August 7, 2019

Dear friends,
The tidal flats of the central coast of Maine zigzag for miles along fingers that reach inland from the ocean. Tony and I crisscrossed them again and again in our search for the rocky shore. I would lick my lips in hunger.

“That’s clam territory,” I told Tony atop one bridge. “Keep an eye out for signs.”

Sure enough, on yet another ill-fated attempt to beat the hordes of tourists to the actual shore, I spotted culinary gold: A hand-pained sign, “Clams, Seafood” with an arrow.

We turned off State Route 209 near Phippsburgh onto a narrow, rutted road. Around a bend was a small pre-fab building with a cement loading dock and a sign, “Clam Hunter Seafood.”

“Come on up,” called the smiling woman on the dock. She led us inside, where wire shelves and water-filled tubs were crammed with clams and oysters. Lobsters bubbled in a glass tank filled with sea water. A man — her husband? — with a wind-burned face and rolled-down waders directed a spray of water at shell debris on the concrete floor. Yes, he had just dredged up the clams, he said.

The clams had already been purged, we were told. That meant I wouldn’t have to soak them in salt water until they released any sand they harbored. Already-purged clams were a real find.

Soft-shells, called steamers here, were $6 a pound. Lobsters were $7 a pound. I almost cried when I realized I couldn’t fit three pounds of clams AND lobsters in the little cooler I had brought.

I only needed a pound of clams for the recipe I had in mind, but I knew I could eat more than a dozen myself, the average number of steamers in a pound. I bought three pounds and doubled the sauce recipe.

I have had some fine clams in Maine so far. My first meal was a lobster roll and a dozen steamers with clam broth and drawn butter. They tasted like the sea and reminded me of my early 20s, when I lived in Atlantic City and was in love with life and my first taste of seafood. My second restaurant meal was an indecently big pile of fried seafood including clams fresh from the shell, dunked in batter and fried until crisp and golden. They were so sweet and crisp I’ll be dreaming of them the rest of my life.

Then there were my clams. Back at my camper, I made a soffritto of crisp-fried pancetta, softened onion and minced fennel. I cut thick slices of crusty bread, fried them in olive oil and rubbed them with garlic. I bubbled those sea-fresh clams with wine, lemon peel, a bay leaf and the sofrito. When the flavors were blended and the clams had opened, I ladled everything over the thick slices of toast on a platter.

A half-dozen clams and the broth-soaked toast turned out to be plenty for me but not nearly enough for Tony, who ate almost all of them. The clams on toast was so good Tony suggested selling it along the roadside to other tourists stuck in traffic, trying to find the shore. He thinks we could make a fortune.

A word of warning: The Maine coast, like many popular destinations, suffers from over tourism. If you want to see a tide pool or a rocky headland or an ocean wave, get up before dawn. We were stuck in traffic for hours on U.S.1 one day, and were turned away a half-mile from Popham Beach State Park another day because all of the parking lots were full by noon.

But there are still clams, lobsters and oysters to be had on byways far from the madding crowds.

CLAM TOASTS WITH PANCETTA

(From Bon Appetit magazine)
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, 2 sliced thin, 2 whole
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup fennel fronds
2 wide strips (3 inches long) lemon zest
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. ground fennel
1 cup dry white wine, divided
Pinch of salt
2 thick (1 1/2 inch) slices sourdough bread
1 lb. clams (steamers or littleneck)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Crushed red pepper flakes

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp. Add sliced garlic and stir-fry until it is golden around the edges, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion and chopped fennel. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.

Add lemon zest, bay leaf, ground fennel, ½ cup wine and a pinch of salt. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until wine is mostly reduced but mixture is still a little bit saucy. Transfer soffritto to a medium bowl; discard lemon zest and bay leaf. Wipe out skillet.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over medium. Cook bread slices in skillet until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Cut 1 garlic clove in half and rub one side of each toast with cut side of garlic. Wipe out skillet.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium. Crush remaining garlic clove with the side of a chef’s knife and cook, stirring often, until it begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add clams, soffritto, and remaining ½ cup wine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by half and clams are open (discard any that do not open), 5 to 7 minutes. Add parsley and chopped fennel fronds and cook 1 minute longer.

To serve, place a piece of fried bread on each of two plates and spoon clam mixture and broth over. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Makes 2 appetizer or light lunch servings.

Note: Soffritto can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and chill.

GUT CHECK
What I prepared last week:
Crudités and a campfire hotdog with mustard and onions; a scrambled duck egg sandwich and coffee; grilled strip steaks and microwaved corn on the cob; salade Nicoise and a ripe peach; clam toast with pancetta.

What I at in/from restaurants:
Buffalo wings from Bella Pizza in Lackawanna, N.Y.; a cheese omelet, whole wheat toast and coffee at Cherry Tree Inn in Henderson, N.Y.; half of a Subway ham and cheese; a brick oven pizza with garlic sauce, chicken, feta, dried cranberries and walnuts and a Stella Artois; fried fish, french fries, coleslaw, mac and cheese and a roll from Ghize’s Tavern in Ogdensburg, N.Y.; stuffed cabbage and potato moussaka from a farmers’ market in St. Albans, Vt.; a lobster roll (the meat of an entire lobster in a toasted split-top bun with melted butter on the side), homemade thick-cut potato chips, steamed clams at Lobster in the Rough in York, Maine; fried scallops, clams, haddock and shrimp with french fries and a roll at Sea Basket Restaurant in Wiscasset, Maine.

THE MAILBAG
From Bill B.:
Regarding the caramelized onions in your corn salad, do you ever microwave stem the chopped onions to cut cooking time when caramelizing them I do this when I’m making huge batches of onions. This usually cuts down on the amount of butter I need to use as well.

Dear Bill:
Brilliant. Next time, instead of cutting down on butter to save calories but then not quite caramelizing the onions so they don’t burn, I will try your trick. Thanks.

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July 31, 2019

Dear friends,
What a difference four years make. In 2015 I was whining about wedging all of my garden produce in the refrigerator. This year, I have exactly one tomato that has been ripening for a month now and is still too green to pick.

Yes, I sent soil away for testing and added the recommended amendments. No, it didn’t help. The garden that once gave me so much pleasure now produces mostly grass and weeds.

This week I leave it all behind to travel to upstate New York and Maine, where I will eat someone else’s blueberries and tomatoes and console myself with lobsters and clams. To remind myself of the good old days. I’ve left behind this column from 2015:

We open the refrigerator gingerly at this time of year. It is so stuffed with produce that an errant breeze could dislodge a cantaloupe or trigger an avalanche of eggplants or send a quart of blackberries tumbling over the bacon.

My untamed but prolific garden produces on its own schedule and I must adjust. When the rains last weekend unleashed a deluge of yellow squash, green beans and bell peppers, I knew something in the fridge had to go. In order to make room for the new stuff, I had to sacrifice half of a watermelon. I thought about that watermelon all day Sunday. By the time Tony and I returned from the Medina County Fair, I had a rough recipe in my head.

“Let’s go out to dinner,” Tony suggested as we pulled into the drive. “No,” I snapped. “We have to eat a watermelon!”

