April 29, 2020

Dear friends,
I knew bread-baking had reached pandemic proportions when I had to beg on Facebook for three measly packets of yeast, and drive from Copley to Uniontown to buy flour.

Social media has become a portrait gallery of burnished loaves — challah, Easter egg braids, ciabatta and crackly-crust no-knead boules. Many who post are first-time bread bakers, rightfully proud of their work.

No-knead bread, the most popular, is the one I make most often. It is a no-brainer: Mix flour, salt and a smidgen of yeast with water, let sit overnight, then bake in a lidded casserole the next day. The resulting loaf looks and tastes professional. Here’s the seminal recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11376-no-knead-bread.

After making four loaves in two weeks, I got tired of no-knead and branched out. I made an excellent sandwich bread (https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-sandwich-bread-recipe) and last week, khachapuri, an egg and cheese bread I’ve wanted to make for years. The latter, from the Republic of Georgia, is shaped like a canoe and filled with cheese. Just before it is removed from the oven, one perfect egg is broken into the center. Diners tear chunks of hot the bread and dip it into the soft-set egg.

Unless you are making no-knead, don’t be a slave to a bread recipe. You will almost without exception need more or less liquid than the recipe suggests, and the rise time can vary by hours. The khachapuri recipe called for a one- to two-hour rise, but mine took 5 hours to double in bulk in my turned-off oven. That’s because the day — and my kitchen — were cool, and the yeast was a bit old. Be patient.

The amount of liquid you need to turn flour and yeast into dough varies because humidity and temperature affect the volume of flour. One cup of flour today probably won’t equal one cup tomorrow. You will eventually be able to gauge by feel. Most just-made bread doughs should be just very slightly sticky.

Newbie tips: Use a dry measuring cup for the flour, not the transparent wet measuring cup with the gradients printed on the side. Scoop the flour from the bag and sweep it off even with the rim of the measuring cup using the flat blade of a knife.

Don’t worry if your yeast is expired. Unless it is years old, it will probably work but may take longer to rise the dough. Yeast is tough but it can be killed if you mix it with a liquid that is hotter than about 110 degrees. Aim for lukewarm.

Knead the dough until it is springy. When you poke it with a finger, the dent should spring back within a few seconds. If you have ever produced flat, leaden bread, it’s probably because you didn’t knead the dough enough. The dough will feel alive when the gluten is properly activated.

The khachapuri recipe I used, by Mark Bittman, produces a gorgeously pliable dough that could also be used for pizza. It is easy to make, with just one rise. It’s my new favorite dough.

P.S.: If you are hoarding yeast, I could use some.


(Georgian cheese-egg bread)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing
medium-fat cheese)
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Black pepper
1 egg
1 tbsp. butter, cut into small cubes (optional but traditional)

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1/2 cup water and the oil through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water a little at a time until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or 2 of water and process for another 10 seconds. In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round dough ball. (Jane’s note: I kneaded the dough 40 times. It should feel like a baby’s bottom and bounce back when you poke it with a finger). Grease a bowl with oil, add the dough, and turn to coat; cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours (or more). Meanwhile, mix the cheeses together in a bowl; season with black pepper.

When the dough is ready, heat the oven to 475 degrees, with a baking stone in it if you have one. (Jane: Although I have a baking stone, I used a large pizza pan for ease, and skipped the parchment and flour mentioned later in the recipe.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. (Jane’s note: Do this quickly, with as few movements as possible to avoid activating the gluten, which will make it impossible to roll).

Sprinkle half of the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Roll one side of the circle toward the center, then repeat with the opposite side so that there is a gap of about 4 inches in between the 2 rolls (see photo). Pinch the open ends of the rolls together on both sides and twist them together (the resulting shape should look something like a boat).

(Jane’s note: I divided the dough in half and made two smaller khachapuri, so Tony and I would each have an egg.)

