July 7, 2022

A la Carte: Count on Chicken Chili on a Cold Day!

I have four definites before I give you a recipe:

  1. I have made the recipe and it was good
  2. Someone I knew had made this recipe and gave me the recipe and I understood the intranets and trusted them
  3. The ingredients were available or that a substitute would work for you
  4. I tinkered with the recipe and felt the tinkering made the recipe even better.

This was not the case with the tourtière you read last week.

I had not made a tourtière, or French-Canadian meat pie, in decades because my husband really didn’t like the cinnamon-blend so I never made it again. But my husband is gone and I love the spice blend (like the sauce the Olney, R.I. diners serve with hot dogs in the Ocean State), so I decided to make a tourtière from a recipe on the Internet. I sent the column before I made the tourtière.

I was gob-smacked. Either my palate had changed (which can happen  to anyone) or the spice blend sucked or my taste memory was faulty.

I drove down to my friend Rich Swanson’s house. He didn’t think the pie wasn’t bad (was he just being kind?), but he gave me an individual spiced lamb pie he’d made that might give me something I’d remember. That day I thawed the pie and had it for dinner with some broccoli, and there was that tourtière-flavor I remembered. 

“Will you give me that recipe?”  I begged over the phone.

“Yes,” he said, but it might take him some time to make the right amount of seasoning for a full-sized pie. “Take your time, Rich,” I said.

Unless you are a kid and it is Christmas morning, waiting for something wonderful is easy.

So, today, I am giving you a  recipe for chicken chili that I have made many times. Because it serves 12, you can halve the ingredients for six people; whether it is for six or 12, it freezes well.

Chicken Chili

Adapted from Ina Garten’s  “Barefoot Contessa Parties!” (Clarkson Potter, New York, 2001)
Serves 12

If you call this recipe a stew, make it a day or two earlier and refrigerate, warm it up and serve over rice, everyone will love it.

8 cups chopped onions (6 onions)
One-quarter cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
One-quarter cup minced garlic (8 cloves)
4 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and large-diced
4 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and large-diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½  teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 teaspoons salt, plus more for chicken
4 28-ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained  (I used Muir Glen diced tomatoes)
½  cup minced fresh basil leaves
8 or more split breast chicken, bone in, skin on (thighs or a combination would be fine, too)

For serving: chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar cheese, sour cram

Cook onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne and salt. Cook for 1 minute.

Crush tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the meantime, rub the chicken with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generally with salt and pepper. Roast chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly.

Separate the meat from the bones and skin, and cut into three-quarter chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

Lee White

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: For Lee, Winter and Widowhood Mean it’s Time for Tourtière

Lee White

Before the holiday season, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a wonderful cookbook writer who lives mostly in Maine and visits Italy often, talked about the French-Canadian tourtière

I made it a few times for my husband but he really didn’t like the seasoning. He said the same when I made Cincinnati Five-Way Chili (chili with beans, onions, seasoning, spaghetti and cheese). Doug had pretty good catholic (small “C”) food preferences and so, after the tourtière discussion (and all the time, really), I just made food he enjoyed.

In any case, I love all those spices and I adore savory pies like chicken and beef pot pies.

But now it is winter and widowhood, so I can cook anything I like and share the bounty with friends.

The recipe looks long, but if you use a pre-made crust (preferable Oronoco frozen pie crusts), this recipe is a snap. As for the spice blend, quadruple or quintuple it and save in a tight-lidded jar for tourtière or Cincinnati Five-Way Chili for next time!

Tourtière (French-Canadian Meat Pie)
Adapted from Chef John on allrecipes.com 

Photo by Rebecca Matthews on Unsplash.

2 pre-made frozen pie crusts, thawed
Spice blend
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Filling
1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pinch salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup finely diced celery
1 pound each ground pork and beef
1 cup potato cooking water, plus more as needed

Egg wash
1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water, stirred

Place potato quarters in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer until cooked through. Remove potato and mash; save water.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and salt and stir until onions turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, celery and spice blend and stir until onions coated with spices, 30 seconds. Add meat and ladle ¾ cup of potato water into skillet. Cook until meat is browned and has an almost paste-like texture. Continue, stirring, until meat is tender and most liquid is evaporated, 45 minutes. Stir in potatoes and remove from heat. Bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill bottom crust with meat mixture and smooth out. Brush edges of bottom crust with egg wash, then place top crust on the pie and press lightly around edges to seal. Trim excess dough from crust. Crimp edges of the crust and brush entire surface of pie with egg wash. Place in preheated oven. Bake until well brown, about 1 hour. Let cool to almost room temperature before serving.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Two New (and Lucky) Soups for the New Year

Lee White

Luck can be two different sides of a coin. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I lost one very good friend, and another very good friend lost his mother.

Just three days after that, I went to a birthday party for Jacques Pepin, who is now 86. It was a small party of maybe 14 people. Most of us have known each other for 20 or more years. 

Jacques’ beautiful wife, Gloria, died just a year ago, while Marty Travis’ husband died less than a decade ago.  My husband died 12 years ago. While all three of us terribly miss our spouses, all 14 feel lucky to be together, pretty healthy, tripled vaxxed … and even smarter than when we were in college!

We also never talked about politics.

Now it is 2022 and I am hoping all my readers and friends (many are both), my children and their children, and all of yours too, have great luck, superb health and enough prosperity to share with others.

Below are two good luck soups. Both are delicious. 

Good Luck Lentil Soup

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Adapted from Italian Holiday Cooking by Michele Scicolone (William Morrow, New York, 2001)
Yield: serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped*
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small dried pepperoncini (I use a pinch of crushed red pepper instead)
1 pound lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup dried tomatoes, cut into strips (I use a 28-ounce can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes, instead)
Salt to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot, combine oil, pancetta, onion, garlic and pepperoncino (or crushed pepper) over medium heat until the onion is wilted and golden.

Add lentils then stir in the peppers and tomatoes. If using dried tomatoes, add 6 cups of water; if using canned tomatoes, add 2 to 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until lentils are almost tender.

Add salt to taste and simmer until lentils are cooked.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

*Pancetta is unsmoked Italian bacon. Rolled into a sausage shape, pancetta is used to flavor bean dishes and sauces. Most supermarkets have it in the deli department.

Friendship Soup Mix

From Vange Chatis of Somers, Connecticut
Yield: 4 quarts

1 pound ground beef
3 quarts water
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
½ cup dry split peas
¼ cup pearl barley
¼ cup dried minced onion
½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
½ cup dry lentils
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ cup alphabet macaroni or other small macaroni

In a very large stockpot, brown beef, then drain. Add water, tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients except for the macaroni. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add macaroni, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is tender.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Time to Celebrate, Time for Tiramisu!

Lee White

Christmas has become a quiet day for me.

My own daughter, Darcy, is in California with her husband. Stepchildren are all over the country and their children are, too. My stepson and his wife, whom I adore, are divorced and my daughter-in-law will spend her day with her parents, who are quite old and don’t drive the nearly two hours to get to Newburyport. 

I won’t be alone, though.

Noank friends, who are not very religious and don’t have children, have invited me with their relatives to their house for Christmas Eve dinner. This year their new tradition is go to give a book as a Secret Santa. This is may be my favorite Christmas Eve:  good conversation, excellent food, good wine and a book to read after I get home.

I will take a few bottles of wine. I used to buy three cases—two red and one white—for the year; now it is two white and one red, but it lasts for a couple of years!

I will take also take dessert. Christmas is like its cousin the month before, Thanksgiving, and is not a day for dieting so I will make a tirasmisu cheesecake. It is beyond delicious, purely hedonistic and will leave lots of extra for Judy and Dick.