He shrugged and wandered into the living room while I went to work, cutting the melon into 1 1/2-inch cubes. I added sliced green onions and crushed coriander seeds. I had bought some dark, robustly flavored buckwheat honey at the fair. I spooned some out and stirred in a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. In another bowl I made a dressing of fresh lime juice, olive oil and crushed red chili pepper flakes with just enough sugar to tame the acid.

I loaded the watermelon salad, chunks of feta cheese, pita bread and chicken burgers on a platter and carted everything into the living room where Tony was watching the Olympics. Just before dishing up the watermelon, I tossed the cubes with the chili-lime dressing and drizzled it with the salted honey.

“This is good,” Tony said, spearing another bite. “Really, really good.”

I noticed he was watching synchronized swimming. Two perky young women with sequined bathing suits and nose plugs were jerking their heads and slapping the water in unison. Tony thought they were really, really good, too. I hope I can trust his taste.

Flowers yes; vegetables, no.

WATERMELON SALAD WITH CHILI-LIME DRESSING AND SALTED HONEY DRIZZLE
Chili-lime dressing:
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt

Salad:
6 cups chilled watermelon in 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sliced green onion
2 tbsp. minced mild or medium-hot fresh green chili pepper such as Anaheim
1/4 tsp. crushed coriander seeds
2 tbsp. buckwheat honey or other full-flavored honey
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt

Combine the dressing ingredients, mix well and refrigerate. Just before serving combine the watermelon, onions, minced fresh chilies and coriander seeds in a medium bowl. In a custard cup or small container, stir together honey and sea salt. Pour chili-lime dressing over salad and gently but thoroughly toss. Drizzle salted honey over salad; do not toss. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Pan-fried cod with stir-fried vegetables in ginger-garlic sauce over steamed rice; hard-over egg and basil leaves on whole wheat toast, cucumber spears and blueberries; a detox smoothie; shrimp cocktail, tomato and cucumber salad with fresh dill; pan-grilled salmon with a sweet soy sauce glaze, tomato and cucumber salad, a glass of Champagne.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Egg drop soup and chicken in black bean sauce (very good) at Chin’s Place in Akron; a Taco Bell taco; popcorn at Regal Cinema; Chipotle barbacoa salad; Superfoods Salad at Aladdin’s in Montrose.

THE MAILBAG
From M.P.
Years ago we were at Lake Chautauqua for the week and I was frying potatoes and hot peppers for our fishermen husbands. I did not wear gloves and soon felt the effects of the pepper oil. It felt as if my hands were in the skillet!

I will forgo all the details but will tell you the pharmacist filled the script for the doctor-recommended salve but told us olive oil would work better and faster. We located the nearest grocery store and quickly grabbed a bottle. We had brought with us a large bowl of water that my hands had been in on our trip to the hospital. We tossed out the water and poured the oil over my burned hands. Oh, the relief.

God bless this man behind the counter in the town of Warren, Pa.

Dear M.P.:
Astounding! I did not know this about olive oil. You have helped many people today.

From Carol P.:
I wanted to tell you how I make jojo potatoes. It’s not original but I think it saves time. Wash russet potatoes and pierce with a fork. Place in microwave and cook until tender. Cut into fourth lengthwise. When cool, brush with mayo or ranch dressing. Roll in panko or regular bread crumbs. Fry in 1/4 inch of oil until brown on all sides. Remember, the potato is already cooked.

I think your garlic butter brushed on while the potatoes are hot would be yummy. Then sprinkle with Parmesan after frying.

Dear Carol:
Dino Reed at Wise Guys told me he roasts the baking potatoes before he cuts them lengthwise into quarters and fries them, so his method is similar to yours. He prepares them in advance to that point, then coats them with garlic butter and Parmesan and warms them in the oven.

From Rachel A.:
My first job was in the farm market at Graf Growers in Akron, and I am still a corn snob about it. The corn I get there always tastes best to me. Apparently, nostalgia tastes like sweet corn.

Try this corn salad, too. I made it for my husband and mother-in-law last week and both of them raved about the flavors. The contrast between the warm roasted corn and the cool, creamy sauce is awesome; the tang from the quick-pickled onions adds a lovely little bite. It’s absolutely delicious: https://smittenkitchen.com/2019/07/corn-salad-with-chile-and-lime/.

Dear Rachel:
I like Graf corn, too. I intend to try your corn salad recipe, which author Deb Perelman says is modeled on the popular Mexican-style street corn. Thanks for the link.

July 24, 2019

Dear friends,
I jumped out of bed Saturday, fully alert. It was corn day. I had waited all year. Seiberling Corn Farm in Norton would open at 9 a.m. for the season.

At 9:40 I snagged the last parking spot in front of the farm house. A slew of people already were digging through a pile of corn under a canopy. When an an older guy on a tractor putted up with another load, I wanted to hug him. I resisted.

To me, fresh corn on the cob is the essence of summer. It would be on my bucket-list last meal. I love it so much that I think I talked Northeast Ohio into making it the symbol of summer, too. A new managing editor imported from Miami once expressed surprise that my “corn is here” story appeared on the newspaper’s front page. On reflection, he decided that in Ohio, the opening of corn season probably was big news.

No. In all modesty, I think I made it big news by writing so enthusiastically about corn year after year after year. I wrote about Szalay’s vs. Graf vs. Rufener’s. I gave ridiculously detailed directions for cooking it in the microwave, on the grill, and in boiling water. One year I set up a pan of boiling water on a camp stove in the middle of a corn field and cooked an ear seconds after picking, then judged it against ears picked an hour, two hours and four hours earlier, some refrigerated and some not.

Sure, everybody around here already liked corn. But I was nuts about it, and I think my mania rubbed off.

I’m still nuts about it, and was distraught when the wet weather impacted planting last spring. Would there be corn?

I actually was happy when Szalay’s and Graf started bringing in corn from central and southern Ohio to keep the corn-hungry hordes at bay. In past years I disdained the out-of-town stuff. Then on Saturday, the real thing arrived.

Although there are only two of us, I got caught up in the corn-shucking frenzy at Seiberling’s. I stripped a dozen ears naked and, back in the car, dug one out of the bag and took a huge bite, typewriter style. I looked up, cob still to my lips, and locked eyes with an elderly woman. She gave me a thumbs up.

I found this recipe for corn salad in the “Food 52 Cookbook, Volume 2.” The original uses pancetta, cilantro and more olive oil than mine, which allowed the onions to be cooked longer. I sacrificed complete caramelization for calories, cutting the olive oil in half.

The beauty of the salad is the onions, which sweeten and also take on a bit of tartness from the vinegar, forming a built-in dressing for the corn. It is one of the best corn salads I’ve tasted. There’s no reason the salad couldn’t be served warm as a side dish, either.

And of course, you could forego the salad altogether and eat your corn raw, out of hand, in the car.

CORN AND CARAMELIZED ONION SALAD

4 slices bacon
Kernels from 6 ears of corn
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Dash of salt
8 to 10 medium basil leaves

Fry the bacon in a large, heavy skillet until crisp; drain on paper towels. Pour off and reserve all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Sauté the corn kernels in the skillet over medium-high heat, stirring and turning, for 1 minute. Transfer corn to a serving bowl.

Return skillet to the burner over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat and the olive oil. Stir in onions, vinegar, sugar and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until onions are soft and beginning to caramelize. Stir onions into the corn.

