Cooking with Butter...Steamed Asparagus With Brown Butter and Hazelnuts

 Here’s a great recipe for asparagus from "Everyday Food".   This a perfectly delicious way to use brown butter!
If you can't find or afford hazelnuts, substitute toasted almonds, as I did.  We have "found" asparagus growing in a ditch near our home while out walking when we lived farther in the country, and older homes often have asparagus already established.  If you don't have your own, sometimes neighbors will let you pick theirs that they don't like or want.  Asparagus, like rhubarb, once established, will grow for years with a little care - good for any garden.  It might be "gourmet" to some, but to Grandma, it was a Spring standby.
 Steamed Asparagus With Brown Butter and Hazelnuts 
  2            Bunches  Asparagus -- 2 pounds trimmed
     1/4     Cup  Butter
                Coarse Salt -- to taste
                Pepper -- to taste
     1/3     Cup  Hazelnuts -- toasted, loose skins rubbed off
Set a steamer basket in a saucepan with 2 inches simmering water.  Add asparagus, cover and steam until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.  Transfer to a warm platter..
Discard water; heat butter, cut in pieces, over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown and most of the foam has subsided, 5-6 minutes.  Don't let it burn.
Pour over asparagus, toss to combine, season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with chestnuts and serve immediately.
4 Servings
Per Serving: 177 Calories; 19g Fat (91.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 118mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 0 Grain (Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 3 1/2 Fat.

Strawberry Chiffon Pie

When Strawberries are in season this is a nice cool pie to make. Different than the normal Strawberry Pie it is easy to make though takes a little more time than just plain strawberry with a glaze on type of pie. 
Chiffon Pies were in style when I was a young housewife and I made them often, usually using what fruit was in season. In Season fruit is better flavored than out of season and usually much cheaper to buy. For this one I used a purchased graham cracker crust but you could make a regular pie crust or there are other cookie crust to purchase. How about chocolate or maybe shortbread cookie crust? Either way this is a very good pie.
Strawberry Chiffon Pie
1 pint fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (not Jello)
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup hot water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
dash salt
1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped
2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1 - 9” graham cracker crust
Crush most of the strawberries, about 1 1/4 cups; cover with 1/2 cup sugar and let stand 30 minutes.

Soften gelatin in cold water;  than dissolve in hot water. Let cool, Add strawberries, lemon juice, and salt. Chill in a bowl till mixture mounds when spooned. Fold in the whipped cream.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks; gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, beating till stiff peaks form. Fold into strawberry pixture. Pour into crust.
Chill until firm at least 4 hours. Top with additonal whipped cream and saved strawberries to decorate.
TIP: Do include the salt. Most sweet desserts need some salt to bring out the flavor.

Sunday in Iowa...

A gardener lives here...
In Martinsburg, Iowa
on the edge of town next to a field with new corn

Cooking with butter...Noodles with Brown Butter and Cracker Crumbs

This photo is from Sue - she doesn't use a recipe either!

 One of the dishes I enjoyed as a kid was noodles with brown butter and cracker crumbs. Now, I do not know if this was a German dish, most likely, as we were raised in a mostly German community. But, I have fond memories of my Mother, Grandmother and Aunts making this.
 Sue says that French chef Pierre Franey said his mother made this recipe and called it "Alsatian noodles".  Our grandfather's family immigrated from Colmar in Alsace, so that may be the origin of the recipe in our family.
 Sue and I still make it for our families and I will try to make it and write down the directions and amounts. This is one of those, “I always make it” like this, with no recipe or directions. So here goes.

Noodles with Brown Butter and Cracker Crumbs

8 ounces of dried egg noodles (we prefer thin noodles for this)
2/3 cup butter*
1 sleeve or about 2 cups cracker crumbs*

Start the butter melting, it needs a little while to Brown. You want it to be brown not just melted or gold color, but brown so you get that flavor. Also, margarine will not work with this. Must be butter. Better for you anyway than stick margarine.
Coarsely crush the crackers. Putting them in a plastic zip top bag works well. Not fine crumbs, as you want them to get buttery.
Put the noodles on to cook, using package directions. When done drain, put in bowl, sprinkle with crumbs. Now comes the best part. Pour the browned butter over all and with two forks toss. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and enjoy.
*Remember the butter must be brown and this will take the longest time.
*You can add any left over party crackers, but saltines work the best.
This will easily feed four with leftovers and at $1.06 for noodles, 77 cents for butter, and 46 cents for crackers makes an inexpensive meal.

