Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 14, 2010

Grandma's Kitchen: Summer is delicious

By Edna Schaffer
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — Summer is delicious, take a big bite! It will be gone before you know it!

If you were taking a visual tour of my house today, you'd find one of my favorite birthday cards from April still displayed on the dining room table. It's an amazing photo of a "granny woman" sitting on the edge of the porch, elbows resting on her legs, and her hands supporting a gigantic slice of what appears to be an Arkansas watermelon. Her face is buried in it and even more surprising, the woman looks exactly like me! I can't imagine where my granddaughter found it. The words beneath the picture read, "Life is delicious. Take big bites!" I hope that is what you have all been doing. Think of the snow blower resting in the garage and get outside to enjoy the beauty surrounding us. Consider all the folks who drive hundreds of miles to see what we can enjoy just outside our windows.

Daughter Vicki from Ohio was here for two weeks in May and brought enough herbs from her garden to duplicate it in pots on my back deck. She also pruned, weeded, and planted flowers around the house and on her Dad's grave. So now, Molly keeps busy watering. It is a team effort. Molly and her husband, who live nearby, have been living in with me since January, caring for me and the house. Vicki's visit allowed them some time to work in their office and around their home. They also made a quick trip to their farm in the Copper Country and squeezed in a short visit with their oldest daughter and her family. The little ones love going to the farm with Grandma and Grandpa.

Vicki and I played a little while she was here. She wanted to go yard-saling, which I love, too. She found a treasure — a beautiful iron skillet she fell in love with. All of the girls use iron cookware. I always head straight to the cookware at yard sales. Most of my knives, and there are many, are second-hand and I wouldn't trade them for new ones. Seems much of the older stuff is sturdier and better quality than today's products.

While Vicki was here we also worked a little. We got the pantry and freezer cleaned out. I was appalled at the amount of food that had to be discarded. My Mother would disown me for wasting — a cardinal sin in my childhood home. She'd never let me peel potatoes because my peels were too thick.

I feel like I need to remind us all again to watch our food labels. We had a small package of cookies on the kitchen table and the label stated they were made in India. Molly mentioned she saw some candy at a checkout that was made in China. Food is certainly a global market item and we all know many other countries do not have the strict regulations that we do. Goodness knows we have enough trouble with what's grown and produced here. I still prefer food that doesn't have frequent flier miles.

I'm certainly reminded again of how fast the years pass. Our oldest great-granddaughter is graduating from high school in June and will go on to study nursing. We will be adding two more wee ones to our family tree by autumn, bringing the great-grandchild total to 21. They are all so sweet and bright. The only problem is that I don't have a purse big enough to carry their photos. Vicki brought me a picture of one of her other beautiful granddaughters, looking angelic in her First Communion dress and veil. It brought tears to my eyes. The second photo was definitely more human. She was stretched out on the floor in her rumpled finery with slices of cold cucumber soothing each eye. Isn't it good to know that even celestial beings can use a little help now and then?

Since the weather has grown hot, we've cooked larger meals every other day and have "planned-overs" on the in-between days. Doesn't that sound better than leftovers? Vicki made enough heat-and-eat meals to refill my freezer, and I pledged to be more careful about storing and checking expiration dates on pantry staples.

You probably have enough asparagus recipes by now but I bet you don't have this one for asparagus pizza. Vicki brought us the recipe by way of our good friend Monica Evans and as we can't leave well enough alone, we've tweaked it just a little. As I write, I'm munching on a big slice that Molly made for dinner last night. It is another vegetarian meal we can all love. It is simple to make and large enough (10-by-15 inches) for easy to reheat "planned-overs."

Asparagus Pizza

1 10-by-15-inch crust, from the refrigerator section at your grocery

2 T. butter

1 T. flour

Garlic salt to taste

1 c. milk

½ to ¾ c. grated parmesan cheese

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

½ jar sundried tomatoes, about 2-3 ozs. chopped

Fresh basil leaves to taste (snipped in smaller pieces)

4 to 6 ozs. grated parmesan cheese (in addition to cheese above)

Spread pizza crust on a 10-by-15-inch cookie sheet that has been oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and garlic salt, then stir in milk. Continue to stir and when mixture begins to thicken, stir in ½ - ¾ cup grated parmesan. Spread over crust.

Wash asparagus and blanch for one minute. Rinse with cold water and drain. Arrange over top of pizza sauce. Spread the chopped sundried tomatoes over pizza. Sprinkle with fresh basil and top with final 4 to 6 oz. of grated cheese. Bake at 400° until slightly brown and bubbly.

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It's hard to believe Memorial Day has come and gone. June is here — the time for celebrating grads and dads, and whipping up some burnt offerings on the grill. Here's one for you, but no burning please. It's called Butterflied Chicken under Brick. I called Burritt's Market on Front Street and they will butterfly chickens for us. They also carry naturally grown chickens.

Butterflied Chicken under Brick

First, wash and dry as many bricks as you'll have chicken halves — two bricks per whole chicken. Cover each individual brick securely with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Choose a chicken that weighs about 3-3½ pounds. Wash and dry it. Rub the chicken with lime juice and olive oil, and sprinkle with snipped fresh rosemary, ground sage, salt and pepper. Place on preheated grill racks over medium heat. Cover with foil covered bricks, cook about 15 minutes. Remove bricks and turn chicken. Replace the bricks and grill for another 15 to 20 minutes, until chicken is golden brown and fork-tender. Be sure it is done to your liking, and the temperature in the thicker parts and joints registers 165°-170°.

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Parting Shot:

"It takes 20 years to build a good reputation but only five minutes to ruin it."

— Warren Buffet

Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached at coachngrandma@charter.net. For more Grandma's Kitchen columns by Edna Shaffer, log on to record-eagle.com/ednashaffer.