Sunny Summer Salad

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Try this yummy, refreshing and healthy salad when produce is at its’ peak during the summer. It’s a snap to put together, and stores well for a few hours, or is delicious served right away. The only special tool you need is a good sharp peeler. I prefer a Y style peeler, and I think Rösli is the best brand, it stays sharp. I love zucchini this way. It has such a different flavor than when cooked. If you don’t think you care for squash, try this recipe, you just might change your mind!

This serving size is for a generous 2, so double it for more servings.

Sunny Summer Salad

1 Yellow Squash, small
1 Zucchini, small
1/4 a medium sweet onion (Vidalia or Walla Walla)
1/2 each of 1 Red and Yellow Roasted Bell Pepper, sliced into ribbons. (store bought or homemade)
Parsley, minced
1 large clove of Garlic, peeled, minced

Dressing:
1 Tbsp fresh Lemon Juice (about a 1/4 of a lemon)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Salt, Pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 tsp of any mediterranean style spice mix

Optional: Fresh Ricotta Cheese.

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1. Cut the top and bottom off the squat. Using your vegetable peeler, ‘peel’ it into ribbons working from top to bottom. I peel down just to the seed core, then rotate it 90 degrees and slice the next side, working your way around the vegetable. Toss the core.
2. Cut your whole onion in half, then in half again. Lay on its cut side and holding one of the root ends, slice into thin quarter rings.
3. Whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice, add the garlic and seasoning.
4. Toss all the ingredients together.
5. If desired, top with a dollop of ricotta, fresh as possible.
Tip: If storing for longer than a 1/2 hour, do not salt it until serving. Squash has a lot of water. Salt will pull that water out and your salad dressing will be diluted and weak tasting.

This is one of those dishes where there are very few ingredients, as such, buy the highest quality produce you can find. And if your store doesn’t carry fresh Ricotta, any decent Italian Deli will carry it.

Summer in Minnesota is short, so I don’t like to dawdle in the kitchen. Toss this together, pair it with a protein and head outside for a picnic!


Shrimp Pasta in a White Wine reduction sauce

Shrimp Pasta in a White Wine reduction sauce

When I need a quick meal, I turn to my pantry and freezer, looking for what can be defrosted quickly.

Shrimp is a sure bet for a quick nights meal. I lay mine out on parchment on top of my granite. The stone pulls the cold out of the shrimp and defrosts it lickity split.

While your shrimp is defrosting, start the water in your stock pot over high heat and get your sauce going:

Chop a couple of large shallots in to a fine dice,

Melt a couple tbsp of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking until they are translucent. Add a good generous glug of white wine (about a cup). I used a chardonnay. It should be a wine you would drink, since you will be reducing it and icky/off flavors will only get amplified.

Reduce the wine by more than half, until it starts to look more golden in color and all the alcohol has been burned off. If you start with 1 cup, reduce to 1/3ish. I eye-ball it based on the starting level in the pan.

Add 1-1.5 cups of seafood stock, fish stock, lobster or shrimp stock; or in a pinch, chicken stock. Reduce this by half again.

Your water should be boiling by now, generously salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions. If you are using Gluten Free Pasta, you will drain and rinse the pasta in hot water. You must generously salt the water or your pasta will taste flat. I use the palm of my hand for about 6 quarts of water.

Back to the stock, while it is reducing, prep your veggies. In this dish I used some leftover baby spinach, part of a leftover heirloom tomato, defrosted green peas, and a little finely diced red pepper. I put these in a large serving bowl with some fresh finely chopped parsley.

When the shrimp are defrosted (you can use a colander and running cold water to defrost, but be sure to pat dry), toss with a generous amount of fresh minced (or put through a press) garlic, salt, pepper (I used Szchewuan) and a good squeeze of lemon. Cook in a sauté pan over medium-high heat with a good dollop of olive oil. Don’t waste extra virgin oil, just use regular. They should be done in about 2 mins top. Set aside and keep warm.

When your sauce is done reducing, add a squeeze of lemon, some crushed tarragon, remove from heat and swirl in a couple tablespoons of unsalted COLD butter. Swirl until the sauce looks thick and glossy.

