August Nights-Brown Butter Risotto and Raspberry Sauced Ice Cream

In Front Range country, where we live, late August is truly both sweet and savory. Days are finally cool enough to bake if you’ve a mind to and nights, if you’re blessed, are still warm enough to spend time outdoors. Of course, we might also get snow on the geraniums one day soon. If I look up at Pike’s Peak, which I do daily, I know it is only a matter of time before there’s “snow on the Peak.” Harbinger of snow HERE.
I wonder how many people actually run their lives according to the seasons; cooks and gardeners are gently tied always to the rhythms of the earth and what can be done when. Christians, among others, are tied to a calendar of sorts that serves to let us know (or remind us) that we are in God’s time, not our own. The year begins in late November or early December with Advent, just as the secular world is gearing down for the end of the year. I keep my feet firmly planted in both time zones, waking early at this time of year to watch the sun come up and drench the mesa and also waking early in December marking the days until Christ is born (again and again and again) in my heart.
While I was gone for two months to University of St. Thomas, my neighbors kept my potted herb garden alive (great thanks, dear friends) and, with a south window, I cheat the seasons (and the grocery store that charges $3.50 a tiny pack) and have sage, thyme and rosemary all year long. I try basil indoors to little avail. Parsley can work here, too, but is better outdoors or cheap at the store. The risotto recipe for today can be changed with the addition of a little fresh sage. You could try other fresh herbs, but most are somewhat delicate for this hearty risotto.

I love risotto because————————————————-

  • it tastes good
  • it is easy
  • you can put nearly anything in it
  • it’s a main course or a side
  • it reheats well (make lots)
  • it spans the seasons
  • the name caresses itself (rihsohhhhtoh)

I have a couple of ways of making it that shorten, or make simpler, the process. But the thing about it is that you HAVE to stand there and stir, adding broth; you are tied to the food in such a way that you see it change and be created right before your eyes. Fix it and forget it? Not risotto. You must make the time.

I’m sorry, honey, I can’t answer the phone. I’m stirring risotto.

I’m sorry, I can’t take the dog out, I’m stirring risotto.

Here’s one I made for Dave and me Monday night. (see below)

…………… Mums in their late summer glory out front………….

Brown Butter Risotto (with Leeks and Asparagus)
3T butter
1T olive oil
2 lrg. leeks (white part only) sliced thinly
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/3 c white wine
1 qt chicken stock, kept warm on stove (perhaps a tad more)
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1# asparagus, trimmed and cooked for 2-3 min
1/4 c shaved parmesan (use potato peeler on big hunk of cheese)
1/4 c cooked bacon, chopped or shredded sage, optional
In a heavy duty 4qt pot, heat butter until brown and bubbling; add oil. Stir in sliced leeks and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until leeks are tender, 5-8 min. Add white wine and a cup of chicken stock. Stir until thickened; add another cup of stock. Repeat adding stock and stirring frequently until rice is a bit more done than al dente and stock is gone. Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into large bowl or platter and top with asparagus and parmesan. Sprinkle with bacon or sage if desired.
……………………..One of many kinds of raspberry sauces———————–
Raspberry Sauced Ice Cream
Rinse and pick through about a pint and a half of fresh raspberries. Put them in a 3qt heavy saucepan and add 1/4 c sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer about 15 minutes, stirring often and adding water if the sauce is too thick. Turn off heat and let cool. Puree in food processor and eat within a day; otherwise, freeze for a winter dessert treat. (Sauce is also good on waffles.)
Ladle sauce over ice cream and add a large dash of Chambord to the dish, if desired.
Wine: Try an older Sauvignon Blanc or even a White Burgundy–just barely chilled; please don’t drink it terribly cold with this risotto.
I’m heading to NapaBold tomorrow and will surely come back with a few new ideas, if not needing a new cellar. The “real world” begins next week as I begin teaching lessons again and continue the job hunt, which is starting to bear fruit. Enjoy your weekend. Love somebody and, oh, yeah… If you make the risotto….. eat quickly before someone grabs yours.

In memoriam, Edward M. Kennedy-who loved to sing—

Sing a new song, or at least listen!


