April 1, 2020

Dear friends,
In an interview last week, restaurateur and TV personality David Chang said he fears most independent restaurants will fail in the coming months without a government bail out. He thinks only chain restaurants will survive the coronavirus quarantine, permanently changing the face of dining in America.

I am afraid he is right. Not only will restaurant owners lose income and rack up debts (utilities, loan payments, taxes, rent), but their employees will vanish. Cooks, dishwashers, bartenders and servers cannot just tread water until the quarantine is lifted. Most will have to find other ways to carve out a living, and many will not return to their restaurant jobs — if those jobs even exist — after the coronavirus situation is resolved.

The problem is too immense for us to tackle in its entirety. But maybe we can save our own little corner of the restaurant world by eating restaurant carry out and tipping generously — ridiculously generously — as much as our finances will allow.

During this time, I implore you to avoid the Taco Bells and Appleby’s in favor of Rockne’s and Mr. G’s. Skip BJ’s Brewhouse, and instead order takeout from Sushi Katsu or Continental Cuisine.

And the smaller the restaurant, the more it needs your support. Some have closed temporarily, but other are trying to remain open. To help them do that, let’s share the names of the restaurants we visit each week and the meals we have ordered. Maybe we can tempt each other into ordering out more often.

I know this works, because I probably wouldn’t have ordered dinner from Vaccaro’s in Bath last week if owner Gabriel Vaccaro hadn’t posted his weekly menu options on Facebook. And I know my friend Betsy wouldn’t have ordered the Friday fish special from Chowder House in Cuyahoga Falls if I hadn’t reposted chef Louis Prpich’s menu.

Every week, I’ll post in my newsletter as many of your emails about restaurants as possible. Here’s the first batch:

From Marlene H.:
We did Vaccaro’s Trattoria (in Bath) delivery service. The delivery was on time and the entree was still piping hot. They offer three menu choices and change the choices each week. We ordered the Chianti-braised beef tips with homemade gnocchi, garlic lemon broccoli, and salad. The dinners are billed as dinner for 4 for $40, but we actually had 6 dinners. There was a lot of food for us and it was so delish!! Looking forward to seeing what the choices are for the coming week.

From Kate S.:
We look forward to your weekly email. Thanks for encouraging your readers to order takeout from our local restaurants. Our go-to is D’Agnese’s On White Pond in Akron. Veal Marsala, chicken piccata and hearty soups. Consistent high-quality food.

From Deb C.:
Take a drive to the Honeymoon Grille in Coventry/Portage Lakes. They have a drive-through window and car hop service. I’m partial to their chef salad. My son got a half-pound burger and onion rings. Just pull into the lot and turn on your lights. They are at the intersection of Portage Lakes Drive and Manchester Road.

On Swenson’s Facebook page they have been featuring Northeast Ohio restaurants that are still serving.

Also, the BK Rootbeer stand on Monroe Falls Avenue between Bailey and Portage Trail will be opened on Saturday. They have great homemade Coney sauce.

Be well. Be safe. Wear your seatbelt. Wash your hands.

From Noreen:
I think it’s interesting how some restaurants are getting creative. My hometown Foster’s Tavern in Hinckley has carryout, and we enjoyed their fish fry last Friday. They post daily carryout menus. They also have an online contest showing pictures of families eating their pizza.

I’m hoping to get fish tacos at Kavana’s Social Kitchen in North Royalton this week. They also have an online contest and they’re giving away $50 gift certificates for 50 days. An order is an entry. Their fish tacos have bits of apple in them — so good!

Another on my wish list is Michael Angelo’s Winery in Richfield. They post a weekly menu and for $40, you get a lovely multi-course dinner for 4 to 6. I can’t wait to try it, but they often sell out.

From Charlene:
If you are mentioning local restaurants trying to stay alive, don’t forget Sammie’s in Tallmadge and, of course, Menches Bros. in Green. Both are relying heavily on younger family members to keep things going.