Tiramisu Cheesecake
Adapted from a recipe given to me by Aimee Pezzello from New London
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Photo by Victoria Alexandrova on Unsplash.

Crust:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or regular ground espresso)
1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs

Filling:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese (or light or Neufchatel cheese) at room temperature
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 and 2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (or regular ground espresso)
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
1 square (one-ounce) semisweet chocolate, grated

Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter an 8-inch spring form pan.
Stir butter and espresso powder in small bowl until combined.
Stir in crumbs until crumbs are evenly moistened.
Pat evenly over bottom of prepared pan.
Bake 10 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.
Keep oven on.
Tightly cover outside bottom and sides of spring form pan with heavy-duty foil.

Filling:

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and mascarpone in large mixer bowl at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
Gradually beat in sugar, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, until completely smooth, 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium and beat in vanilla and salt.
Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Pour 4four cups of filling over crust in prepared pan and place pan in larger roasting pan. (This will avoid extra filling messing up the oven/)
Dissolve espresso powder into hot water.
Fold into remaining filling with brandy and grated chocolate.
Pour over filling in prepared pan.
Place roasting pan into the oven and bake for around 1 and ¼ hours.
Turn oven off and let cheesecake coast in the oven with the door ajar by at least 4 to 6 inches.
Remove on a wire rack and let cool.
Serve cool or refrigerate for a day or two, bringing up to room temperature before serving. 

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Terrific (Homemade) Treats to Take to Friends

Lee White

Column #1

A year ago, a COVID vaccine was my holiday hope to family and friends (and everyone else in the world). I think all we wanted was a vaccine that this once-a-century pandemic could be handled and we wouldn’t have to watch Andrew Cuomo every single morning on television (although we didn’t know then that his final showstopper would be his last ever).  By the end of February, I got my first shot and the second three weeks later. Last August I got my booster.

So here it is:  December, 2021. Thanksgiving is behind us. Many of us spent that holiday with friends and family. And what do we talk about now? We talk about the idiots who refuse to be vaccinated. And the problems with delayed flights (although we are thrilled we can begin to fly).

And a new phrase has entered dictionary: supply chains. We see pictures of enormous ships hugging the coast of Long Beach, California. Will there be enough toys for the kids and, for us, every new computer gadget made in China? 

Some years ago, as I drove home after Christmas, I heard this on NPR: Here is what each child should get for Christmas [or Hanukkah]: one thing she needs, one thing she wants and one book.

To this I add: something homemade from your kitchen to take to friends at the holiday. And next week I will give you Richard Swanson’s recipe for the best granola clusters I have ever tasted, along with my daughter’s recipe for fudge. And maybe my dentist’s peanut brittle.

Photo on Unspalsh by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian

Chocolate Syrup
Recipe from my grandparents’ grocery store a century ago.

2 cups granulated sugar
4 big tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a saucepan, add whisk sugar and cocoa.

Stir in water and continue cooking the mixture until it begins to boil; bring the heat to simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the stove, add a dash of salt and the vanilla extract.

When cool, add to little Mason jars.

Caramel Sauce
From Cecina Simpatica by Johanne Killeen and George Germon, Harper Collins, New York, 1991

2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar

In a saucepan, scald cream and reduce heat to very low;  keep warm.

Heat sugar in another saucepan over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. The sugar will slowly melt into a clear liquid and gradually darken (don’t worry if the sugar lumps; break up lumps with the wooden spoon and they will melt into the caramel as it darkens.)

When caramel has turned a medium-dark mahogany, pour it slowly into the hot cream, whisking constantly. The caramel will splatter so be careful. If the temperature is too low, you may find portions of the caramel solidify. In that case, increase the flame under the cream and stir until the bits melt and mixture becomes smooth.

The caramel sauce thickens as it cools and will solidify in the refrigerator, where it will keep for days. It may be reheated gently to pouring consistency. Pour the caramel into little Mason jars and refrigerate.

Column # 2

Wow, has my kitchen gotten a workout since the day before Thanksgiving. I made two apple pies, two pumpkin ones, a batch of corn bread and Asian-style green beans. The latter became just green beans, since the sauce I made created would have seared the mouth of anyone who tried it.

Over the weekend, I made chili and a butterflied boneless leg of lamb for three meals, and today I made a batch of the tastiest granola ever. I was also going to make the famous H.G. Sawyer peanut brittle, but it really needs weather a little colder, perhaps below 32 degrees, for it to break into chunks. But I have made it so many times that you can trust the recipe. 

Both the granola and the brittle are easy to make and are wonderful housewarming gifts when you are invited to visit over the holidays. I have even more recipes, so if you need a few more than those from last week’s column, and the ones below, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com and I’ll send a few more.

Amazing Peanut Brittle
From the late H.G. Sawyer, dentist from Groton, CT

4 cups sugar
1 ½  cups white and/or dark Karo syrup
1 ½ cups water
4 cups Spanish peanuts
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons baking soda

Butter two rimmed cookie sheets.

Mix sugar, syrup and water into a heavy-bottomed large pan. Stir with long wooden spoon.

Place candy thermometer into the mixture. Heat at medium-high until thermometer reaches 320 degrees (this will take a long time to hit 290 degrees and very little time to hit 320.)

Add Spanish peanuts, stir, then add butter and vanilla.

Stir, then add baking soda and stir until frothy, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Pour into cookie sheets and thin to about one-peanut high. (It is great to have a silicone spatula for this.)

Place outside at it is cold out or put sheets in refrigerator until hardened, about 20 minutes.

Break brittle apart and place in tins or zippered bags.

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash.

Granola Cereal Clusters
from Richard Swanson of Waterford

Yield: as gifts in small boxes, perhaps 10-12

½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats (best not to use quick oaks)
3 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch
4 cups Honey Nut Cheerios
2 cups chopped pecan, walnuts or almond
¼ cup finely chopped coconut

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line half-sheet baking pan (17” by 13”) with parchment; spray parchment lightly with cooking spray.

Place oil, corn syrup, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt together in bowl of stand mixer with flat paddle and stir on low until fully mixed. Add oats, cereals, nuts and coconut and stir on low until thoroughly combined and cereals are somewhat crushed into smaller pieces. About 2 minutes.

Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and spread across entire surface in even layer. Using a stiff metal spatula, press down firmly on mixture until very compact. Bake until lightly brown around edges, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. 

Transfer sheet to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Mixture will be slightly soft until fully cooled. Break into chunks. Store in airtight container.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: A Delicious New Twist on Turkey Left-Overs

Lee White

If you are reading this on Wednesday with your morning coffee and you are lucky enough to have scored a Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s house tomorrow, you are like me.

I was asked to make two pies (one apple, one pumpkin), green beans and corn bread. In any case, I will be making these things this evening and all I need to do is show up an hour ahead of the dinner and find an unused counter to stash the pies.

Or maybe you are reading this on Thursday, and everyone will arrive at your house in a few hours.

Hopefully you have asked friends and family to make the pies, a vegetable and rolls or corn bread. If that is the case, this will be your last 15 minutes before you put the turkey into the oven.

All you have to worry about is what to do with the leftover 22-pound turkey since a third of the 15 people you have invited decided they are still worried about COVID and decided to stay home.

On Friday, unless my friends insisted I take home turkey, dressing, gravy, sides and pie, I might bake a 13-pound turkey from my freezer and make it so I have leftovers.

I love turkey for turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey salad and casseroles layered of the meat, potatoes, veggies and gravy. Or pieces of turkey in a skillet with onions, garlic, red curry, some boxed chicken broth and coconut milk atop a cup of basmati rice. 

