What do you like best about summer? One thing I absolutely love about summer is summer fruits.
I love the look of them all lined up at summer markets. Plum skins shining purple black, fuzzy peaches blushing, blueberries twinkling, raspberries squeaking in the colander — there is not a summer fruit I don’t love, and that includes tomatoes (but that’s another story).
I love the way they smell, too. Cantaloupe with its musky aroma, watermelon that is sweetly sticky. And the way summer fruit tastes! Now there’s something to write home about; ripe nectarines that ooze summer at its best, tart cherries that make your lips smack together.
I love the way summer fruits snack — right in the hand. No preparation required. And I love to cook with them. They make wonderful light desserts, add pizzazz to entrees, liven up salads and add zing to summer coolers.
I simply cannot be talked out of my enthusiasm for summer fruits. Now’s the time, people! Seize that summer fruit while it’s ripe!
Get started with these fruits:
It’s easy to pick up a bag of prewashed and cleaned greens, but when you find out how easy they are to grow, you just might become a gardener without even trying. Take a look at the price you’re paying for that fancy bag and you’ll receive an extra dose of incentive for growing your own.
Start by adding a packet of mixed greens to your window boxes — lettuce comes up fast and you’ll have time to harvest it a couple of times before your ornamental plantings thicken up and push them out of the way. Potting up a patio container of greens is another easy way to have a salad at your fingertips.
No store can carry every variety you can plant easily. And lettuces make a pretty border that will be gone (and eaten) by the time those impatience and petunias climb over the edges of the garden.
If you enjoy indulging your wild side, try picking greens for free. Consider nettles (stinging nettles lose their sting when cooked like spinach), chickweed, dandelions, lamb’s quarters (also called wild spinach), shepherd’s purse and watercress, to name just a few. I can find all of these in my backyard, so they certainly are plentiful.
For seed-package mixes, try a mild mesclun mix for a complete salad from a single package. You’ll find a variety of color, textures and a mild taste. Spinach is very mild-tasting when picked before the heat hits or before it goes to seed. Other favorite greens include arugula, leaf lettuce, bibb, butter crunch, butterhead and oakleaf (available in red, curly and standard).
For hearty greens that hold up to steaming or stir-frying, try Swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, collard greens and kale.
Salad dressings are not just for salads. Some varieties will double as marinades for meats on the grill, while others make a fine dipping sauce for everything from carrot sticks to chicken drummies. Making your own will save you money; that’s one benefit to be sure, but many times, it also can save on calories.
It doesn’t matter if you are a child of the ’50s or a culinary junkie, it seems everyone loves Jell-O at some point in their culinary life.
I’ve been sorting through years of collecting cookbooks and came across a little gem called the “Joys of Jell-O.” First published by General Foods Kitchens, these little books were advertising marvels, espousing all kinds of uses for our favorite brand of gelatin.
If I’m in a fowl mood, I like to tell people how my grandma used to make gelatin by boiling down chicken feet, which she would snatch up after we butchered a flock of old hens. Nowadays, I stay away from such shenanigans and just explain, if asked, that all gelatin is made from collagen, collected as a byproduct of the butchering process.
Which means that true vegetarians do not eat gelatin products. And I don’t even want to get into what constitutes a kosher gelatin because that’s a convoluted process. Rabbis differ on what it means to have a food product so far changed from the original so as to render it acceptable.
Actually, the fact that gelatin is so different from anything else is what attracts and repels us at the same time. But the truth is, when Jell-O first came into being in 1897, it made the housewife’s job much easier once they caught on to the product. Previously, home cooks relied on sheets of prepared gelatin, which had to be clarified by boiling it with egg whites and shells and dripped through a jelly bag before the cook could turn it into shimmering molds — a time-consuming process.
Gelatin is a common ingredient in foods because it is so versatile. It can be used as a gelling agent (as in Jell-O), as a thickener, an emulsifier and a stabilizer. You’ll find it in a variety of foods, from yogurt and chewing gum to gummy bears and marshmallows.
General Foods Corp., the original distributor of Jell-O cookbooks, was bought by the Philip Morris Co., which also owned Kraft Inc. Today, Kraft Foods owns the brand. For more recipes and information on Jell-O, go to KraftFoods.com.
June Dairy Month started in 1937 as National Milk Month, a way to promote milk during the summer’s peak production months. Calves are born in the spring and then the mothers produce milk all summer.
During World War II, rations were in place for some dairy, such as canned milk and cheese. After the war, the promotion set out to recover these sales lost to rationing — “Sales, not Surplus” was the goal.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board promotes the dairy industry year-round. Recipes featured on this page are courtesy of the WMMB.
Today, we tend to equate June Dairy Month with the dairy breakfasts on the farm —?a great way to meet your neighbors and local dairy farmers while enjoying a great breakfast.
Check out these events:
Rock County dairy breakfast, 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, June 10, at the Brandl Farm, 10817 E. Lake Shore Road in Clinton.
20th annual Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau Federation farm breakfast, Saturday, June 17, at the Family Af-Ayr Farm, 2880 Krupke Road in Caledonia, Illinois. 815-962-0653, WinnebagoBooneFarmBureau.org
Walworth County Farm Bureau dairy breakfast, Saturday, June 17, Walworth County Fairgrounds, 411 E. Court St., Elkhorn. 262-723-2613
1 cup (6 oz.) feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. cracked peppercorns
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts
1 (12-inch) loaf French bread, cut into 24 slices
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine cheeses, peppercorns and nuts and mix well. Set aside.
Set oven rack 4 inches below broiler and heat broiler. Brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and place on rack in boiler pan. Broil bread slices until lightly browned on both sides, turning once. Spread each slice with cheese mixture and serve immediately.
Meatballs with gremolata
— Burrata is a semi-soft Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. Gremolata is an Italian condiment made from parsley, garlic and lemon.
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
3 oz. sliced prosciutto, chopped
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
1 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
16 oz. burrata cheese
2 cups flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 Tbsps. olive oil
Heat oven to 375 F. In large bowl, combine beef, pork, prosciutto, egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, chili flakes and Asiago. Mix well to combine. Cut burrata into 16 pieces.
Use three tablespoons of meat mixture for each meatball to make 16 balls. Flatten each ball; place piece of burrata in center. Wrap meat mixture around burrata so cheese is enclosed. Place meatballs on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare gremolata: finely chop parsley and garlic. Combine with lemon zest and olive oil in small bowl. Season with salt.
Top meatballs with gremolata and serve.
Rhubarb cream cheese pie
3 cups rhubarb, 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar, divided
1 Tbsp. flour
1 prepared graham cracker crust (10-inch)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
6 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Heat oven to 350 F.
Combine rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar and flour in nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts. Pour into prepared pie crust.
Meanwhile, beat together cream cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each. Mix in 1 tablespoon vanilla. Pour over rhubarb layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until puffed and golden.
Combine remaining sour cream, sugar and vanilla; spread over hot pie. Set on a wire rack to cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate before serving.
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