September 23, 2020

Dear friends,
This will be the year I plant garlic. I say that every year, but this time I mean it. I cannot go back to supermarket garlic after tasting the hard-neck garlic my friend grew.

For a month Ric has been supplying me with garlic heads almost as big as my fist, with large, plump cloves that are fresh and pungent. I had half a bag of garlic from the store when this started. I tried to use it up but the cloves were just too puny and enervated in comparison. (Can I use “enervated” to describe garlic? The word fits perfectly.)

I have had fresh hard-neck garlic before, but not as fresh as this. Literally, Ric would dig it, hop in his truck, drive a mile down the road and deliver a couple of handfuls, stalks and all. He’s my garlic mule.

I use a lot of garlic normally, but last week I upped my game. With so much garlic on hand, I figured it was time to make that classic fricassee, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. I had heard of James Beard’s version, which created a sensation when he introduced it, but I went with a French one from the Provencal region where the dish originated. There, it is called “Poulet Mistral,” says Patricia Wells, who got the recipe from a chef at a restaurant near Avignon.

The recipe couldn’t be easier. Chicken and garlic are browned in a deep skillet, then simmered with wine and chicken stock. The recipe has just six ingredients plus salt and pepper. Wells uses a whole cut-up chicken, but I found plump chicken legs on sale and used three pounds of those — skinning two of the legs for me.

If you happen to have plump cloves of garlic as big as your thumb, as I do, you can reduce the amount of garlic by half. Or not. When garlic is cooked in this manner, it mellows and becomes so sweet you can eat it like a vegetable, so don’t stint.

The dish is warming and makes the house smell divine — just what you want on a crisp fall evening.

POULET MISTRAL

(Chicken with Garlic)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
3 to 4 lbs. bone-in chicken parts
Salt, fresh-ground pepper
About 40 large cloves peeled garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth

In a heavy, deep 12-inch skillet, heat the oil and butter over high heat. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. When the fats are hot but not smoking, add the chicken pieces and brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Adjust the heat to avoid scorching. Turn the chicken and brown on other side.

Reduce heat to medium. Bury the garlic cloves under the chicken to make sure they settle in one layer at the bottom of the skillet. Sauté, shaking pan frequently, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Slowly pour in the wine and broth. Shake the pan and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and continue cooking until the juices run clear when a thigh is pricked, 10 to 12 more minutes.

Serve the chicken with the garlic, pan juices and with sauteed potatoes or rice. Makes 4 servings. From “Bistro Cooking” by Patricia Wells.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Avocado toast; egg, pesto and avocado on toast; tomato salad with vinaigrette; boiled and pickled home-grown beets; pumpkin custard; roast tomato sauce; roast diced butternut squash with olive oil and sea salt, Mistral chicken, and tomato, feta and tarragon salad; eggplant lasagne; scrambled egg, tomato and feta on toast.

What I carried out:
Cobb salad from Giant Eagle; hummus, baba ganoush, pita bread, keftedes, grilled chicken, grilled beef and basmati rice from Mediterranean Market & Grill in Cuyahoga Falls; sugar-free iced coffee frozen yogurt from Menchie’s.

THE MAILBAG
From Beth D.:
This idea was in a comment on the NEO Foodies group on Facebook recently, I believe. One of those head-smacking, game changer-moments in the “waste nothing” movement!

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/08/tomato-powder-from-tomato-skins.html

If you have a dehydrator, you can do them in there as well. Cheers!

Dear Beth:
How timely! Just as backyard tomatoes begin to overwhelm our kitchens, you give us a way to use the tomato skin. Instead of discarding it, we can dry it and turn it into tomato powder. I have just recently discovered the powder (sold in Latin American food stores), and so far all I’ve done is stir into rice to make Mexican rice. My husband loves it. Has anyone discovered other uses for it?

From Annie:
Hey Jane, the Spice House has tomato powder for $6.99 a 1/2-cup jar.

Dear Annie:
Great! I can buy some without leaving the house. The website is www.thespicehouse.com.

September 16, 2020

Dear friends,
I grilled a boneless leg of lamb for my birthday last week. It had a caramelized crust and a rosy-pink interior, and it perfectly complemented the inky pinot noir I uncorked.

Here’s what Tony wished I’d have cooked: Thin-sliced grilled lamb in a soy-molasses-ginger sauce. I know that because the next day, as I sliced the gorgeous leftover lamb for dinner, I noticed Tony scooping rice into bowl. “Genghis Khan!” he said, naming a favorite Japanese dish. He soaked a handful of slices in a sweet soy marinade, totally disguising the lamb flavor, then piled the lamb and a cuke salad onto the rice.

You can take the man out of Japan but you can’t take Japan out of the man, which why we eat so many rice bowls. I was just lucky he didn’t try that with the lamb fresh from the grill. He wanted to, but I’d have killed him.

Actually, I like rice bowls. They are a balanced meal of protein, vegetables and carbs in one easy-to-assemble pile. Usually they have an Asian bent, but recently I wanted to surprise Tony with a different twist. I flavored the rice with tomato and cilantro and piled mojo shrimp, garlicky wilted greens, avocado and bacon-corn salsa on top. Different flavors, same idea.

I made the tomato rice in a rice steamer with Japanese Nishiki rice and two tablespoons of tomato powder, a cool ingredient a friend got at a Latin market. Powdered tomato bouillon comes in a jar and is made by Knorr. It is available in some regular supermarkets if you want to track it down, or just skip it and flavor the rice with chopped cilantro.

The shrimp are stripped of their shells and flash-cooked in a skillet with a splash of mojo marinade. The greens are wilted in the same skillet with a film of olive oil and slivered garlic.

The corn salsa is the star of the show. It starts with a slice of bacon, rendered and crisped. Corn is sauteed briefly in the bacon fat, then tomato, onion, cilantro and Tajin seasoning are added off the heat.

Like the best rice bowls, this one is better than the sum of its parts — which is saying something, because the parts are pretty darn good.

MEXICAN RICE BOWL
2 cups uncooked medium-grain rice
2 tbsp. tomato bouillon powder or 1/3 cup minced cilantro or both
Corn and bacon salsa (recipe follows)
Olive oil
12 large raw shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup mojo criollo marinade
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
4 cups (packed) washed greens such as spinach or Swiss chard
Sea salt
1 ripe avocado

In the bowl of a rice steamer, rinse rice twice in cold water, discarding starchy water each time. Pour 2 cups clean water over rice and stir in tomato powder if using. Cook in a rice steamer and when done, let set on “warm” for at least 15 minutes or up to several hours. Fluff rice and fold in cilantro just before serving.

Meanwhile, make the corn and bacon salsa in a large, heavy skillet. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, stir fry shrimp for 1 minute. Add mojo marinade and continue to stir shrimp until they are barely cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out skillet with a paper towel.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add slivered garlic. When edges start to brown, add greens and season with sea salt. Cover and steam for 30 seconds. Turn greens top to bottom, cover and steam 30 seconds longer or until greens are wilted. Remove lid and set aside.

Divide rice among three bowls. In wide strips, top with shrimp, the salsa and the greens. Remove avocado from shell and cut each half in six wedges. Decorate each portion with 4 wedges of avocado. Makes 3 servings.

CORN AND BACON SALSA
1 slice bacon
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
3/4 cup seeded and diced ripe tomato
1/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
Salt
1 tsp. Tajin seasoning
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Fry bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Drain bacon on paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the skillet. Add corn and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 1 minute.