(Today’s playing includes “Sicut Cervus” (Palestrina), “Be Thou my Vision” (Rutter version) and lesson plan music. Listening: French Chansons (The Scholars of London), OG- MHADAINN SHAMHRAIDH (Summer Dawn) by Kathleen MacInnes-the Scottish Gaelic version)

August Nights-Zucchini Soup and Grilled Peach Sundaes

Make the time.

There are days when I could eat nothing but soup. That’s usually when the weather begins to turn or when it’s really cold outside and the thought of the stove on for hours on end (somtimes less) or the crockpot bubbling away while I practice is just too tempting. If I have alot of other things to do, I might even put the bread machine and the crockpot on at the same time, put on stacks of John Rutter, Take Six, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir or just my very favorite large choral works. Those might be “Messiah,” of course; Verdi or Mozart “Requiem,” Schubert “Mass in G,” Bach “Magnificat,” etc. Lately the list has expanded while Amazon cleans up in the weeks after the grad music courses. Thanks, Angie.
————–more Margo flowers…what a gardener
In the summer, however, I shy away from any soup at all except for the occasional cold soup. My husband is the gazpacho maker, so I seldom even do that. Somehow, this last week, however, zucchini soup recipes began to appear and I thought, “Surely I can improve on that.” I don’t have a ton of zucchini because I live on solid bedrock with a yard full of deer, lizards and the occasional mountain lion and bear. Flowers I can do; veg–no. The farmers’ markets are full of the stuff whether or not you or a friend grow any–and you might want to shred some and freeze it for winter zucchini bread, omelettes, zucchini cakes (fry ’em up like potato pancakes with a little onion and some egg and flour to hold them together) or whatever strikes your fancy. You could even try this soup. It’s light; add some great bread and a dessert. Perhaps a dish of cheese spread for the bread.
I’ll bet you have a friend …or acquaintance… Take the time to call. Invite them for zucchini soup; it’s maybe 30 minutes to make. Ok, so you have to stop by somewhere good for bread and pick up wine (or make iced tea) and grill the peaches for the sundae. You could do it….

Zucchini Soup Yum Yum
2-3 for main course; 4-6 for first course
2 large onions chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped finely
2T butter
3-4 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Qt. chicken stock, no salt or low-sodium
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
Hot sauce
1/4 c fresh chopped dill weed and a little extra for garnish
1/3 c low-fat sour cream or creme fraiche if you prefer
In 8 qt. stockpot, melt butter and add onions and carrots. Cook over medium heat until almost limp and add zucchini and garlic. Cook about 10 minutes or until zucchini is losing its crispness, stirring to make sure garlic doesn’t burn. Add stock and simmer until zucchini is tender, perhaps five more minutes. Add all but a few sprigs of dill. Salt and pepper to taste; add hot sauce for zip. Try a few drops at a time and continue tasting until it’s as you like it. You can puree with an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor or you can eat it chunky. Serve in bowls topped with a tish of sour cream and a sprig of dill for garnish.
Next: Grilled Peach Sundaes…………Any day this month! Go Colorado peaches!

To make grilled peach sundaes, wash and stem fresh peaches. You’ll need half a peach for each serving. Cut each peach in half and remove pit and any residual pit scrapings. Grill on lightly oiled grill over medium heat for about five minutes on each side. Turn carefully and do not try to cook peaches all the way through; they will break and you will have a mess. You just want them well-warmed with nice grill marks. Remove them from grill to cutting board and let sit 1-2 minutes. Slice each half into about four or five pieces and place on top of vanilla ice cream. Serve with cookies if desired. A drizzle of maple syrup or peach brandy would gild the lily, but might be silly-good.
Wine: French rose for the whole shebang; try Tavel. Whoa.
No alcohol? Make some peach or mint tea. Serve in pretty glasses.

——- Here’s some of my flowers making the entry welcoming this week.

Get together this week. Have them come in the evening. Put on the candles; they can’t see your dust. (They don’t care.)
Sing a new song,

August Nights-Salmon Tomato Pasta

—————————If you love fish, raise your hand.