Ham, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad

This is a recipe I have been making since the 70's, I make it several times every summer, especially when we have parsley in the garden.   
You can have a pasta salad in a half hour; it’s at its best at room temperature. This makes it a great salad for the buffet table or a front porch supper because you don’t have to have it cold.  
We are close to the home of famous Maytag blue cheese, so I use it, but even the blue cheese crumbles are excellent in this recipe.  If you have leftovers, refrigerate them and reheat them just slightly in the microwave before serving, maybe 20 seconds or so.
Ham, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad
4 ounces ham -- julienned
1 cup Pecans -- broken
4 Ounces blue cheese -- crumbled
1/3 cup parsley -- chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary – crushed
½ teaspoon minced garlic
8 ounces Pasta -- bow-tie
3 or 4 ounces Parmesan cheese --shredded
Combine all ingredients except pasta and parmesan, let stand 30 minutes. 
Cook bow ties 12 minutes or follow package directions. Drain and let cool until just warm; combine with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve warm or room temperature.
6-8 servings

Per Serving : 348 Calories; 24g Fat (60.3% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 388mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 4 Fat.

Cooking with Butter...Blondies with Brown Butter

 A good recipe for Blondies is this recipe from the Chow web site. They taste a lot like toffee and are moist.
 The browned butter gives them a great flavor, what isn’t better with browned butter?
It will foam up as it melts and browns so be sure you have a deep enough pan. I used my deeper frying pan and browned until it smelled nutty. You will know by the aroma as quickly as by the color. While it is cooling, you can chop the nuts and measure out the dry ingredients. No mixer, one bowl, easy to make. I did toast the nuts while the oven was preheating, then they had time to cool.

Browned Butter Pecan Blondies     
Makes: 24 (2-inch) bars
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter, cut into large pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole pecans toasted and coarsely chopped
 Heat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 13-by-9-inch glass or metal baking dish with parchment paper and set it aside.
Golden Brown
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Continue to cook, stirring and occasionally scraping the sides with a rubber spatula, until the butter turns amber in color, smells nutty, and the solids are browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.   
Immediately transfer the butter to a large heatproof bowl, making sure to scrape in the browned solids from the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.    Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Chop toasted nuts.
Add the brown sugar to the browned butter in bowl and stir to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir. Using the rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until just combined, being careful not to over mix. (The batter will be very thick.) Fold in the pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, push it to the edges, and smooth it into an even layer.
Bake until the edges are starting to brown and a tooth pick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.
To remove the blondies, lift the parchment paper and remove from the baking pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 24 (2-inch) bars.

Front Porch Suppers

Clockwise; top left: "Cold Cuts", 24 hour Salad, Snowflake Rolls, Relish Plate, Deviled Eggs with 3 Bean Salad

When Myrna and I were kids, our Grandmother served summer Sunday night suppers on her large, East-facing porch.  We often ate there, and so did drop-in family and friends.  It was an easy way to entertain; it looked spontaneous but was well-planned.  She had a big old kitchen table on the porch that was filled with food, buffet style, and the adults sat in chairs and rockers, and we kids often took our plates out on the large front steps.
Grandma's front porch 
The beauty of Front Porch Suppers is that everything is made ahead – and if you don’t get drop-in guests you won’t have to cook on Monday either. That was Grandma’s strategy – most folks at those Sunday evening suppers weren’t invited ahead of time to supper; they dropped in around mealtime and were invited to stay.  Smart cooks were prepared.
The centerpiece of these suppers were the main dish salads.  These  recipes are sure winners.  If you know you will have a crowd, choose 2 salads instead of just doubling one, you're bound to please everyone.  Put them out buffet style and let people serve themselves.
Then fill out the menu.  Think relish plates, “cold cuts”, an old-fashioned term for a cold meat and cheese tray, pickles and canned relishes of almost any kind, deviled eggs (that old hostess standby), homemade or purchased breads and rolls. Set out the mustard, butter and mayonnaise and let folks assemble their own sandwiches. Quick breads like sliced nut breads are also a good addition if you have them. They also need to be made ahead to mellow and make them easy to slice. 
If the nights are starting to get a little cooler, any kind of baked beans are a good addition.  Bread sticks and chips may be added, depending on how many young people you may have.  Choose an easy dessert - leftovers from Sunday dinner or a simple frosted cake in the pan with coffee or tea.  This is how to be a relaxed hostess.

To get you started on your own front porch supper:

Sea Island Salad
Garden Pasta Salad
Linda's Green Bean Salad