Transfer corn to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Crumble bacon into salsa and stir. Cover and set aside until needed.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Cream of wheat cereal; bacon, tomato and pesto on toast; chocolate pudding; barbecued baby back ribs with gochujang barbecue sauce, Asian pear and cabbage slaw, corn on the cob; egg, tomato, pesto and chunky sea salt on toast; grilled hamburgers with hot peppers, onions, tomatoes and Dijon mustard; turkey sausage with sweet and sour cabbage, baked potato; Kumamoto oysters on the half shell with Champagne (no cooking, but we had to open three dozen oysters); roasted peach, delicata squash and feta with vinaigrette; peanut butter and bacon sandwich; grilled butterflied leg of lamb, grilled Asian eggplants with sweet soy sauce, baked potatoes, corn on the cob; cucumber and red pepper salad with sesame dressing.

What I carried out out:
Sugar-free iced coffee frozen yogurt from Menchie’s; a tiny white birthday cake from Acme.

THE MAILBAG
From Jan P.:
Oh Jane. The pears, my goodness, the pears are fantastic. Best ever. Juicy, crisp, just a touch of floral. Thanks so much for recommending Weymouth Orchards in Hinckley! My husband, who’s not a fruit lover, is enjoying them like I’ve never seen him enjoy any fruit.

I have to mention also that their COVID-19 safety measures are as good as we’ve seen anywhere. We prepaid, called when we arrived, she met us at the gate and set the bag down instead of handing it to us. We were both masked. Perfect!

Can’t wait to try the next type in a couple weeks, but how can they possibly be any better than the Hosui?

Dear Jan:
I love turning people onto Weymouth Farms. The pears are so good I want everyone to share the joy. You should taste their table grapes, which are not the usual varieties planted around here. Brenda and Paul O’Neill are wizards.

From Laraine D.:
Any chance you have the recipe for West Point Market’s chocolate crinkle cookies? (Still missing the old West Point.)

I’m so glad you’ve kept up See Jane Cook!

Dear Laraine:
I miss that store like mad, too. It was a golden age of food in our area, thanks in large part to Russ Vernon and West Point Market. The chocolate crinkles cookie recipe isn’t in the “West Point Market Cookbook,” and I could not find it in the Beacon Journal’s database. The recipe may never have been shared. We can only hope your request reaches one of the former bakers. If any of you have an “in,” could you forward this column?

From Nancy H.:
I just read your piece on rice, and I wanted to offer a clarification. I’ve been buying rice in the Asian grocery for years, and Nishiki is one of my preferred brands. Though the company is Japanese, the product they sell in the U.S. is grown in California, not Japan. I don’t have their white rice bag in my house to show you at the moment, but if you look online, you will find that:

“Nishiki is a brand of California-grown, medium grain rice sold by JFC International. The species of Nishiki Brand Rice is known as New Variety, which includes Kokuho Rose and M401. New Variety is a medium-grain rice, very similar to Calrose rice.”

Dear Nancy:
You are absolutely right. When I asked Tony whether he knew the Nishiki rice he buys is grown in California, he said, “Of course.” The variety is Japanese but the source is California. Thanks for setting me straight.

September 9, 2020

Dear friends,
I knew zip about cooking rice when I met Tony. Oh, I thought I could cook rice, and I did a decent job with arborio, Converted, basmati and jasmine. But regular white rice? Forget it.

I’m not the only one. I regularly get queries about how to cook rice so it comes out delicious instead of dry, shriveled and bland. Today I’ll tell you. Or rather, I’ll tell you how my husband the sushi chef cooks fabulous rice.

Buying high-quality rice is 90 percent of the battle. The long-grain rice I used to buy in supermarkets was — well, I got what I paid for. Since meeting Tony, the only rice I buy is Japanese. I like it best. The grains are medium-length and plump, and have a slightly al dente texture when cooked. They do not dissolve on the tongue. Sometimes this rice is labeled “sushi rice” in stores (with a markup in price), although there’s no such distinction in Japan. The rice used in sushi bars is also the rice used at home.


The brand Tony likes is Nishiki. The uncooked grains of good-quality Japanese rice are somewhat transparent. Lower-quality rice is chalky-white, Tony says.

Cook the rice in a rice steamer. I’ve never seen anyone in Japan use a saucepan. Rice steamers are inexpensive. You can pick one up at an Asian store. That’s where you can buy Nishiki rice, too.

Rice must be rinsed before it is cooked in order to eliminate some of the starch so it does not become glue-like. Tony rinses his twice. His father rinsed rice three times. Measure the rice into the removable insert of the rice cooker. At the sink, cover the rice with cold water and swish the rice for 30 seconds with your fingers. Carefully pour off the cloudy water. Repeat once or twice until the water runs clear. Then cover with the proper amount of water, return the insert to the rice cooker, plug it in and cook. I measured the amounts of rice and water Tony used. It was two cups water for two cups rice.

The rice cooker will automatically switch from “cook” to “warm” when the rice is done. Do not use the rice immediately. Let it remain in the rice cooker, without opening the lid, for at least 15 minutes to further steam the grains. It can remain in the rice cooker on “warm” overnight or up to two days.

When you’re ready to use the rice, don’t just scoop it out of the cooker. With a big, flat wooden spoon or similar utensil (you can buy a rice paddle at an Asian store), cut into the solid block of rice, lift some of the rice and fluff it up. Repeat several times. The idea is to separate the grains. If the rice is too sticky to fluff, it’s a clue you’ve used too much water.

At this point, Tony is just getting started on fluffing and seasoning rice for sushi, but for everyday use, the rice is done. Next week I’ll share my new recipe for a Southwestern rice bowl. For now, practice making delicious rice.

TIDBITS
*A Classic is Back: Five months after closing due to the pandemic, Chin’s Place in Akron reopened Monday for carryout orders only. Elaine Chin said she needed the break but is glad to see her customers again.

The popular Chinese restaurant has an abbreviated “pandemic” menu that still is ample. It includes lo mein, fried rice, egg foo young, chicken curry and about a dozen stir fries such as chicken and green beans in black bean sauce, Hunan pork and ginger beef. The full menu is posted on Chin’s Place Facebook page. The phone is 330-434-1998.

*On the Move:
Chowder House, the place to go when you want seafood, is moving from its colorful, quirky Cuyahoga Falls location to the former Maison Martel/Pucci’s space at 1224 Weathervane Lane in Liberty Commons in Akron’s Merriman Valley.

Chef Louis Prpich, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Kerry, said he’s making the move so he can expand his menu (the kitchen will be much bigger) and offer beer, wine and craft cocktails. His current location has no liquor license.

The restaurant remains open in the Falls until after the big annual clambake on Sept. 27. The new place opens its doors Oct. 1. For reservations at either location, phone 330-794-7102.

*Pear Pickin’ Time:
*The pandemic didn’t stop the Asian pears and apples from ripening or the gourmet grapes from turning purple and tawny-gold at Weymouth Farms in Hinckley.
Customers can still buy the juicy fruit this year, but the transactions are carried out at a safe distance.

Fruit is ordered and paid for on line, then picked up at the gates to the farm. Customers call on arrival and their hand-picked fruit is brought in a wagon to the gate for the socially-distanced transfer.

Owner Paul O’Neill kind of apologized for the high sugar content of the pears this year. I think they are the best yet — delicately floral, exceptionally juicy and sweet. To order, click on weymouthfarms.com.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Corned beef hash, steamed eggs, blistered cherry tomatoes and toast; grilled strip steaks, roast green beans with lemon and garlic, boiled new potatoes with sea salt; edamame protein salad; roasted eggplant, tomato and basil salad; eggplant lasagne; steak sandwich with tomato and pesto on toast; ham, potato and green bean soup with pesto; ghost sushi; scrambled eggs and toast; peanut butter, onion and tomato sandwich.

What I carried out:
Salad with apples, walnuts, chicken and blue cheese from Wal-mart.

THE MAILBAG
From O.R.:
When the New York Spaghetti House closed for a time, I remember hearing there were anchovies in their brown sauce, the secret ingredient! Made sense to me, because there was a unique taste I could not identify.

