Cooks Corner

Is it real? Frog’s eye salad is a Midwestern potluck favorite

lindacicerocooks@aol.com

Frog’s Eye Salad is made with acini di pepe pasta.
Frog’s Eye Salad is made with acini di pepe pasta. ButterThanToast.com

Reader Anna from Miami Lakes wrote with a question about frog’s eye salad, which she read about in a detective novel. Is it real? She wanted to know. And do we have a recipe?

There seems to be a neverending stream of pop fiction with a culinary twist, sometimes even with recipes included. Frog’s eye salad is a Midwest/Northwest potluck favorite, with ingredients that are not unlike the ambrosia we’re more familiar with in the South: mini marshmallows, citrus and cream, sometimes coconut, sweet enough to be a dessert but labeled a salad.

The frog eyes are not tapioca, as Anna suspected, but a teensie round pasta called acini di pepe. It’s the pasta I associate with childhood and a garlicky chicken soup that was prescribed by my grandfather whenever the sniffles started.

I found a lot of recipes that also associate frog’s eye salad with childhood. The recipe makes enough for a party or potluck, for sure. Some recipes said you should use pistachio pudding mix or green food coloring, but most stuck with the from-scratch custard here, which I found at Cooks.com. If you’d rather do one with a box of pudding mix and whipped topping, I thought the version at jamhands.net by Ali Philips sounded particularly good.

Four-ingredient wonders

More fun recipes from readers — if you’ve got one, share:

“I love the idea of your four-ingredient dish list! This is not an original recipe — I think it was on the cranberry sauce can, and way back I used to make it with grape jelly instead of the cranberry. I did add the chipotle, beginning a couple of years ago because we like a little fire. I make this for every football game gathering we have, doubling the recipe in a huge crockpot, and there is never even a lick left afterward.”

Pam Barone, Miami

“I started making this kind-of Thai noodle dish when I was in college and needed cheap easy food. Back then I simply added a big plop of crunchy peanut butter and some soy sauce to hot pasta and cabbage and it was pretty good. Now I use a bottled Thai peanut salad dressing (I like the Trader Joe’s one) and it is a lot better since the dressing has ginger and chilies and garlic. Sometimes I mix it up and use broccoli slaw mix instead of the cabbage.”

Jennie Boudreau, Myrtle Beach

“I love your column and am always happy to contribute. You liked my breakfast casserole a few years ago and I got a mention for something else (I forget). Anyhoo, check out my easy pot pie.”

Cynthia Paul, Miami

Linda Cicero: @TasteMemories. Write to Cook’s Corner at Food, Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Frog’s Eye Salad

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups pineapple juice

2 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 quarts water

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 (16-ounce) package acini de pepe pasta

3 (11-ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained

2 (20-ounce) cans pineapple chunks, drained

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 cup coconut (optional)

Combine sugar, flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gradually stir in pineapple juice and eggs. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until thickened. Add lemon juice; cool mixture to room temperature.

Bring water, 2 teaspoons salt and oil to boil. Add pasta. Cook at rolling boil until done, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain, rinse, drain again and cool to room temperature. Combine egg mixture and pasta; mix lightly. Refrigerate overnight in airtight container.

Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly but thoroughly. Refrigerate until chilled in airtight container. May be refrigerated for as long as a week.

Yield: 50 servings

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

If you’re going to try Cynthia’s recipe, I’d suggest simply buying refrigerated pie crusts since there are two in a box and the ingredients fit well in an 8-inch casserole dish. Cynthia says she uses a crust that comes in a disposable aluminum pan so there’s no cleanup.

1 store bought deep-dish pie crust with top

1 (10-ounce) bag of frozen mixed vegetables

2 (12-ounce) jars of chicken gravy

2 cooked chicken breasts shredded or diced (I like shredded) or rotisserie chicken

Combine chicken, gravy and vegetables and place in bottom crust. Top with other crust, crimp edges all around with a fork and then stab the fork a couple of places in the crust; or get fancy and do a lattice top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

Poor Girl’s Thai Noodles

You could, of course, add bean sprouts or other vegetables, fried egg or cooked chicken to this dish if you weren’t keeping to the four-ingredient theme.

1 (12-ounce) box linguine or spaghetti

1 (8.5-ounce) bag refrigerated coleslaw mix (cabbage, carrots, onions)

1 cup, or to taste, Thai peanut salad dressing

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. While it is cooking, place the coleslaw mix and the peanut salad dressing in a microwave-safe bowl and cook 2 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and toss with the cabbage and dressing mixture and the cilantro. Serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings

Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Meatballs

Pam says: You can double or triple this recipe. If you can’t find the bite-size meatballs, just cut big ones in half. Not as pretty but just as tasty.

1 (14-ounce) can cranberry sauce

1 (12-ounce) bottle chili sauce

1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, optional

1 (2-pound) bag frozen, pre-cooked, bite-size meatballs

Pop the cranberry sauce and chili sauce into a big soup pot. Place over medium-high heat and stir until the cranberry sauce is melted. Whisk in the chipotle pepper if using, and the meatballs. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until meatballs are hot.

Yield: 30 appetizer servings

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