What I cooked last week:
Microwave mug gingerbread; microwave mug chocolate cheesecake; frozen eggplant lasagne (from last summer); venison paprikas over noodles; homemade fettuccine for Vaccaro’s pasta sauces; lemon ricotta custard; miso mushroom chili; smoked sausage dogs with miso mushroom chili, baked potatoes with sour cream; egg salad sandwiches with Major Grey’s chutney; omelet filled with miso mushroom chili, buttered toast; sausage and canned spicy baked beans.

What I ate from restaurants:
Bacon, egg and cheese flatbread and cappuccino from Cafe Arnone drive-through in Fairlawn; quarts of wedding soup, pasta e fagioli, pomodoro sauce and Bolognese sauce from Vaccaro’s Trattoria in Bath.

From Marti W.:
I am writing to you to see if you know what happened to Sumner’s Butter. I have not been able to find it in the stores. We love that butter. Anything about it would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Marti:
I really tried, but I can’t help you. I found the Facebook page for Sumner’s Creamery Butter but the last post was in 2014. I phoned Tasty Pure Foods, the Akron company that makes the butter, but no one answered. I researched the company in the Beacon Journal digital archives but could find no mention of anything amiss. Maybe someone else knows why you can’t find the butter in your local store. Help!

From Monica, Hudson:
My new year’s resolution was to add more plant-based eating to my diet. I don’t eat loads of meat but cheese is my weakness and I probably eat more cheese than meat!
Anyway, I’m starting slow by doing one plant-based day a week. This week I made Chana Masala and Coconut Rice from Ella Mills’ Natural Feasts. The recipe is easy to find online. It was delicious and easy, with lots of spices for great flavor. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, there are a million plant-based cookbooks and recipes online but so many are just OK when I make them. I wonder if you or any of your readers have favorite tried and true recipes they like. I would love to try some really good tested recipes!

Dear Monica:
Your request is now out in the universe — or at least our little universe — and I hope a ton of recipes are on the way. I will print or forward all that I receive.

From Sue B.:
I’ve never been much of a cook but always enjoy reading your blog and the things your subscribers share. Last week’s edition made me say “wow.” The foods that all of you are preparing sound incredible. How lucky many of us are to have the resources allowing us to prepare more than basic foods.

This is a time of reflection for most people and I’ve been thinking about my parents a bit. They were married shortly after the onset of great depression of the 1930s. In the last year of his life, when he was quite ill, I casually asked Dad what was the best meal he ever had. “Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “During the depression we didn’t have much food or money. We searched the couch crevices and came up with a few coins, enough to buy some sausage for sausage gravy on the potatoes we had.” Best meal ever! Then too, I remember Mom telling me when my brother was a toddler she sometimes had to feed him bread spread with lard.

Thank you for reminding us to support the food service industry and the employees. Please allow me to express thanks to the area food banks. Fortunately these organizations have been up and running in our community for some time and are needed now more than ever. I hope all of us who are so blessed will donate even more generously to the effort to feed those with very little.

Keep your blog coming Jane. You are needed more than ever.

Dear Sue:
Thank you for reminding us to be grateful. Most of us are lucky to be weathering the isolation with full stomachs. Let’s share what we can.

March 25, 2020

Dear friends,

Every day my facebook feed is filled with pictures of baked goods friends have made. There are golden-brown loaves of bread, trays of chocolate chip cookies, platters of brownies, oblong and tiered cakes and pies oozing last summer’s blackberries. As the news grows more dire, our ovens go into overtime. Stores are out of yeast and flour. I think we are catastrobaking.

My own kitchen has been filled with the aroma of baked bread, gingerbread and chocolate cheesecake this week, and the counter was strewn with cookies the week before, even though I rarely make desserts.

The bread and cakes just sort of happened as fear and boredom drove me to the kitchen. The cookies were on purpose. They are simply the best cookies I have tasted, ever. After eating two I bought at a Peruvian espresso bar in Florida, I knew I had to make them.

Picture two meltingly tender, vanilla-scented butter cookies hugging a thick swirl of milky caramel. Picture their pretty scalloped edges and dusting of powdered sugar. Sigh.

Alfajores are popular not only in Peru but in other Latin American countries and Spain, I learned. The ones I ate cost $2.50 each (yikes!) but were worth it.