Cool salad to room temperature. Stir in chopped basil, crumbled bacon and sea salt to taste. Makes 6 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Kung bao chicken, steamed rice; beet, dill and goat cheese salad; eggplant, garlic and basil salad; corn and caramelized onion salad and roast mustard-glazed pork tenderloin.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Salad with raw tuna, edamame, cucumbers, peppers, pickled turnips and ginger and ponzu dressing from Tensuke Market in Columbus; Cobb salad from Sam’s Club; cauliflower-crust pizza with steak and mushrooms, Bud Light at Pavona’s Pizza Joint on Sand Run Road in Akron (a new place); the Laddie Burger and garlic-Parmesan Jo-Jo potatoes at Wise Guys in Akron; baba ganoush, hummus, pita bread, kibbee, marinated grilled chicken, marinated grilled beef and kefta from Mediterranean Market & Grill in Cuyahoga Falls.

TIDBIT
Are you kidding me?? A juicy, double 3-inch-high cheeseburger that’s a contender for the best in Akron, PLUS the ultimate Jo-Jos rolled in garlic butter and dusted with Parmesan, at a fast-food price? Seriously. It’s $7 on Thursdays in the bar at Wise Guys Lounge & Grill in the North Hill area of Akron.

Kathy C. told me a year or more ago about the Thursday special. She didn’t tell me the colossal hamburger is on the menu the rest of the week at just $10 or I probably would have eaten one by now. The thing must weigh 1 pound and chef Dino Reed and his crew have the skill to cook it perfectly. If you want medium-rare, that’s what you get.

You also get real cloth napkins, soft music and upscale Rat Pack decor. I already loved this place for the beautifully prepared steaks and lamb chops at moderate prices. Now I am obsessed with it for the cheeseburger. See you Thursday.

Check out the full menu at wiseguys.us.

BYE BYE BLENDER
I can finally get rid of my bozo Hamilton Beach blender. I bought it for recipe testing. I wanted equipment most people would have, which ruled out a $450 Vitamix.

Now that I’m retired my budget rules out a Vitamix. So I was thrilled but skeptical when I found a like-new smoothie maker for $8 at a second-hand store. It turned out to be a $160 Smoothie Elite that chomps through pineapple and liquefies kale like a champ. It is a powerful machine.

I am telling you this in case you, too, get hooked on the 180-calorie detox smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe (the one near Belden Village is now open). Making them at home with a Smoothie Elite is the way to go. If you lost the recipe, it’s on my blog site at janesnowtoday.com. The search button is above my photo.

THE MAILBAG
From Carol B.:
Regarding your hot pepper incident, I fixed a Pakistani chicken dish for my Dining for Women meeting last week. I had the most beautiful peppers from Kreiger’s on Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls — plump, smooth, large, crunchy. I stupidly did not use gloves when I minced them. I woke up in the middle of the night with burning hands and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I got a gel pack from the freezer, went back to bed and wrapped my hands in it. It worked! I woke up in the morning with no stinging hands!

P.S.: If you’ve never heard of Dining for Women, check it out at diningforwomen.org. They do wonderful things to empower women around the world.

Dear Carol:
Boy, you must have gotten a hot batch of jalapeños. I never use gloves for them, although I do for peppers higher on the Scoville scale. Thank you for bringing Dining for Women to my attention. I encourage others to click on the link and check out this wonderful organization.

From Chris D.:
For some weeks there was a sign in a tiny storefront between the Indian grocery and Strickland’s on Bailey Road in Cuyahoga Falls saying “Coming soon Singh Biryani, healthy Indian carry out food.” It finally opened on July 19! I’m leaving on vacation, will visit the restaurant when I get back. I wish them success!

Dear Chris:
Thank you for the great tip. I hope to get there soon.

July 17, 2019

Dear friends,

Sheesh. What a big baby. Tony, coughing and hacking nonstop, poked his head into the kitchen (twice!) and whined, “What are you DOING in here?” I was coughing, too, but you didn’t hear me complaining. Eyes streaming, I just kept stir-frying those dried Sichuan peppers.

Then I heard the dog cough. Uh oh. The kung bao chicken was cooked and photographed by then. I grabbed Oscar, a wad of Kleenex and headed outside.

So fair warning: If you make the recipe below, turn on the range hood fan, position rotating fans throughout adjoining rooms, and sequester your pets on the porch.

I had forgotten how pungent the aroma of frying hot peppers can be. Later, I remembered that this is the recipe my friend Elizabeth still talks about from a cooking session in her kitchen 35 years ago. We cleared the house that time.

Well, not quite this recipe. The one Elizabeth and I made was from the little cookbook I mentioned two weeks ago. I made that kung bao recipe a few days ago and it was just OK. In 1984 or ’85, I thought it was the bomb. After a few decades of eating kung bao, I knew it could be better.

I got a few requests for the kung bao recipe after I mentioned it, but I didn’t want to drop that so-so version on you. So I turned to the most authoritative Sichuan recipe source I know, “Land of Plenty” by Fuchsia Dunlop. I bought fresh dried chili peppers and hauled out the black Chinese vinegar and Sichuan peppercorns, ingredients unheard of by home cooks when the old cookbook was written. Also unheard of was traveling to China’s Sichuan province and quizzing the chefs, as Dunlop did.

So how is her recipe? The stir fry was delicious — sweet, tart, salty and crunchy all at once. The dried peppers (carefully picked out at the table) provided an insistent but not overwhelming heat, complemented by the numbing sting of the Sichuan peppercorns. All of the Chinese ingredients in the recipe are readily available now in Asian food stores.

“It’s hot, but a good hot,” Tony said after inhaling all but my one little portion. Meaning it’s hot enough to notice but not hot enough to drown out the flavor.

The dog sat this one out.

KUNG PAO CHICKEN WITH PEANUTS

2 boneless chicken breasts, 2/3 lb. total (about 11 ounces)
3 cloves garlic and an equivalent amount of fresh ginger
5 scallions, white parts only
2 tbsp. peanut oil
A generous handful of dried Sichuan chilies (at least 10)
1 tsp. whole Sichuan peppercorns
2/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts

Marinade:
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. Shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry
1 1/2 tsp. potato flour or 2 1/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. water

Sauce:
3 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. potato flour or 1 1/8 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. light soy sauce
3 tsp. Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. chicken stock or water

Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1/2-inch strips and then cut these into small cubes. Place in a small bowl and mix in the marinade ingredients. Marinate for 30 minutes if possible.

Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger. Chop the scallions into chunks as long as their diameter (to match the chicken cubes). Snip the chilies in half or into 2-inch sections. Wearing rubber gloves, discard as many seeds as possible.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl — if you dip your finger in, you can taste the sweet-sour base of the kung bao flavor.

Turn on the range exhaust fan. Heat a wok or deep, heavy skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil. When it is hot but not yet smoking, add the dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry briefly until they are crisp and the oil is spicy and fragrant. Do not burn.

Quickly add the chicken and stir-fry over high heat. As soon as the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and scallions and continue to stir fry for a few minutes until they are fragrant and the chicken is cooked through.

Give the sauce a stir and add to the pan, stirring and tossing. When the sauce becomes thick and shiny, stir in the peanuts and serve. Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as part of a Chinese meal with 3 other dishes.

