May 6, 2020

Dear friends,

Thank goodness for Michele’s electronic calendar. She called on April 28 after a nudge from her phone to wish me a happy anniversary. I was deep into the New York Times and Tony was cleaning the garage. We had completely forgotten.

I swung into action. I wanted to have a cake and a card to shame him with when he returned from sorting his tool. Heh heh. That could be anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour. I made it with time to spare, thanks to some Crayons and my annoyingly unfinished cookbook. I knew that sucker would come in handy someday.

In about the time it takes to make a cup of tea, I made two moist chocolate mug cakes in my microwave. They were honestly as good as a homemade cake from the oven. Once again I was struck by how dumb I was not to make a buck on my microwave cake technique, which is different from any I’ve seen.The secret is use an egg yolk instead of a whole egg, which is too large for a mug-sized cake, and to bake the cake at 50 percent power to slow down the activation of the baking powder. The result is a moist, tender texture identical to oven-baked.

This is the second or third mug cake I’ve made in quarantine. I’ve been dipping into my stash of orphan recipes for a sweet little something rather than bake an entire cake and deal with the weight gain later. Mug cakes are ideal for corona snacking. I’ve seen photos of friends’ trays of cinnamon buns and counters paved with banana bread and wonder how (or if) they resist the temptation to polish off the batch. With a mug cake, I don’t worry.

My miniature chocolate cake is excellent in part because I use good ingredients — butter, milk, vanilla, flour, etc. — instead of a mix. You’ll have to separate an egg and drag out the baking powder and measuring spoons but the batter goes together quickly and bakes in just two minutes in an 1100- to 1200-watt microwave.

Because I’m not wasting a scrap of food these days, I beat the leftover egg whites with sugar, added a half-cup of coconut, dolloped the meringue in puffy disks on a baking sheet and baked them slowly until they crisped up. They were delicious.

The meringues came later, though. After nuking the two chocolate mug cakes, I fetched our box of wedding keepsakes to look through and made an anniversary card with copy paper and Crayons.

Tony was surprised and happy when he returned from the garage. He was even happier when I admitted I had forgotten about our 13th anniversary, too. We ate the cake and reminisced about our corny ceremony at Cupid’s Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The minister was confused afterwards when he told Tony to tell what my name was.

“Jane Snow,’’ Tony said. No, her NEW name, the minister insisted.

At that point I jumped in to tell him Tony would be taking my last name. The guy’s mouth fell open. “Well, that’s a first,” he said.

CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE

3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. sugar, preferably superfine
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp. milk

Cut butter into pieces and melt on high power in a 12-ounce microwave-safe mug, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in sugar with a fork. Stir in cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt, mixing well. Add vanilla, egg yolk and milk and beat until very smooth. Scrape any bits off the bottom and beat again.

Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes for 1000-to 1200-watt microwave ovens, or until the top is shiny but firm when pressed with a finger. If desired, immediately remove the cake from the mug by running a knife around the edge and inverting onto a plate. The texture will be slightly gooey while hot, and more typically cake-like when allowed to cool. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping if desired.

Note: If making more than one cake, microwave each one separately.

COCONUT MERINGUES

2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (or so) sweetened shredded coconut

Beat egg whites until frothy. Continue to beat on high speed while slowly adding the sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy. Scatter in the coconut and beat briefly. Dollop onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, shaping into two circles about 1 inch thick. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour, or until golden brown and fairly dry. Eat out of hand like a cookie.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Szechuan spicy noodles with ground venison; no-knead bread; chocolate mug cakes; pan-grilled boneless pork chop with port wine sauce and blue cheese-almond topping, honey-glazed roast carrots; Japanese pork curry; shepherd’s pie with ground venison and mushrooms; sautéed chard and dandelion greens with garlic and burst tomatoes, olive oil-fried eggs, craggy toast with butter; cottage cheese pancakes; charcoal-grilled ribeye steaks with horseradish sauce, broccoli rabe with garlic and olive oil, baked potatoes with sour cream.

What I ate from restaurants:
Salad, filet mignon and baked potato from the Brown Derby in Medina.

CORRECTION:
The recipe for khatchapuri bread in last week’s newsletter was a victim of bad editing (my own). The amount of shredded cheese should be 1 1/2 cups. Sorry for the confusion.

THE MAILBAG
From Nancy H.:
Have you noticed any difference in the ground beef lately… say since the first of the year?

The reason I ask is because in years past, I never kept ground beef more than a few days because it would turn brown and sort of seep. Not very appetizing color and the fat portion seemed pale grey and really not fresh.