Carefully transfer the boat to a lightly floured peel, floured baking sheet, plank of wood, or flexible cutting board or put it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese mixture into the opening in the middle. Slide the boat onto the baking stone if you’re using one or put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden. Crack the egg into the middle of the boat and bake until the egg is partially set, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how firm you want the egg. Remove the boat from the oven, put the cubes of butter in the middle if you’re using them, and serve as soon as you’re comfortable tearing into it with your fingers.

Recipe by Mark Bittman.

While I don’t celebrate Easter with food, I celebrate post-Easter. A day or two after the holiday, I hotfoot it to the Honeybaked (or Heavenly) Ham store for a deal on the ham bones left behind by customers who had ordered boneless ham.

The frozen bones are meaty. The ones I’ve bought over the years have been swathed in a pound or more of ham — enough for a few sandwiches and a pot of soup. And after a holiday like Easter or Christmas, when the stores are awash with ham bones, they are often two for the price of one, as they were last week when I toted home a pair for $9, froze one and with the other made ham and fava bean soup.

What I cooked last week:
Fried Spam and egg on toast; pickled eggs; khatchapuri (Georgian cheese and egg bread); pan-grilled top sirloin steak with Béarnaise sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts, blistered cherry tomatoes and wilted chard, and coconut meringues with roasted plums; mayonnaise; egg salad; ham and fava bean soup; cornbread; chicken tika masala.

What I ate from restaurants:
Beef, chicken and pork enchiladas, pinto beans and cinnamon-sugar sopapillas from Casa del Rio Express in Fairlawn; California roll and a crunchy shrimp roll from Sushi Katsu in Akron.

From Marlene H.:
Re: Comforting each other with food — We have a text/Zoom group with family across the U.S. and its territories. We’ve been sharing stories and the food we’ve been making, both with recipes and pictures. We’re compiling a list of the ones we’re going to make at the celebration party once we can all get together in person again. A lot of them are the old family recipes like lasagne, meatballs, cauliflower pie, cheesecake and the like that bring back those comforting memories.

For takeout, we got delicious cheeseburgers from Menches in Green. One with onion rings and one with tater tots. Love their tots as it brings back great childhood memories, although back then it was the Friday treat of fish sticks and Tater Tots. Haha!

Dear Marlene:
Sharing food and stories via Zoom is a great idea for a weekly family gathering. My family tried to get together via Zoom for my brother’s birthday earlier this month, but I couldn’t figure it out and my sister’s computer was too old to accommodate the app. I am sure my niece in Columbus was rolling her eyes at the old folks. I am enjoying the photos she posts to Facebook of my great-niece’s kitchen creations. Kyleigh cooks and bakes way beyond her 17 years, I’m proud to say.

From Maryann A.:
After reading the letter from Carol, a self-proclaimed non-foodie, I started thinking about how my husband and I are handling our meal adventures.

Although we normally ate out about three or four times a week, our cupboards and big freezer were always comfortably stocked, taking advantage of sales and seasonal items. When stay-at-home was implemented, we didn’t rush out and panic buy. We knew we were OK except for milk, bread, o.j. and fresh fruit.

As the days turned into weeks, we had fun being creative with whatever was being uncovered as we foraged. It was interesting to reach into the nether regions of the various shelves, discovering forgotten purchases, and often finding items way out of date. We now have an inventory and are creating menus from our stash. It has been an interesting experience. We have also been ordering take-out locally a few times a week.

Coincidentally, our checkbook is in great shape since takeout (including a generous tip) is usually half the cost of a meal out, without the drinks and hard-to-resist desserts!

As for supporting our local restaurants, I previously told you about The Tavern in Stow being open, and then, regretfully, closing. Happy to report they are back open again! We got a great dinner from them last night. In addition to providing school lunches for kids when the schools closed, they also made up food trays on Easter for whoever was in need.

We’re not going to start gung-ho grilling like you and Tony, but will continue to explore forgotten treasure in our kitchen.