Almost 15 years ago, I made the recipe below. My family and I liked it a lot, but I never made it again.  Try this entrée instead of three days of turkey sandwiches.

Chicken or Turkey Quesadilla Suiza

This recipe offers a new twist on the traditional quesadilla shown here. Photo by Lottie Griffiths on Unsplash.

Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray (November, 2007)

Yield: 2 servings

1 cup chopped roast chicken or turkey
¼  cup mild salsa verde (regular red salsa will do)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-inch whole wheat (or spinach or regular) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey jack or queso fresca cheese
1 scallions, chopped
green olives with pimiento, chopped (a small handful)
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

  1. Preheat the broiler. In a small bowl, combine chicken or turkey and salsa and heat in the microwave for a minute.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a tortilla and cook for 30 minutes, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more; slide the tortilla onto a cutting board.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in the skillet, then add remaining tortilla and cook for 30 seconds. Flip the tortilla and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with the first tortilla.
  4. Slide onto a baking sheet and top with chicken mixture, remaining cheese, scallions, olives and cilantro.
  5. Place the quesadilla under broiler six inches from the heat and cook until the tortillas are crisp around the edges, about 2 minutes.
  6. Slide the quesadilla onto a cutting board, cut into four pieces and serve.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: More About Pie, Plus a Tart for Vegetarians

Lee White

Okay, my friend, Lisa, suggested what I make for Thanksgiving: two pies—one apple and one pumpkin. Easy-peasy. Also green beans and corn bread. 

I also want to let you know that I am not going away for the holiday, just a short drive down I-95. So, if you have questions, think of me as your own Butterball Hotline. You have my e-mail below the column, so if you have a question between now and turkey day, I’m around.

So, today’s column is the last word on pies … at least for 2021. 

When it comes to apple pie, the more different kinds of apples, the better. I used to buy my apples at a little orchard in eastern Connecticut. The white paper bag said baker’s choice, or something like that. I don’t know if is still around, but I do suggest a farm market that grows a variety of apples.

You want tart and sweet and hard and soft. If you don’t have a cheat sheet, ask the cashier at the farm market. I buy at least five pounds. You don’t need all five, but you can eat the rest.

Depending on the size, peel and core the apples. Cut them into 6 to 8 wedges. Place in a bowl and toss with lemon  juice. That will keep them from browning. Here is the recipe:

Apple Pie

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a sheet pan onto the oven rack. Place bottom pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate, leaving about half an inch over the edge of the pie plate.
  2. In that bowl of apples, add ½ to 2/3 cup brown or white sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, ½ tablespoons corn starch, 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon (some people prefer vanilla instead of spices, so you can use a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract) and toss.
  3. Place the apples in the bottom crust and dot with maybe 3 tablespoons butter.
  4. Place the second crust over the apples. With your fingers, make an edge with the two crusts.
  5. Using a knife, cut a few slits over the top of the crust (for steam and to make it pretty). I cover the edge crust with pieces of foil to keep it from browning too fast. (Remove the foil about 10 or 15 minutes before pie is done.) After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake the pie until done, 45 minutes to an hour in all.

Photo by Dilyara Garifullina on Unsplash.

Pumpkin Pie

For a pumpkin pie, it is even easier, because it is just a one-crust pie.

  1. Buy a 15-ounce can of 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s). Do not buy a can of pumpkin pie mix.
  2. Follow the recipe on the can of pumpkin.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a sheet pan onto the oven rack.
  4. Place the crust in the 9-inch pie pan; with your fingers make a pretty edge.
  5. Add the pumpkin mixture.
  6. Carefully place the pie on the sheet pan in the oven.
  7. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife blade inserted into the center comes up clean.
  8. Cool for at least 2 hours.

If you are making a chocolate cream pie (or something like that), you may be asked to blind bake a pie. One woman on the internet suggested freezing the unbaked crust (maybe for two hours or even longer), then adding foil up to the top and then pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. 

Again, as I mentioned in last week’s column, you can use a frozen pie crust. I love Oronoque. It comes two to a package. There are always a few packages in my freezer. They come in their own pie pan so you don’t have to ask your friends please to return the good one. I cannot tell you how many I have bought, and they are not inexpensive.

Again, I am here through noon on Thanksgiving. On that day, when you get my column, there will be two recipes for leftover turkey and sides.

***

Over the last week or so, I thought about friends who are somewhat, or totally, vegetarian.

A new friend is vegan; had I known that, I would not have served pasta with marinara and pepperoni. My Times editor is a vegetarian, but eats seafood and dairy. My friend Nancy is vegetarian, but eats chicken,  seafood and dairy. My other editor in Madison eats healthy, and I think she is more vegetarian than carnivorish.

My first boss at Connecticut College was a vegetarian, but didn’t like tomatoes. 

I am a carnivore, but I love animals and think people who hunt for fun, including those who like fishing for catch-and-release have a character flaw. I will cook mussels and clams and oysters, but have never boiled a lobster.

I, obviously, am a hypocrite. 

If I ask people for dinner, and do not know what they will or will not eat, I will cook for them. I was allergic to lobster and crab, but am not anymore. I have a friend who has celiac disease, and when I find a nice recipe for her, I will make it for her.

I also have a few dessert recipes that are gluten-free. I pay little attention to people, who do not eat sweets, so Libby doesn’t eat my desserts.

Going through some of my old recipes, I found a vegetable tart recipe that doesn’t even require a crust and, like many of my recipes, is yellowed with age. This Thanksgiving I will be with friends who aren’t  picky. After that holiday, I will make this tart for my vegan friend. 

Harvest Vegetable Tart
Adapted from Thomas Keller in Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1996
Yield: serves 6

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons minced shallots, divided
3 teaspoons minced, garlic, divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon, dried, divided
¼ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
8 tablespoons chicken (or vegetable) broth, divided
1 medium eggplant, quartered lengthwise
1 large beefsteak tomato, quartered
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 tablespoon chopped nicoise (black) olive (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, 2 tablespoons shallots and 2 teaspoons garlic; cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in half the thyme plus 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Brush bottom of a 12-inch deep-dish pizza pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Combine 2 tablespoons broth, remaining shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in cup. Sprinkle over mixture in pan.

Cut eggplant, tomato, zucchini and yellow squash into 1/3  inch-thick slices. Beginning in the center of the pan, arrange vegetables in overlapping circles, equally distributing them over pan.

Sprinkle tart with onion-pepper mixture. Combining remaining broth and broth and oil in a cup and drizzle over top; sprinkle with olives, if using.

Cover tart and bake 45 minutes;  uncover and bake 35 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender; cool. 15 minutes. Drain any liquid into glass measure. Invert into a platter, drizzled with reserved liquid. Cut into six wedges. [This this would be delicious at room temperature, too.]

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Three Columns Today: Perfect Pie Crust, Shepherd’s Pie & Ginger Chicken Hash

Lee White

Is it too soon to talk about pie?

I do not think so.

Thanksgiving is just under three weeks away. For many years I made the crusts from scratch. The best recipe was given to me by Deb Jensen, who lived in Stonington and had a couple of restaurants in the borough. But before that, she had a restaurant in New York City that, if I remember correctly, was called Pie in the Sky. After she left the city and opened her first restaurant in Connecticut, she continued to take her pies to New York  That’s how good her pies were.

Over the years, I have made others,  but hers are the best. Were mine as good as Deb’s? Not really, but it was really good. I have tried boxed and refrigerated ones. None were terribly good, but if the fillings were rich and decadent (think chocolate or pecan) or loaded with fresh fruit (apple pie served with vanilla ice cream or lemon meringue), the crust might an afterthought. I do have Oronoque pie crusts (in the freezer aisle of most supermarkets). In a pinch, they are tasty.