But now, selling at about 6.99 a pound, the ground meat is totally pink, very firm consistency and attractive in the same packaging even after a week. What could have been added or removed from the meat to keep it fresh even after days in the package?

Dear Nancy:
I don’t buy ground beef often because I have a supply of ground venison in the freezer. Check the package to make sure it is entirely ground beef, with no soy additives. If a preservative was added, that, too, must be revealed on the label. In any case, I would advise you not to keep ground beef in the refrigerator for a week. If you must store it longer than three or four days, freeze it.

From Marlene H.:
I made the khachapuri this morning, and of course, shared pictures with the family. Thanks for making me the hit of the day! I have out-of-town family wanting me to teleport it to them. Haha!

Dear Marlene:
Thanks for letting me know. I am crazy about that recipe, too.

From Anna S.:
I used to use the Mark Bittman’s no-knead bread recipe, too, until I found Jenny Can Cook and her 2-hour recipe. I’ve made it two times now in quarantine and love that I don’t have to plan ahead! Check out her other recipes and she has a YouTube channel. Jenny Jones, the old talk show host — who knew she could cook and is so fun to watch cook? https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/2-hour-fastest-no-knead-bread/

Dear Anna:
I must try that 2-hour no-knead bread recipe. I checked it out and it uses lots more yeast than Bittman’s, which may be a problem for those like me who keep running out. Thanks for the tip, though. Speaking of yeast….

From Patty:
I wanted to let you know that The Ashery in Amish country has a good supply of yeast. My daughter and family drove down to get out of the house. They brought me back a good supply. Seemed reasonable, too.

From Jane in Loraine:
I’m in my mid 70s and most younger new bakers do not know about fresh yeast — found in the dairy case. One cube equals a 3-pack of dried yeast. Happy baking.

From Sharon C.:
There’s a little Mennonite farm market on the outskirts of Wadsworth that has yeast and a variety of flour in bulk. Homemade breads and pies, produce, eggs, Pearl Valley cheese, etc. also are sold. It’s also the place to go for garden and herb plants. Drive west out of Wadsworth on Greenwich Road (College Street when you are in Wadsworth) maybe 3 miles. It’s on left side on top of the hill across from Sky Park Airport and Filia Winery. Great little place…Elvin, Marvin and Anita are very accommodating. They have a sign out front announcing specials. Last week it said “We have yeast!”

Acme Farm Market
3054 Greenwich Road
330-335-6904

Dear Patty, Jane, Sharon and others:
Thank you to everyone who offered to give me yeast or pointed me to stores that have it in stock. As soon as I got Sharon’s email I drove to Acme Farm Market (a favorite place to buy vegetables in the summer) and bought a 1-pound package of yeast, enough to last me a year.

From Pat S.:
You mentioned missing fresh ginger. Perhaps you aren’t aware that it stores well in the freezer. That’s where I always keep several knobs, ready to grate or chop as needed for recipes. What I miss most during this pandemic is fresh lettuce! I’ll remedy that by planting my garden soon.

Dear Pat:
I used to keep ginger in the freezer but got out of the habit because it doesn’t taste quite as good as fresh. I finally braved a supermarket last week and bought a lot of ginger. I’m going to plant a knob of it in a pot and grow my own with instructions I found at https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=how+to+grow+ginger+in+containers+epic+gardening&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8.

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.

KHACHAPURI

(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.

TIDBITS
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.

GUT CHECK
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.

THE MAILBAG
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.

GRILLED TANDOORI CHICKEN

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
Pepper
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.

SILKY INDIAN-SPICED CABBAGE AND EGGPLANT
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.

GUT CHECK
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.

THE MAILBAG
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.

ASPARAGUS-LEMON CUSTARD

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.

GUT CHECK
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.

THE MAILBAG
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.

VENISON OR BEEF PAPRIKASH

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.

GUT CHECK
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.

CARRYOUT REPORT
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!

THE MAILBAG
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.

Correction:
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.

April 1, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 25, 2020

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALFAJORES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adapted from acozykitchen.com.

DULCE DE LECHE
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

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

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

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

Carryout:
Ham and cheese sub from Subway.

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

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

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

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

THE MAILBAG

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

Have been enjoying rediscovering these gems from the past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the recipes I’ve tried:

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

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

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

March 18, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPICY GOCHUJANG STIR FRY SAUCE

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

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

Based on a recipe from mykoreankitchen.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

GRILLED MOUSSAKA SANDWICH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Jacques Pepin’s Curly Hotdogs with Relish. Who knew Jacques likes hotdogs?!
Curly Dogs with Pickle Relish by Jacques Pépin on Salt + Spine
https://saltandspine.com/featured-recipes/jacques-curly-hot-dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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