Dear Maryann A.:
I have not shopped for groceries, except for brief forays to the egg farm and ham store, in a month. I, too, have been exploring the nether regions of my freezer and pantry. This week I made soup from year-old dried fava beans that I probably would never have used barring a pandemic. Last night, with no vegetables left except onions, I made a Szechuan stir fry from frozen ground venison and Chinese rice noodles. Like you, I enjoy the challenge. But enough’s enough. This week I shop.

From Kathy G.:
I am a native Akronite and for one of the charitable organizations I support
I have upped the amount and frequency of my donations to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. I read that monetary donations are the most beneficial for the most people as the food bank gets and gives out what they need. I am also pretty sure that all of the money is going directly to buy food or directly support their program for those who need it now more than ever in our history. I know this need is happening nationally and globally too but if everyone who is able to help the food banks locally, at least it is a start. Everyone needs to eat and there are a lot of people to feed in our neighborhoods.

From Jennie K.:
Like you, I’ve been preparing just about every meal at home – liking it most of the time. We order groceries for pickup from three or four different sources; we sanitize the groceries and then rinse-wash them before bringing them into the house. (Being a senior with two chronic lung conditions, I can’t afford to go out much at all.)

We’ve ordered prepared food about once a week from a few local restaurants to try to support their businesses. Since I love to bake, I bake big batches of cookies, cupcakes, and other treats to take to several neighbors every few weeks. I call the neighbors ahead of time, and my husband delivers them by ringing their doorbells and leaving the double-bagged goodies on their doorsteps. I enjoy this as much as preparing our own meals.

My husband had a great idea for helping the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank. Since we both are retired and financially secure, he suggested we donate our government stimulus money to the food bank. We know that the money is now helping many more people than just the two of us.

Dear Kathy and Jennie:
The Foodbank needs all the help it can get at this time. I am sure your generosity is much appreciated.

From Ron C.:
Some Wadsworth residents have constructed several “food pantries” around town, boxes on posts, where people can get what they need, leave what they have. Great idea, and a good place to leave some of those extra canned goods you might have.

The “movement” is spreading. I hear there is one in Norton, and one each in Seville and Chippewa Lake for pets.

Dear Ron:
I love this idea so much. Thank you for sharing.

From Janet M.:
To help busy, working neighbor/friends (a police officer and nurse), my husband buys for four from Vaccaro’s in Bath and gives half to these people. We like the idea of supporting favorite restaurants. We’ve done the same with Edgar’s and D’Agnese’s restaurants — a win-win situation, for our neighbors and the restaurants.

Dear Janet:
Wow. That is a fantastic double-helping idea. You are so generous to share.

From Eileen G.:
I, too, can’t wait for the perfect spring days to get outside and get the grill fired up. I wanted to tell you how I am surviving the quarantine. My children don’t want me going out to grocery stores so I write a list and take a picture of it and send it to my adult sons. They shop and deliver to my door. How wonderful is that? And then I make the recipes from their childhood and they pick it up and share with their children (my grandchildren). This is such a crazy time but we must stay in place and be safe.

We did pick up a dinner from Olesia’s restaurant in the old Tavern of Richfield — they opened their new restaurant the day the quarantine went into effect. They do Old World cooking that we love. The have curb-side dinner pick up. I love their food.

Dear Eileen:
What a clever full-circle way to shop, share and stay safe.

From Chris M.:
So far I have received from caring neighbors a loaf of homemade cinnamon raisin bread, matzo ball soup, lemon meringue pie, pumpkin chocolate chip bread, chicken parm and pasta Alfredo, Russian tea biscuits and Belgian chocolates — and I know there’s more that I can’t recall right now. In return I have delivered beef barley soup, banana bread, lemon yogurt cake, flowers and Easter candy. I’m about to make cowboy cookies to share. I’m trying to address the waistline problem and am having little success; somehow raw veggies don’t convey the same message of love and concern!

