Cooks’ Exchange: Recipes for the fleeting days of summer

August 30, 2018

Am I the only one wondering what happened to August? The grand finale of summer suddenly finds me reflecting on the past, so many years ago when summer seemed to overflow with never-ending fun things to do like running through the sprinkler in the backyard, playing hopscotch in the street, cooling off with ice pops and Cho-Chos (a frozen chocolate malt treat), swimming in Lake Monona at Hudson Park or Lake Mendota’s Tenney Park, and later, having supper on the back porch.

A few hours later found us sitting on curbs under the street light a few houses away with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood where we talked and laughed until being called home at 9 o’clock. Cocoa and marshmallows awaited our arrival before prayers were said from our summer cots on the front porch that promised a cool night’s sleep until the sun rose the next morning when, weather permitting, we’d do it all over again.

Childhood memories bring a smile and it’s only natural to hope today’s youngsters are repeating the same kind of fun we had on Talmadge Street when I was growing up.

A more recent discovery was sitting next to a garden up north and watching a few large flying insects test the sweetness of purple phlox and Turk’s Cap Lilies. I’d never seen them before and they were too fast to study up close before flying away. That evening I opened my “Our Wisconsin” June/July issue and found a picture of the insect, a hummingbird moth, described as a cross between a dragonfly and a bumblebee that likes hot weather and the dog days of August, all of which made my day.

I’ve been a subscriber to the Wisconsin Natural Resources publication for years, and thanks to my neighbor, Carol, I now receive “Our Wisconsin,” both of which keep me tuned in to the past, present, and future of the state I love best. Their June/July issue offered even more in the “What’s Cookin’ in Wisconsin” section featuring Ben Denk, Wausau, with eight excellent outdoor summer recipes, one being a “simple, no- bake” lime pie that will please my sons and countless readers who share their love for Key lime pie. Denk admits that his cooking inspiration happens to be his 102-year-old great-grandmother, Bertha Grotke, who ran a family restaurant in Marshfield 50 years ago.

Cool lime pie

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 can (14-ounces) sweetened condensed milk

6 ounces (from a 12-ounce can, thawed) limeade concentrate

4 drops green food coloring, optional

1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided

9-inch graham cracker pie crust

Chopped pistachios, mandarin oranges, and sliced kiwifruit

In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and milk until smooth. Beat in limeade and food coloring if desired. Fold in half of the whipped topping. Pour into crust. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Spoon remaining whipped topping onto center of pie; sprinkle with pistachios. Garnish with oranges and kiwi. (Nuts can be omitted, or substitute other nuts and fruit for garnish if desired.) Keep refrigerated.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Sharing the same page with the lime pie is a recipe for fried bluegill fillets using different coating ingredients than mine, that being grated Parmesan cheese. This might be something Shawn M. would like to add to his book of “favorites.”

Fried bluegill fillets

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning

¼ teaspoon pepper

6 eggs

1 ½ pounds bluegill fillets

½ cup vegetable oil, divided

In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese, salt, lemon-pepper and pepper. In another bowl, whisk eggs. Dip fillets in eggs, then coat with crumb mixture. Dip again in eggs and crumb mixture. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat; cook fillets in batches in oil for 2-3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork, adding more oil to skillet as needed.

Yield: 4 servings

Leslie Willison, Stoughton, requested two soup recipes, one being a broccoli cheese soup that doesn’t use Velveeta cheese and can be prepared on the stove. One was found in Dot Vartan’s 1998 cookbook, “Is it Soup Yet?”

Broccoli cheddar cheese soup

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

¼ cup flour

4 cups low-fat milk

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon basil leaves

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

3 cups broccoli flowerets

1 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a 4-quart stock pot. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in flour, and then half of the milk. Mix well. Add rest of the milk, salt, mustard, basil, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Mix well. Add broccoli flowerets. Over medium heat, bring milk close to the boiling point. Cook for 20 minutes, being careful not to scald the milk. Stir often. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted, about 5 minutes. Serves 6.

Another broccoli cheese soup recipe was found in “Magic Spices,” an exceptional book written by Donna L. Weihofen, R.D. featuring 200 healthy recipes. Weihofon is a registered dietitian and nutritionist here in Madison. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs, and also author of “The Cancer Survival Cookbook.” This recipe is a “delicious low-fat version of a soup using spices that make the difference.”

Broccoli cheese soup

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

¼ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup low-fat chicken broth

11 ounces fat-free half-and-half

¼ teaspoon thyme

¼ teaspoon white pepper

10 ounces frozen chopped broccoli (about 3 cups)

3 ounces fat-free processed American cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy saucepan, heat butter. Add onions and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until mushrooms are tender. Add flour and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add broth, half-and-half, thyme, and white pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture thickens slightly. Add broccoli, and cook just until broccoli is tender. Add cheese and stir until cheese melts. Add salt and pepper to taste. If soup is too thick add extra chicken broth to thin.

Serves 4

Last, but never least, it’s a perfect time for fresh corn recipes. Here is a corn relish submitted by Louise Kennedy for the St. Mary of the Lake Westport cookbook to be eaten fresh, not canned. It hit the jackpot for me in many ways, one being the six large and beautiful ears of corn for a mere dollar at an up north grocery store, and the end result. Although I didn’t have turmeric on hand, I substituted with a shake or two of French thyme, Italian seasoning, and something else for an excellent product to be kept in the refrigerator.

Corn relish

6 large corn ears

¼ cup chopped green pepper

½ cup chopped red sweet pepper

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped red and white onion

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup salad oil

Boil corn for about 5 minutes. Using a sharp knife, hold cooled cob straight up and cut from top to bottom. Place corn in a large bowl and using hands, separate corn into individual kernels. Add chopped vegetables. Mix seasonings in vinegar and oil and pour over corn in a large bowl, mix well, and refrigerate. Makes four or more cups. (Mine measured 7 cups when putting in glass jars to refrigerate.)

Update hourly