Summertime and fish; I love summertime and fish. Growing up in land-locked Illinois, you would think fish was not a big menu item. In truth, SEAFOOD was not a big menu item; we didn’t have the “fresh, flown in daily” availability of today. Though our best source for fresh seafood in even more land-locked Colorado (at least Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota had real lakes) sadly has disappeared; Par Avion is no more. Summer, however, in the midwest, meant boo coo fish if you were blessed to have a fishing family as I was. We spent vacations on the lakes, jumping in the boat still hungry at dawn to slip out into the quiet dark waters in order to snag (bad choice of words for fisherpeople) the best spots by sun-up. Red-striped thermos at hand (sharing the plastic cup when it was your turn for a swig), we would later dip into a bag with cheese, sardines and saltines–all the breakfast needed for right then. Later, mid-morning, when the sun was hot and high, we’d make for shore, spend a half-hour in the fish-cleaning house and run to the cabin for the real breakfast Mom loved to cook.

————–It isn’t too late for vacation, is it?
In some movies and books, I remember being amazed to see folks who fried up fish for breakfast while on vacation. While such a thing might have happened to us, I don’t remember it. Eggs and sausage and biscuits were the order of the day with an occasional change to eggs and potatoes. Another big pot of coffee was brewed in the tall aluminum pot on the stove, left on low to thicken slowly as the morning wore on toward lunch. Between the two meals, it was time for a snooze on the porch or in a chair in the common area. Once in a while, someone just piled up back in bed. After all, it was vacation. My parents worked long, difficult hours and months; Mom as a nurse, Dad as a welder. They lived for weekends and vacations as they traveled and fished new and old waters, eating up the bounty during the trip and bringing home large catches to store in the home deep freeze so that we had a change from pot roast and chicken come winter. Both my parents cooked and both were good at it, but no one cooked fried fish like my Dad.

————-Eating fried food without guilt and humiliation….
In my world today, if you say “fried fish,” you are pretty much saying really bad words. Any word with “fried” in front of it is much like swearing in twenty-first century America. It seems to be ok if you fry it in extra-virgin olive oil!! I guess the idea is that if you eat fried fish (or chicken or whatever), you will probably suffer a heart attack within the week, if not that day. “Heart attack on a plate” is a common expression and, I think, is unjustified. My parents and their families ate fried food all their lives, though they balanced it with large amounts of vegetables and a lot of physical labor. How often did they eat fried food? I’m not sure I know. Maybe once a week. Certainly no one thought anything of it. In those days, running through the McDonald’s drive-through for french fries was not possible. If you were going to eat anything fried, you had to go through the trouble of preparation and the mess of frying all by your lonesome. I’m guessing people didn’t eat quite so much of the stuff if they had to wash the pots and stove themselves. Much easier to say, “I’ll take the meal deal.”

Dreaming of fried fish, I sadly do not cook it. I sometimes long for it and on the very rare occasion will order a couple of pieces in a restaurant. Once every couple of years maybe. I do, however, cook many kinds of fish and seafood when I can get the fresh stuff at an affordable price. Ahi tuna (a favorite) is too often more than I want to pay. I did fix it this week; yum. Maybe a Hawaiian vacation in a condo is in my future. Salmon, on the other hand, is readily available (unlike during my childhood years) anywhere in the country and has become so commonplace that huge hunks are for sale at food clubs. Bags of salmon are even dwelling in freezer cases of regular grocery stores. (What is a regular grocery store any more? I’m thinking we’ll soon be down to Walmart or Whole Foods soon.) Of course there are caveats…only buy wild salmon. Healthy food can be the most expensive. (Lots of good people working to fix that.) Watch for a sale and buy a good-sized piece. Cook extra if you can. Leftovers make great sandwiches, omelette fillings or spreads (mixed with cream cheese, fresh dill and lots of black pepper). My favorite use for leftover salmon is to just shred it into scrambled eggs.

———–Steamed? What?————–Oh, grill, too?—
Here’s one of my summer fish pasta recipes you might want to try; it’s good in the winter, too. I cooked the salmon indoors; feel free to grill it. One of the fastest and simplest fish preps is to cook down some veg in a large saute pan and then steam the fish on top of the veg; you’ve seen another take or two on that tune elsewhere in the blog. Quick, healthy, delicious. You don’t have to go out for fish. Unless you go to a fairly nice restaurant and spend a few bucks, you’ll be eating frozen fish. This is also a great meal to make for one.