Dear Chris:
OK, you answered the question of “Where’s my pie?”. I think I had better get busy gifting food if I want to get food — although I have given a bit of food to friends and I have gotten some chocolate, a loaf of banana bread, blueberry bread and part of an Easter lamb cake in return. Not too shabby, although nothing like your bonanza.

April 22, 2020

Dear friends,
When you live in Ohio, the first cookout of spring is an electrifying occasion. It is impossible to overstate the joy a whiff of charcoal brings after the last snow (fingers crossed) recedes and the grass turns a technicolor green.

Those in temperate states can’t know the thrill of a perfect April afternoon, appreciation heightened by the knowledge that we teeter on the edge of weather apocalypse and it could all go south in an hour.

I jumped the gun when I lit the grill two weeks ago, and I’m not sorry. I lived spring for a brief, warm evening before the evil west wind dumped snow, hail and tornadoes on us in one last angry snit. I hope it was the last. I’m grilling again no matter what.

I went all out for my first spring cookout. I thawed a whole chicken and marinated it in yogurt and Indian spices before grill-smoking it over indirect heat. The chicken was spatchcocked — split up the back and pressed flat. It cooks more evenly that way. The chicken was smoky and juicy, with the tandoori flavor Tony loves.

The side dish I whipped up was every bit as good as the chicken. I created it on the spot to use up half a head of cabbage and a small globe eggplant that were on the brink of going bad. Although they aren’t a natural pair, I know both turn silky when cooked low and slow, so I gave it a try. I chopped the vegetables and steamed/sautéed them in a covered skillet with whole cumin and coriander seeds. Wow. The texture and flavor were amazing.

As I write this on Monday, snow is spitting outside the window. But by the time you read this on Wednesday it may be 70 degrees and sunny, great weather for a cookout. Whatever. It’s April in Ohio and we’re grilling, baby.


1 whole chicken, rinsed, excess fat trimmed, patted dry
1 small onion, cut into chunks
2 peeled garlic cloves
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. salt
1 cup plain yogurt

Cut the chicken up the back from tail to neck. Place in a shallow baking pan and press flat with your hands, skin side up.

Place onion, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor and puree. Add the coriander, paprika, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, salt and pepper to taste, and yogurt. Process until smooth.

Pat the mixture on both sides of the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Build a 30- to 40-briquette charcoal fire on one side of a grill, or prepare a gas grill for indirect cooking. When the coals are ashed over, sprinkle a few soaked hickory or other wood chips directly on the coals. Place the chicken on an oiled grid on the side opposite the coals. Cover, leaving vents fully open. Roast for 30 minutes.

Turn chicken so the side farthest from the coals is now closest. Cover and continue roasting about 30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh not touching the bone registers 165 to 170 degrees. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Makes 4 servings.

From “The Cook’s Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry” by the editors of Cooks Illustrated.

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 small head cabbage, chopped in 1-inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until they become fragrant. Add vegetables, season generously with salt and stir well. Cover and cook until vegetables are very soft, stirring once or twice. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Makes 4 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Couscous salad with tomatoes, basil, feta and pesto vinaigrette; pumpkin custard; pan-grilled top sirloin steak with ginger-garlic glaze and sautéed bell pepper strips; oatmeal with walnuts, raisins and blueberries; spicy cornmeal crackers; ground turkey burgers; King Arthur sandwich bread; fried Spam, seared cherry tomatoes, pesto and hot pepper cheese on rolls; flourless chocolate mug cake; curried sweet potato and lentil soup; steamed asparagus, seared cherry tomatoes, browned cubes of Spam and feta in a lemon-tarragon vinaigrette.

What I ate from restaurants:
Weensy Buffalo-ranch wings, antipasto salad and pepperoni pizza from Antonio’s Pizzeria LoSchiavo in Copley; Moe Betta Burger and french fries from Moe’s Restaurant in Cuyahoga Falls.

