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Jane Henegar

Good morning, June readers. This morning the challenges fall into two categories: magic and fresh local peaches.

Last week we asked you for favorite recipes tasted in restaurants, recipes you have tried but failed to re-create at home. This week G.C. visited The Daily Ration in Riverview and inquired about how a particular dish was made. The wise waitperson responded with one particular part of the recipe, and then this: "There is a little magic involved."

Exactly. Magic is the secret ingredient.

But you who read also have some magic, so please tell us what magical combinations and recipes have worked at your house.

The second topic is peaches in their glory season. This week we heard from visitors to the Chattanooga Market. "We bought peaches with the sales pitch, 'First freestones of the season,' but we should have known better than to buy the first. Who has the best peaches around, and what are the best kinds? And when you have peaches that aren't very tasty, what is the best way to cook them? And what is the best way to use overripe peaches?" Our visiting friend hopes you will send recipes.



Sandra Oliver wrote, "Someone recently requested the recipe for an African dish, Ground Nut Stew. I found one in the Boyd-Buchanan Cookbook, but have not tried it." That version contains chicken or turkey, and perhaps its local creator will give us details for his or her stew.

In the meantime, here's a vegetarian version of the sought-for West African Nut Stew, this one a soup with collards. The sender is Mae Bradley, and she got it from Cookie and Kate's cooking blog.

Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup

This West African peanut soup recipe is a creamy and comforting, spicy vegan soup. Made with a simple combination of peanut butter, tomato paste and collard greens, this soup comes together quickly and would be a great weeknight meal. If you love spicy flavors like me, don't hesitate to use liberal amounts of ginger and garlic.

Also, most African peanut soup recipes include sweet potatoes. You could toss in a chopped sweet potato when you bring the stock to a boil, but I liked the soup as is.

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth)

1/2 cup tomato paste (see note)

1 bunch collard greens (or kale), ribs removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch strips

Hot sauce, like sriracha (also known as rooster sauce)

1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts, for garnish

Cooked brown rice, for serving (optional)

In a medium Dutch oven or stockpot, bring the broth to a boil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and salt. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

In a medium-size, heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste, then transfer 1 to 2 cups of the hot stock to the bowl. Whisk the mixture together until smooth, then pour the peanut mixture back into the soup, and mix well. Stir in the collard greens, and season the soup with hot sauce to taste.

Simmer for about 15 more minutes on medium-low heat, stirring often. Serve over cooked brown rice if you'd like, and top with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.

Note: The cookbook author suggested that 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes is a suitable substitution for the tomato paste, but commenters report that the crushed tomatoes produce a runny soup (I highly recommend using tomato paste if you can find it. I also recommend Muir Glen's organic tomato products — they come in BPA-free cans and seem to be readily available).

— Adapted from "Local Bounty: Vegan Seasonal Recipes" by Devra Gartenstein



Roseann Strazinsky's request for butterscotch cookies (to present to an appreciated physician) brought this one from Judy Zehnder, "a recipe my mother used to make, which I have made too. It originally called for the dough to be rolled with greased hands into a roll on wax paper, then refrigerated until firm, about 2 hours, and sliced using dental floss. But I found this to be unnecessary, and neither the floss nor knife made a nicely shaped cookie. This is a simple recipe."

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 package (4 servings) cook-and-serve butterscotch pudding mix (do not use instant pudding)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup shortening, melted

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup quick oatmeal

Sift together flour, soda, salt and cream of tartar.

Mix together pudding, brown sugar, shortening, egg and vanilla extract. Add dry mixture to wet mixture. Blend together well. Then add oatmeal, and stir together. It will be a somewhat dry mixture.

Using a small cookie scoop, place individual mounds on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If desired, press each to 1/4-inch thick with a sugar-dipped, flat-bottomed glass.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let them firm up a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to cooling racks.

The next butterscotch cookie is from Sandra Oliver's stash.

Butterscotch Meringue Cookies

1 egg white

1 cup sifted brown sugar

Pinch of salt

2 cups pecan halves

Beat egg white, and fold in brown sugar, salt and pecans. Drop onto greased aluminum foil.

Bake 45 minutes at 250 degrees.

Yield: 42 cookies.

Variation: You might try folding in some butterscotch chips.



You were wondering about vinaigrette dressings for salad. Mr. and Mrs. Sunday supplied the answers:

Vinaigrettes are very simple to make but very difficult to write a recipe for; there are just too many variations in ingredients. You could probably write a book on the subject.

Rule 1: Taste as you go. As long as you keep the taste balanced, you'll be fine. Remember that the balance includes what you'll be pouring the vinaigrette over (e.g. strong-tasting arugula and slivered beets vs. pasta salad) and what you'll be serving it with.

Rule 2: Nobody but you knows what you were shooting for. It's YOUR happy little salad after all (Thanks, Bob Ross).

At its most basic, vinaigrette is the pair of oil and vinegar cruets most restaurants have ready for people on restrictive diets. Sprinkle on to taste. Add salt and pepper if you wish.

The next step up is a mixed dressing built from some fat (usually liquid) and some acid plus modifiers for flavor (herbs and spices, zest), emulsification (mustard, eggs, grated cheese) and complexity (onion, garlic, soy or Worcestershire sauce). There are many more candidates in each category.

Start with oil (neutral canola or intense extra-virgin olive oil) and balance with your acid of choice. Vinegar and lime/lemon are quite acid, so you'll start around 2/3 oil to 1/3 acid, but the stronger the oil, the less you need of it. Acid too strong? Dilute or add a little sugar or more intense oil (e.g. sesame). Too weak? Add more or another acid or salt.

Now add herbs, spices, emulsifiers and complexity to taste. Mustard can be powdered or prepared (Dijon works very well but even ballpark mustard is fine).

Caesar dressing started life as a lemon vinaigrette (made with refined olive oil) emulsified with egg and grated Parmesan cheese and flavored with garlic croutons.

Turn that into Greek by using stronger or Greek olive oil, adding thyme (dried or fresh leaves on the salad) and using crumbled feta (no egg). Onions and kalamata olives in the salad add flavor and complexity.

A simple lemon vinaigrette (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and a little finely grated lemon zest with herb of choice, thyme is common) is a nice complement to arugula. Zest and/or herbs may be omitted or replaced with onion juice or powder. Add mustard if you want it a little thicker.

Thank you all for all your good tastes. Let's meet again, right here, next Wednesday.



* Recipe "magic"

* Best peach practices


To Reach Us

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.

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