shallots and anchovies.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Shrimp ceviche (twice) from Green Apple Produce and Carniceria in Hobe Sound; palomilla steak with onions, black beans and yellow rice, fresh corn tortillas and slow-roasted chicken quarters from Gallo de Oro Tortilleria in Stuart; California roll, beef in puff pastry, stir-fried green beans, steamed cabbage, edamame, Buffalo wings and a sugar doughnut at Mikata Buffet in Stuart; tossed salad, blackened sea scallops and a Bud Light at Catfish House in Hobe Sound; pork and chicken tamales and carnitas from Green Apple; pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad and chocolate cake at a Super Bowl party in Hobe Sound.

From Jen G.:
Hi Jane! Although your Southern migration paused your quest to empty the pantry, I have kept trying. So far, we’ve had a chili-lime lentil “curry,” pepperoni-and-Parmesan puff pastry pinwheels (gotta clear that freezer, too), and fried rice-style quinoa. It’s been a rewarding adventure to use up some of these staples and think about what flavors will be appealing, rather than making the same old four to five standby recipes for dinner. Thanks for the inspiration!

Dear Jen:
Now I’m inspired. When I return home, I will attack my pantry with vigor. Does anyone know what to do with cocoa nibs?