Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 9, 2010

Grandma's Kitchen: Dog days of summer

Local Columnist

---- — When I think of the dog days my mind goes back to a skinny 10-year-old who was terrified just by the words.

Living in one of the hottest states in the union, I didn't connect the heat to the position of the Dog Star, Sirius, like the ancients did. I only knew that I along with everyone else was suffering from the heat; the temperature still 100° at 6 p.m. and most of the night. The sidewalks burned my feet. Few homes had electricity, hence no fans or refrigerators. My brother and I developed some strong biceps from carrying blocks of ice home on ropes from the ice house.

It was a fearful time for me because we believed dog days meant all dogs were rabid (and some were), and biting every person in sight. I was afraid I would become their new chew toy. I remember running and screaming at the sight of a strange dog on our block.

It saddens me to think of my little mother firing up the wood-burning cookstove to cook for our family of six. Our kitchen became a sauna. Today, I am doggone thankful for my blessings and know you are, too. My simple fan would have been an object of worship then.

• • •

You would have thought I was goofy from the heat if you were here this morning. By the time I got up, Molly had two dozen chocolate cupcakes cooling on the kitchen table. Would you believe I looked until noon for a special frosting recipe I wanted for her before I finally gave up?

My house is full of recipes, most of which are seldom used. I treat recipes like I treat my clothes, using the old favorites over and over. I keep promising myself that one day I am going to organize them, but somehow other things seem more urgent. I'd be so happy to hear that some of you have the same problems. That always helps me feel more normal!

• • •

Last month I was complaining about all the pests we'd had this spring, ending with our current crop of fruit flies. I'm guessing they're visiting you, too. One of our reader friends, Duane, sent us a cure you may want to try. Here it is: Put ½ to ¾ cup of vinegar in a small glass dish. Cover with waxed paper and seal with a rubber band; punch a few holes in the paper with an ice pick. Set by the kitchen sink. It catches flies and controls production. It is not pretty with its collection of dead flies in the bottom.

Cathy, my next-to-oldest daughter from New York, was here for a weekend visit. It was fun and fast. She made a great meal for me on Saturday, so Molly and I had a rerun on Monday night and finished it up. Cathy made an eggplant sauce, with tomatoes, garlic and herbs. We served it over whole wheat pasta. We also had tiny green beans, sautéed in sesame oil with garlic.

The star of the show was the best salad we've had all summer. It really wakes up your taste buds. It came to us from a Martha Stewart magazine and is called Iceberg Lettuce with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette. We used crumbled feta cheese because it's made with goat's milk and is lower in fat. Believe me, this salad is simple and will be loved by all. Make extra vinaigrette to keep on hand as it is great on all greens.

Iceberg Lettuce with Feta Cheese Vinaigrette

3 T. white vinegar

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 t. Dijon mustard

½ c. extra-virgin olive oil

¼ c. feta cheese, crumbled (recipe calls for blue)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 head iceberg lettuce, quartered into wedges

Whisk together vinegar, shallot and mustard. Pour in oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Whisk in half of the cheese. Season with salt.

Arrange lettuce wedges on plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with remaining feta cheese, and season with pepper.

• • •

Here is a delicious sandwich to brighten up your dog days and have everyone barking for more!

Bacon, Avocado and Tomato Sandwich

12-16 ozs. of bacon (about 8 slices)

8 slices hearty stone ground whole wheat bread


1 avocado, sliced

1 large tomato, sliced


Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined tray to drain.

Lightly toast bread, and spread with mayo. Pile on avocado, bacon and tomato. Salt to taste. Delicious!

Stay tuned to next month's column. I'm saving some fall recipes for you!

• • •

Parting Shot: Do you think God is upset when we pass a field of wildflowers and forget to notice it?

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 For more Grandma's Kitchen columns by Edna Shaffer, log on to