5 of Ann Heller’s favorite recipes

A well-used copy of "The Best of It's Simple!'' by Ann Heller. The Dayton Daily News published the cookbook in 1992.

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A well-used copy of "The Best of It's Simple!'' by Ann Heller. The Dayton Daily News published the cookbook in 1992.

Ann Heller’s career at the Dayton Daily News spanned three decades where she wrote about food and restaurants. She also published two cookbooks.

Heller died Sunday at Hospice of Dayton. She was 86.

Former Dayton Daily News reporter Mark Fisher, who wrote about food and dining, identified these five recipes from Heller’s cookbook, “The Best of It’s Simple!’’ as some of her favorites.

LEMON ROAST CHICKEN

The most popular recipe I ever printed may be this one for lemon roast chicken, which was included in the 1980 edition of “It’s Simple.”

It’s a recipe from Marcella Hazan, whose cooking schools in Italy and New York educated thousands of American cooks to authentic Italian home cooking.

The first recipe of hers that I sampled is this road chicken with lemon. It turned out to be unbelievably simple and delicious.

Makes 4 servings

1 chicken, about 2 ½ to 3 pounds

Salt and pepper

2 whole lemons

Wash the chicken, drain and dry it with paper towels. Remove any loose fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, inside and out, rubbing it in.

Wash and dry the lemons and soften by rolling them on the counter. Poke each lemon at least 20 times with a skewer, ice pick or toothpick. Put the lemons inside the chicken, close the opening with toothpicks or sleeves and loosely tie the legs together.

Put in a roasting pan, breast down and put in the upper third of an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Do not add any fat.

After 15 minutes, turn chicken breast up and roast another 20 to 25 minutes. Turn the heat to 400 degrees and cook chicken an additional 20 minutes. (If using a larger bird, you may want to roast the bird an additional 5 minutes or so – but into the thigh at the joint and make sure the juices run clear yellow.)

Serve the chicken with all the lemony juices in the roasting pan. They make a delicious sauce.

SPANISH PORK LOIN

One of my favorite Spanish recipes is this incredible easy seasoned pork loin.

The pork is slathered with a mixture of paprika, garlic and herbs and left to marinate for several days.

This is a wonderful piece of meat to have on hand, and it can be kept refrigerated for several days. If you don’t use it all at one time, the pork is a flavorful substitute for bacon in a BLT.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 teaspoon paprika 1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 bay leaf, broken

3 tablespoons olive oil 1 ½ pounds boneless pork loin

¼ teaspoon dried thyme oil for frying

In a small bowl mix paprika, garlic, oil, thyme and salt to a paste. Spread the mixture on the pork and rub it in, coating all sides. Place in a glass dish with the bay leaf, cover well and refrigerate at least overnight. The meat will be more flavorful after several days.

To serve, slice the meat into quarter-inch slices. Heat a little oil in a skillet and saute the slices, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the meat and deglaze the pan with 2 to 3 tablespoons white wine or chicken broth or water. Stir up all the pan juices and pour a little sauce over the meat.

If making sandwiches, skip the last step.

CRAB CAKES

The wonderful blue crab of Maryland is one of the most delectable foods I know. There is no better way to eat it than in crab cakes.

Recipes are intensely personal, with debate centering on seasoning and the amount of bread crumbs added to help bind the crab cakes together. Too much bread is disdained as filler.

Here’s my recipe, which was only one slice of bread. The crab cakes are part fried, rather than deep fried, which is traditional.

I prefer to let the taste of crab dominate and forego such additions as onion or bell peppers or spicy seasonings. Only lump crabmeat that has dime and nickle-sized morsels of perfectly white crab will do.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

1 pound lump crabmeat, fresh or pasteurized 1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 slice bread, crusts trimmed* ¾ teaspoon salt

1 egg ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons mayonnaise oil

1 tablespoon minced parsley butter

Pick over the crabmeat carefully to remove any bits of cartilage. Be gentle – you’re paying dearly for those lumps of crab. Set aside.

Cube the bread and run through a food processor to make rough crumbs. Blend egg, mayonnaise, parsley and seasonings, and add the bread crumbs. Gently blend in crab. Shape into four patties about an inch thick.

In a skillet heat equal parts of oil and butter to cover the pan about ¼ inch deep. Fry the patties for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until nicely browned.

Alternatively broil under a preheated broiler about 3 minutes a side.

*Or use ¼ cup cracker crumbs.

NOTE: For added flavor, add 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning to the mix.

GARLIC ROASTED POTATOES

I could make a meal out of a plate of fresh buttered asparagus, but potatoes? You bet, when they’re these potatoes.

The recipe comes from Alice Waters, via the Potato Board. Waters is the chef-owner of Chez Parisse in Berkley, Calif., and is close enough to Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, to make good use of that native crop.

Whole unpeeled cloves of garlic are roasted with the potatoes. Each diner squeezes some of the sweet, mild roasted garlic on the potatoes.

It is not a dish for those who don’t appreciate garlic, and certainly not for those who are too fastidious to get their hands dirty. But for those who like to dig into great flavor, it’s a wonderful, incredibly easy side dish, or meal.

Makes 6 servings

12 medium new potatoes, or Finnish potatoes, unpeeled course sea salt

1 ½ heads fresh garlic course ground black pepper

Olive oil

Wash the potatoes and dry. Cut into quarters. Separate the garlic into individual cloves, but do not peel.

Arrange the potatoes skin-side down in a lightly oiled baking dish that will just hold them. Scatter the cloves of garlic over the top. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil over the top.

Cook in a preheated 325-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, stirring once to coat with the oil. The potatoes should be just tender wen pricked with a fork.

BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE

As a matter of principle, I think desserts – at least those that are rich and sweet with sugar – should be reserved for special occasions. And what’s more special than the beginning of blueberry season?

How I love those berries. When I was a girl, it was a rare treat to eat bowls of berries with real, heavy cream and spoonfuls of sugar.

These days I’ll make a cool meal on a hot summer day by filling half a cantaloupe with lightly sweetened blueberries. But my favorite blueberry dish is a sinfully easy dessert called blueberry crumble.

It’s similar to other fruit crumbles, except with blueberries, all you have to do is wash the fruit – no peeling, pitting, coring or slicing.

Makes 4-6 servings

3 cups blueberries ¾ cup flour

6 tablespoons sugar 1/3 cup butter

Juice of 1 lemon 6 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon salt

Wash the berries and put in a buttered, 9-inch square baking dish, or casserole of a similar size. Add the sugar, lemon and cinnamon and stir to coat the berries.

Combine the flour, butter, sugar and salt and mix with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture over the berries and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

It’s superb as is, but you can splurge an ad ice cream, too.