When the pasta is al dente (meaning it has a bit of bite to it, not super soft), then use your tongs and straight from the pot, to add the pasta directly to the sauce. You want some of that starchy pasta water to help thicken the sauce and add flavor. (If you are cooking GF, save a small amount of water, drain, rinse and then add the noodles. Add water if you need to loosen it up in the sauce) The heat of the sauce will continue to cook the pasta. Do not overload the sauce with pasta, you most likely will not use a whole package of pasta, eyeball it. Pour the entire thing over the top of the veggies and toss till the spinach wilts.

Serve with the shrimp on top, a glass of the white wine, and a nice salad on the side.

*See recipe modifications to make with GF noodles.


Billie Rupp’s Popcorn Balls

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Here is my second attempt to post my godmothers wonderful popcorn balls. It appears wordpress is not exactly easy to navigate for someone who is technologically handicapped. My wonderful, reminiscent ramblings were deleted somehow, some way I’ve yet to comprehend.
So back to old school, type it up in Word and then copy/paste. I’m never going to rely on word-press to save my draft for me, no Sir-E-bob. (UGH! SO FRUSTRATING!)

When I was 6, my parents moved our family up from California to a cul-de-sac in the western suburbs of Portland, Oregon. I have fond memories of that house: riding my banana bike with ‘reins’ (a piece of string) tied to the handlebars of which I had vivid fantasies of riding some great white majestic mare; making mud pies with my brother, digging caves in haystacks of cut drying wheat in the fields next to our housing development, playing on our Jungle Gym; and going over to Mrs. Rupp’s house, a wonderful woman who would become my Godmother.

Mrs. Rupp you see, always had something wonderful going on in her kitchen. My own mother was a stay at home mom, but as we all know, the grass is greener elsewhere, and my mother was a busy woman. My little brother and I would regularly traipse over to see what interesting thing she was working on, and hopefully score a treat.

Mrs. Rupp had the best sarsaparilla ever. She made the syrup from scratch and kept it in a mason jar in her fridge. She’d fill a tall glass with ice, pour the molasses colored brown liquid in, then fill it with old fashioned seltzer water. Half the thrill was holding the glass up and letting the bubbles pop in our noses. Mrs. Rupp’s mother made shrunken apple ‘people’, which created a mixed reaction of ‘neato’ and ‘gross’. But, the memory most fond for me was of her popcorn balls.

You see, every Halloween, Mrs. Rupp handed out homemade popcorn balls. Creamy, sticky, caramel-loaded goodness that we waited a year for. Those were the days eh? When people actually handed out homemade goodies like real candied apples (bright red and shiny), real lollypops, homemade divinity and fudge, real candies. Oh yes, those were the days alright, and lest I start on a rant about the world we live in now…we’ll move on.

My Godmother would hand them out at Halloween, but I make them over the Christmas holidays. I prefer to give baskets of homemade treats over store bought trinkets which end up in the trash. I wrap my popcorn balls up in waxed paper and tie them off with a piece of string or colorful rubber band, and nestle them in with other homemade goodies. So, as we begin the Christmas giving season, here is the gift of my Godmothers famous (at least in my mind) Popcorn Balls:

Pop 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels and pour in to a large bowl.

In a saucepan melt:
1 stick of salted butter (extra for your hands and molding)
30 large marshmallows
1 cup of brown sugar, packed

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You could use unsalted and add back a bit of salt, but I just use regular salted butter. The marshmallows I buy are Gluten Free, be sure to check the ingredients if you are intolerant. I supposed you could make your marshmallow from scratch, but I don’t bother. If you do, a bag is 10 oz and you don’t use the entire bag, so I’d estimate you need about 9oz.

Once the mixture is all melted and all the marshmallows have turned to goo, pour the whole thing over the popped corn and stir to mix.

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Then take additional softened butter and liberally rub it all over your hands. Grab a lump and form in to a ball, putting on some waxed paper (or parchment) to cool. Try not to compact them too much. They should be kinda loose, just packed enough to keep them in their shape. See in the photo below? These are not lead balls of sugar. When they cool, you want to be able to pull them apart, its half the fun!

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You will likely need to reload your hands more than once to keep the mix from sticking and making clubs out of your hands. You’ll want to work fairly quickly to keep the mix from setting up. I recommend for large quantities you make multiple batches instead of doubling. Its easier to work with while warm.
Note: If they are too warm, they will not stick together. Just wait another minute and try again. Keep your hands covered in butter to keep them from sticking to your hands-which can be frustrating!

That’s it! I hope you enjoy them as much as we all do. I hope they become a tradition in your house, and if you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below.