From Carol B.:
Jane, I have never been a foodie. Now I’m in Pandemic Mode, and our lives have changed dramatically. I spend half of my life on food — compiling lists, ordering items online, picking them up at grocery stores (staying in the car), wiping them down before bringing them into the house, cataloging them, storing them, checking substitution lists from the stores, and agonizing over items that I can’t find. (Anyone know where we can get 13-gallon kitchen garbage bags?)

Other people are binge-watching TV shows and cleaning out their closets. Where do they find the time?

Meanwhile, I’m cooking a lot more food—I must get through several bags of rice and beans that we panic-bought on March 22, when we heard about the impending lockdown. And cooking more means eating more, since leftovers are backing up in the fridge and freezer. Help—I can no longer zip up my jeans!

So, like you, I’m thinking about food most of my day, but not in a loving, creative, anticipatory way. I can’t wait to go back to my old, blasé attitude. Maybe that will happen sometime, when my calendar is full of activities that used to fill my days.

Just thought you’d like to see the other side of this unprecedented situation, the view from a non-foodie!

Dear Carol:
We are ALL foodies of one kind or another in this situation. Foraging for, storing and cooking food has become a substitute for the things we no longer can do. Thanks for your humorous perspective.

Tony and I bought a month’s worth of groceries on April 2 and are slowly working our way through them. I miss fresh ginger and fresh fruit, but I’m trying to hold out for another week. I did break down and buy eggs at a nearby farm on Saturday. Whenever I feel a twinge of irritation at the lack of one ingredient or another, I think of
those whose incomes have been interrupted by the pandemic. Who am I to complain?

I wonder how others are handling the guilt of over-stuffed refrigerators and cupboards. I worry about the hundreds of people we see on television lined up at food pantries. Maybe we should all clear out one shelf of hoarded food and donate it to a food bank. I think I’ll do that this week.

Are you doing anything to help feed your less fortunate neighbors? I’d like to hear about it, so I can find new ways to help, too. And if you don’t have enough to eat, let me know about that, too.

Finally, I’d like to hear about the ways you are cheering up your friends and family with food. I hear there’s an underground movement afoot to leave pies anonymously on doorsteps. What is all that about? And where’s my pie?

April 15, 2020

Dear friends,
I have a great Easter side dish for you today. I know, I’m a week late. But as I told a friend when she asked for the recipe on Saturday, I’m on Corona time. The recipe was still in my head at that point. Now it has been tested, tasted and typed. And it’s a goodie.

Asparagus-Lemon Custard is exactly what it sounds like — asparagus baked in a silken lemon custard. The spears are sliced diagonally and spread in the bottom of a baking dish (a shallow gratin pan is ideal), then topped with shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese. Milk and eggs beaten with nutmeg and grated lemon zest are poured over the top and it is baked until shimmery and golden around the edges.

If you are a custard lover, this may be the ultimate way to eat asparagus. The lemon flavor is pronounced but softened by the nutmeg and eggy richness of the custard. The asparagus is plentiful enough to inform every bite.

I created the recipe with store-bought spears because the local asparagus season has barely started. But two tightly furled tips broke through the soil in my asparagus patch on Sunday, harbingers of the riches to come. I can’t wait.


3/4 lb. (12 oz.) asparagus
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 tsp.nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
Grated zest of 1 medium to large lemon
4 oz. shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trim woody ends of asparagus and cut all but three spears into 1-inch lengths on the diagonal. Place the whole and cut pieces in a large skillet, add about an inch or less of water, cover and cook just until al dente. Immediately drain and refresh under cold water to stop the cooking and set the color. Drain very well.

Beat eggs with milk, nutmeg and salt. Beat in lemon zest. Blot asparagus dry and spread cut pieces in the bottom of a buttered gratin pan or other shallow 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle cheese evenly over asparagus. Pour egg mixture over all.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the custard is just starting to set. Quickly arrange whole spears in a pleasing pattern on top of custard. Continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes, until custard is set and edges start to brown. Do not overcook. The custard should be slightly wiggly in the center. It will fully set as it cools.