The butter cookies owe their crumbly tenderness to cornstarch, which replaces some of the flour. Plenty of real butter contributes flavor and richness to the cookies. The dough is rolled out relatively thick — somewhere between one-fourth and one-eighth inch — and the rounds are baked just until set, not browned.

The filling is dulce de leche ( dool seh de LEH chey), a caramel made with sweetened condensed milk. It is sold in cans in Hispanic food stores and some supermarkets, or you can make your own, as I did.

You should have all of the ingredients for these wonderful cookies in your cabinets already, a prerequisite for catastrobaking. If you’re watching your weight or health, you will be glad the recipe makes just 12 to 14.


(Caramel sandwich cookies)
Dulce de leche (recipe follows)
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sifted cornstarch
1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk
Confectioners’ sugar for sifting

Make the dulce de leche and set aside at room temperature. If making in advance, cover and refrigerate, then warm to room temperature before filling cookies.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornstarch, one-half cup confectioners’ sugar and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and vanilla on medium speed until smooth. Beat in egg yolk just until incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture while beating on low speed. Continue beating on medium speed just until combined. Gather dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of between 1/4 and 1/8 inch. Use a round plain or scalloped-edge cutter about 3 inches in diameter to cut dough. Re-roll scraps until all dough has been used. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Chill about 10 minutes.

Bake one sheet at a time in the lower middle of oven for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are set but haven’t started to brown. Slide parchment sheets with cookies on them onto a counter and cool to room temperature.

When the cookies have cooled, flip half over and top each with about a tablespoon of dulce de leche. Use a spoon to drop the caramel in the middle of a cookie, then with the back of a wet spoon gently spread. Top with another cookie. Do not press down or the cookie will break. If you want to spread the caramel further, slide the cookies together horizontally.

Place the filled cookies on a rack over a baking sheet and generously sift confectioners’ sugar over all. Store overnight in a lidded container. Makes about 12 to 14 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.

Adapted from acozykitchen.com.

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

Pour milk into a 9-inch glass pie pan. Cover tightly with foil. Place in a larger pan. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of pie pan. Bake at 425 for 1 hour and 45 minutes, adding more boiling water at intervals to maintain water level.

Carefully remove from oven and remove pie pan from water bath. Remove foil and stir until smooth. Makes enough for 1 batch of alfajores cookies.

What I cooked last week:
Filet mignons with tarragon wine sauce, baked Japanese sweet potatoes and roast butternut squash; cream of wheat; Japanese pork curry (Tony); reheated frozen gyoza with gochujang sauce; shrimp fried rice; hamburgers with Mongolian barbecue sauce, sweet potato fries; cream cheese blender omelet; no-knead bread (twice); spaghetti with venison sauce, chopped salad; chicken and cabbage soup with smoked paprika; toasted crusty bread with pesto, ricotta cheese and a hard-fried egg; filet mignons with blue cheese sauce, brussels sprouts pan-seared in duck fat and baked potatoes with butter.

Ham and cheese sub from Subway.

At age 70, I have been hesitant to leave my home even to pick up carryout from restaurants, as you can see from my gut check. A close friend has coronavirus and two weeks in, she is still flattened. But it is imperative we support our independent local restaurants. We must do our best to make sure they can reopen. We owe it to our chefs, wait staff and restaurateurs. We owe it to ourselves to protect this aspect of the quality of life in our communities.

During this crisis, please send me emails about the carryout meals you have enjoyed so I can share the names of restaurants you are patronizing. If a restaurant has curb service or delivery, tell me about that, too. (Use the link at the bottom of this newsletter).

One place you may want to support this week is Vincent’s Bakery, 2038 Bailey Road in Cuyahoga Falls. When you drive by, you will likely see employees in the street, passing loaves of fresh-baked bread through car windows. This is a mom and pop bakery that has been around since the 1950s. The baked goods are fantastic. Check out the offerings on Facebook. The phone number to order curb pickup is 330-923-8217.

Wherever you get your food, remember to tip extra generously.


From Marlene H.:
Have been cleaning while “sheltering in place” and came across a note I had sent my cousin on 12/08/2000 where I told her someone had bid $325 for a Jane Snow (food critic for a day) dinner. Told her the auction went on for another week and how much I would love to go. Alas, I was not the high bidder.

