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It's Cinco de Mayo, and why not celebrate? Diana Brown began our conversation with a plethora of requests that should keep you busy.

She wrote, "I have enjoyed reading this column for many years. I have copied many excellent recipes. I watch cooking shows on television like the Great American or the British version of cooking contests. The contestants often make basic recipes to start. Could you please help out with some basic recipes for things like a choux, ganache, a pastry base for things that call for flaky crusts, and a basic sponge cake? What is the difference between a sponge cake and regular cake? Any help or guidance would be so appreciated."

 

LETTUCE WRAPS

Barbara Mann uses her butter lettuce to create wraps, as sampled in Hawaii, "a recipe from chef Bev Gannon from her restaurant Hali'imaile General Store. It was a highlight to eat there some years ago."

Minced Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut very small

1 cup chopped mushrooms

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

2 teaspoons garlic

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1 cup finely chopped water chestnuts

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons plum sauce (or use plum jam)

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

3/4 cup pine nuts, chopped

2 heads butter lettuce, using larger leaves

Heat pan over high heat with oil. Add chicken, and stir-fry. Then add mushrooms, and stir-fry, then ginger, garlic, onions, water chestnuts, hoisin and plum sauces, rice vinegar and pine nuts. Place 2 generous tablespoons of filling in each lettuce wrap, and roll up.

 

POTATOES AND PESTO

From Soddy-Daisy came the authoritative voice of Pam Greer, who writes a blog called Sidewalk Shoes, which has food, cocktails and travel. It just happens that her blog covers some of the same things you have been searching for. Shall we begin?

"In your latest column you asked about mint syrup and preserving herbs. I love preserving herbs and have a roundup on my site with 20 ways to preserve herbs."

Ms. Greer included some fascinating varieties of pesto, and this one caught my eye — chive pesto to be served with fingerling potatoes. And if this doesn't send you right over to her blog, consider this: "My blog has everything from basil vinegar (delicious in the winter on cherry tomatoes) to a lavender-infused gin."

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes With Chive Pesto

Fingerling Potatoes

1 3/4 pounds fingerling potatoes washed, scrubbed and cut in equal sides

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place fingerling potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the potatoes. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes.

Chive Pesto

1/2 cup fresh chives chopped, packed

1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped, packed

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 clove garlic

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

While the potatoes are roasting, place the chives, parsley, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Scoop out and place in a large bowl, add the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water, and stir. Leave half of the pesto in the bowl, and put the other half in a small bowl.

Potatoes and Chive Pesto

Remove the potatoes from the oven, add them to the large bowl of pesto and toss to combine. Serve with the additional pesto.

 

LEMON PIE

Maribeth Johnson sent a lemonade pie similar to last week's, and here is Ginny Green's lemonade pie with a generous portion of cream cheese added. She credited "Seasoned to Taste," a cookbook from the Junior League of Chattanooga.

Creamy Lemonade Pie

2 (5-ounce) cans evaporated milk

2 (4-ounce) packages lemon instant pudding

22 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, partially thawed

1 (9-ounce) graham cracker pie shell

Whipped cream for garnish

Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish

Lemon slices for garnish

Whisk the evaporated milk and pudding mix in a bowl for 2 minutes or until thickened. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat at medium speed until fluffy. Add the lemonade concentrate, and beat until blended. Beat in the pudding mixture until blended. Pour into the pie shell. Freeze for 4 hours or until firm. Garnish with whipped cream, sprigs of fresh mint and lemon slices.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

 

FAVORITE COOKBOOKS

You are about to see the first nominations for My Favorite Cookbook. Thank you, Becky Fugatt, Mignon Ballard and Margaret Flynn for suggesting a variety of favorites. This reminds me of a recently visited website, thriftbooks.com, where there are thousands of cookbook titles. I ordered a book and was delighted to find underlining and exclamation points and a few more words in this used copy. Made it better, not worse, to read this book in the company of others.

Becky Fugatt came first. "My favorite cookbook (and I have many) is 'Recipes and Memories' collected and compiled by my friend Jo Ann Everett. This wonderful book contains tried-and-true recipes from family and friends, and you can count on each recipe to come out delicious.

"Jo Ann self-published and had to reorder at least one additional printing to keep up with all the requests. Word of mouth sold this terrific cookbook. I sure am glad I have mine."

Mignon Ballard also knew her favorite cookbook author well. She is her sister.

"Just out of college, neither my roommate nor I knew how to cook, so my sister made me a cookbook, carefully typing every page. (Typing was not her thing, but thank goodness, cooking was.) A few recipes started with, 'Fill pan with water; put on stove; turn on burner.' This is how I learned to cook, and I still refer to it now and again for time-honored family recipes. Second would be a long-out-of-print 'Joy of Cooking,' now in tatters, and favorite recipes from the Calhoun (Georgia) Junior Woman's Club. I knew who the best cooks were."

She's right about those hometown cookbooks. You know the promise a recipe holds if you know the cook himself or herself.

Margaret Flynn, on the other hand, chose a Martha Stewart tome. "My go-to cookbook is 'Martha Stewart's Cooking School.' It is excellent for cooks of all abilities. It explains the how and why of techniques and equipment and has excellent recipes that always work. It is terrific, especially for beginners."

 

JUST A DASH

And while Ms. Flynn has the floor, she offers a baker's hint.

"Here's how to keep a pie crust from being soggy: Beat one egg with a spoonful of cream or milk until blended, and brush the bottom and sides of an unbaked pie crust before adding filling. If using a top crust, brush that also, and sprinkle a little sugar over it. It makes a beautifully golden brown crust.

Thank you for all you sent, and for all of you who read.

 

REQUESTS

* Choux, ganache and pastry bases

* Sponge cake

 

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

Email: chattfare@gmail.com

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