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CORRECTION: This story was updated at 1:32 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, to add an egg to the Cast-Iron Cornbread recipe.

Teri Purvis welcomes us to the October table from years of studying food sections. (She likes this paper's version best, by the way.)

Ms. Purvis' subject today is avocado salad dressing. We were looking for a recipe that did not darken the avocado flesh, and we are looking still. She noted an excellent restaurant version and hopes you can help her duplicate it.

"Chesapeake's in Knoxville puts this dressing on their wedge salad, and I must say it is fabulous. I would love to have the recipe."

The next request is a nameless shopper's query. "Chattanooga's Trader Joe's has been a long time coming. So I went, and just didn't know where to begin. What are the best things to buy? What about their prepared frozen foods? I would love some tips from the many of you who drove two hours for years, just to shop at Trader Joe's."

A mid-August report in this Food section included ideas from one of those traveling fans of Trader Joe's, and we welcome further suggestions.

 

CHILI RECEPTION

We almost got caught in the middle of a marital argument, but then the long and happily married pair erupted in laughter. Mrs. Nicholas Aspen read a recipe for Cincinnati Chili in this column, and thought hers made a lot more sense. Then she noted the sender: Mr. Nicholas Aspen.

Hmpf, she may have thought.

"If hubby had asked me, I would have given you my favorite Cincinnati Chili recipe from Jane and Michael Stern (the 'Road Food' people), courtesy of my favorite cookbook of theirs, 'Square Meals.' The recipe you printed two weeks ago does not really explain the construction of Cincinnati Chili. They say it is called Cincinnati Five-Way Chili.

"When we served this for supper club, we had three different kinds of chili, one with chicken or turkey. We served all the toppings separately around this chili so that people could make whatever version they liked.

"Here is how they say to construct it."

 

How To Build Cincinnati Five-Way Chili

8 ounces thick spaghetti (2 to 3 ounces per serving)

Chili

1 (16-ounce) can red kidney beans, washed and drained

2 onions, chopped

1 pound Wisconsin Cheddar cheese, grated fine, as fluffy as you can make it

The bottom layer is always spaghetti, the thickest you can find. Break into fourths, and add a bit of olive oil to the water. You can add a pat of butter before dishing them out.

Next comes the chili, enough to cover the noodles.

Then add kidney beans, drained and heated, just a sparse layer atop the chili. There is no need to season.

Spread out chopped onions to taste, over the beans.

Quickly spread the cheese over all so it melts a bit. Don't skimp. Cheese should blanket the plate (ideally an oval plate).

You may omit either the beans and/or the onions, for three- or four-way chili.

 

SOUTHERN-STYLE CORNBREAD

It seems like cornbread would be a fine accompaniment, and Pete Rolston's cast-iron version came just in time.

 

Cast-Iron Cornbread

This is Martha White's Easy Southern Cornbread recipe, with some slight modification.

1/4 cup Wesson oil

2 cups Martha White cornmeal

1 egg

1 1/2 cups milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Coat cast-iron skillet bottom and edge with Wesson oil.

Heat skillet in oven until hot but not smoking.

Stir remaining ingredients until smooth; if batter is too thick, you may have to add more milk.

Remove skillet from oven, and pour in batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, observing carefully until golden brown.

 

VEGAN CHEESE

Lil Yarosh offered a brief tutorial and a recipe, on the subject of vegan cheese.

"Vegan cheese is becoming more and more readily available in more and more forms: shreds, slices, sprinkles, etc. Daiya and Follow your Heart are two of the more common brands and are carried in many supermarkets like Publix and Walmart. The Village Market in Collegedale seems to have the widest choices, among which there are nacho, pimiento, Cheddar-like, pepper Jack, gourmet spreads and alternatives for cream cheese, ricotta and the like. The Parmesan variety even seems to capture the aroma.

"To make a homemade 'cheese' sauce, I often make the following recipe."

 

Homemade Vegan Cheese

2 cups water (used in 2 increments)

1/4 cup rinsed raw cashews

2-ounce jar pimientos, drained

3 tablespoons nutritional food yeast flakes (not brewers yeast flakes)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon onion flakes or powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

In a blender, process the cashews in about 1/2 cup of the water. If you do not have a strong blender, let the cashews soak in this 1/2 cup water for a half-hour or so. In any event, the cashews must be well blended until very smooth. There should be no graininess.

Add remaining water and other ingredients, and continue blending until very smooth, until all particles of pimiento are incorporated.

Pour mixture into a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil and simmer for a minute or so until thickened, stirring constantly.

Pour over vegetables, baked potatoes or tortilla chips as desired.

 

NEIGHBORLY PANCAKES

A.H.L. remembers her beloved grandmother by sharing with her neighbors platefuls of her favorite recipe, Gigi's Pancakes. It's a deliciously neighborly gesture.

Gigi's Pancakes

1 1/2 cups white flour

1 1/2 cups wheat flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

Canola or vegetable oil

2 eggs (scramble lightly before adding)

2 to 3 cups milk (any kind), depending on your guests and their preferences

Mix dry ingredients. You may double these ingredients, store them in a glass jar and give as a gift with the rest of this recipe. It makes a sweet gift.

Warm your skillet with a generous pour of canola/vegetable oil.

To the dry mixture, add eggs and milk. Beat, then pour into a pan that is hot enough for batter to sizzle. Turn gently when one side is brown and brown the other side. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.

Note: This recipe is twice as much as our family eats. It usually yields a few leftover pancakes to share, or if I leave them on the counter, they don't make it to the next morning.

We just said goodbye to two unforgettable weeks of family. Beforehand, I decreed that all food would be simple and easy. After all, it was the people who mattered.

Didn't happen.

A son baked sourdough bread, huge loaves, most every night. We ate out, on restaurants' decks and open spaces. A friend sent a movable feast.

I cannot imagine eating better food that those weeks' worth. But wait: Did it taste so good because we were at the table with the people we love best in all the world?

What do you think?

My guess is yes.

See you next week.

 

REQUESTS

* Knoxville restaurant's avocado salad dressing

* What to buy at Trader Joe's

 

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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Jane Henegar
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