Have been enjoying rediscovering these gems from the past.

Dear Marlene:
What memories that brings back! I did this twice. I actually reviewed the restaurants while entertaining the successful bidders. On one review, a nice young guy paid $400 to try to impress a young woman he asked to accompany him. I took them to a posh restaurant. She was pleasant but I could tell that would be their first and last date. The second time, I spilled red wine on the guest’s fancy dress and was so horrified I forget the rest of the evening.

From Alix W.:
Thanks for your newsletter today. Might be the highlight of the day even though I can’t go out to buy the ingredients. I still think Julia Child’s recipe for onion soup is the gold standard. I use double the amount of onions and let them caramelize for at least half an hour. You must keep a close eye on them (stirring almost constantly) but the end result is worth it. I always enjoy getting your newsletter.

Dear Alix:
Thanks for the note. I agree — that’s my favorite French onion soup recipe, too.

From Ron C.:
Yesterday a made a Swiss steak recipe for the Crock-Pot. However, I discovered an hour before dinner that the ground fault outlet had tripped off. I quickly poured the mixture into a Dutch oven, heated to boiling, then put it into a 350-degree oven for an hour. Turned out great! Sometimes ya gotta improvise.

Dear Ron:
I haven’t made Swiss steak in decades. I think it’s time. I will use the Dutch oven, though, because I have no idea what a “ground fault outlet” is. Better safe than sorry.

From Kristi P.:
I too am a stress cooker. I made a batch of grapefruit marmalade, three batches of strawberry-rhubarb jam from the strawberries and rhubarb that I cleaned out of my freezer, four loaves of bread, brownies and that doesn’t count meal prep which included date-stuffed quail, pot roast and a corned deer roast. There’s only two of us! Help!

Dear Kristi:
Thanks for the laugh. Think freezer! Then maybe this summer we will all have giant neighborhood meals spread on sun-dappled tables on the lawn. I can dream.

From Kathy G.:
Since my daughter is back from college early because of Coronavirus concerns, minimal cooking for two of us is really not good enough now. I have been making lasagne Florentine, chicken noodle and vegetable soups, corned beef brisket (in the Crock-Pot) with cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes, spicy chili with meat sauce, beans and mushrooms and even baked sugar cookies — gone in a day!

Dear Kathy:
Tandem cooking with a daughter sounds like fun, pandemic or not.

From Chris O.:
What I made last week was vanilla extract in my Instant Pot. It is so easy to make, cheaper than buying it, has better flavor, plus I bottled some to give away as gifts.

Dear Chris:
What a clever use of your time — holiday gift-making. It is only March, but what the heck. Your vanilla sounds good.

From Marlene H.:
To see us through these scary times, we concentrated on purchasing canned vegetables, canned/boxed soups, shelf-stable almond milk, coffee, protein (meat for the freezer and canned tuna) and one obligatory jar of peanut butter. Didn’t stockpile the toilet paper. We’re trying the delivery service from one of the local grocery stores this week to see how that goes.

Have been doing lots of cooking, but agree, this may be getting old having to do it so often. We ate out a lot. Will most likely be trying some of the carryout services from the local restaurants in the very near future. Vaccaro’s Trattoria in Bath has a nice special of a variety of entrees that feed four for $40. Checking out other local restaurants, too.

Here are some of the recipes I’ve tried:

1 Crock-Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage right from the corned beef package recipe.
2 Paleo Chocolate Chip Blondies from bakerita.com. These were so good I would not have known they were paleo.
3 North Carolina Lemon Pie from myrecipereviews.com. The crust is made with saltines, melted butter, and corn syrup. The lemon filling is so easy and the pie is just delicious. The recipe calls for a whipped cream topping, but with the 4 egg whites left over from the yolks called for in the filling, I whipped them up and topped the pie with a meringue, which I really liked.
4 Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Steel Cut Oatmeal from amindfulmom.com. I added a peeled, chopped apple and some ground flax seed because I had them in the pantry. Gave it extra flavor, texture, and fiber.
5 One-Pot Creamy Beef Stroganoff from pillsbury.com/recipes/. So, Pillsbury is promoting these one-pot dinners for those who don’t like to cook or clean up, so thought I’d give this one a try. The flavors were pretty good with the sauce nice and creamy, however, the noodles were a bit gummy. It did hit the mark for easy on the cooking and cleanup though.
6 Spicy Lamb Shish Kebabs from foodandwine.com/recipes. This was fabulous! I used lamb stew meat and the yogurt tenderized it so it melted in your mouth. We cooked them on the outdoor grill so they had that extra grill char. Yum!
7 Chicken Breasts with Artichoke-Olive Sauce from foodandwine.com/recipes. Another tasty treat from Food and Wine magazine.