From “Land of Plenty” by Fuchsia Dunlop.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Mushroom skillet soufflé; barbecued ribs, romaine salad with mushrooms and radish and a vodka martini.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
An Olympia scramble (eggs, potatoes, beets, radish hash, etc.) at the Blue Door in Cuyahoga Falls; Sichuan stir-fried yellow squash; half a berry salad from the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; a Chipotle salad with chicken; a bowl of Cincinnati chili, hold the spaghetti, from Dixie Chili in Erlanger, Ky.; hard-fried eggs, melted cheese and ripped tortillas (chilaquiles) with grilled chicken and salsa, two slices of fried ripe plantain and a Diet Coke from El Valle Verde in Erlanger, Ky.; beef in wine sauce, mashed potatoes, a roll, Chardonnay, Champagne and half of a lemon macaron at a wedding in Covington, Ky.

THE MAILBAG

From Mickey S.:
The Smithville Inn has closed. We always enjoyed going there. We would like to have a copy of their recipe for Creamy Noodle Casserole. Do you think you could find it?

Also, I have their recipe for Sour Cream Peach Crunch Pie. It is to die for if you love peaches. They gave it out several years ago.

SOUR CREAM PEACH CRUNCH PIE
(Smithville Inn)
1 9-inch deep-dish unbaked pie shell
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups fresh or canned peach slices

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
4 tbsp. cup cold butter

Make the unbaked pie shell and set aside. Blend together eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla. Beat in sour cream. Stir in peaches. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Combine sugar and flour for topping in a bowl. Cut in butter until the crumbs are the size of peas. Sprinkle on top of pie and bake 30 minutes longer or until set. Cool.

Dear Mickey:
Wow, does that sound good. Although I won’t indulge, I bet many others will.

I’m sorry I don’t have the recipe for the restaurant’s famous chicken and noodles, which I tasted when I reviewed the Smithville Inn many years ago, and again more recently with Tony. If someone who has the recipe sees this and is kind enough to send it, I’ll make sure you get a copy. It’s the least we can do for sharing the recipe for that pie.

July 10, 2019

Dear friends,
The mushrooms were golden and a bit fuzzy, like button mushrooms from an alternate reality. I can’t remember their name. I remember the flavor, though — a bit more pronounced than regular white mushrooms, with earthy, woodland notes.

I bought a small sack of the mushrooms at the Countryside Farmers Market Saturday — just enough to flavor a soufflé if I wanted to spend that much time in my sweltering kitchen. I didn’t.

I sure wanted that soufflé, though, so I made a down and dirty version in a skillet. No cooked white sauce. No buttered soufflé dish. Just a bowl in which to beat the eggs and a skillet to sauté the mushrooms and bake the soufflé in, too.

I found a recipe for a lemon skillet soufflé (just Google “lemon skillet soufflé”) and riffed on that. The original was from the Cook’s magazine folks. I changed almost all of the ingredients except the eggs, and borrowed the technique of beating the soufflé base rather than cooking it. It worked pretty good, although a dessert soufflé made in this manner would probably rise higher than my mushroom-laden one.

A reader asked me this week about the difference between my crustless quiche of a few weeks ago and a frittata. This mushroom soufflé further muddies the waters. All of them are similar, although the frittata is much more eggy and the soufflé is puffier.

Basically, a frittata is an unfolded omelet with the filling ingredients mixed right into the eggs. It can be cooked on the stove or in the oven. A quiche usually is a custard base (eggs and milk) to which lots of cheese is added. My crustless quiche skips the milk in the custard base and uses cottage cheese as the dairy. It’s not a true quiche, but the cottage cheese disqualifies it as a frittata. A soufflé is a custard base made with just the yolks, to which beaten whites are added.

None of this matters. What’s important is whether it tastes good, and Tony gave the mushroom skillet soufflé a big thumbs up. The flavor of the mushrooms was enhanced with finely chopped sage and thyme from my herb garden. Chives and rosemary would complement the mushrooms, too.

When the local corn finally ripens I’ll sub a cup of sautéed kernels for the mushrooms (it won’t be long — I hear the corn is starting to tassel this week) and use basil for the herb. Until then, some strange-delicious mushrooms will do.

This airy soufflé and a salad make a great, light dinner on a sizzling summer night. One-fourth of the soufflé — a big, big hunk — has just 198 calories.

MUSHROOM SKILLET SOUFFLE

5 eggs
2 tbsp. butter
6 oz. mushrooms (any variety), diced to 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. minced fresh sage
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp. flour
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of a mixer and the yolks in a custard cup. Make sure no speck of yolk contaminates the whites (to be safe, separate each white into a custard cup before pouring one at a time into the mixer bowl).

Melt butter in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet. Sauté mushrooms, onions and garlic over medium heat until vegetables are softened and mushrooms are golden brown. If the mushrooms give off moisture, turn up the heat to evaporate the moisture. Remove from heat and stir in salt and herbs.

Arrange oven rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites are stiff and glossy. Scrape whites into another bowl.

In the same mixer bowl (no need to wash) beat yolks on high speed until thickened and light yellow, at least 1 minute. Beat in milk, then flour and cheese. Stir in mushroom mixture.

Return skillet (without washing) to medium-low heat. Stir and fold one-fourth of the egg whites into the yolk mixture until barely a trace of the whites remain. Gently fold remaining whites into the yolk mixture, scraping bottom of bowl to incorporate all of the mushrooms and yolks.

Pour soufflé mixture into warm skillet and cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat. Place skillet on middle rack in a 375-degree oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until top is puffy and golden and center is almost set. Serve immediately. Makes 4 large servings at 198 calories each.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Venison spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese baked in a spaghetti squash half; a turkey burger and sugar-free ice cream soda; grill-smoked thick, bone-in rib steak (tomahawk) with horseradish sauce and grilled vegetables with sesame-ginger dressing; black raspberry galette; marinated roast pork tenderloin, buttered corn on the cob; wilted spinach and fried egg on toast; grilled ribeye steaks, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt and chopped basil; kung pao chicken over rice; another wilted spinach and fried egg on toast.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Half of a spicy Thai salad, an apple and iced coffee at Panera; half of a chicken teriyaki sub at Subway; popcorn, no butter at Regal Cinema; half of a Subway ham and Swiss; half of a pulled pork sandwich from Showcase Meats in Akron.

THE MAILBAG
From Martha K.:
This recipe is a throwback to your crustless quiche. I make egg muffins often. They’re good hot, cold or slightly warmed, alone or on a bed of arugula topped with a squeeze of lemon and a grating of pecorino Romano cheese.

I make them when I need to watch my calorie intake or when I know I’m going to be very busy. They pack easily. They’re great for a road trip. I usually have plenty of vegetables at home but when I’m in a hurry, I grab a small amount of carrots, peas, scallions, broccoli, peppers and whatever looks good from a salad bar at a grocery store.

EGG MUFFINS
9 eggs
Scant 1/4 cup milk
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
Crank or two of pepper

Filler:
Any combination of finely chopped fresh vegetables
Romano, Cheddar, low-moisture mozzarella or any shredded cheese
Cubed ham, crumbled bacon, shredded chicken, chopped steak

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray or butter.

