Dear Readers: Smith Bros. Fish Shanty near La Cienega's Restaurant Row has done us the great favor of, once and for all, reducing their lemon meringue pie recipe for two pies perfectly. Former versions were runny, and the recipe had a tricky cornstarch-syrup step that caused some readers to get stuck. So here is the face-lifted recipe, nose-job and all, for those who want a cosmetically beautiful, flavorfully perfect meringue pie you can look in the face and say, "I know you."
FISH SHANTY'S BEAUTIFUL LEMON MERINGUE PIES
3 cups water
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 cup cold water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large or 5 small egg yolks
Juice of 4 lemons (3/4 cup)
2 (9-inch) baked pie crusts
Mix water, sugar, salt and lemon peel in top of double boiler. Bring to rolling boil over direct heat. Mix cold water and cornstarch in small bowl until completely dissolved. Add cornstarch mixture to bubbling sugar mixture, stirring constantly with wire whip until thoroughly blended and mixture starts to thicken and takes on clear appearance. Turn down heat if bubbles begin to pop while thickening.
Heat water in bottom of double boiler on adjacent burner. Place sugar mixture over bottom of double boiler and continue to cook over boiling water about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn off heat under double boiler. Beat egg yolks with lemon juice until blended. Stir into sugar mixture and blend thoroughly. Let stand 5 minutes, then pour into clean bowl. Cover and cool completely or overnight in refrigerator. Transfer to 2 baked pie crusts. Top with Meringue, forming peaks. Bake at 375 degrees 10 minutes until meringue peaks are browned. Makes 2 pies.
6 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Beat egg whites with sugar at high speed until egg whites form stiff peaks.
Dear SOS: My recipe for Senate Navy Bean Soup is lost. Could you send me a recipe? It is a famous soup that senators in Washington eat in their cafeteria.
Dear M.E.: You're correct. The soup goes back several generations in the Senate cafeteria where I, too, have enjoyed a modest bowl. Incidentally, the soup turned up in canned form at a gourmet food show I attended in Los Angeles, so it probably is available for purchase at some gourmet specialty stores around the country.
SENATE NAVY BEAN SOUP
2 cups dry navy beans
3 quarts water
1 meaty ham bone
1/2 cup mashed cooked potatoes
3 onions, minced
4 to 5 stalks celery, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
Soak beans overnight in water. Add ham bone and simmer 1 hour or until beans start to get tender. Add mashed potatoes and mix until smooth. Add onions, celery, garlic and parsley and simmer 1 hour longer or until beans are soft.
Remove ham bone, dice meat and return meat to soup. Thin with hot water, if necessary (soup should be thick). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Dear SOS: Please come to my rescue as you have so often in the past. My second-grade class wants to cook something to culminate our study of China. They'd love to do Fortune Cookies, but I have no idea how.
Dear Teacher: Fortune Cookies are not as easy as they may seem. Perhaps the children can write the fortune message for the cookies, while an adult or adults do the cooking.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Beat eggs until light in small bowl. Gradually beat in sugar, beating constantly. Beat in 1/4 cup oil until mixture is well blended. Sift together flour, salt and ginger and gradually fold into egg mixture.
Preheat electric skillet or griddle to 325 degrees and grease lightly with oil. (Allow only 4 cookies to 10-inch skillet). Drop batter by teaspoons, spreading batter almost paper-thin to 3-inch circle. Bake first side 5 minutes or until dry and lightly browned. Gently lift cookies with pancake turner and turn. Bake on other side about 3 minutes. Remove cookies from skillet and quickly place fortune across center and fold cookies in half to bring edges together, barely touching. Fold in half circle again, away from joined edges and cool on rack. Makes about 30 cookies.
Dear SOS: Before the holidays I asked you to send me or help me find a recipe for Cheese Balls or Spread, which I had lost. Even though it wasn't my recipe, it helped me through the holidays. But I know you'll be pleased to hear this: A friend to whom I had given my recipe for Cheese Balls or Spread many years ago was reading the SOS column in the Food Section, noticed my request, and since it was signed Barbara she decided it could be me, and sent me my original recipe. I am enclosing a copy for your files.
Dear Barbara: How good of you to provide us with our lost recipe.
CHEESE BALLS OR SPREAD
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 pound blue cheese
1/4 pound margarine
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon poppy seeds