I look forward to more of your recipes and what your other followers are making.

Dear Marlene:
OK, you win the award for the most creative use of your time in the kitchen. Wow. I removed the detailed links you supplied because apparently they don’t work in my newsletter, and provided simpler links that do work, but require a bit of poking around to zero in on the recipe. Thank you so much.

March 18, 2020

Dear friends,
Panic buying set in the day I arrived home from Florida. I bought milk, coffee cream, yogurt and a few vegetables before elbowing my way to the cashier, wondering why everyone in the Montrose area had decided to shop at the same time. What was going on?

The next day, staring at empty shelves where toilet paper used to be, it sunk in. The world had gone mad. The toilet paper I needed was in someone’s basement, awaiting the apocalypse.

How are you doing? Are you sitting on a stash of Charmin? Or did you stock up on siege foods such as lentils and beans? In those first moments of panic, what did you rush out and buy to see you through these scary times?

I bought fresh vegetables. Then Tony and I drove to the Asian Market in Cuyahoga Falls for tofu and one of the last bags of rice in the store. I also bought a jar of gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste I’ve been meaning to try. Now I would have plenty of time to explore this popular condiment.

Cooking is comforting at a time like this. The cozy rhythms of chopping and stirring are a refuge. What did you cook or bake last week?

Feeding family or even yourself every meal of every day can get old, though. The way I did it was to cook all of those vegetables and the tofu and store them in individual dishes in the fridge. Then at each meal I pulled some out and briefly stir fried them with a sauce, or heated them in a bowl and ladled on broth for an Asian-ish soup.

What tied each dishes together was that gochujang sauce. It is spectacular — spicy-hot but not incendiary, with a complex flavor that goes on for days. At the beginning of the week I made a big jar of a stir fry sauce whose backbone is the Korean chili paste. It’s a gorgeous red sauce studded with sesame seeds. It is the kind of hot that stings but not too much, and the heat disappears quickly. This is Tony’s new favorite hot sauce, and that’s saying something.

I stirred my sauce into the cooked vegetables and tofu I had warmed in a frying pan. I added a glop to our bowls of soup. The jar is half gone, so I suspect Tony has found even more uses for it.

As for the vegetables, I roasted the cubes of butternut squash, wilted the fresh spinach with olive oil and garlic, and sautéed the mushrooms and finished them with sherry. I also had daikon radish simmered until tender, fried green pepper strips and sliced green onions. I seasoned each vegetable as it cooked. The tofu was cut into cubes, dusted with flour and fried in shallow oil.

Use whatever vegetables and protein you like, but don’t substitute for the gochujang. This sauce is worth a trip to an Asian grocery store for the ingredients.


1/2 cup Korean gochujang sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
4 tsp. rice vinegar
4 tsp. minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar. Stir to break up the gochujang. Cover and shake until smooth. May be stored in the refrigerator for weeks.

Based on a recipe from mykoreankitchen.com.

What I cooked last week:
Chicken and sauerkraut simmered with sherry; fried sweet plantains; Peruvian alfajores cookies; roasted and stir fried vegetables and tofu; gochujang stir fry sauce; stir frys and soups.

What I ate in restaurants, etc.:
Pot roast, mashed potatoes and a biscuit at Cracker Barrel in Parkersburg, W.Va.; a Sausage McMuffin and coffee from McDonald’s; a grilled chicken salad from Vasili’s Greek Cuisine in Akron; a pepperoni pizza from Rizzi’s Pizza in Copley.