Dear O.R.:
Hmmm. I wouldn’t be surprised.

From Annie F.:
You asked what canning is happening so here is my list:

Ball’s Blueberry Citrus Conserve (great with pork or chicken)
Filet, yellow and green beans – frozen this year as there are still jars from last year
Curry pickles (a family favorite from an old Ortho pickling book of my mother’s)
Curry zucchini (same recipe, too much zucchini)
Pickled Biqunho peppers (tiny chilis from Brazil, only 1000 Scoville units, served with drinks and appetizers)
Mary’s hot sauce base ( my mom’s version of the Barberton favorite, just open a jar and add rice)
Cherry jam using Pomona’s pectin and xylitol for my diabetic siblings
Hot peppers and jalapeños with my friend Cheryl using a brine recipe from an old edition of Stocking Up (been doing this since 1995)

I used to do much more. I kept records of all the canning I have done since 1995. I do not know how I found the time and energy with a full-time job and two kids but I tried a bunch of different things from ketchups to chutneys to pickled anything.

Dear Annie:
That’s a lot of canning. I can just see the jars gleaming on your pantry shelves.

From Ellen:
My sister Lisa and I canned 55 pints of bread and butter pickles. She took home 36, the rest was mine. She’ll be visiting the end of the month and we’ll make and freeze applesauce — which I also make about 75 quarts and freeze with my son Eric and his wife, Kelly.

I’m freezing corn off cob for corn chowder this winter and freezer strawberry jam. I already had most of my canning supplies. When I was young and adventurous I would can over 300 quarts of fruits and veggies. Makes me weak thinking about it.

Dear Ellen:
I’m weak just reading about it.

September 2, 2020

Dear friends,
Earlier this summer I created an appetizer recipe, hoping that by September I could share it with friends on my deck. That’s a hard “No.” Because of my age (71 this month) I’m still social distancing and limiting my interaction with others to quick, masked trips to the pharmacy and grocery store followed by vigorous hand-washing.

Tony and I did hitch up our camper and got away to upstate New York and the mountains of New Hampshire last week, but we didn’t eat out and didn’t mingle. Campground check-ins were on-line. Fellow campers kept their distance.

In other words, no festive occasions to debut my spicy picadillo galette with avocado and sour cream. Tony and I enjoyed it privately, though. We made a dinner out of it, and you can, too.

A galette, as most of you know, is simply a rustic tart baked free-form, with an inch or two of the edges folded over the filling. It is the easiest kind of pie to make, and already this summer I’ve made two peach galettes. Making an appetizer galette is an unexpected twist, though. When cut into wedges like a pizza, it is a lovely substantial bite or, in my case, dinner.

The filling is a Cuban picadillo — deeply seasoned ground beef and tomatoes with sliced olives. You could sub sloppy joe filling or taco-spiced ground beef with less work, but the picadillo has a lot more flavor.

After the galette cooled a bit, I fanned avocado slices around the middle, one per wedge, and drizzled thinned sour cream over the top for a bit of dazzle. Share it with friends someday or make it now for a private pandemic dinner.

SPICY BEEF AND OLIVE GALETTE

1 disk pie dough (recipe below)
1 to 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large onion, diced (1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 tsp. ground cumin
Salt, pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup sliced stuffed green olives
1 can (10 oz.) Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1/2 ripe avocado
3 tbsp sour cream thinned with 1 tbsp. milk or water

Make dough and refrigerate.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick or cast iron skillet. Sauté onion over medium heat until it starts to soften. Stir in garlic and sauté for a minute or two more. Scrape to one side.

Crumble beef into same skillet, adding more oil if needed. Increase heat to medium-high and brown the meat, breaking it apart with the side of a spoon. Stir meat and onion mixture together. Stir in cumin, salt and pepper and continue to cook for 30 seconds. Add wine, stirring until wine evaporates.

Stir in olives, Rotel tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is almost dry. Remove from heat.

Remove one disk of dough from refrigerator and place on a floured surface. Let stand at room temperature for a few minutes, until it softens slightly. Roll to a 12 to 13-inch circle. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Spoon beef mixture evenly over dough, leaving bare a 2-inch rim around edges. Fold edges of dough over beef mixture, pleating and pinching in a circle. Bake on middle oven rack at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes, until crust is golden. Remove from oven, slide the galette on the parchment off of the baking sheet and onto a counter. Let cool until just warm or room temperature.

When ready to serve, cut the galette into 6 to 8 wedges. Remove the avocado from its skin, remove the pit and cut the flesh into 6 to 8 wedges. Drizzle sour cream mixture over the galette in a back-and-forth pattern and decorate with the avocado slices. Makes 6 to 8 appetizer servings.

FOOD PROCESSOR PIE DOUGH
(From Ina Garten)
12 tbsp. cold butter
3 cups flour
1 tsp.. kosher salt
1/3 cup (5 tbsp.) cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tbsp. ice water

Dice butter and return to refrigerator. Measure flour and salt into food processor and pulse briefly to mix. Add cold butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until fat is the size of peas.

While processor is running, slowly pour ice water through feed tube, adding just enough to make mixture come together in a ball. Divide dough in half, shape each into a fat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill. Makes enough for two galettes, two single-crust pies or one double-crust pie. If not using both disks immediately, slip extra one into a quart freezer bag and freeze. Thaw in refrigerator before using.

TIDBIT
Thanks to the pandemic, preserving food at home is trending big-time. Social media is filled with posts from people trying to track down canning supplies. Many stores are sold out.

If you are getting into canning, freezing, drying, curing, smoking or pickling this season, you can check out safety tips and access hundreds of recipes on line at the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia, nchfp.uga.edu.

So, what are you preserving? I have frozen a few quarts of green beans, sliced peaches and blueberries. I’ll freeze whole tomatoes for soup and maybe make some sauce this year.

I’m not canning because I don’t have central air and the kitchen has been unbearable this summer. But I’m curious about what you are canning. Or freezing, pickling, smoking or curing. Please share so we all can get some ideas for saving this month’s bounty.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Fried egg, tomato and pesto on wheat toast; Japanese pork curry and steamed rice.

What I ate from restaurants, etc.:
A turkey pastrami sandwich and yogurt parfait from a gas station in Vermont; a cheeseburger and chocolate chip sandwich cookie from Whitefield Market and Deli in Whitefield, N.H.; chili mac (they called it “Chop Suey”) from the Whitefield Market; frizzled beef, tomato, lettuce and mayo on a toasted roll from Wayne’s Market & Deli in North Woodstock, N.H.; bacon and pineapple pizza from Catalano’s Pizzeria in Twin Mountain, N.H.;

THE MAILBAG
From Dick:
Regarding a recent recipe request: I have been to Cleveland’s New York Spaghetti House dozens, perhaps a hundred times before it closed. The following recipe has been in my book since 2002 or ’03.

I’m not certain if it is the original recipe but it (in my memory) duplicates the dish at the restaurant. I was told many times by the wait staff at the restaurant that the start of the sauce was a roux. Not a simple sauce recipe.

New York Spaghetti House Brown Sauce
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery ribs w/leaves, diced
1 cup grated carrots
6 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 quart beef stock
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. crumbled thyme
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 bay leaves
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 lb. 85/15 ground beef
3/4 lb. ground pork
1 15-oz can of cannellini or great northern beans (pureed)

Prepare a roux: Heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add flour a little at a time, stirring constantly and cooking over low heat until the mixture is the color of peanut butter. This should take about 30 minutes or so. Do not turn up the heat to hurry along the process or the roux will burn. Set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, add ¼ cup of the olive oil and when hot, sauté the onion, celery, carrots and garlic until garlic starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and wine. Stir well. Stir in Italian seasoning, basil, thyme, sugar, salt, bay leaves, parsley and red pepper flakes.