I have to admit, too, that Rich Swanson has taught me to make a pie crust with homemade buttermilk biscuits, a bit easier than Deb’s. It is yummy. But below is the Deb’s pie crust. I use butter and Crisco (c’mon, I have two recipes that use Crisco. It was good enough for our mothers’, it is okay for us once in a while). Next week we can talk about fruit pies and blind baking. And my Aunt Anne’s creamy  lemon pie that you serve with a little whipped cream. 

Deb Jensen’s Perfect Pie Crust

Makes enough for two, two-crust, and nine-inch pies (what is not used can be frozen)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾  cups solid shortening (1 cup very cold Crisco, 3/4 cup very cold butter)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
½ cup ice water
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients. Cut shortening into dry ingredients. Add egg to ice water, beat, then add vinegar. Stir into dry ingredients with a fork. Form into four balls, place individually in plastic wrap or small plastic bags and chill. Bring back to room temperature before rolling out. *

Dough keeps one month in refrigerator and longer in freezer.

*My biggest problem with pie crust is the rolling out. I use a well-floured pastry cloth and a well-floured mitten on my rolling pin. When it’s the right size, I roll the crust up on my rolling pin and gently “roll it out” over the pie plate. Add filling, and repeat the same for the top crust.

If you do this in a food processor (which I do): whirl dry ingredients. Add very, very cold butter and shortening in small chunks and pulse about 10 times. With machine running, add the wet mixture and process only until it just little pieces hold together. Dump it onto a floured surface, knead a little (very little), then follow directions in first paragraph.

***

I read at night in bed, sometimes hours before I am ready to go to sleep. I like to read long magazine articles, especially in the New Yorker. I don’t read all the articles but I surely remember the cartoons. On one particular night I saw a cartoon about selling food that might have been in the freezer for a long time. I promised myself that I would check the big freezer in the garage the next day

What I found were about three packages of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. They must have been on sale. I took a package and put it in the refrigerator. I found, a recipe, yellowed in age, I used to make it when we lived in Canterbury, Connecticut, maybe 25 years ago (not the chicken, just the recipe!). It is as delicious as I’d remembered. Feel free to use a bottled salsa, but the recipe below is my daughter’s recipe. 

Ginger Chicken Hash

Probably from The New York Times, possible the early 1990s

Yield: 2 servings

10 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock to poach chicken breasts
1 large baking potato
1 medium red onion (6 tablespoons grated)
1 tablespoons ginger, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons flour
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a saucepan, add chicken breasts and stock. Bring to a boil, drop to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Remove from the pan. You will not use the stock again.

Meanwhile, peel potato, cut into small chunks and place in food processor. Chop fine by pulsing; place potato in a dish towel and twist to squeeze out liquid; place in mixing bowl. In the same processor bowl, finely chopped onion, then stir into the potato mixture. Grate ginger and add flour, egg whites, salt and pepper into the bowl and stir. When chicken is cool, dice and stir into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat large nonstick pan until it is very hot; reduce heat to medium. Add oil; add chicken hash mixture. Cook, stirring often, until browned. Stir with salsa.

Salsa

From my daughter, Darcy White

½ onion (she uses yellow onion, I like sweet onions)
1/3 bunch cilantro
1 bunch scallions (green onions), green and white parts
4 to 5 Roma tomatoes (3 t 4 vine-ripened or 1 to 2 beefsteak tomatoes)
1 small can Rotel original canned tomatoes
1 jalapeno, seeded, or half a can El Patio Mexican hot-style tomato sauce

Coarsely chop onions, cilantro, scallions and fresh tomatoes. Place all ingredients except jalapeno or hot sauce into a food processor or blender and pulse to desired consistency. Place in a medium-sized bowl; stir in the jalapeno or hot sauce, to your own taste, and mix. Serve as a dip for chips, add ¼ cup into guacamole or use with the chicken hash recipe above.

***

My husband’s parents and my own parents had a lot in common. Doug’s dad and mine were born on the same day and year, July 1, 1905. Our mothers were born on the same year. Each of our parents had two children, a boy first then girl. They all worked full-time. They lived in New York State, Doug’s in Rochester, mine in Troy. They didn’t meet until we married. Until they died, they liked each other.. 

Our mothers had something else in common. Neither of them enjoyed cooking. When Doug and I met (he lived in New York City while I was in Rochester), I didn’t know how to cook, but I loved him so I learned to cook. He never complained about my cooking, but he didn’t eat shepherd’s pie, possibly because his Michigan grandfather was a sheep farmers and his knowledge of lamb was mutton. Now alone, I  make shepherd’s pie with leftover lamb. Today I am thawing a lamb shoulder; tonight will be lamb for dinner. Tomorrow I will make enough shepherd’s pie for a couple more nights.

Shepherd’s Pie

Yield: serves 8 to 10

Olive oil
1 medium to large onion, diced
10 to 12 small- to medium-sized carrots, diced
3 pounds lamb chunks (beef is okay)*
5 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stick of butter
One-half cup milk (2 percent is fine)
1 14 ½  can diced tomatoes
Around 1 cup (as needed) stock (I use chicken stock)
1 pound each frozen tiny peas and corn (green beans could be nice, too)
grated cheese (optional)
paprika (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste, throughout the cooking

In a large skillet (or a Le Creuset Dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and carrots are somewhat soft. Add salt and pepper to taste; remove vegetables from the skillet onto a plate. Add a bit more olive oil and put lamb into the same skillet; cook until meat is no longer pink. You may remove some of the fat that is rendered. 

In the meantime, put potatoes into a good-sized pot, add water and cook until potatoes are very soft. Drain potato water and place potatoes back on the cooktop. Mash the potatoes with butter and milk, Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Into the cooked lamb, add back the onions and carrots, the diced tomatoes, frozen peas and corn. Bring to a summer, adding enough stock so the mixture is not too dry. Again, season to taste.

In a large oven-proof casserole (large enough to hold veggies and lamb topped with potatoes),  pour in the mixture and even it out. Toss grated cheese over mixture, if using. Add mashed potatoes and carefully cover the mixture, sealing all around. Heat the “pie” in a preheated 350 degree oven until hot,. If you want a little color, add a bit of paprika to the top before putting it in the oven. If you really like more cheese, grated some more to the top about 15 minutes before it is ready to remove from the oven. 

 Shepherd’s pie can be made beforehand and refrigerate. To serve it hot,  heat oven to 350 degrees and place casserole, covered, into oven for about 30  minutes. Remove cover, then heat for another 25 minutes, until mashed potatoes are a bit crusty.  

*I used leftover lamb. If you do, you do not have to cook the lamb again.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Lee Offers a New Twist on Vegetables … With a Bit of a Kick!

Lee White

A few weeks ago, my refrigerator was filled with tomato sauces and chicken. I had made that huge, seven-pound chicken, which I ate for at least five days (sandwiches, tacos, chicken salad.)

As for the tomato sauce, Judy Robertson gave me some from her garden and two other condo friends gave me her mother’s recipe for sauce with chicken while another gave me some topped with her own ricotta-filled shells. 

Then there was more chicken. For the first time since the dreaded COVID, friends and I ate dinner at our favorite-always restaurant, Sneekers, on a Friday night.

Dick had his go-to fish and chips (baked potato, no cole slaw), Judy had an enormous mac and cheese loaded with lobster while I had the chicken-fried chicken (fried boneless, skinless chicken), mashed potato and the white, black-pepper-flicked gravy, which the southern people love for their chicken-fried steak.

In any case, I am now craving vegetables, mushrooms in particular. I am not brave enough to forage, but I love them. This recipe includes just about every vegetable plus mushrooms.