From Dennis A.:
While I do not have the recipe from The French Coffee Shoppe, Hudson’s Restaurant in downtown Hudson has the best French onion soup around! They also serve a French chicken sandwich that is as good as The French Coffee Shoppe.

Dear Dennis:
Good to know. Tony is crazy about French onion soup. We will go when the restaurant reopens.

From Monica, Hudson:
My new year’s resolution was to add more plant-based eating to my diet. I don’t eat loads of meat but cheese is my weakness and I probably eat more cheese than meat!
Anyway, I’m starting slow by doing one plant-based day a week. This week I made Chana Masala and Coconut Rice from Ella Mills’ Natural Feasts. The recipe is easy to find online. It was delicious and easy. Lots of spices for great flavor. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, there are a million plant-based cookbooks and recipes online but so many are just OK when I make them. I wonder if you or any of your readers have favorite tried and true recipes they like. I would love to try some really good, tested plant-based recipes!

Dear Monica:
Excellent question! Many people are slowly moving to plant-based eating because it is better for the planet. Let’s share! Send your favorite recipes to me and I’ll post them.

March 11, 2020

Dear friends,
By the time you read this I’ll be back in Ohio, reveling in my adult-sized kitchen with a full refrigerator and five-burner stove with two ovens. I’ll be glad to see my friends and the new sous vide machine I had just begun to figure out when Tony and I decamped to Florida.

But not yet. As I write this, I am enjoying the last couple of days of 80-degree weather and reflecting on two months’ worth of vacation victuals. I will miss:

1. Cuban sandwiches and cafe con leche from Wow Cuban Cafe, less than a mile from our campsite in Hobe Sound, Fla.
2. Empanadas everywhere. Caribbean and Latin American food isn’t plentiful but it is available if you hunt for it on this stretch of the coast about 100 miles north of Miami, so I had not only Cuban but Guatemalan, Mexican, Jamaican and who knows what other varieties of hand meat pies. Tony and I lunched at the beach several times on empanadas.
3. The shrimp lady who drives on weekends from the Gulf and sets up shop on a berm of U.S. 1 in Hobe Sound. The heads-on shrimp are so fresh they fairly snap when you bite into a properly cooked one.
4. My little neighborhood “carniceria,” or butcher shop, which is also a produce stand, herb shop, Mexican sweet roll bakery and purveyor of house-made shrimp ceviche, crackling-crisp tortilla chips, tropical fruit salads and on weekends, roasting pans heaped with tamales and carnitas.
5. The next-door taco truck which, come to think of it, is good but can’t hold a candle to the Funky Truckeria in Norton.
6. Lunches with Jan Norris, retired food editor of the Palm Beach Post. We forged a friendship while covering food events together for more than 20 years across North America. After a dozen years’ hiatus we got to dine and laugh together again, first over grouper sandwiches at the Lazy Loggerhead in Jupiter and then over meatloaf (me) and a hotdog (her) at the City Diner in West Palm Beach. In semi-retirement Jan writes a full page of restaurant news and features weekly for The Palm Beach Florida Weekly.
7. No-frills seafood restaurants such as the Catfish House in Hobe Sound and King Neptune in Port Salerno. Fresh, fresh, fresh shrimp, oysters, clams, scallops and grouper at prices that won’t break the bank.
8. Our seafood connection, a roadside stand just up the highway where we bought fresh tuna for sashimi and fresh oysters for slurping on the half shell.
9. Loaves of Cuban bread in every supermarket, including Walmart.
10. The sun. Hurry up, spring.

What I cooked last week:
Nada. Does coffee and toast count?

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Meatloaf, French fries and banana cream pie at City Diner in West Palm Beach; a Cuban sandwich and chicken empanada from Wow Cuban Cafe in Hobe Sound; a Detox Smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe; shrimp ceviche and homemade tortilla chips from Green Apple Produce and Carniceria in Hobe Sound; fried clams, slaw and French fries at King Neptune in Port Salerno; a green-lipped mussel, California roll, pepper beef, a chunk of sweet potato, beef in puff pastry, a sugared doughnut and mango ice cream at Mikata Buffet in Jensen Beach; pan de bono and coffee at La Familia Columbian Coffee Shop in Stuart; eggs over hard, bacon, grits and toast at Mel’s Cafe in Port Salerno; barbecued (sort of) ribs, potato salad and corn bread from Family Bar-B-Q in Stuart.

