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.

GINGER-TANGERINE BONE BROTH

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.

TIDBITS
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.

Corrections:
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.

GUT CHECK
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.

THE MAILBAG

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.

SONORAN SHRIMP CEVICHE

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.

GUT CHECK:
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.

THE MAILBAG
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?