Curry Vegetables
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2021

Photo by Roam In Color on Unsplash.

6 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
6 cups 1-inch mixed veggies (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, okra and/or mushrooms
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 2-inch piece turmeric peeled (or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric}
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 habanero, Fresno or jalapeno chile, finely chopped
1 13.5 ounce can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
1 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon honey
1 15-ounce (or so) frozen green peas
Small handful chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ lime (optional)
Steamed white rice for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Transfer all to a large bowl, add veggies and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Divide vegetables between 2 rimmed baking sheet and roast until almost tender, and starting to brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.

Heat remaining coconut oil in a large skillet over medium. Add seasonings and cook, stirring often, until fragrant. Add onion, garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper and cook stirring often, until onion is translucent and spice mixture looks dry and clumpy, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add chile, coconut milk and broth to skillet and bring curry to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about one-third, enough to coat a spoon, 13 to 17 minutes. Stir in honey, taste curry and season with salt and pepper, if needed

Add peas and reserved roasted vegetables to skillet and return curry to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are fork-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in cilantro.

Let sit 5 minutes, then stir in lime juice if using. Serve with rice alongside.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Dinner in Less Than 30 Minutes? Try Sheet-pan Gnocchi

Lee White

I have always assumed that people use coupons when they go to supermarkets. I am a newspaper and magazine freak, and I always clip coupons (and try to remember to take them with me, too.)

In my much younger days, before I knew how to cook at all, I clipped newspapers coupons not only to save money (my ex-husband was a student and I was the full-time secretary/mother/bread-winner/cook) and hoped there might be recipes in the food section of the Ithaca (NY) Journal.

We only had one car and, as I remember, we only had one supermarket. Back then, there was one lettuce (iceberg), maybe no frozen vegetables and, possibly, no plastic trays of meat in the refrigerator section.

I learned to cook from friends, my first mother-in-law, and from my first cookbook, the latter of which came free with a set of encyclopedia my ex- decided to buy.

Today I visit, on a regular basis, four supermarkets within five minutes of my house. Which ones I go to first might have something to do with coupons. I don’t clip (or use an app) to try something new, unless a friend or my daughter suggests it.

I am, however, just as likely to see something new and shiny at the market, buy it and see if I like it.

Such is the case with Giovanni Rana’s “Italy’s Most Loved, Imported from Italy” Skillet Gnocchi.

Two weeks later, I found a recipe that called for shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi. So I made this recipe. The dish was delicious and the recipe so simple and quick that even a full-time worker, mother, bread-winner or cook can get this dinner done in less than half an hour.

Sheet-Pan Gnocchi
(possibly from Bon Appetit, clipped the recipe, page didn’t include magazine name)
Yield: 4 servings

½ large red onion, cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more
Freshly grated black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups baby arugula
1 cup basil leaves, large leaves torn
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Place rack in middle of oven; preheat to 425 degrees. Toss onion, garlic, tomatoes, gnocchi, 3 tablespoons oil and ¾ teaspoons salt in a rimmed baking sheet to coat. Season generously with pepper and toss again to combine.

Roast, stirring once or twice, until gnocchi are golden and start to crisp, most of the tomatoes have burst and onion is golden 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove garlic from baking sheet, peel and place in a small bowl. Mash with ¼ teaspoon of salt (garlic should be very soft.) Whisk in lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoons oil, dressing with pepper and more salt if necessary.

Add arugula, basil and parmesan to baking sheet and drizzle dressing over; toss to combine.

Divide among plates and drizzle with more oil, if you like.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Roasted Chicken Under Garlic Bread Offers Taste of Autumn, Hint of Winter Meals to Come

Lee White

Oh, no, it’s chicken again, I thought, as I looked at the last column I wrote weeks before I left to see my daughter in California.

But during the many days I spent there, I thought about all she’d cooked for me—tacos on Thursdays and nachos on Friday (both made with a roasted chicken she’s bought at Costco.) 

I guess the acorn doesn’t fall from the tree. In addition to the splash pool at her town’s pool, dips in the Pacific Ocean with her friend, Elizabeth, who lives steps from the ocean in Long Beach, a movie with Darcy starring Matt Damon (Stillwater, don’t miss it!) and a cookout on Labor Day, her food was incredible, as always.

But on the flights home (and the long drive home from Bradley), I was thinking I’d like to get a roasting chicken. While I ask the post office to hold my mail when I travel, I ask my neighbor to keep my The Day newspapers. As I read the news the next morning, the advertising pages included Perdue roasting chickens for $0.99 a pound at Stop & Shop. I bought three and froze two.

I remembered a recipe by cookbook writer Melissa Clark for roast chicken under bread. I grabbed the last frozen half baguette I’d slathered with butter, oil and garlic from last winter. So, on the first day of 2021 football, the final US Open tennis final and a Connecticut Sun game I’d DVR’d the night before, I roasted one of those chickens under the garlic bread.

My yummy dinner included three sliced local heirloom tomatoes and savored the beginning of autumn and winter meals to come.

Roasted Chicken Under Garlic Bread
Yield: Serves 4, plus leftovers

8 ounces good white dry wine (never cooking wine, of course)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter
1 good-sized roasting chicken (about 5 to 6 pounds), gizzards removed, chicken patted dry and salt and pepper tossed into the cavity
Garlic bread (recipe below)

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, allow butter and wine to reduce for 15 minutes.

Turn oven to 350 degrees. In a roasting pan, place garlic bread, cut-size up. Top with chicken. Place the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes, then pour the wine/butter over the chicken. Roast the chicken until crispy (temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit, at the thickest part of the thigh, without touching a bone).

The garlic bread should be crispy and soft at the same time. Serve within 10 minutes, with bread cut into croutons around the chicken. 

Garlic Bread

Yield: A large baguette will feed at least 6 people; if using it under the bread, open the loaf and place under the chicken, cut side open; otherwise, freeze it in foil. 

1 large baguette, sliced through horizontally

In a small food processor (or processed with a small mixer), add 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted softened butter, 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 6 to 8 garlic cloves — minced, and chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Slather each half of the loaf with the garlic mixture and put the slices together if not using immediately.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Two Columns This Week and a ‘Nibbles’ Too! Enjoy Eggplant Parm Panini, Clam Chowder with Corn & Chorizo

A la Carte-1: Creamy Corn and Clam Chowder with Crispy Chorizo

Lee White

It was a really nice week. My oldest Troy childhood friend in the world visited for two days. (Her name is Rosalie. She is about a year older than me and, no, I was not named after her.) We ate lobster rolls at Captain Scott, I grilled steaks on the grill and we had sweet corn and a big salad, and the last night we ate not-great pizza and Coca-Cola, like we did a gazillion years ago.

I also had a nice coffee chat with David Collins at Mystic Depot and we talked for almost an hour. He suggested I stop at Sea Well on Masons Island and buy a pint of the scallop and bacon soup he thinks is incredible. I did and he is right; see the Nibbles* column below.

Best of all was I got my COVID booster shot. The day before the storm, I stopped at Stop & Shop to pick up a few things (not toilet paper or a gallon of milk). I went to the pharmacy on-site and asked if I could get the booster. I filled two forms and got my shot. Sunday I ran a fever for about 14 hours, during which I took a couple of ibuprofen. Today I am fine.

Oh, yes, Bon Appetit magazine came in the mail. There were nice ideas for autumn meals, but I saw a recipe (below) that required sweet corn. Our local sweet corn will probably be available for at least another month. I love clam chowder and this recipe uses the blended corn as a thickener. But feel free to add a soupcon of heavy cream or a pat of butter when you serve it!