Cool custard to room temperature before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Spanish garlic soup; Cheddar, onion, mustard and cherry preserves sandwich (surprisingly good); pancakes and eggs over easy; no-knead bread; charcoal-grilled tomahawk rib steak with horseradish sauce, baked potatoes with sour cream, pan-grilled asparagus with butter and lemon and a chocolate birthday cake for Tony; stuffed pepper soup; blackberry crisp; asparagus-lemon custard; pan-grilled bratwurst, chopped salad; cornbread; Japanese curry with rice (with Tony).

What I ate from restaurants:
Pulled pork sandwich, vinegar slaw and green beans from Old Carolina Barbecue in Fairlawn.

From Carol B.:
We finally decided to risk eating takeout last night. We ordered online at Sushi Asia Gourmet in Akron. Everything went through. When I got there, they were closed. A sign on the door said they had closed on March 31.

From Maryann A.:
Thanks for including my comments about The Tavern in Stow. Sad to say, they have had to close. Hope they reopen soon, and we can again enjoy their wonderful menu.

Dear Carol and Maryann:
Restaurants are entering a vulnerable time as we mark one month since the start of mandated social distancing. These two restaurants gave it a try, but apparently carryout business wasn’t enough to sustain them. I hope they can reopen when this is over. Meanwhile, we must double down on our efforts to support the restaurants that remain open for carryout. So many local restaurants and their staffs are depending on us.

From Verna F.:
Another independent restaurant to frequent is Moe’s on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls (next to Lambert Buick). For lunch, make sure to try the salmon dinner and also the Mo Betta Hamburgers.

Dear Verna:
Thanks for the reminder. Moe’s is one of my favorites.

From Noreen S.:
Olesia’s Taverne of Richfield recently opened after a $2 million renovation. They are offering carryout of family meals and their menu items including ethnic favorites from their previous North Royalton restaurant.

Dear Noreen:
Thanks for alerting us. I have been hearing scraps of info about the impressive renovation and wish chef-owner Olesia Pochynok much luck. She closed her Ukrainian restaurant in North Royalton in January to focus on finishing the renovation of the historic Taverne of Richfield. How brave of her to open within the limits of the coronavirus pandemic. I can’t wait to try her lobster-crab bisque. Reach the restaurant at olesiastaverne@gmail.com or by phone at 234-400-0288. The website is olesiastaverne.com.

From Carol W.:
Tell your reader looking for Sumner’s Butter that I saw it at Mustard Seed Market (Montrose) — just before COVID 19 kept us all at home.

Dear Carol:
Good to know it is still around. Thanks.

From Peggy P.:
We have recently returned from Florida and I wanted to keep the seashore cuisine going, so I looked for the number of the fish market in Twinsburg. Can it be that they have closed? Dang.

Yes, there are other places to get good, fresh seafood but I loved that place! Just walking in the door took me back to Route A1A in St. Augustine. The world is changing. Sure. But I want a bushel of oysters!

Dear Peggy:
Don’t despair. BayLobsters Cafe & Fish Market is not kaput. The store merely moved. Now it is located at 3423 Cleveland Road in Wooster. The website is http://www.bayLobsterswooster.com. The current truncated hours are 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The store has carryout meals in addition to fresh seafood.

April 8, 2020

Dear friends,
Suddenly, cooking is our national pastime. It is soothing. The repetitive movements of measuring, stirring, sautéing and kneading have become our meditation, our substitute for yoga class. Even those who have never made bread are drawn now to yeast and flour.

I have been cooking and baking way more than usual, and not just because restaurants are closed. I have been making new and old dishes, interesting experiments and comforting classics. My imagination has been limited only by the contents of my pantry and freezer. You, too?

In a recent freezer dive, I saw an ungodly amount of venison taking up space. You may not have venison but if you’re lucky you have pork or beef or chicken thighs or some kind of protein you’ve wondered how to prepare. Consider paprikash.