In a 4-cup measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream of tartar, salt and pepper. Arrange any combination of fillers in each muffin cup. Do not fill more than halfway.

Pour egg mixture into each muffin cup, filling no more than three-fourths full. Mixture will puff in oven. Bake at 375 degrees for about 18 minutes. Eggs are ready when the edges begin to brown.

Let cool in pan. Run a knife around edges of muffins and remove from tin. Eat immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Makes 12.

Dear Martha,
I love this idea. Tony and I are getting ready for a road trip with our camper. I’ll definitely take some of these along. Thanks!

From Pat S.:
Hi Jane. I have been seeing a range of Hasselback recipes. The baked potatoes are excellent and the sweet potato version looks awesome. I’m now seeing the technique used on baked chicken breasts, Caprese and fajita styles. I think the combinations are endless. These are oven-bake recipes, but I’m thinking the chicken could be grilled as well, making it an easy, quick summer meal. And very good when we have so much fresh produce and herbs in season. Do you have thoughts on this method and its versatility?

Dear Pat,
I think “Hasselback” is almost as much fun to say as “spatchcock.” Remember a couple of summers ago when we were spatchcocking our brains out? Seriously, I think that’s why “Hasselback” is having a moment — it’s fun to say.

Fun aside, the technique of slicing something almost but not quite through and stuffing the crevices (or not stuffing, as in the original version of Hasselback potatoes) is an interesting way to present food. If you stuff, you’ll want to make sure the stuffing and encasing food roast at the same speed. In other words, no potato stuffed with seafood. Otherwise, this is a visually exciting way to dress up dinner.
If you grill the chicken, I would slice it and stuff it after cooking to prevent the chicken from drying out. Send me your favorite Hasselback recipe! I want to play, too.

FYI, Hasselback potatoes were named after Restaurant Hasselbacken in Stockholm, Sweden, where they were invented.

July 3, 2019

Dear friends,
I have an old, slim, tattered Szechuan cookbook from 1982 that I burned the back cover from when I set it on an electric burner eons ago. The paperback, “Szechwan & Northern Cooking: From Hot to Cold,” was written by Rhonda Yee. It has survived four moves and a Marie Kondo-style cleansing.

Every few years the book gets buried in the basement or pushed to the back of a bookshelf and I forget about it. A few years later I find it, consider tossing out the poor, charred little thing, but instead hang onto it. On the rare occasions I crack open the book, I’m glad I did. The sauce recipes are extraordinary.

When I found the book on my shelf last weekend, it was the culinary equivalent of a letter from my youth. I remember making recipes from the book in the early days of my career as a food writer. I paged through the book, encountering my penciled-in annotations from the past.

The most exciting moment is when I found my favorite recipe for kung pao chicken, which I thought I had lost. Tony is a kung pao fanatic, but I keep telling him the pallid versions he gets in restaurants can’t compare to the one I would make if only I could find my recipe. I will wow him with this superior version this week.

But I had a sirloin steak, not chicken, in the fridge last weekend, so I improvised with the ingredients on hand and a couple of Yee’s sauces. I’ll tell you straight up that her salad dressing recipe, reprinted below, should be made by the gallon and kept in your refrigerator at all times. It is luscious. I’m going to use the leftovers all week on roasted vegetables.

I marinated the steak, grilled it and sliced it. I tossed it with romaine lettuce, sliced scallions and Yee’s lip-licking dressing. Rice sticks and peanuts provided the crunch.

Filament-like rice sticks can be found in Asian stores and some supermarkets. They are usually coiled into nests. For this recipe, the strands are teased apart and dropped into very hot oil, which puffs them dramatically. With the weather we’ve been having, I wouldn’t blame you if you used packaged chow mein noodles instead. The salad will still taste great.

CRUNCHY SZECHUAN BEEF SALAD

Marinade:
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. black bean garlic sauce
1 tsp. sugar

Dressing:
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. Szechuan chili oil

Salad:
1 lb. top sirloin or flatiron steak, trimmed of fat and gristle
1 oz. very thin rice sticks or 2 cups chow mein noodles
Oil for frying (if using rice sticks)
Salt
4 to 6 cups chopped romain lettuce
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup coarsely crushed dry-roasted peanuts

Combine marinade ingredients in a custard cup. Slather on both sides of steak. Place on a plate, cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

Combine dressing ingredients in a lidded jar and shake well. Set aside.

If using rice sticks, separate the strands over a bowl to catch the pieces. The filaments should be separated and broken into pieces but not crushed. Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a heavy, wide skillet. The oil should be very hot. Test it by dropping a strand of rice stick into the oil. It should immediately puff up. Scatter a handful at a time in the oil, turning over with tongs as soon as they puff, and removing from the oil as soon as the other side has puffed. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.

Remove steak from marinade and grill over hot coals to desired degree of doneness. Let rest off the heat for 10 minutes, then slice across the grain into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Cut the strips into 1 1/2-inch lengths.

Just before serving, place chopped romaine in a very large bowl. Add scallions and all but 2 tablespoons of the peanuts. Toss with half the dressing. Add the beef strips and toss again, adding more dressing if necessary. Add all but a handful of the rice sticks or chow mein noodles and salt to taste; toss. Mound on a platter. Drizzle with a bit more dressing. Garnish with remaining peanuts and rice sticks. Makes 4 large servings.

Note: Refrigerate the delicious leftover dressing and drizzle over cooked vegetables or salads.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
A crustless tomato quiche; roast carrots, bell peppers and zucchini; a crunchy Szechuan beef salad.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Thai chicken curry with chopped peanuts at Basil Asian Bistro in Wooster; half of a ham and cheese sub from Subway; edamame, a California roll, Tony’s Mussels and a Bud Light at Sushi Katsu in Akron; sugar-free coffee frozen yogurt at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt; marinated grilled chicken and beef, grilled kefta, kibbee, tabbouli and baba ganoush from Falls Mediterranean Market & Grill in Cuyahoga Falls; small popcorn, no butter at Regal Cinema; samosa, corn salad, bahn mi and watermelon at the Project Learn picnic in Akron.

THE MAILBAG
From Maria M.:
I have quite a bit of zucchini from last year’s garden that I partially blanched and froze last year. They are in slices and half slices. How do you recommend using them? I know I can drop them frozen into soup such as minestrone but this is definitely not soup weather! I’m always uncertain as to whether or not I should thaw the zucchini before using it in a recipe or leave it frozen. Any recipe suggestions would be helpful and appreciated.

Dear Maria:
Zucchini is one of the few vegetables I would never freeze. Because of its high water content, it becomes beyond mushy when thawed. A lot of people do freeze zucchini, though. Unless you use it in soup or stew, you should thaw the zucchini and drain it well before using. You might even want to squeeze it dry.

Many people who freeze zucchini shred it first for use in baked goods such as zucchini bread. Since you didn’t do that, I would forget about baked goods and instead sneak it into meatloaf, spaghetti sauce and smoothies. You could try stir frying it, but be prepared for some splatters when the moisture in the zucchini meets the hot fat.

This year, pick them small — 6 inches or less — and eat ‘em up.

From Mary:
Jane, your couscous salad was delicious! We had fresh salmon I baked and the salad with it was just so good. Thanks for the recipe. It was awesome.

Dear Mary:
I love when I hear that one of my recipes was made and enjoyed. Thanks for writing.