Add raw meat in chunks (don’t brown the meat). Puree the can of beans with the water from the can, and add to the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the roux until smooth and incorporated and simmer for 15 additional minutes. Remove bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce (but don’t over blend – you still want to see meat granules).

Also, here’s a recipe from the Recipe Roundup in the Beacon Journal in 2004:

BROWN SAUCE OF NORTHERN ITALY
5 oz. prosciutto fat or larding pork, ground
14-by-5-inch piece (about 2 1/2 oz.) pork rind, boiled for 10 minutes and drained
2 lbs. rump or shank of beef, cut into chunks
1 lb. boneless veal shank, cut into chunks
4 to 5 lbs. cracked beef and veal bones, with marrow
1 ounce dry mushrooms, soaked in tepid water for 20 minutes, squeezed dry and chopped
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 whole cloves
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1 bouquet garni (1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1 crushed bay leaf, sprigs of parsley and 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram tied into cheesecloth bundle)
1/3 cup flour
1 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained, seeded and chopped
3 quarts boiling water
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of roasting pan that can be used on stovetop with prosciutto fat or larding pork. On top place pork rind, beef rump or shank, veal shank, beef and veal bones with marrow, mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cloves, 1/2 tsp. salt and the black pepper.

Cook on the range top over low heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the meat starts to brown, add the wine and bouquet garni. Cook, stirring, until wine is almost evaporated. Remove from heat, sprinkle with flour, and stir well. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly over very low heat for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes and mix well. Add boiling water to cover and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer (do not boil) for 5 minutes. Scum will start to rise. Remove it with a spoon or ladle until it ceases to accumulate. Place in oven, partially covered, so that steam may escape, and cook for 4 hours, being very careful that it barely simmers (turn heat down if it boils).

Take out of oven; remove beef, veal, and pork rind, and reserve for other uses. Strain liquid, discarding vegetables, bones, and bouquet garni, into a saucepan. Simmer until liquid is reduced to 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups), removing fat from surface with spoon or ladle. Allow to cool.

Place liquid in refrigerator, uncovered, until remaining fat has hardened on top and can be scraped off. Taste for seasoning, and, if flavor is weak, boil to reduce water content further and remove any scum that rises to surface.

Sauce may be kept in refrigerator or freezer. If kept in the refrigerator, it must be removed and brought to a boil every 3 or 4 days before storing again.

Dear Dick:
Obviously you are an aficionado of the restaurant’s sauce and searched for the recipe. Thank you so much for sharing it. I remember tracking down what I hoped was a similar recipe for Recipe Roundup. Yours sounds much closer to the original. Maybe if ground meat were added to the Recipe Roundup sauce, it would approximate the restaurant’s more closely.

From Kim D.:
Just wondering if you have a recipe for the soup they serve with the meals at Hibachi Japan in Cuyahoga Falls. The soup seems to be a blend of chicken and beef stock, clear, has scallions, mushrooms and fried noodles added before serving.

I’ve tried a few recipes online, but they are not quite right. They call for caramelizing carrots, ginger, garlic and onions before adding stock and water to simmer for a couple hours. It is not quite right. Maybe too sweet?

Dear Kim:
Tony worked at Hibachi Japan before he opened his own restaurant. That’s how he got to Akron. It was long ago, though, and he was the sushi chef, not the soup maker. He seems to think the two soups served at the restaurant were miso soup and a clear soup that was plain dashi. I don’t think so.

I know the soup you’re talking about, because I’ve had it in a number of Japanese restaurants. It is brown and clear, like bouillon. Recipes I’ve seen call for a combination of beef and chicken broth with garlic, onions and ginger. Carrots add sweetness to stock, so I recommend leaving them out. If anyone has the recipe from Hibachi Japan, or hints on how to make it, could you share?

August 25, 2020

Dear friends,

I thought I had seen it all when it came to corn. I have steamed, grilled, boiled, baked and microwaved it. I have turned it into ice cream, “milked” it for custard and transformed it into chowder and soufflé. But it turns out I had one more trick to learn: basting grilled corn with miso paste and butter. Yeow.

Miso — fermented soybean paste — is the ingredient I’m learning to reach for when a blah dish needs an extra, inconspicuous bit off oomph. It is more of a supporting player than the main flavor, adding an undefinable richness to a range dishes. Even corn, I learned.

The recipe that turned me on to this trick is from “The Gaijin Cookbook,” which also gave us that sublime mushroom chili recipe for Tofu Coney Island last winter. Author Ivan Orkin devised the corn recipe for a festival in New York City, where he and his wife are based. People went nuts, he said, for their grilled ears of corn basted with a mixture of miso, butter, garlic, sake, mirin and rice vinegar.

For his cookbook, Orkin turned the mixture into a pan sauce for corn sliced off the cob. I turned it back into a baste for corn I grilled over coals on my deck. But first, I had to keep Tony from spooning it right out of the pan. It’s that good.

GRILLED CORN WITH MISO BUTTER

4 ears fresh corn, husked
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. sake
2 tbsp. mirin
2 tbsp. white miso
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Build a fairly hot charcoal fire or pre-heat a gas grill to medium-high.

Meanwhile, insert long wooden skewers into the fat end of the husked corn, if desired. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic, stirring, until softened but not brown. Deglaze with the sake and mirin (bearing in mind that the alcohol can catch fire if the pan is very hot). Add the miso, rice vinegar and butter and whisk to dissolve the miso. Set aside.

When the coals have ashed over and are glowing, place corn on the grid directly over the coals. Brush the corn with some of the miso butter, turning the ears with tongs. Grill, turning occasionally and brushing with miso butter, until the corn is tender-crisp and beginning to char. Transfer to a plate and brush with remaining miso butter. Serves 4 or, more likely, 2. Possibly one.

Adapted from “The Gaijin Cookbook” by Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Rotisserie chicken, baked potato, corn on the cob; pesto, chicken, onion and tomato on whole-wheat toast; egg salad; spaghetti squash baked with ricotta and venison meat sauce; avocado toast with salsa and an egg over hard; edamame protein salad; grilled turkey Italian sausage sandwiches with grilled yellow squash and Tony’s home-grown watermelon.

What I ordered out:
Menchie’s sugar-free strawberry frozen yogurt; ricotta, caramelized onion, spinach and sausage pizza from Good Fellas in Sackets Harbor, N.Y.; half of a ham and cheese sub from Subway.

THE MAILBAG
From Connie, Fairlawn:
Your peaches and elderberry? Sounds great. However, in summer heat I have skipped oven and stove for a quick dessert.  Try slicing whole, ripe peaches and fold in low-fat vanilla yogurt, just enough to coat.  It tastes great to me and seems to keep well in a tight container.

Dear Connie:
Mmmm. My sister-in-law uses low-fat lemon yogurt, which is good, too. Another of my no-stove favorites is fruit spooned over low-fat ricotta cheese with a drizzle of honey.

From Ron C.:
FYI, GetGo in Wadsworth has $3.99 lobster roll salad which is not too bad. Lobster mixed with some pollock or other white fish. Doesn’t compare with the little grocery store near Bass Harbor campground in Maine, but again, not too bad.

Dear Ron:
I wasn’t able to get there before I left on vacation, but it’s on my dance card for my return. I’m sure it won’t rival chef Louis Prpich’s lobster roll at The Chowder House in Cuyahoga Falls, but I’m eager to give it a try.

From Chris F.:
I thought I would ask you to mention in your next newsletter about the dangers of eating elderberries fresh (not cooked). Elderberries contain cyanide and should not be eaten unless completely cooked. My sister and her partner recently ate some with their Sunday dinner and both became quite ill a short time after. I remember an uncle explaining to us kids to never eat the beautiful elderberries growing all around his property in rural Ohio. I’m guessing my sister wasn’t paying attention….