Creamy Corn and Clam Chowder with Crispy Chorizo

Photo by Kevin Lanceplaine on Unsplash.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, September, 2021
Yield: 4 servings

5 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
4 ounces fresh chorizo, preferably Mexican, casings removed (any dry sausage will do)
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika or regular smoked paprika
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
24 littleneck clams (about 2 pounds), scrubbed
4 ears of corn, kernels removed (about 4 cups)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Kosher salt (I use fine sea salt)
Cilantro leaves with tender stems (for serving, optional)

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-heat. Add chorizo and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon and stirring every minute or so, until browned and crisp. About 5 minutes. Sprinkle in paprika and stir to combine, then scrape chorizo and all into a small bowl. Wipe out pot.

Pour remaining 2 tablespoons oil into same pot . Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, and adding a splash of water if starting to brown, until softened but not browned, 10-12 minutes. Add clams and toss to combine. Cover pot and cook until clams open, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncovered and transfer opened clams to a medium bowl, leaving liquid behind. If any clams are still closed, cover pot again and cook remaining until opened, about 4 minutes more. Transfer open clams to bowl, discard any that have not opened at this point. Tent bowl with foil.

Pour 3 cups water into pot and bring to a simmer. Add corn kernels and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and puree one third of chowder in a blender until very smooth. Return puree to pot and mix well. (Or use an immersion blender, if you have one and blend directly into the pot until you have blended about one-third and chowder is partly thickened.) Stir in lime juice, taste and season with salt if needed.

Divide chowder among shallow bowls and add clams. Spoon chorizo and oil over and scatter some cilantro on top (if you are using cilantro; I know some people hate it!)

A la Carte-2: Eggplant Parm Panini

One of the many vegetables I never tasted growing up was eggplant. As I have mentioned before, the only veggies I grew up with were canned green beans, canned peas and canned corn. We didn’t have a garden, but in the summer we would have fresh sweet corn and local tomatoes. If we had salad, it was iceberg lettuce, anemic tomatoes, maybe a few chunks of cucumber and a choice of bottled dressing. 

I love everything about eggplant—its shiny exterior, its gushiness in a ratatouille, roasted in the oven or the whole eggplant charred on the grill. Eggplants are best when they are young. They do not need to be peeled. They are watery, so you can slice them, salt them a bit and allow the slices to dehydrate between paper towels. 

In my newest issue of Real Simple magazine, I cut out four recipes, one for eggplant on a panini. The next morning I looked at a shelf in my kitchen and saw my panini press. Why had I not used it during the pandemic? Or even before it?

This recipe can be made in a panini press or in a skillet pressed down by another. The recipe calls for roasting the eggplant in the oven, but you could do it on your grill. You don’t need to fry it in a lot of oil. It is particularly delicious while tomatoes are still luscious and local.

Eggplant Parm Panini

Photo by Huzeyfe Turan on Unsplash.

From Real Simple, September, 2021
Yield: makes 4 sandwiches

1 eggplant, cut into 8 1-inch rounds
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1-pound ciabatta, split horizontally and quartered (8 slices total)
1 big tomato, cut into 8 thick slices
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
¼ cup marinara sauce 

Place a large, rimmed baking sheet in oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss eggplant with oil in a large bowl until fully coated. Arrange eggplant evenly on preheated baking sheet; roast, flipping halfway through, until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over high (or heat a panini press).

Season eggplant with ½ teaspoon salt. Place 2 eggplant slices on each of the 4 bread slices. Top eggplant with tomato slices; season with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Top with basil and mozzarella; sprinkle with Parmesan. Portion each with marinara. Top remaining 4 bread slices with marinara and form 4 sandwiches.

Place two sandwiches on grill pan and top with another heavy pan, pressing down to flatten sandwiches. Cook, flipping once, until cheese has melted and bread is crispy and browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. (Or cook all 4 sandwiches in a panini press.)  

*Nibbles:  Sea Well Seafood Mystic Scallops and Bacon Chowder

David Collins has written for The Day for as long as I have. Now he has a column but when he was a reporter, he did some good restaurant reviews. So he suggested I try Sea Well’s scallop and bacon chowder, I drove the few minutes to Masons Island by 9:45 a.m. but it didn’t open until 10, so I sat in my car, windows open to the sea air and read on my Kindle.

The chowder must be lots of people’s favorite because the nice clerk pointed to plastic containers in the cooler. I took one home. That night I had it with a salad. It was thick with milk or cream or butter, or all three; the scallops were chunky and really tender, and the bacon was a splendid, salty counterpoint to the excellent soup. 

There is another Sea Well in Pawcatuck at 3 Liberty St. (860-599-2082). When we lived in Canterbury, I drove 40 minutes there to buy fish. On my first visit, a chalk board said they had cod pieces. I laughed and laughed, but no one there thought it was funny. I guess you had to read about Shakespeare plays in the 15th and 16th century! 

Sea Well Seafood Mystic
106 Masons Island Road
Mystic, CT 06355
Tel: 860-415-9210

A la Carte: Too Many Tomatoes? Lee Has All Sorts of Solutions for You

Lee White

A couple of weeks ago I went to a small party at Washington Park in Groton. It was held outside in one of a half dozen “cabins,” each of which have concrete floors, a few dark-stained columns, good sturdy roofs and wooden picnic tables with attached  “chairs.”

It was a very casual party, with pizza, already-barbecued chicken wings and coolers of beer, wine, soft drinks and water. Good thing for all of those things, because the humidity was high and the temperature, at 4 p.m. on a Saturday, was spiking in the 90s. 

I had a lovely conversation with Joyce Hedrick, wife of the mayor of Groton City. Even though Groton has fewer than 45,000  inhabitants, unlike Gaul (which, as we learned in Latin II, is in three parts), Groton has five parts: City of Groton, Town of Groton, Noank, Groton Long Point and half of Mystic.

Anyway, Joyce and Keith have a vegetable garden. Keith just canned pouches of green beans that week, but Joyce was going to begin making marinara sauce.

She wondered if it could be frozen, avoiding the steamy job of canning. I said I roast, then freeze tomatoes in late summer, which I thaw for stews, braises and sauces.

As for worry about botulism, tomatoes are so acidic that they can be frozen raw or cooked, whether sliced, chopped or pureed. Of course, the tomatoes can be made into a marinara (chopped and cooked with garlic, onions and seasoning), although I would wait to add fresh basil before serving. 

I often buy half a bushel of Roma tomatoes. In a couple of large sheet pans covered with parchment paper, I cut the tomatoes end to end and place them cut side up on the pans, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle them  with extra-virgin olive oil. If you roast them in a 250 degree oven for two or three hours, then you can pack them in plastic bags and freeze them.

But I found this recipe that might be even better. I might double or triple the recipe and freeze it.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Photo by Kiriakos Verros on Unsplash.

From The Four Season of Pasta, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins (Penguin, New York, 2015)

Yield: 2 to 3 cups sauce, enough for 4 to 6 servings

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onions, sliced not too thin
2 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Greek or Sicilian oregano (optional)
About 2 pounds ripe-as-you-can-get tomatoes

Set oven at 400 degrees.

Spread 2 tablespoons oil over bottom of roasting dish into which tomatoes will fit.

Combine onion and garlic on the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste and oregano if using. Stir vigorously to mix everything together; spread ingredients out to make a layer across the bottom of the dish.

Cut tomatoes in half. Core the stem ends. Sat halves cut side down, on top of the onion garlic layer. Dribble remaining 6 tablespoons oil over the tops (you may not need all the oil).