From Linda C.:
This vegan loves your couscous salad recipe. I love roasting veggies. The large pearl couscous is a great texture change. I’m experimenting with different grains. We love farro and freekeh. Tef was a wonderful change as a breakfast grain, too.

Thanks for your continued flavor combinations and great food advice.

Dear Linda:
Tef, eh? That is one I haven’t tried. Thanks for the suggestion.

June 26,2019

Dear friends,
Authentic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not always, anyway. Do you ever read about a country’s food, imagine it in your mind, and then feel a bit let down when you actually taste it?

I do that all the time. Korean and native American food come to mind. If only there were a teensy bit less fermented gunk, or the mutton stew was made instead with lamb…..

I felt that way the first time I tasted a Moroccan tagine. The seasonings in the stew were kind of brilliant but the vegetables were sooo limp. Wrung out. Tasteless. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat tagine every chance I get and even bought a tagine cooker (it looks like an upside-down funnel). But wouldn’t it taste better if the vegetables were roasted to concentrate their flavors? And how about using that big-pearl couscous instead of the fine-grained stuff?

I haven’t bastardized a tagine to that extent yet, but I did take the elements and seasonings (one version of the seasonings; there are many) and combine them in a side dish/salad. Serve it warm or cold for my American take on a Moroccan classic.

Not to insult the entire country of Morocco or anything, but this is the kind of dish you’ll eat with a spoon, standing in front of the refrigerator, at 11 at night. It’s that good.

COUSCOUS SALAD WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES, ALMONDS AND RAISINS

1 bell pepper, cleaned and halved lengthwise
1 zucchini, about 8 inches long, halved lengthwise
1 Chinese eggplant, about 8 to 10 inches long, halved lengthwise
2/3 cup Israeli (large pearl) couscous
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup raisins

Dressing:
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. mace
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
Salt, pepper

Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray or lightly grease with olive oil. Place pepper, zucchini and eggplant on sheet and spray or lightly coat with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft but not mushy. The roasting time will depend on the thickness of the vegetables.

Meanwhile, cook couscous according to package directions. While it cooks, heat a heavy, medium-size skillet over high heat. Toast almonds in the skillet until light brown on the edges, stirring frequently. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until softened but not brown. Scrape onions and oil in skillet into a medium-large serving bowl. When the couscous is done, stir into the onions and oil in the bowl.

Pour hot water over the raisins in a small bowl and set aside.

In a lidded jar, combine dressing ingredients and shake well. When vegetables are done, cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in the bowl with the couscous and stir well. Season with salt to taste. Drain raisins and stir into the couscous with the toasted almonds. Shake dressing again. Pour over salad and stir well.

Serve warm or cold. Makes about 6 servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Genghis Khan (marinated, grilled thin-sliced lamb) over cauliflower rice with pan-grilled carrots, sugar-snap peas, onions and oyster mushrooms; baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta; roast pork tenderloin and couscous with roasted vegetables, almonds and raisins; baked potato and filet mignon cooked in and grilled over a backyard campfire.

What I ate out:
Chicken gyro at Continental Cuisine in Fairlawn; small popcorn, no butter at Regal Cinema; pancetta, lettuce and tomato flatbread sandwich, drip coffee at Cafe Arnone in Fairlawn; juicy, lemony grilled pork tenderloin, couscous salad with mushrooms, shaved Parmesan and truffle oil, and chunky vegetable salad at my friend Marty’s house; barbecued baby back ribs, kale slaw and homemade potato chips at Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron; Caesar salad with grilled chicken at Mustard Seed Market in Highland Square; homemade tortilla chips with salsa, and tacos with carnitas and cactus salad at Taqueria Rancheros in Akron.

THE MAILBAG
From me:
Thanks to those who wrote to commiserate about the weather, comment on past recipes (the crustless quiche was a hit) or just to say “Hi.” I no longer feel ignored.

I still don’t have mail to share, though, so I’m passing along a recipe from my friend, Joan Welsh, who brought the yummy dish to a gathering. Four of us meet once a month or so to laugh and, basically, eat. I know many of you have similar get-togethers. I’d love to have the recipe for the latest dish you’ve shared with YOUR friends.

Joan’s dish was heady with the aroma (and flavor) of truffles — no doubt because she used good truffle oil. She bought the oil at TruffleHunter on the Internet, she said.

ISRAELI COUSCOUS WITH MUSHROOMS AND LEMON TRUFFLE VINAIGRETTE
1 lb. assorted mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt, pepper
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup shaved parmesan
1/4 cup vinaigrette

Truffle Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white truffle-infused olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake well.

Spread mushrooms in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until done.

Place couscous in a large frying pan and toast over medium heat. When the couscous starts to brown, add broth, cover and simmer according to package directions until cooked.

In a bowl combine room-temperature mushrooms and couscous. Shake dressing well, add 1/4 cup and toss. Add salt and pepper if needed. Top with shaved Parmesan just before serving.

June 19, 2019

Dear friends,
Mostly I eat local in the summer, relishing the appearance of each vegetable and fruit as it ripens according to its own unique schedule. But who knows how much longer we can enjoy the gradual change of seasons measured by an asparagus spear or a raspberry? Get this stuff while you can.

My asparagus patches, old and new, are still producing, probably because of the rains. My tomato plants sport marble-sized green fruits that refuse to ripen, also because of the rains. I have been buying cherry and grape tomatoes and roasting or pan-grilling them to compensate for the lack of flavor. Cooking concentrates the sugars and makes them edible.

Last week I combined a bunch of asparagus and a few grape tomatoes in a crustless quiche brightened with lemon and dill. The dill, volunteers from last year’s plant that I allowed to go to seed, have taken over one big planter. There must be 20 fronds in there. I’ll be eating a lot of dill this summer.

My first crustless quiche was a flop. I thought I could make a low-cal version without consulting a recipe, but I learned that simply reducing the amount of cheese in a quiche produces a pie pan full of scrambled eggs.

For the second attempt, I chose a method from Eating Well that replaces milk and shredded cheese with cottage cheese. This produces an eggy pie that puffs up nicely in the oven and — thanks to some flour — holds together beautifully on the plate. The flavor is bland, though, which is why I added some Parmesan, lemon and dill. The asparagus and tomatoes help, too.

Tony and I had this quiche for dinner one night, but I liked it even better as breakfast the next morning. It fits into my current eating plan with 250 calories per serving, which is one-fourth of a 10-inch deep-dish pie.

ASPARAGUS CRUSTLESS QUICHE WITH LEMON AND DILL

1 1/2 cups asparagus spears in 1-inch pieces
1 cup cherry tomato halves
6 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. (packed) chopped fresh dill
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Place sliced asparagus in a small (7-inch) skillet and barely cover with water. Cover pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 2 minutes, depending on size of the spears, until asparagus is al dente. Transfer to a colander and refresh under cold water to intensify the color. Set aside.