Dear Kris:
I seemed to recall something along those lines and researched the fruit before I picked it. Thank goodness, because you are so right. Baking the berries in the clafouti did the trick, because neither Tony nor I were ill after eating them.

From Christine O.:
You have elderberries! That’s so exciting. Since I moved to Charlotte, N.C., I see elderberry syrup all the time at the farmers’ markets around town. A quart of it sells for at least $20. They swear by it as the cure-all for whatever ails you. So, I had to figure out how to make it. Got a recipe online and ordered dried elderberries (from Ohio!) on Amazon. I have been taking a tablespoon of it every day for over a year. Does it work? I don’t know, but I haven’t been sick. I’ve attached the recipe for you.

ELDERBERRY SYRUP
In a pan combine 1/2 cup dried elderberries with 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered. Allow to cool slightly, then pour the berries and water into a blender. Blend. Strain, then add 1 cup of honey. Blend well, then store in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator. Dosage: For adults, 1 tablespoon up to 3 times a day for 5 days. Consult your doctor with concerns, or if your symptoms worsen or persist.

Dear Christine:
Elderberry syrup, an old-time remedy, remains popular. I don’t know how effective it is, but it is an antioxidant. The Internet has recipes for syrup made with fresh berries, too.

August 19, 2020

Dear friends,
I get some of my best ideas from other cooks. This week’s Peach and Elderberry Clafouti sprang to life when I read a Facebook post from Kevin Scheuring, who wrote that his standard dessert this summer has been whatever-fruit-is-ripe clafouti.

At that moment my kitchen counter was heaped with peaches. Just that morning on a circuit of the property I saw the blue-black elderberry heads nodding on their stalks, so heavy they threatened to parachute into the blackberry bushes. I had never used the berries and regretted the waste. Thanks to Kevin, this year I would atone.

Clafouti is a French farmhouse dessert that is so easy to assemble you could make one every night with no sweat. When it is made correctly, the texture is a cross between a soufflé and a custard. The flavor can be whatever you want.

I have made more than one dry clafouti in my life, and this time I wanted to know what I was doing wrong. So of course I turned to Julia Child. Her recipe had me beating the eggs, milk and flour together as usual but then cooking a thin layer of the mixture in the baking pan over a gentle heat on top of the stove. The fruit was strewn across this layer, topped with the rest of the egg mixture and baked.

I don’t know if it was cooking the thin layer first or simply the proportions of the recipe, but the fruit didn’t sink and the clafouti came out puffy, tender and a bit custardy in the middle. In short, perfect.

Peaches and elderberries make a gorgeous clafouti, but feel free to substitute blackberries or raspberries if you lack a source for elderberries. I used a French gratin pan for baking the dessert, but a large, deep-dish pie pan — or any wide, shallow baking dish — would work.

For years I plunged peaches into boiling water, then ice water to loosen the skin before peeling with a paring knife. What bother! Now I just use a vegetable peeler, which works very well if it is sharp.

Whip up the clafouti and pop it in the oven before you sit down to your meal. It takes about an hour to bake and should be eaten hot from the oven. The framework of the recipe is from Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

By the way, Kevin can probably give you some cooking ideas, too, either at Coit Road Farmers’ Market in East Cleveland, which he manages (http://coitmarket.org/ ), or on the Facebook page he helms for Cleveland-area food people, All Things Food in Cleveland, Ohio. Look for the weekly cooking tutorials he hosts from the outdoor kitchen in his backyard. Kevin is one of a kind.

PEACH AND ELDERBERRY CLAFOUTI

1 1/2 cups peeled and sliced (1/4 to 1/2-inch thick) peaches
3/4 cup elderberries, rinsed and drained well
1 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup flour (scooped and leveled)
Powdered sugar
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Butter a fireproof shallow baking dish that will hold at least 1 1/2 quarts. A gratin pan or deep-dish pie pan will suffice.

Prepare fruit and set aside. In the container of a blender, place milk, one-third cup of the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Cover and blend at top speed for one minute. Pour 1/4 inch of the batter into the prepared baking dish. Set on a burner over moderate heat for a minute or two, until a film of batter has formed on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

Drain peaches if juices have collected and scatter the fruit over the batter in the pan. Scatter elderberries. Sprinkle with remaining one-third cup of sugar. Pour remaining batter over the fruit and smooth with the back of a spoon.

Bake on the middle oven rack at 350 degrees for about an hour The clafouti is done when it has puffed and browned, and a needle or knife plunged into its center comes out clean. Sift powdered sugar over the top just before bringing to the table. Eat warm. Serves 6 to 8.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
A pot roast, cream cheese and horseradish sandwich; salade Nicoise; peach and elderberry clafouti; edamame protein salad; avocado toast; sweet and sour cabbage and sausages; steamed (white!) corn on the cob; parboiled and frozen green beans; roasted green beans and garlic with olive oil and feta cheese; roasted bell peppers and zucchini; fresh boiled beats, chilled and drizzled with balsamic vinegar; Coney Island Tofu; wheat toast with pesto, tomato and prosciutto, with dead-ripe cantaloupe and a 7-minute hard-cooked egg on the side (great breakfast); grilled corn with miso butter, grilled turkey sausage and stir-fried green beans in a spicy sauce.

What I ate from restaurants, etc.:
Sugar-free strawberry frozen yogurt from Menchie’s; a lush lobster roll with potato chips from Chowder House in Cuyahoga Falls (outstanding!).

THE MAILBAG

From Joy:
I’m sending a recipe for George, the fellow who asked about a pasta recipe with zucchini and garlic he’d read from either your time at the Beacon or perhaps in one of your older posts.

I’m sure this is not the recipe you wrote about in the past but I thought this recipe for pasta with zucchini and lots of garlic, from one of the bloggers I follow, might suffice as it has the same ingredients George had mentioned. This recipe requires a spiralizer but I don’t see why hand or mandolin slicing in desired cuts wouldn’t do.

https://www.kitchenkonfidence.com/2015/10/garlic-butter-spaghetti-with-zucchini-noodles

Dear Joy:
Thank you for the link. We need all the zucchini recipes we can get at this time of year. I did hear from a librarian at the Akron-Summit County Public Library who located in the library’s Special Collections a Second Helpings CD issued by the Beacon Journal. It was just one year’s worth of recipes but I think the photo of the table of contents had George’s zucchini pasta recipe under the French spelling, “courgette.” I can’t find my CD but if someone who has it would copy the recipe and send it to me, I’ll share it with everyone.

From Donna D.:
One of your readers talked about a delicious Shrimp, Corn and Green Bean Salad recipe. How can I find it as well as other recipes you have shared in the past?

Second request has to do with my husband’s obsession with New York Spaghetti House Brown Sauce recipe. I have roasted bones, etc. but can’t seem to duplicate seasonings. Please help! He’s 80 and we’re running out of time!!

Dear Donna:
I thought I had found and printed the recipe for the brown spaghetti sauce once in the Beacon Journal, but a search of the newspaper’s electronic archives turned up nothing. Does anyone have that recipe or a similar one to share?

My recent newsletter recipes are easy to access. Just click on the link to “Jane’s Blog” elsewhere on this page. When you reach my site, scroll to the bottom to find the search function.

August 12, 2020

Dear friends,

This is my favorite week of the year to cook. The tomatoes taste like big, sloppy pieces of candy and the corn is so sweet and fresh it doesn’t even require cooking. Local peaches are finally ripe so I bought a half-peck of Red Havens at Bauman’s Orchards in Rittman on Saturday, and they are waiting for me on the kitchen counter. I think I’ll make a peach and elderberry clafouti, finally using some of the elderberries that grow near my blackberry patch in the side yard.