Bake 45 minutes to an hour. At the end of that time, remove pan and let tomatoes cool down. Pull off the skins and discard. Combine all roasted ingredients and, if you wish, chop or puree with an immersion blender. Or leave as is—the rustic look can also be lovely.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Chicken Tikka Masala Makes a Perfect Meal With Friends

Lee White

The isolation, almost a year, actually, didn’t bother me as much as those who had to fill supermarket shelves, teach children at home or lose a job. Because I live alone, I have always pretty much eaten when I want to eat and pretty much eat what I want to eat.

But I sure missed the fun of sharing food with friends. So when friends offered to come to my home and cook in my kitchen with food I love but cook rarely, how could I resist?

Marla and Rich Kosenski knew that my Instant Pot sat in its box for almost a year before the pandemic. Then I took it out of the box and bought books on the Instant Pot. Even Weinstein and Scarbrough’s Instant Pot Bible frightened me a bit.

Then a retired teacher form Groton offered to come and teach me how to use it. Once I understood the concept, I began to love it.

Then came the pandemic. Marla and Rich, using their and my Instant Pots (dueling Instant Pots), cooked (I prepped). 

Below is chicken tikka masala. It was beyond delicious.

Just to be sure, I made it myself. Prepping took fewer than 10 minutes. I sautéed in the Pot for 10 more minutes, then dumped in the spices and the chicken, and pressure-cooked for 10 minutes.

After, I made brown rice (2 cups brown rice, 2 cups water, ½ teaspoon salt. Pressure cook for 20-22  minutes. Let it release by its own. Keep the extra rice for other dishes).

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted slightly from a recipe from Marla Kosinski

Yield: enough for 4 to 6 people

1 ½ tablespoons olive (or other vegetable oil)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
½ teaspoon ginger (I used dried ginger)
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth, divided
1 ½ tablespoons gram masala
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use sea salt).
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but I love cayenne)
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, juices included
½ cup coconut milk
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional for those who hate cilantro)
2 cups cooked rice, for serving (I used brown rice)

In the Instant Pot, sauté oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add onion and Saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until soft and fragrant. Mixture may stick a little t the bottom; this is normal.

Add ¼ cup of chicken broth and cook, gently scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any stick-on bits, until chicken broth is reduced by half. Add spices and stir to combine. Stir in rest of the broth and tomatoes. Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Quick release when done. Stir in coconut milk. Serve over rice on plates and topped with cilantro.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Stone Fruit Caramel Delights the Palate in Both Summer, Winter

Lee White

I have in my Kindle at least four sample books waiting for me to read. No matter the weather, I probably read four to five hours a day.

But at night, in bed, I read recipes.

When I find ingredients that sound really good, I tear out the page and, within a day or two, buy the ingredients and make the food.  If I like the recipe, I want you to have that recipe, so I cobble up a few sentences, write the recipe and hope you like try it, too.

I love the recipe below.

I had made this with peaches. I peel them (a quick dunk in boiling water, peel and remove the pit). It is harder to pit the cherries, but a cheap cherry pitter makes it a lot easier.

I think the recipe would freeze well. Imagine having tapioca or rice pudding, some ice cream and/or a slice of toasted pound cake topped with fruit caramel months after that fruit was picked.

The very thought makes winter seem bearable.

Stone Fruit Caramel
From Bon Appetit, June/July 2021

12 ounces ripe stone fruit (plums, peaches, nectarines, sour or sweet cherries, apricots), pitted
2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar (unseasoned rice vinegar, apple cider, sherry, Champagne or red wine)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ teaspoon pure vanilla paste or vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract (optional, but I love almond anything with fruit)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more (I always use fine sea salt)

Coarsely chop half the fruit and place in blender along with any juices that have accumulated on cutting board. Chop remaining into ½-1” pieces (no need to chop if using cherries); set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to fruit in blender. Puree until mostly smooth. Taste and add up to 1 tablespoons vinegar to brighten, if needed. You should have ½ cup, depending on the juiciness of your fruit.

Pour sugar in an even layer in a medium heavy saucepan, set over medium heat and cook, undisturbed until most of the sugar is melted. Stir gently until all is melted.

Continue to cook, without serving, until caramel is amber in color, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour fruit puree, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture seizes. Set back over medium heat, cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Add reserved chopped fruit, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until caramel is budding and thickened slightly and fruit is warmed through, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the fruit.

Remove heat and stir in butter, vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract, almond extract (if using) and salt. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Let cool slightly before serving. 

To do ahead: Fruit caramel can be made three weeks ahead. Let cool. Transfer to an airtight container; cover and chill.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com

A la Carte: Time for Tea … so Let’s Have a ‘New Tea Cake!’

Lee White

The recipe below is, I think, almost perfect.

Ruby chips.

I have been playing for more than a year to find ways to use a new flavor bean found by the Callebaut chocolate company called a ruby chip (available on Amazon.com.) It is a deep pink and looks like any chocolate chip, but it takes nothing like a chocolate chip. Instead it has floral notes and when you taste it, you look for its essence.

Priscilla Martel, my human food encyclopedia, asked if I’d like to share the cost of an enormous cache. But I had a difficult time finding a way to use them where its flavor could shine.

Over the past month or so I played around a recipe for banana bread, leaving out the banana and pure vanilla extract. I added ruby chips, fresh fruit and buttermilk. I made it with fresh strawberries twice, once with fresh raspberries. I may try it with plums.

If you can’t get ruby chips, try regular chocolate chips or maybe cinnamon and adding back the pure vanilla extract instead of the almond. 

A New Tea Cake

Yield: 3 loaves each of which will feed 10 and freeze beautifully

4 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cup sugar
1½ tablespoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
2½ cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
12 ounces ruby chips in tossed with 2 tablespoons flour (other chips will work)
½ cup sour cream
4 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup buttermilk
12 ounces butter (1½ sticks), melted and cooled
1 pint fresh strawberries or raspberries, coarsely chopped

Adjust oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 350 degrees and use spray Pam on the bottom of the three 8-ounce loaf pans.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, pecans and chips in a large bowl. Toss the fruit with about 2 tablespoons flour and, using your hands, add the fruit.

In another bowl, add sour cream, eggs, extract, buttermilk and butter. Fold into the dry ingredients and add the mixture fairly equally into the prepared pans.

Bake loaves for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Try not to eat it until it is cool. Better even a few days later. Yummy if toasted and topped with just a little butter.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com

A la Carte: Need to Slow Down Your Metabolism? Try Auntie Todd’s Slow-Carb Muffins

Lee White

Todd Lyon, restaurant reviewer, food writer, all-around great person and fashionista from New Haven, Conn., found that her body had turned its back on her … sort of. She developed Type 1 diabetes. She loved breakfast, but found out that her favorite breakfasts (cereal, toast, pancakes, fruit juice and the like) gave her body a jolt but metabolized quickly. 

“Eventually, it became clear that I needed a breakfast of slow carbs that wouldn’t cause a spike, but had enough protein and fiber to stay for several hours” Todd explained. “After a whole lot of trial and error, I came up with this recipe and it worked so well that my A1C readings—that’s a three-month reading of glucose levels—dropped by 1.5 points, which is a big deal in the wonderful world of diabetes.”

In the world of non-diabetes, this is a terrific recipe for all of us.

Many supermarkets now carry flours other than all-purpose and sweeteners other than sugar-laden jams. I suggest we go online and get the King Arthur Catalog. Once you have the flours, you might do as I do: make packages of the dry ingredients so you just put the packages in the freezer and make another 12 muffins in a few minutes 

I will make these muffins for breakfast whenever I don’t crave eggs over easy and rye toast or a bagel with cream cheese, a slice of tomato and sliced onion. 

Slow-Carb muffins. Photo by Yehor Milohrodskyi on Unsplash.