I’m often too impatient anymore for this kind of slow-simmered dish. But now I’ve got nothing but time, and the thought of filling the house with the cozy aromas of sizzling onions and bubbling broth was the perfect antidote to a rainy spring day.

My paprikash is the kind that’s enriched with so much sour cream it almost tastes like stroganoff. Serve it over wide egg noodles. Both making it and eating it may be just the comfort you need this week.


2 lbs. boneless venison or lean beef (round or sirloin, for example) or pork or bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks
Salt, pepper
3 tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 extra-large onion, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 tbsp. sweet paprika
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
1 cup sour cream

Cut meat into 1-inch cubes unless you’re using chicken pieces, which should be left whole. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or other heavy pot. Sauté garlic until it begins to turn golden, pressing into the oil to release the flavor. Remove and discard garlic. Brown meat cubes on all sides in the oil. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same pan, sauté onions until soft and the edges begin to brown. Stir in paprika and 1 teaspoon salt. Return meat to the pan and stir well. Add wine, raise heat and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Reduce heat and stir in broth. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes or until meat is fork-tender, adding more broth if necessary.

Stir cornstarch into the cold water until smooth. Stir into the stew and stir and simmer uncovered until thickened. Turn heat to low and stir in sour cream. Heat but do not bring to a boil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Ladle over wide noodles to serve. Makes 6 servings. Or if you’re Tony, 2 for him and 1 for me.

What I cooked last week:
A frozen Aldi’s pizza; no-knead bread; grilled spatchcock tandoori chicken; cabbage and eggplant with Indian spices; chicken and pesto sandwich on homemade crusty bread; Swiss cheese burgers; oatmeal with raisins and blueberries; chicken salad with olives and artichokes; chicken stock; roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon; frozen DiGiorno pizza; chocolate-peanut butter cookies; sautéed cherry tomatoes, onions and mushrooms with basil, feta cheese and an egg; katsudon (Japanese fried pork cutlet over rice with a dashi-soy sauce).

What I ordered from restaurants:
A Jane roll, an electra roll and tamago from Sushi Katsu in Akron.

In an effort to boost local restaurants, I’m sharing your emails about great carryout meals. Don’t forget to tip generously.

From Deborah:
My family of three goes to three local restaurants: Mr G’s in Fairlawn where we get Uncle Frank’s sub, the spaghetti dinner with wedding soup, Mr. G’s fries (steak fries with garlic butter, Italian spices and melted cheese) and cheesy garlic bread; Vasili’s Greek Cuisine in Akron where the must-haves are the gyro supreme, pastitsio with avgolemono soup, dolmathes and pita bread; and Sushi Asian Gourmet, near Vasili’s in the Merriman Valley in Akron, where everything on the menu is good. We’ve tried just about the whole menu and never had a bad meal.

From Maryann A.:
Definitely we have to support our local restaurants! The Tavern in Stow is open for carryout. It has been doing an amazing job of supplying lunches for kids who are in need because of school being closed. Also, the restaurant has a wonderful menu that includes a really good lobster mac ’n cheese, steak Alfredo, chicken salad on a pretzel bun, a yummy white pizza with chicken, and many more delectable selections. Not to be missed: the bread sticks with homemade dipping sauce. You call from your car when you arrive and they bring your order out to you. Try them – you won’t be disappointed!

From Susan B.:
So good to hear what everyone is doing to help us all weather this difficult time. We have recently gotten carryout from The Rail (burgers) at Belden Village, Bakers 33 Café (fabulous steaks) in Canton and also Kozmo’s (great sandwiches) in Massillon. Everyone is so appreciative for the business, and it just feels good to support them now. I think this week will be TJ Dillon’s Irish Pub in Massillon (for fish on Friday) and That Little Italian Kitchen in Canton (it’s all good there).