Tonight (Monday when I’m writing this) I’ll make a salade Nicoise with those ripe tomatoes, our own green beans and a clutch of the baby Yukon Gold potatoes I grew in old 5-gallon soy sauce buckets out back.

Pandemic or no, life is good in Ohio in early August.

Last week was a pretty good week to cook, too. That’s when I invented my new favorite lunch, a protein salad I’ll be making the rest of the summer. I love it because it is crunchy and soft and herbal and so high in protein that it fills me up for the afternoon. That is a minor miracle because I’ve been limiting my calories to 1,200 a day since May, and I’m usually hungry before dinner time (I’ve lost 17 pounds).

The salad requires no cooking, just a bit of chopping and assembling. It is made with three protein-rich foods: Shelled edamame beans, feta cheese and canned tuna. The shelled beans are sold frozen in supermarkets. To save calories, I used low-fat feta and water-packed albacore tuna.

I added diced cucumber and sweet onion for crunch, cubed ripe tomato for a sweet, juicy note, and handfuls of snipped fresh herbs Mint, chives, basil, thyme and tarragon were what I grabbed, but you may use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand.

The salad is dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. A substantial 1 1/2-cup serving has just 184 calories.

EDAMAME PROTEIN SALAD

1 package (10 oz.) shelled frozen edamame
1 can (5 oz.) water-packed tuna (I used albacore)
1/2 cup crumbled low-fat feta cheese
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced (1/2-inch) cucumber
1 cup diced sweet onion such as Vidalia
1 cup diced ripe tomato
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Sea salt to taste
1/3 cup (more or less) finely snipped fresh herbs such as tarragon, basil, thyme, parsley, chives and mint

Empty bag of edamame into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high power for 1 to 2 minutes, until thawed and tender. Place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Makes 6 1/2 cups, at 184 calories per 1 1/2-cup serving.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Pesto, cream cheese, hard-cooked egg and tomato on toast; edamame protein salad; roasted eggplant and garlic salad, corn on the cob, smoked baby back ribs with gochujang barbecue sauce; chunky peanut butter toast with thick slice of tomato and sea salt (wow!); roasted eggplant lasagne with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses; open-face broiled tomato sandwiches with cream cheese, anchovies and mozzarella; corn on the cob; peanut butter and tomato sandwich; slow-cooker pot roast, Indian-ish grated carrot salad, incredible muskmelon from Dunkler’s in Copley.

What I ate from restaurants, etc.:
Stuffed peppers from Sam’s Club; sugar-free strawberry frozen yogurt from Menchie’s; chicken burrito bowl from Casa del Rio Express in Fairlawn. What I really have been craving is a lobster roll from Chowder House in Cuyahoga Falls; this week I’m determined to brave the 5 p.m. traffic.

THE MAIL BAG
From George, Akron:
With zucchini now in abundance, it’s time for one of my favorite recipes—your pasta with zucchini, heavy on the garlic flavor as I remember. After a concerted search, I now turn to you to supply it again. Thanks!

Dear George:
It’s cute that you assume I am organized. I have a few of my favorite recipes in hanging folders and more are stuffed in a big bowl in the kitchen. But I no longer have access to the crack team of librarians at the Beacon Journal — all of whom have been downsized now, sad to say — and my own filing is nonexistent.

I don’t remember that recipe, so we must hope to heck someone else does. If it was in my newsletter since 2015, you can search my blog (follow the link on this page). If it appeared in the newspaper, you can access it online with your library card through the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s website, akronlibrary.org. Go to “Databases” and click on the newspaper’s name under “A” But if the recipe was in my internet newsletter, either Second Helpings or earlier editions of See Jane Cook, we must rely on the hive mind. Does anyone remember a zucchini pasta recipe?

From Anne Marie:
I read your newsletter and the discussions on braised dishes with green beans, stewed tomatoes, onions and garlic. While I have no doubt that similar dishes exists across many cultures, to me it sounds exactly like Loubie Bzeit (several spellings), a Lebanese dish. It’s so easy to make, healthy and one of my favorites, and is available at Aladdin’s. There are dozens of recipes on the web, but my favorite is this one that appeared in Food and Wine in 2007:
https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/braised-green-beans-tomatoes-and-garlic

Dear Anne Marie:
Thanks. I’m always interested in how recipes from other parts of the world end up here, filtered through our own lens.

From Donna G.:
We, too, have a bumper crop of eggplant. Easiest recipe ever — cut into 1/2-inch slices, salt and sweat. Brush with a little olive oil and put on a hot grill a few minutes on each side. Serve with roasted corn and grilled peaches. I love summer!

Dear Donna:
I do, too! I grill eggplant slices but brush them with sweet soy sauce mid-grill. Grilling does something wonderful to eggplant, right?

From Francie L.:
Just wanted to thank you for the fabulous Shrimp, Corn and Green Bean Salad recipe. My daughter and her husband had been visiting us from San Antonio, which started out as a two-week visit and extended to five weeks. It was lovely having them but my son-in-law is a vegetarian and I was running out of dinner ideas. Luckily I saw your recipe in the morning and was able to pick up green beans and corn at the Jackson Township Farmers Market. It was a huge hit and my daughter even asked for the recipe link.

They are safely back in San Antonio but I’m definitely keeping that recipe on rotation this summer.

Dear Francie:
You were so nice to let me know. I always am thrilled when someone likes a recipe.

August 5, 2020

Dear friends,
I picked seven long, slim eggplants last week and almost whooped with joy. For years my yield was paltry to nonexistent. Finally I grew a decent crop, with more babies in the wings.

I crave eggplant. I may be obsessed with it. It’s one of those foods I hated as a kid but now can’t get enough of. The difference is I don’t fry them in blotter-like slices until they ooze oil, as my mother did. And I favor thin Asian eggplants, which have tender, non-bitter skins.

By the way, my Japanese mother-in-law told me that long, skinny eggplants are NOT Japanese, as Americans often call them. The ones she bought in Hokkaido are stubby little globe-shaped miniatures that are usually pickled. She thought our big globe eggplants were hilarious because to her they seemed comically large.

During the heat wave last week I wanted an easy way to prepare my precious first crop. Frankly, I would have preferred to twitch my nose and just have them appear, cooked, on my plate. That wasn’t going to happen so came up a way to get the most flavor out of them with the least work.

I split the eggplants in half lengthwise, scored the flesh, and arranged them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Then I pulverized an unconscionable amount of garlic with lemon juice and olive oil, spooned that over the eggplants, and roasted them until the edges began to crisp and the centers were creamy-soft. If you like garlic, I bet you’ll love this.

Don’t try this with globe eggplants. Visit a farm market or Asian store for the long, slim eggplants. While you’re in the Asian store, buy a mortar and pestle unless you already own one. It’s the best way to make the garlic emulsion (although you could use a garlic press), and they are relatively inexpensive at Asian stores. Buy one that holds a couple of cups and has rough stone sides. The pretty, petite white mortar and pestle I bought long ago at a kitchenware shop isn’t good for anything but holding rubber bands.

This is sure to become one of my go-to summer eggplant recipes, along with my even simpler recipe of halved, grilled eggplants brushed with kekap manis (sweet soy sauce). How about you? I could use some more no-sweat Asian eggplant recipes if you have any. Temperatures are high and the garden keeps producing.

ROAST ASIAN EGGPLANTS WITH GARLIC AND LEMON

6 to 8 large cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 lbs. (about 7) long, thin Asian eggplants

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Or alternately, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or set gas grill to medium-hot.

Peel garlic and run through a garlic press into a small bowl and add salt or, even better, pulverize with the salt with a mortar and pestle. Pound straight down like a jackhammer until the garlic is smooth and creamy. You need one tablespoon of garlic puree. If necessary, add more garlic. Pound in the oil a little at a time, then beat in the lemon juice with a fork.

