Chattanooga cooks answer pineapple request, consider menus for the empty nest

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Good morning, and good cooking, and good dining to all.

Fare Exchange just received a delightful letter from Patrick of Rock Spring, Georgia, a missive that is really to all of you, because he reads our column with enthusiasm. So here goes.

He wrote, "I am a late 50s guy who has started cooking a lot more since the kids skipped out. My wife and I enjoy a different dish, a different way to do the SAME dish, something super-old that takes us back to Grandmama's table, and a newfangled way to cook (we have an air fryer, but never jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon)."

That sounds like a call for recipes from all of you, so I will reframe his words. Empty nesters like Patrick and his wife, you go first. What are you cooking that is different from the way you used to cook? What familiar dish are you preparing in a different way? What are you cooking that makes the kitchen smell as delicious as your grandmama's kitchen and sends you to her battered recipe collection that you inherited? What newfangled device are you using with pleasure?

(READ MORE: Celebrating the empty nest)


Mary Ann McInturff had a memory this week of a longtime friend, now deceased, who "used to bring a pineapple casserole to any potluck event. This one calls for pineapple chunks, but I think crushed pineapple would work also." It's a comforting thought, that some cooks have a trademark dish from their kitchen and are summoned to bring it to share in times of joy and sorrow. The one that follows, from Ms. McInturff's friend, has a tasty combination of pineapple and grated cheese.

Pineapple-Cheese Casserole

2 (20-ounce) cans pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons flour

Ritz crackers

1/2 pound American cheese, grated

Drain pineapple and mix the juice with sugar and flour; cook until thickened. Put layer of broken Ritz crackers in an 8-inch square casserole. Add pineapple with thickened juice and top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly and cheese has melted.

Makes 8 servings.


These party-worthy potatoes came from the collection of Roseann Strazinsky.

Twice-Baked Sour Cream and Chive Potatoes

8 small russet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds total)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup snipped chives

Coarse salt and ground pepper

More chives for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rub potatoes with vegetable oil. On a baking sheet, bake until potatoes are easily pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly.

With paring knife, cut a thin slice lengthwise off the top of each potato and discard. Using a spoon, scoop out all but 1/2-inch of potato flesh from inside skin. Transfer to a bowl, and add sour cream, milk, butter and snipped chives. Mash until combined. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

Spoon mixture into potato skins. Bake until lightly browned on top, 20 minutes. Serve sprinkled with more chives. Makes 8 servings.


Two readers were longing for the cuisines of their homeland recently -- German and Ecuadorian. But the latter longing came a little bit late. Tim Threadgill reported:

"We unfortunately lost a lovely Ecuadorian cafe called The Fresh Pot during the pandemic. It was on Highway 153 North in the shopping center with the Goodyear and the Dairy Queen. It was run by a family from Ecuador, and one of their traditional dishes was the most savory lentil dish I had ever eaten. The attached recipe is the closest I could come to making them. They served it with a skirt steak, cooked medium, and rice. As the recipe states, I will often add diced potatoes in the last 10 minutes. It would be easy to halve this recipe because a pound of lentils with these ingredients pretty much fills a regular-size enameled Dutch oven. It is great with old-fashioned skillet cornbread, and the leftovers served over some brown rice is a filling lunch."

Ecuadorian Lentils

3 tablespoons canola, coconut or olive oil

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 red onion, diced

1 orange or yellow bell pepper, diced (green is fine too, though the orange or yellow makes a prettier presentation)

2 regular cans tomato puree or diced tomato

6 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

4 teaspoons cumin

3 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons chopped cilantro /coriander leaves, divided

7 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)

1 pound (2 1/4 cups) lentils

2 cubed potatoes or sweet potatoes (optional)

Heat the oil on medium heat in large saucepan Add turmeric, onion, bell pepper, tomato, garlic, cumin, salt and 2 tablespoons of cilantro. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients have softened, about 5 minutes. Add broth, and increase heat to bring to a boil.

Add the lentils, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover partially, and cook until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in remaining cilantro, and remove from heat.

If using potatoes or sweet potatoes, add the last 10 minutes of cook time.

Serve over rice, as a side, or serve a large portion as a meatless meal.


Speaking of German cooking, Tim and Jaime Threadgill know how to combine cuisines, as in their time in San Antonio and the surrounding Texas Hill Country. "The area drew in lots of German settlers, and until recently, there were homes in the surrounding communities that still spoke primarily German. With town names like Fredericksburg, Wurzbach and Luckenbach, it shows.

"One of our favorite culinary mashups is that we now often eat bratwurst wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, the warmer/fresher the better. It is how brats are often served at festivals in that area."


A final topic: Cauliflower has appeared on our plates in recent days: cauliflower gnocchi (excellent, from Trader Joe's frozen section, with fewer carbs than regular pasta), riced cauliflower, cauliflower soup and, of course, cauliflower crust pizza. Where have you been all our lives, cauliflower?

And what will be the next Most Versatile Food? Got any predictions, or even nominations?

We'll be watching for your answers.


-- Empty nesters' menus

-- New ways with old standbys

-- Best inherited recipes

-- Favorite newfangled gizmos


Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send, and know we cannot test the recipes printed here.

Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750


  photo  Jane Henegar