We want to simply feel “normal” again. So last Saturday we swept out the garage, hung up some string lights, set up two card tables (of course the required distance apart) and had friends over to share a carryout meal. We had such fun that we are leaving the lights up until this is all over.

Keep your good stuff coming – it is truly appreciated.

From Patty:
We have gotten carryout from Sammie’s and Delanie’s in Tallmadge. Try Julian’s in Goodyear Heights! These great places won’t break your budget.

From Kris F.:
We’ve ordered from Diamond Deli in downtown Akron for lunch every weekday. I’ve eaten there since 1995 when I was at the University of Akron, and would hate to see it close its doors. The “boys,” as we call them, are great. The soups are fantastic and mac and cheese is the Wednesday special during Lent. Fridays’ special is Cajun crab bisque. My husband loves it. There aren’t many workers left downtown. My husband is an attorney so he’s there with a skeleton staff.

From Karen and Frank:
Our favorite place (for more than 25 years) is Primo’s Deli, open for take-out at 1707 Vernon Odom Blvd., Akron, phone 330-745-9056. Recently we had their Italian sub, chicken salad on wheat toast and of course, carrot cake. Plus, you can drive by the huge Amazon building on Romig Road and see its progress!

From Paula:
You know I love you and your newsletter, but the people who work at BJ’s and other chain restaurants are local and trying to survive, too. The manager at BJ’s is a sweetheart and he had to make the painful decision to pick one server to work with him. I also am supporting local as much as possible. My fave right now is Continental Cuisine. Keep up the great work, and stay safe!

Dear Paula:
I understand your perspective. I feel for local folks who work in ANY business that has been temporarily shuttered. But I am trying to help save local independent restaurants — the ones that give a city and region its distinctive flavor.

BJ’s, Olive Garden and other chains are more equipped to weather the epidemic and rehire staff when this is over. But many independent restaurants operate month to month bill-wise. I know, because my husband owned a restaurant that almost tanked during the recession. Every customer who came through the door was a godsend.

I empathize with every server, cook, bartender and manager who is out of a job. But when we patronize local restaurants, we help make sure these beloved places that have employed so many local people — in some cases for generations — will be around when this is over. Taco Bell will be OK. I want to make sure Dontino’s is, too.

From Diane Jarrett:
I am prompted to write with gratitude as you ask your readers to support small local restaurants. My husband and I own the Old Carolina Barbecue Company franchise in Orrville (a local small chain), and the adjoining Baja West Coast Kitchen. We see the restaurants in our small market as economic development initiatives, supporting the community, our employees, and creating opportunities.

These last few weeks have had many of us going back to the WHY of what we do, and thinking about how we can create opportunity for the survival of our restaurants as we work through these highly unusual days. We are grateful for every customer that comes through our doors, and for every order placed. It means jobs and it means opportunities for, in many cases, high school and college students to learn soft skills and proper food handling, and to get a paycheck.

We are in new territory as we have been forced to completely change our business model in days while watching the bottom line. It has been challenging, and we are buoyed by the support of the smiling faces of those who patronize us each day. To all of your readers, a huge thank you from the restaurant community who appreciates you more than you know. For the times that we hit it out of the park and you share a kind review online or with a friend, thanks. And for the time that your order is delayed by a rush that we didn’t anticipate, or for some other reason we didn’t meet your expectation, and you are patient and gracious, thanks. Please communicate with us. We want you to be happy!

As restaurant owners, we personally have created family meal packs that bring value to our guests, and we have sought out opportunities to support those in our community who are essential and must continue to work as this crisis unfolds. I know that your readers are also doing their part in their corners of the world, and I want to extend them a thank you for each kindness that they have shared with another soul on this Earth in these uncertain times!

Dear Diane:
What a beautiful letter. I hope customers storm the doors this week.

The chef/owner of Vaccaro’s Trattoria in Bath is Raphael Vaccaro. I gave him different first name last week when I wrote about his wonderful carryout dinners. So sorry.