Wash the eggplants. Trim and discard the stems. Cut in halves lengthwise and arrange cut-sides-up in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. With the tip of a sharp knife, make several slanted slashes in the white flesh of each eggplant, almost but not quite through to the skin.

With a teaspoon, spoon the garlic mixture over the eggplants, smoothing with the back of the spoon. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the skin at the edges just begin to crisp and the interior is soft and creamy. Alternately, grill with the lid closed and vents wide open until soft and creamy. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

TIDBIT
Just a reminder to use tested recipes, not your grandmother’s recipes, for canning and pickling. Your grandmother didn’t know much about food safety compared to today’s experts, and even if no one in your family died from eating her canned goods, it may just mean no pathogens were floating around her kitchen that day. Do you want to take that chance?

One of the best free sources of information on safely preserving food is the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation at nchfp.uga.edu. Along with a wealth of information about pickling, drying, curing and canning times, temperatures and techniques, the site has a slew of recipes for everything from watermelon rind pickles to dry-cured ham.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled gochujang barbecue chicken breast sandwich, steamed asparagus; pan-grilled hamburger patty, green beans in spicy sauce, roast beet salad with feta and balsamic vinegar; pan-grilled chicken breast sandwich with fresh dill and Kewpie mayonnaise, micro-steamed corn; spicy cucumbers with lemon-herb yogurt, grilled strip steaks, steamed corn and baked potatoes; pesto, tomato and scrambled egg on toast; tofu-green bean breakfast scramble; BLTs on toast, steamed corn; egg, bacon, tomato and pesto on toast; roasted eggplants with garlic-lemon sauce, steamed corn; ginger-tofu stir fry with green beans and bell pepper. Note for those who asked: I found silken tofu at Giant Eagle.

What I ate from restaurants, etc.:
Meat loaf and mashed potatoes from Sam’s Club; chicken Valdostano (with mushrooms, prosciutto and fontina cheese in wine sauce), baked ziti with meat sauce and salad with toasted almonds, feta and pears from Vaccaro’s Trattoria in Bath (outstanding, and just $40 for all that for four people).

THE MAILBAG
From Michele M.:
I do love green beans. I put them in Italian potato salad, Greek potato salad, Niçoise salad, with ham and potatoes ( yum! ), and my very favorite pasta dish of green beans, potatoes, and pasta with pesto. I believe it is a Ligurian dish (pesto!). I have been making it for many years, and make and freeze pesto for it. It is truly a taste of summer. I like to over cook the potatoes a little, so they make a bit of a sauce with the pesto and some pasta water. I don’t generally like fresh cracked black pepper, but for some reason a little bit is just right on this. Then I top it with halved cherry tomatoes for some acidity.

Perhaps these ideas will help with your huge bean harvest. I am so jealous.

Dear Michele:
I made that classic Italian recipe once at my friend Lin’s house. I think I have enough beans left for a batch. Thanks for the reminder.

From William B.:
Well, green beans with tomatoes was a hot item a few years ago, but it’s always good. Sauté about a cup of diced onions, 3 or 4 crushed garlic cloves (more if you like), about 1/2 bunch of chopped fresh parsley and 3 or 4 large super-ripe tomatoes chopped in about 1/3 cup olive oil until it is all wilted/juicy. Dump in maybe 3 to 5 pounds of snapped washed fresh green beans, add maybe a cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the beans are meltingly tender. Season with salt and pepper. Always good: hot, warm, room temp or cold.

When I was a kid my mom made this with a half bushel of beans. That way there was enough for a family of seven and maybe some leftovers. We usually had to punch those beans and then snap them before lunch so they’d be ready for dinner.

Dear William:
I must have missed that recipe when it was passed around. It sounds like an American country version of that French country dish, ratatouille, which is basically stewed vegetables with lots of garlic. Thanks.

From Dorothy B.:
Just an aside to your remark about green beans for the dogs:
I had a friend who every night when she came home from work opened a can of beans while the dog danced round waiting
anxiously. It was a ritual. He got a full can of cut green beans every single night and absolutely devoured them.

Dear Dorothy:
That put a smile on my face.

From Theresa K.:
One of my favorite summer dishes with corn is to take 3 or 4 bi-color ears off the cob and put in a large skillet with butter, salt and pepper, a splash of half and half, and half of a diced Vidalia onion. Bring to a simmer and add 1 cup of cherry tomatoes cut in halves and a handful of sliced okra. Simmer about 10 minutes and serve. You could probably sub green beans for the okra!

Really tasty and pretty, too!

Dear Theresa:
Thanks for the idea. I make a “succotash” that is similar, but with green beans instead of limas and I skip the tomatoes you use. A little bit of cream adds a world of richness, doesn’t it?

From Chris:
Share those bumper crops with family, friends, food pantries and neighbors! Many people are unable to grow their own and will love you for your generosity.

Dear Chris:
Thank you for the reminder. All of us should be sharing our garden surplus with the needy during this pandemic when so many people — especially children — are going hungry.

July 29, 2020

Dear friends,

The first corn of the season crashed smack-dab into a green bean glut at my house last week, leading to an overflowing refrigerator.

I picked up some bi-colored milk and honey corn at Graf Growers in Copley on Monday, then hightailed it to Seiberling Farm in Norton on Wednesday for its season opening. There’s no such thing as too much corn.

Meanwhile, I had been struggling to keep up with the 15 green bean bushes Tony planted in May, which are so heavy with bean pods they lounge spread-eagled on the watermelon vines.

My solution was to eat corn with almost every meal, roast some green beans with garlic and lemon, parboil and freeze a few quarts of beans, and then bring both beans and corn together in a knockout composed salad.

The big platter of shrimp salad with green beans and corn was summer on a plate. I scattered three ears’ worth of corn kernels (so tender I didn’t need to cook them) over torn romaine and arranged the shrimp and cooked green beans over the lettuce. Then I added sliced radishes, sliced avocado, tomato chunks and hard-cooked eggs and drizzled it with an addictive tarragon dressing.

To deepen the flavor, I tossed the green beans and corn with some of the dressing before arranging on the salad.

A big composed salad like this takes time to make because each element must be cooked/chopped/peeled/sliced in advance. I prepared each ingredient (boiled the eggs, peeled the shrimp, etc.) when I had time throughout the day, so it came together quickly when we were ready to eat. You could even start a day in advance. It looks glorious and tastes pretty good, too.

TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE
1 tbsp. minced shallot or onion
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. (packed) minced fresh tarragon leaves or 1 tsp. dried
Sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a custard cup and let stand at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, before using.

SHRIMP, CORN AND GREEN BEAN SALAD

1 1/2 lbs. large shrimp
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and boiled until al dente
3 ears of corn
Salt, pepper
6 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves (1 big head)
4 eggs, cooked for 7 minutes, cooled and peeled, cut in halves
1 avocado, peeled and cut into slices
3 radishes, sliced thin
Tomato chunks or cherry tomatoes for garnish

Cook the shrimp briefly in boiling water, just until the meat is no longer translucent (one minute more or less, depending on size of shrimp). Shock with cold water until shrimp are room temperature. Peel and refrigerate.

Drain the green beans and toss with 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Season with salt and refrigerate until needed. Cut the kernels from the cobs and toss with 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Season with salt and refrigerate until needed.

When ready to serve, arrange the torn romaine on a platter. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter corn over lettuce. Pile the shrimp in the center. Arrange green beans, eggs and avocado in a pleasing pattern over the lettuce. Scatter radish slices over all. Garnish with tomato chunks. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Makes 4 servings.

TIDBIT
I didn’t mean to leave you hanging with my story about meeting and dining with Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans. At least a dozen of you, with varying degrees of urgency, wanted to know the question that got me kicked out of his restaurant.