Return skillet to stove and spray bottom with olive oil or vegetable spray. Place tomatoes, cut sides down, in skillet and cook over high heat until tomatoes begin to sizzle. Press down on tomatoes with a spatula to release liquid. When most of the liquid has evaporated but the tomatoes are still slightly juicy, remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs. With a spoon, stir in cottage cheese, Parmesan, flour, salt, dill and lemon zest. Stir in most of the asparagus and tomatoes, reserving 4 tips and 3 or 4 tomato halves. Pour into a deep 10-inch pie pan coated with vegetable oil spray. Arrange reserved asparagus and tomatoes on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, until the edges turn golden and the center is set. Cool for 20 minutes before cutting into 4 pieces. Each slice has 250 calories.

Adapted from Eating Well.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled pork tenderloin cutlets, asparagus with balsamic vinegar, cucumber salad with toasted walnuts, raisins and yogurt dressing; green bean, ham and potato soup with pesto; lettuce wraps with pan-grilled pork loin strips, roasted vegetables and cilantro; asparagus and tomato crustless quiche with lemon and dill; steamed sugar snap peas; awful strawberry gelatin molds.

What I ate in/from restaurants and carryouts:
Chef’s salad with chicken and blue cheese from Sam’s Club; eggs over easy, bacon and grits at Wally Waffle in Montrose; a hot dog with mustard at Canal Park (take your dog to the ballpark day); half of a spicy Thai chicken salad at Panera; sugar-free Dilly Bar at Dairy Queen; tossed salad, Italian bread, veal scaloppini topped with shrimp in garlic butter sauce and a Bud Light at Naples Spaghetti House in Steubenville; chicken burrito salad from Chipotle; seaweed-wrapped rice with vegetables and beef, steamed egg with pickles and bulgogi at Korea House in Cleveland; detox green smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Cleveland.

THE MAILBAG

Dear Readers:
No mail suitable for sharing arrived in my in box this week. You probably were too busy building dikes around your houses to write. While you wait out the floods, you’ll have time to try the scrumptious bacon bread knots I saw in a Facebook post last month by my friend, Pennie. Her gourmet group held a bacon night (love it) and these luscious-looking things were one contribution. Of course I pestered Pennie for the recipe.

If the ark you are building has wi-fi, drop me a line.

BACON GARLIC WRAPS
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 tbsp. olive oil
30 strips bacon
5 tbsp. melted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Marinara sauce for dipping (optional)

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a small bowl. Let sit 5 minutes or until frothy.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, 1/4 cup Parmesan, sugar, baking powder, salt, basil and oregano. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the yeast mixture. Stir until a ball of dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is springy, about 5 minutes.

Coat the large bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and turn ball of dough in bowl to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Dust dough with a bit of flour and dump onto a clean surface. Tear the dough into 30 pieces, then roll into 6-inch-long strips. Place a strip of bacon over each dough strip. Tie both together to form a knot. Place the knots on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until bread is golden brown and the bacon is crisp.

In a small bowl mix the butter, garlic and remaining 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese. Brush mixture over knots and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve warm with marinara sauce for dipping, if desired.

June 12, 2019

Dear friends,

I’m into gonzo cooking these days. At least two nights a week I run out of energy and patience by the time dinner rolls around. In the bad old days, that’s when I’d order a pizza. But because of my new, healthful eating plan (I’m down 10 pounds, guys), pizza is not a good idea. So I crank up the oven, turn up the flame under the cast iron and flash-cook some protein and veggies.

This week’s recipe isn’t really a recipe. It’s a collection of ingredients and a time-saving cooking method. It’s stupid-easy so if you’re already doing this, forgive me. But I really want everyone to know how to get a great meal on the table in about 30 minutes.

My favorite no-recipe healthful dinner is seared pork tenderloin strips and roast vegetables wrapped in lettuce leaves with maybe a drizzle of sweet soy sauce and fresh cilantro or basil. It’s kind of an East-Meets-Southwest taco.

First set the oven temperature to 400 degrees. While it preheats, cut a bell pepper into strips. Trim the root and any limp green part from 6 scallions. Cut a big carrot into carrot sticks (or use pre-cut ones). Butterfly a pork tenderloin. I use tenderloin because it is lean and fairly low-cal. Boneless chicken would work, too.

To butterfly, cut the cylinder of meat lengthwise halfway through, spread it out and beat it with a meat pounder until it’s an even thickness. If the tenderloin is a fat one, you may have to make vertical cuts in each half and spread them apart before bashing them. Lacking a meat pounder (a utensil with a smooth pounding surface), use a rubber mallet from the toolbox in the garage. Wash it first.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on the sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roll the veggies around to coat them evenly with oil. Spread them out again. Roast them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, removing the scallions when they begin to brown. Everything should be tender.

While the veggies roast, heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is best) over high heat. When it is hot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Season the meat with lots of salt and pepper and cook it until the bottom is brown. Turn the meat over, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until just no longer pink. Cut it into 1/4-inch-wide strips across the grain. I do this in the pan, which is not good for the knives. You should probably do this on a cutting board, but that means you’ll have one more thing to wash.

Mound each vegetable and the meat on a platter. Add a pile of fresh herbs and about 6 big lettuce leaves. Pliable leaf lettuce is best. At the table, arrange the ingredients on the lettuce leaves, drizzle with a little sweet soy sauce (or salsa or whatever you like) and roll to encase the filling. Eat ‘em up.

I guarantee you this is at least as good as a pizza.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Spaghetti squash and feta cheese baked in spaghetti squash halves; pan-grilled pork tenderloin with roast carrots, bell peppers and scallions wrapped in lettuce leaves with cilantro and sweet soy sauce; crustless asparagus quiche with lemon and dill, and homegrown baby lettuces with vinaigrette; microwave scrambled egg with capers, chopped tomato and fresh oregano; sheet pan chicken thighs with Indian simmer sauce and roast lemons, pepper strips, radishes and baby potatoes; yogurt- and spice-marinated grilled chicken with a cucumber, mint and baby lettuce salad and watermelon; charcoal-grilled strip steaks, pan-grilled asparagus and grape tomatoes.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Bacon and grits at Bob Evans; tossed salad,T-bone steak and garlic mashed potatoes at Brown Derby in Medina Township; salad bar and tomato-basil soup at Buehler’s in Medina; pastore tacos with grilled onions, cilantro and lime at Taqueria Rancheros in Akron (yeow); Ahi tuna poke salad bowl at Poke Fresh in Akron (Wallhaven, near Whole Foods).

THE MAILBAG
From Linda S.
The Middle East restaurants in Canton are Sahara, Aladdin’s and the Desert Inn, for your Middle East food fix. I get my fix mostly at my mom’s house!

Dear Linda:
You lucky dog. I am not familiar with Sahara; I’ll have to try it. I loved the Desert Inn when I reviewed it decades ago, and I am a regular at the Aladdin’s in the Montrose area of Bath Township. Thanks.

From Sally T.:
I saw a very interesting show on PBS about hijiki seaweed. It showed women diving for it, then drying it, and it all was fascinating to me. I thought you or your husband probably knew something about this.

On the show, they used the seaweed in traditional Japanese food but what caught my attention was they used it in salads with fruit and spaghetti sauce. Of course, they talked about how good it is for you. I conquered kale so I thought it might be interesting to try this. I would love for you to write something about the different types of seaweed. What I found was this is the most palatable to American tastes. Do the Japanese eat a lot of it?

