Even though last month marked the fifth anniversary since our region's beloved Phil Smidt's restaurant closed, memories of the menu live on with Times readers.
Here are just a couple of the recent reader requests from last month.
"Phil: We are fans of your columns. Years ago, I clipped out a recipe from your From the Farm column for Phil Smidt's green tartar sauce, which we loved to make. But we lost it, and would love to make it again. Can you help? Thank you, Judi Donozan, Whiting"
Thank you for contacting me Judi. Back in 2007, I featured a tribute recipe that fine-tuned (as closely as possible) a recreation of Phil Smidt's famed green tartar sauce, only minus the heavy reliance on minced fresh parsley. That recipe is included in the third volume of my cookbooks, "Further From the Farm" (the one with the red cover) published in 2010, where it's preserved for readers like you, never to be lost again.
This second Phil Smidt reader letter question is not quite as easy to answer so quickly.
"Hi Mr. Potempa: I grew up in the region, and earlier tonight got to remembering Phil Smidt's. I found where you were able to pass along the recipe for frog legs and tartar sauce to readers. But what about the perch?! Maybe it's time for a Phil Smidt update? Do the Welch's [David and Barbara Welch were the restaurant's final owners.] have any more plans of re-opening anywhere in the greater Chicago area? I was just wondering if you still had that contact, and if so, whether you might find this a good topic to write about once again. I know that once upon a time there was a plan to open up a new place. But apparently, it never came to fruition. If that's so, has it been long enough now that the owners might give up the perch recipe, too? I seem to recall a waitress once telling me that the breading was nothing more than simple corn meal; but I always wondered if there was anything else added to it. Anyway, I'm sitting here missing that perch. (Yes, Teibel's *is* good, too, but not quite the same). I wondered if you might find a story worth writing about here. Thanks so much. Peace, Bob Naglich"
Thank you Bob for your letter and fond recollections of the delicious Boned and Buttered Phil Smidt's Lake Perch. And I too agree that Teibel's delicate Lake Perch menu counterpart is also delicious. However, I must correct you that, unlike the green tartar sauce, I've never shared with readers the Phil Smidt's Frog Leg recipe, which was their signature menu specialty since opening in 1910, enjoyed by the likes of everyone from actor Jimmy Cagney, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra to Babe Ruth, Jack Benny and even the Prince of Wales.
But I'm happy to cast a net for you and others out to The Times readership inviting a reply from anyone who might be able to help with your requests. Until then, at least we have our memories, and the good folks at Teibel's to satisfy taste buds.
While we are on the subject of green delights, we've been busy using up the last of the picked and stored zucchini at our farm. While my original 2004 (brown cover) cookbook included a yummy recipe for moist loaves of chocolate zucchini cake, I discovered during my last decade of writing this column, I've never published a traditional zucchini bread recipe.
Since my mom just made two loaves, using our friend Anne Eckert's family recipe and my dad's fresh cracked black walnuts, I'm sharing the recipe here this week. Anne was an elementary school teacher for 32 years before retiring in 1996.
Anne Eckert's Zucchini Bread
1 cup vegetable oil
2- 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups grated, unpeeled, raw zucchini
1 cup chopped nuts of choice
DIRECTIONS: Combine eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in zucchini and nuts. Grease and flour two standard size loaf pans and pour in batter. Bake at 325 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Allow to cool in pans at least 5 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool. Makes 2 loaves.