First, I didn’t get kicked out. His icy demeanor told me the interview was over. I left on my own after trying a couple of more times to get an answer. I don’t give up easily.

So here’s the story: Prudhomme was one of the first celebrity chefs. He began to spend considerable time away from his restaurant, flying across the country for interviews and television appearances. I asked the question food critics had been whispering about for awhile: didn’t his absence affect the quality of the food at his restaurant?

That’s it. It was a big deal back then, not so much now when we don’t expect a celebrity chef to be in the kitchen every time we visit. Still, we always kind of hope, right?

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Avocado toast topped with scrambled egg; protein ice pops; blanched green beans for freezing; BLTs on toast; tofu and green bean stir fry with sticky chile sauce over rice; black raspberry tart; peach galette; poached chicken; cantaloupe and prosciutto; french toast; mojo-marinated grilled chicken, sliced tomatoes with pesto; roast green beans with lemon zest and garlic; microwaved corn on the cob (several times); shrimp, corn and green bean salad with tarragon vinaigrette; egg, tomato, feta and salsa on toast.

What I ate from restaurants, etc:
Chicken Cobb salad from Giant Eagle; a chili-cheese dog and fries from the Hot Dog Shoppe in East Liverpool; a vanilla cone from Dairy Queen.

THE MAILBAG
From Annie:
Time for a column on string beans. You know — green ones, and yellow and purple ones for that matter. They are coming out my ears and I am running out of ways to serve them. Plain steamed with butter, sautéed with bacon like my mom did them, with seasoned crumbs ala Cook’s Illustrated. I did try a new one from “The New Vegetarian Grill” with soy and sesame oil, not pretty but delish. The family is not one for bean salad, so what can I do next besides pickling them?

Dear Annie:
After you try the shrimp, corn and green bean salad above, gather a bunch of the raw beans and roast them. Roasting shrinks and sweetens green beans. They are delicious. Wash, dry, trim and spread on a couple of foil-lined baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil, dot with slivers of garlic and mix with your hands. Season with chunky sea salt and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Toss, then continue roasting for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. You could season them in myriad ways before roasting. I like to add a tablespoon of grated lemon zest before roasting.

Last summer I made a ham and green bean soup that earned a spot in the rotation. After simmering (with cubed potatoes), I ladled it into bowls and stirred a spoonful of pesto into each portion. Just like that, the soup went from homespun Amish to perfumed Provencal.

I’m also feeding a lot of cooked green beans to the dog. Try it. Your dog could be the answer to your string-bean problem.

July 22, 2020

Dear friends,
The line snaked down the block and around the corner. K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen was the hottest restaurant in New Orleans in 1984, maybe in the country. I had an appointment with chef/owner Paul Prudhomme, but still felt threatened as I slinked past a hundred or more hungry diners on my way to the front of the line. I gave my name to the doorman and was whisked inside.

The chef was waiting for me at a two-top against the wall near the kitchen. He handed me a fork. He had maybe the most gorgeous eyes I’ve ever seen and they laughed up at me. Was he flirting? Yes, and he continued to flirt for an hour and we sampled a dozen or so dishes a woman was testing on a home stove back in the kitchen for the chef’s upcoming cookbook. Then came the tricky part of the interview. I asked a difficult question, Prudhomme looked betrayed and shut down the charm. His eyes turned flinty and silently told me to get out.

All that ran through my mind when I read this week that the legendary K-Paul’s had closed for good, a casualty of the pandemic. Chef Paul died in 2015 and the new owners couldn’t keep the 41-year-old restaurant afloat.

The restaurant I visited was not the two-level French Quarter luxe space Prudhomme ended up in. It was a humble room crammed with tables. No cloth tablecloths. Simple wooden chairs. While Prudhomme was not an unknown — he had been chef at Commander’s Palace — his restaurant was just gaining acclaim. I was the unknown. I was in town to cover an American food conference with chefs from across the country and a handful of reporters from big newspapers…. and me. From Akron, Ohio.

I remember standing on the rim of a bass drum at Preservation with my hero, the food critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer. With the help of the drum, we could almost see the musicians. I remember sipping Sazeracs in the Roosevelt Hotel, where they were invented. I remember dinner in a private dining room upstairs at Antoine’s with the owner. I remember a dory heaped with boiled crawfish, which we peeled and ate, sucking the heads, aboard a paddle wheeler on the Mississippi.

But after all these years, what I remember best is that lunch and interview with Paul Prudhomme at the hottest restaurant in town. We were digging into his signature dish, blackened redfish, when a corn muffin came sailing from across the room and almost hit Paul in the head.

“What’s wrong with these muffins? They’re dry,” yelled a woman I recognized as the restaurant critic of the Washington Post. Paul shrugged and turned back to me.

On the way out of the restaurant the woman stopped me as I passed her table. She wanted to know how I had anded an interview when the town was swarming with food reporters.

“I called ahead,” I said simply. The moment was almost as sweet as that blackened fish.

I made blackened cod last week in memory of K-Paul’s, and it was as delicious as I remembered. The spice mixture rubbed into the fish and the high-temperature method of cooking give the fish a juicy, almost steak-like flavor.

A few tips before you start: Choose fish fillets about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, and disconnect your smoke alarms. If you have a range hood vented to the outside, great. If not, open a few windows because it’s gonna get smoky.

K-PAUL’S BLACKENED FISH

1/2 lb. unsalted butter (less if cooking fewer fillets)
1 tbsp. sweet paprika
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. white pepper
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
6 (8-to 10-oz.) fish fillets (preferably redfish, pompano or tilefish), cut about 1/2 inch thick

Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Set aside. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (if you don’t have one, don’t make this recipe) over very high heat until it is beyond the smoking stage and you see white ash in the skillet bottom, at least 10 minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients except fish (all the spices) in a small bowl. Dip each fillet in the butter on both sides, then sprinkle both sides with the seasoning mix, patting it in by hand.

When the skillet is ready, place the fillets (as many as will comfortably fit) in the skillet and carefully pour 1 teaspoon of the melted butter over each fillet. Cook over high heat, uncovered, until the underside looks charred, about 2 minutes (the time will vary according to the fillets’ thickness and the heat of the skillet). Turn the fish over with a spatula and again drizzle each fillet with 1 teaspoon butter. Cook until fish is done, about 2 minutes more. Fish may have to be cooked in batches.

Drizzle more butter over fillets and serve piping hot.

From “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen” by Paul Prudhomme.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Green bean, ham and potato soup with pesto; egg salad; blackened cod, sesame green beans, baked potatoes and chopped salad; pickled eggs; picadillo galette with sour cream squiggle and avocado; picadillo omelet; pan-grilled hamburger patties, green bean salad; jicama and red pepper strips with yogurt-salsa dip; BLTs with pesto on toast.

What I ate from restaurants, etc.:
Peanut butter cupcake from Marshallville Packing in Marshallville; chicken adobo with rice and pinto beans from Casa del Rio Express in Fairlawn.

THE MAILBAG
From Bill B.:
Your pico de gallo ice pops don’t sound too far from gazpacho. I would try making them with a tomato-cucumber base as a savory chiller. But they sound good any way. I may just have to go looking for these treats.

Dear Bill:
I think you will be delighted with the ice-pop shop, La Fresa, in the Ellet-Goodyear Heights area of Akron. It is on Darrow Road (Rt. 91) near the intersection of Newton Street.

From Linda C.:
I just discovered Tajin this year. Terrific on corn on the cob. I will try the ice pops. They are vegan!

Dear Linda:
Tajin on corn on the cob! Yes!

From Bob P.:
I’ve been using Tajin on lots of dishes as an experiment. My favorite so far is on fresh pineapple. It’s also great on popcorn.

Dear Bob:
At this rate I’m going to have to buy another bottle of the spice mix. I’ll definitely try your suggestions.