From Debra L.:
My husband and I used to frequent the French Coffee Shoppe in Cuyahoga Falls. We both loved the French onion soup. Ever since the restaurant closed I have been trying different soup recipes without much luck. Do you happen to have the recipe for the French onion soup from that restaurant or something similar? We would greatly appreciate any recipe that comes close to that wonderful soup.

Dear Debra:
Although that recipe was requested often during my days at the Beacon Journal, I don’t think I ever got my hands on it. Maybe someone else can help. Judy James?

Thanks for the great response after I nudged you in my column last week. I am awed at the ambitious menus some of you whipped up. They will provide me with inspiration in the coming weeks. Maybe they will inspire you, too.

From Mary C.:
Sesame roasted asparagus — an old Cooking Light recipe using sesame oil and soy sauce;

Romantic French Lentil Salad – Romantic French Lentil Salad Recipe on Food52;

Hamburger Steak with onion gravy – Hamburger Steak with Onion Gravy;

Peanut butter mocha energy bites – Peanut Butter Mocha Energy Bites – Recipe Runner;

And applesauce pancakes (to use up a jar of applesauce), topped with ricotta cheese (to use up the ricotta!) and blueberry maple syrup (heat frozen blueberries in a skillet and add maple syrup). I saw the idea of honey ricotta cheese but was too lazy to stir the firm, paste-like honey into the cold ricotta.

From Tammy Jo:
Last week I made venison meatloaf (ground burger and sausage) with red gravy and mashed potatoes; baked pork chops with mushroom orzo and roasted broccoli; a spin-off on wedding soup with shredded chicken, spinach and ground venison.

From David R.:
I made jambalaya from John Besh’s “My New Orleans” for a Mardi Gras-themed brunch. It had all the goodies and was a hit. The recipe made enough for an army, so after everyone took some home I still had about four 1-quart containers remaining. Last Sunday I made a Zinfandel-braised beef short rib from a 2005 recipe I have from the Wall Street Journal, together with an accompanying crème brûlée. Interestingly, the chef who published the recipe was New Orleans-based as well.

From Beverly W.:
What I cooked last week with two proteins and leftovers:

Ancho chili and coffee short ribs over smoked gouda polenta, micro greens salad with pistachio-crusted baked goat cheese and figs; jambalaya, with fresh bread from Trader Joe’s Beer Bread mix ( wonderful); short rib tacos and avocado salad with micro greens; roasted chicken (the other half from the jambalaya), stuffing, roasted Brussels sprouts with maple bacon and figs, and applesauce. I grow my own micro greens and when they come in they grow with a vengeance. It is just my husband and myself so we have to eat them fast! But oh so good. We don’t mind at all.

March 4, 2020

Dear friends,
Every time I eat moussaka I think, “I’m going to make this every single week for the rest of my life.” I like it that much. My good intentions last until I dig up a recipe and sigh at the amount of work and calories involved.

I went through the same rigamarole recently after I had moussaka at a Greek church festival. The layers of eggplant, gently seasoned ground lamb and creamy-dreamy béchamel sauce warmed my soul. While walking my dog the next morning I looked forlornly at the empty festival tents and wondered why I hadn’t bought a couple of extra hunks. Well, they were $12 each, that’s why.

I wasn’t ready to give up, though. Over the next few days I came up with a compromise — a grilled cheese moussaka sandwich. Now, hear me out. It sounds strange, yes, but it delivers the essence of moussaka without all the work.

The sandwich is made in three steps so it does involve some work, but not a lot. Ground beef is browned with onion and seasoned with the spices that make moussaka sing: cinnamon, allspice and oregano. Slices of eggplant are pan-grilled until limp in a skillet coated with olive oil spray. Then the meat and eggplant are layered with mozzarella between two slices of crusty bread and grilled. The cheese holds together the components and imparts a bit of the richness the béchamel provides in the real thing.