Auntie Todd’s Slow-Carb Muffins
From Todd Lyon, New Haven.

Yield: 12 muffins
Approximate nutritional value per muffin: calories 220; carbs 14 (adjust for fruit); fiber 12.4 grams

Dry ingredients
1 cup ground-milled flax seed
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup almond flour
½ cup crushed nuts (almonds, pecans and/or shelled pistachios)
¼ cup cinnamon (this is correct; it’s a lot of cinnamon)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
3 teaspoons baking powder

Wet ingredients
6 eggs
½ cups coconut milk or almond milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
About 6 tablespoons sweetener: agave nectar, local honey, no-sugar-added jam
Optional 1 cup chopped apple, peaches, pears, blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin cups with Pam or other oil.
Blend dry ingredients by hand. Blend wet ingredients with mixer until lightly foamy.
Combine wet and dry ingredients by hand. Fill cups and bake for 18 minutes.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.

A la Carte: Pasta with Peaches … and Tomatoes? Try It, You’ll Love It!

Lee White

I don’t know about you, but I bought my CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) last December, 2021. 

Remember December, 2021?

Joe Biden had been elected in early November. We knew that two COVID vaccines were being tested, but no one had them yet.

I had not been inside a restaurant in almost a year and I was 1) tired of my own food, and yet 2) couldn’t really afford much good take-out. I also felt then, and still do, that restaurant food should be consumed in the restaurant where it had been cooked by chefs (or even just cooks) and served to us when it is meant to be tasted and savored. 

In any case, I had written a check for my CSA in December, for Stone Acres Farm in Stonington. I paid it early, since the concept is that the farmers can buy their seeds or plants with that money and then live frugally through the hard winter months in the knowledge that — once the seeds have turned into food we can buy — they can pay their own bills during the summers and falls.

My CSA began June 22 and each week I get to visit their farm stand and pick up $30 of beautiful, fresh vegetables and herbs and I will be one happy camper until late September.

I am itchy, however, for the produce I may not get — including my favorite, tomatoes — until late July.

But southern-grown peaches are available now in supermarkets, and so are cherry and grape tomatoes. I never thought about peaches and tomatoes together, but here is a recipe I can use right now. And feel free to add sliced chicken, steak or shrimp atop the salad.

Peach and Tomato Pasta

From Fine Cooking, June/July 2021, page 54

12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 pounds peaches (about 6), pitted and sliced or coarsely chopped
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved (I would use regular green olives)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼  to  ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Chopped toasted almonds (optional)

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, reserving ¼ cup pasta water. Drain spaghetti, return to pot and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet, cook the garlic in hot oil over medium-heat, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook, uncovered, 2 minutes.

Add peaches and cook until just soft, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in olives, basil, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper and the red crushed pepper and heat through.

Add peach mixture to the cooked spaghetti along with the reserved pasta water and toss to combine.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with almonds, if using.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

A la Carte: So You Have Heard of a BLT … Well, Why Not Try a BLT Soup?!

Lee White

By the time you read this, my CSA (community-supported agriculture) will have begun.

Will the farm stand at Stone Acres be filled with the summer’s best of the best? Well, not really.

Sweet corn will be a few weeks away (and usually the Connecticut’s first sweet corn comes from the Windsor area) and tomatoes may not available for another month or more. 

I love my own CSA, but, like the signs announcing “yard sale” that beckoned years ago (I’m looking to get rid of stuff now, not getting more), my little Hyundai Kona brakes for farm stands.

Last week I bought two quarts of strawberries from Scott’s Yankee Farmer in East Lyme and asked when the corn would be available. “Maybe in a few weeks,” the younger Scott said.

I know that White Gate will have the biggest yield of the most heritages in every size, and that Whittle’s — closest to where I live — will have big, gorgeous red ones for the longest period, maybe into October.

In the meantime, there will be lots of greens, from bok choy to all kinds of lettuce.

From the first cookbook I ever bought after I met my husband (The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne), the second or third recipe I made was for Wilted Spinach. 

Today I scoured my bookshelves looking for that cookbook and could not find it, so I just ordered another copy.

But I did find in my computer files a recipe that called for lettuce, this one called BLT soup. I love this recipe and I think you will, too.

I will send you that wilted spinach recipe (but if any of you have the 1961 Claiborne book, let me know.)

By the way, save the bacon fat from the BLT recipe; you will need it for that wilted salad, too.

Butter Lettuce Soup with Bacon and Tomato
Adapted from The BLT Cookbook by Michele Anna Jordan (William Morrow, New York, 2003)

Yield: serves 4

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided)
1 small yellow onion, diced (I use the sweet ones, and Vidalias are almost here)
2 large heads of butter (or Bibb or Boston) lettuce, cored, washed and dried
Salt to taste and freshly grated black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 slices bacon, minced
1 cup (or more) very good canned diced tomatoes (as always, I use Muir Glen)
2 tablespoons snipped chives
½ cup or more little cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium-large soup pot set over medium-low heat; add onions and sauté until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut lettuce into one-half inch-wide slices. Stir into the cooked onion and season with salt and pepper; add parsley and pour in the broth. Increase heat to medium-high, bring broth to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 7 minutes.

Cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towel. Using an immersion blender, or in batches on a blender, puree the soup. To serve hot, ladle the soup in bowls, drizzle with diced tomatoes, crisp bacon, chives, the cherry tomatoes and crème fraiche.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.

A la Carte: A New Twist on an Old Favorite with an Unexpected History

Lee White

Sometimes I try to come up with recipes that have themes or special times of years, such as holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July or Labor Day.

But I sometimes I forget, before Columbus landed first in the Bahamas and later on the coast that would become America, that the native Americans were here first.

I also forget about the white people, who came soon after Columbus, who herded Black Africans, took them from their homes and families to work, against their will, in the white people fields and houses in the 17th century.

A new documentary from Netflix called “High on the Hog” tells the story of these enslaved people, who tried to keep their own lives and traditions alive along with their culinary journey.

In this documentary, I learned that Thomas Jefferson  and George Washington owned Black chefs, who went with the masters to Paris, brought back French techniques and recipes, which they blended with the ingredients available in the New World. For their own food, in the slave quarters, they took the ingredients the white owners didn’t want — the leftover pieces of vegetables and fruits,  the peels of potatoes and, most of all, the bits of beef, sheep and chickens the owners threw away. 

The recipe below was adapted from a recipe I found in a cookbook from 2001.

Until I saw this documentary two weeks ago., I never knew the first recipe for macaroni and cheese was created by enslaved Black people working in their masters’ kitchens. 

I hope you stream “High on the Hog” on Netflix.

Queens (N.Y.) Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Macaroni & Cheese: 52 Recipes, from Simple to Sublime (Villard, New York, 2001)
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 pound elbow macaroni
3 12-ounce cans evaporated milk (2 percent milk works well, too)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon Red Devil sauce (or less, to your taste)
4 cups (1 pound) coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
½  pound Velveeta or American cheese, cut into one-half inch cubes
½  cup heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs), or fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 3 and ½ -quart deep baking dish or 9 by 13 baking pan.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the pasta until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, pour into a large mixing bowl and toss with 4 tablespoons of the butter.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to a scald and add to the macaroni. Add mustard, Red Devil sauce and Cheddar and stir well (the cheese should start to melt. Add Velveeta and cream and stir well. The macaroni and chunks of cheese should be swimming in the sauce. Add egg and mix well. Season with salt, if necessary, and plenty of pepper.

Pour into the prepared baking dish that has been place on a sheet pan to catch spills (the baking dish will be completely full. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years, but now lives in Groton, Conn.