Dear Sally:
Tony says it is eaten a lot in Japan. Try it topped with shrimp, cucumbers and a soy-rice vinegar dressing. That is known as “sunomono” and is served at sushi bars. If you’re watching your weight, sunomono, miso soup and edamame would be a filling, low-cal, high-protein meal.

Hijiki has an interesting texture, kind of like al dente spaghetti squash. I had some last weekend on a tuna poke salad. Tony said the strands of bright-green hijiki were mixed with strands of jelly fish. This is how I have seen it most often.

The other types of seaweed most common in Japan are nori, the dried sheets used to wrap sushi, and kombu. The latter is smooth, flat and wide. That’s the chopped greens you see floating in your miso soup. It is used in all sorts of other preparations, too, including the sunomonos described above.

From Jan C.:
I finished Ruth Reichl’s book a couple of weeks ago. It is truly one of her best. I enjoyed your review of the book, but in that same newsletter, the old restaurant book you linked to is spectacular.

Many years ago when I worked at General Tire on East Market Street in Akron, we would run to pick up stacks of Thacker’s burgers for lunches. Our Christmas lunch was usually at Nick Anthe’s on Tallmadge Avenue. Appreciation dinners were held at the Mayflower Hotel. What great memories. Thank you.

Dear Jan:
I got lost in that restaurant book, too. I reviewed many of them, and heard about most of the rest. The book is a stellar piece of research and nostalgia.

June 5, 2019

Dear friends,
I’ve been on an Asian food kick and it shows no signs of abating. I know I should switch my thinking to French or Spanish or Greek or Lebanese flavors for variety. But not just yet. At the moment, Ruth Reichl has me thinking about spicy Asian noodles.

I’ve just finished reading Reichl’s new book, “Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir.”
It covers her 10-year stint at Gourmet magazine, from when she was wooed away from the New York Times, where she was restaurant critic, to the soul-numbing day in 2009 when the staff was summarily summoned to a conference room and told the magazine was dead as of that moment. Pack your belongings and leave.

The book is less about food than her previous memoirs, and more about the drama and nuts and bolts of turning the venerable but dated magazine into a relevant, contemporary food magazine filled not just with recipes but cutting-edge articles by some of the best writers on the planet.

Reichl takes us behind the scenes in the Gourmet test kitchen, but also writes about the opulence showered on Conde-Nast editors and how she initially resisted the more decadent perks such as a clothing allowance and liveried car service to the office each day.

In the course of telling the story of Gourmet’s last gasp, Reichl describes the terror of 9/11 and lugging chili and brownies through the ash-clogged streets to the first responders; parties at the penthouse of autocratic Conde Nast chairman Si Newhouse; and the untimely death from pancreatic cancer of Jonathan Gold, Gourmet restaurant critic and the first food writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize.

This is Reichl’s sixth memoir and although her writing has always been elegant, her skill at storytelling has only gotten better.

The books has a bare sprinkling of recipes. Here’s one for the simple meal she served her son after accepting the job at Gourmet — which meant she could have dinner with her family rather than dining nightly in a restaurant as a critic.

RUTH REICHL’S SPICY CHINESE NOODLES

1/2 lb. Chinese wheat noodles, dried egg noodles or spaghetti
Peanut oil
1/2-inch-long piece fresh ginger
2 scallions
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. Chinese black bean paste with garlic
1 tbsp. Chinese bean paste with chili
1/2 lb. ground pork
Sesame oil

Cook the noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain and toss with 1/2 tablespoon peanut oil, and set aside.

Peel and mince the ginger (you should have about 2 tablespoons). Chop the white parts and slice the green parts of the scallions.

Mix the sugar and the two kinds of bean paste, and set aside.

Heat a wok until a drop of water skitters across the surface. Add a tablespoon of peanut oil, toss in the ginger, and stir-fry for about half a minute, until the fragrance is hovering over the wok.

Add the pork and white scallions and stir-fry until all traces of pink have disappeared. Add the bean sauce mixture and cook and stir for about two minutes.

Stir in the green scallions and noodles and quickly toss. Add a drop of sesame oil and turn into two small bowls. This makes a perfect snack for two.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Steamed asparagus with sesame oil and sea salt; filet mignon with wine sauce, steamed asparagus; spicy Chinese noodles; fava beans with olive oil, sea salt, tarragon and chives, pan-grilled pork loin chops, more steamed asparagus; peanut slaw with mint and Thai dressing (a duet with Tony); pan-grilled flatiron steak, pan-grilled bell pepper strips with chunky sea salt, a salad of baby lettuces from the garden; chilled tomato soup with dill, skillet-seared mojo shrimp.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Larb at Papaya Salad in Cuyahoga Falls; a green smoothie at Smoothie King in Cuyahoga Falls; tuna poke at Poke Fresh in Akron; small popcorn no butter at Regal Cinema (“Rocketman” was outstanding); half of a Subway ham and pepper-cheese sub.

THE MAILBAG
From Joy:
I was looking for info on Foley’s seafood salad mentioned in your last newsletter (no luck) and came across the Akron restaurants info and photos you’ll find on the enclosed link.

Some descriptions say when the restaurants opened and closed, with some not having much info at all. I have to say the info about Senier’s Tavern (opened in 1929) and the Merry-Go-Round was a good read, especially the part about the owner being arrested for allowing public dancing past 11:30 on Saturday nights! There’s a good amount of old Akron restaurant photos you and your readers might recognize or just enjoy. I’m thankful we’re able to see the history kept here: The Golden Age of Restaurants in Summit County

Dear Joy:
What a treasure! I hope everyone is able to access the information from the link you sent — I was able to from your email but not when I retyped the link for this column. I am hoping the glitch is in my writing program. The history of Akron restaurants is from the special collections department of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. I especially like the old menus and photos of places such as Kaase’s and O’Neill’s Georgian Room.

From Sally T.:
I saw a very interesting show on PBS about hijiki and it showed women diving for it, then drying it, and it all was fascinating to me. I thought you or your husband probably knew something about this. They used it in traditional Japanese food but what caught my attention was they used it in salad with fruit and spaghetti sauce. Of course, they talked about how good it is for you, which brought to mind that the Japanese are famous for long life and thinness.

I conquered kale so I thought it might be interesting to try this. I would love for you to write something about the different types of seaweed. What I read was hijiki is the most palatable to American tastes. Do the Japanese eat a lot of it?

Dear Sally:
Hijiki with spaghetti sauce? Yuk.

The three types of seaweed I am most familiar with are nori, kombu and hijiki. Nori is the pressed and dried seaweed sheets that are moistened and wrapped around sushi rolls. The crisp sheets are popular with U.S. kids right now as a snack.

You may have seen kombu chopped and floated in miso soup. It is also used in making dashi (fish broth), and is the base for the Japanese salad, sunomono, that is served at sushi bars, topped with bits of seaweed, vegetables and a soy-rice vinegar dressing. Kombu is incredibly nutritious and is used widely in Asia.

Kombu is flat, wide and smooth. The flavor is unremarkable to me — kind of kale-like in that respect. Hijiki has a more interesting texture. The squiggly, thin strands are dull green or brown and crisp. I find it in Asian stores, usually in the deli section where it is dressed with vinegar and sprinkled with sesame seeds for a refreshing salad. I cannot imagine eating it with spaghetti sauce or even fruit, for that matter. It is high in minerals and low in calories, as is kombu.