The sandwich isn’t moussaka, but it’s close enough to tide me over between Greek festivals.


1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
1/2 lb. ground lamb or beef
Salt, pepper
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 small globe eggplant
4 slices crusty bread
Softened butter
10 tbsp. finely shredded mozzarella

Heat olive oil in a warm skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion in oil until limp but not brown. Increase heat, crumble in meat and season generously with salt and pepper. As meat begins to brown, add the cinnamon, allspice and oregano and break up meat with the edge of a spatula. Continue until meat is brown. Set aside.

Peel eggplant and cut lengthwise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with olive oil spray. Cook the eggplant slices until they are limp, cooked through and light brown on both sides. Blot on paper towels.

To assemble the sandwich, spread one side of each slice with softened butter. Turn slices over and sprinkle each of two slices with 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Top evenly with 2 to 3 tablespoons (packed) of the ground meat. Top each with 1 tablespoon cheese. Top with a layer of eggplant, cutting pieces to fit the bread. Sprinkle each with remaining mozzarella (2 tablespoons each). Top with remaining two pieces of bread, buttered sides out.

Heat a heavy skillet large enough to hold both sandwiches. Coat skillet with olive oil spray. Toast sandwiches on both sides over medium heat, turning once, until golden brown and melty. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Note: You will have leftover meat and maybe eggplant. Exact amounts depend on the size of your slices of bread. Chop the leftover cooked eggplant into the meat, stir and eat. It’s delicious.

What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled chicken and apple sausage and a fruit salad of grapefruit, strawberries, jicama and shredded basil; loose meat sandwiches with mustard and ketchup; sliced tomatoes with fresh basil and Kewpie mayonnaise; grilled moussaka sandwich; French toast with sugar-free strawberry preserves.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
A thin-crust pizza with sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and prosciutto and a glass of Chianti at The Glade Pizza & Wine Bar in Hobe Sound (fabulous); a beef empanada and cafe con leche at the Miccosukee Casino near the Everglades National Park; roast pork, yellow rice and vegetable bowl from Pollo Tropical in Jupiter; butter chicken, eggplant curry, basmati rice, naan and rice pudding at India Palace restaurant in Stuart; shrimp ceviche and fresh tortilla chips from Green Apple Produce & Carniceria in Hobe Sound; iced cafe con leche and a Peruvian alfajores (tender butter cookies sandwiched with caramel) at Lopez Cafe Gano Excel, a Peruvian coffee shop in West Palm Beach; half a beef burrito and a steak taco from The Taco Truck in Stuart; a Detox smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafe; a “New Haven style” pizza with sausage, pepperoni, onion and peppers from Amato’s in Hobe Sound (yuck).

From Marlene H.:
What I’ve cooked lately:
1. Your Shrimp Scampi with Couscous. So good!!

2. Jacques Pepin’s Curly Hotdogs with Relish. Who knew Jacques likes hotdogs?!
Curly Dogs with Pickle Relish by Jacques Pépin on Salt + Spine

3. Roasted Cauliflower with Browned Butter, Hazelnuts, and Capers from Fine Cooking. Didn’t have hazelnuts so used pecans. My new fave cauliflower recipe!!

Roasted Cauliflower with Browned Butter, Hazelnuts, and Capers – Recipe – FineCooking

You’re my hero this week. You are one of only two people who sent the inspiration I requested. And what inspiration! With recipes!

From Theresa K.:
Sounds like you all are having a great time in Florida! I cooked a beef Irish stew last week which was full of cubed stew beef, leeks, celery, shallots, carrots, parsnips and baby Yukon gold potatoes, I added 1 cup of Guinness to the broth and let it simmer on Sunday night, then we had it Monday for dinner with biscuits. It was some of the best I have made.

The beer takes the flavor to another level, and you don’t know it is there — no beer taste just the best deep, rich broth. A little garlic, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper were all the seasonings I added. I got the recipe from a blog but the Guinness was my idea. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Dear Theresa:
My other hero! This is the perfect time of year — pre-St. Pat’s — to make a Guinness-spiked beef stew. Thank you so much for the idea.

The rest of you…..what did YOU cook last week?