Salmon Tomato Pasta
serves 2-3

3/4 lb. fresh linguine
6-8 asparagus spears, cut into 1″ dice

2 large onions, sliced
2T olive oil
2 large tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 red sweet pepper, cut in 1″ dice (optional)
3 6 oz salmon filets (or a bit more than a pound, cut into thirds)
4 -5 cups fresh spinach
10 fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c white wine or chicken broth
Kosher salt ; freshly-ground pepper
1/2 lemon
Parmesan, optional

Bring 6qts of well-salted and peppered water to boil in a large stockpot. Cook pasta as per package directions, adding cut asparagus for last minute or two of cooking. (I like to add a little fresh basil to the cooking water.) Drain and return to partially covered pot to keep warm.

Meantime…. In a large saute pan (12-14 inches), saute onions in olive oil until soft. Add cut tomatoes (and peppers if you choose to use them) and season with salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes and place salmon on top of vegetables. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes. Add spinach, basil, garlic and wine. Season again and cook until salmon is just barely done, another 4-5 minutes at altitude, depending on thickness. It should be a tad rare. Salmon will continue to cook as you plate it; you don’t want it dry. Place a serving of pasta on each plate and top with vegetables and salmon. Squeeze a little lemon all over each serving. Pass parmesan at table if you choose to serve it.

Alternate prep: Fix veg and pasta indoors; grill salmon (lightly oiled) over medium heat until nearly done.
Plate as above.

Wine: I’ll often opt for Pinot Noir with any salmon dish, but its summer and you might pour a French rose or a California Chardonnay if its too hot for red wine. Even a Spanish Albarino would be an affordable and tasty match.

Dessert: Colorado peaches, of course. We’re not known for much in the way of food production, but its peach season on the Western Slope and what else do you need? For a really beautiful presentation, slice them thinly in the bottom of a large wine glass and top with a generous serving of Moscato d’ asti. Why not?

Some more of Margo’s beautiful flowers….

Its summer in Colorado (though nights are pretty cool) and surely in the rest of the country. Still time to eat on the porch, or even sitting on the front steps. Still time to sit in the sun and feel its warmth wherever you need it most. Still time to bless both the season and the food and just enjoy the day. If this meal takes twenty minutes to make, including prep, I’ll be surprised. Cook for someone you love today, quick.

Sing a new song,

August Nights-Quick Fruit Ice Cream Tops

It’s mid-August and, while it’s still summer, school is starting in Colorado and there’s a nip in the air evenings. A few leaves are beginning to turn (one whole bush in my south yard), but over all, the sun is still shining and the lush flora from the unusual rainfall is stunning. I missed a long, cool wet summer. Down the street, my gardening neighbors are having the garden club over and the rest are discussing one last camping trip together before snow flies. (which could be anytime in the mountains) I’m ready!

————————Yarrow and Russian Sage out front———————

At my house, I can finally sit on the deck mornings for a cup of coffee and my breakfast. Most of the late spring and summer, the eastern sun is so strong that that deck is not approachable until evening. We often have 100 degree temps out there in the mornings. The west side could be 55 degrees at the same time. Colorado sun is intense and unlike many other places. Of course, that’s part of why you can get a tan here skiing in January.

—————————–Miss Gab enjoying late summer sun————–

While we love summer food and the ease of it all, there’s not much we like better than ice cream if we’re talking dessert. We make homemade even in the winter with the wonderful tabletop makers, but there’s just nothing like fresh fruit on ice cream or, better sometimes, a fruit topping made on your own stove in 10 minutes or so for summer fun. Storebought ice cream will do, or you might try gelato that’s full-flavored and much lower in calories and fat.
For the topping, any soft fruit can be used and, while I’ve got pics of rhubarb (still growing here!) and blueberries, you might try chopped peaches, strawberries, raspberries, etc. You will basically make a fast homemade jam that will go hot or cold on top of whatever sort of frozen dream you’ve chosen. (Make extra for waffles?)
——————————Rhubarb cooking down on the stove————–

Here’s the basic method for cooking a fruit ice cream topper:

In a 3qt. saucepan, place 3-4 c fresh, soft fruit along with about 1/4 c -1/3 c white sugar and a cup of water. (Use a bit more sugar for rhubarb and taste any fruit to see if you need more or less sweetner.) If you like cinnamon, add a pinch for extra flavor. You could also stick in a cinnamon stick or a little vanilla. For the blueberries, I added about 1/2 tsp grated lemon to the mixture. Heat the fruit, water, sugar and flavoring, if used, over medium heat until boiling. Turn down heat and simmer until thickened and to the texture you desire, stirring often. Add a little water if needed. Serve over ice cream hot or cold. Makes enough for 4-6 servings, depending on size. Fine to make it ahead and refrigerate.

————-Ice Cream with Rhubarb topping and a tad of cinnamon—
The beautiful thing about this sort of summer dessert is that it is both easy and delicious; you have a great dish in about 10 minutes. If you need something else, serve some shortbread cookies with it. Thin ginger snaps make a nice foil for some fruits like peaches or nectarines. Use a lovely white bowl to show off the colors and you’re in business.

———Blueberry Topping with Vanilla Bean Gelato and Ginger Cookie–

Enjoy these last couple of weeks of summer and dream outdoors while you still can. Draw your friends together for just dessert and pull out the deck of cards to play outside. Fall will be here sooner than you think. Smile while it’s still green!

—————-West side berm at our house in August————

The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Sing a new song,


August Nights-Grilled Veg Goat Cheese Pasta

–First Night Home–Dinner on the Deck

There is nothing (well…) like sleeping in your own bed or cooking in your own kitchen or raiding your own wine cellar or you fill in your blank. After a three-day trip home from Minnesota with stops in the Badlands and at Mt. Rushmore and two nights in motels right out of “It Happened One Night” (1934-Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert), we are incredibly glad to again be on terra firma– or bedrock, as we call our part of the mesa in western Colorado Springs.
Minnesota was a summer full of infinite possibilies (and much-loved people,) but it also held things like bunkbeds in the apartment, an air conditioner that was either on or off with nothing in betweeen, no saucepans that stayed on the stove, a 10 inch television and so on. You get the picture. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. But you can just strehhhhhhhtch at home. You can plop down on the couch you picked out yourself to fit your tired butt on the longest of days. You have a remote you know how to operate. The refrigerator does not fill up with water and leak onto the kithchen floor. But, mostly, mostly, your puppy gets to be with you 24-7 and you again have your own study, albeit full of all of the books, music and school supplies from the apartment. Read that: I can’t walk in my study, but I can see out my windows through the leafy trees to Austin Bluffs and north up the long valley to a black forest. Home.

————————————————–The Badlands —-

………………….Mt. Rushmore and me (and everyone else)..

Just for grins and giggles, I include a few snaps of the trip and, hopefully, a video of Gabby (at end) traveling through the Badlands with her head out the window. (How good to be a dog.)

———————————–Gabby doin’ the dog thing ——–

Coming home also means a trip to the grocery store (and that would be one where you know where everything is) and some thoughts about using this time as a good reason to cook something healthy and/or different. Because it’s August, we have the chance of some decent produce; it sounded like a good time to experiment with a veg dinner and here’s what came up (and yes, I’m on the goat cheese kick; bear with me):

Everything was in incredible bloom–and huge along the way. This was at a rest area! Note tomatoes in upper right corner.

Grilled Veg Goat Cheese Pasta
serves 4 as a main dish; 6 as a side
1 # fresh linguine pasta
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into l/3″ slices
1 medium yellow squash, same as zucchini
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 2″ pieces
3 1″ carrots, peeled and cut like zucchini
1 medium eggplant, trimmed, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ rounds
4 T olive oil, divided (plus a little extra for drizzling at end)
1 lemon, cut in half
1/2 t Kosher salt
1/4 t Freshly-grated pepper
3T red onion, minced
4 T chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 t butter
1/4 c white wine (can sub chicken broth)
4-6 oz goat’s cheese, divided ( save 3-4T for garnish)
Fill a 10qt stockpot 3/4 full of salted water and set to boil on high for pasta. Take carrots and microwave on high for 2 minutes in a covered dish with a couple of tablespoons of water. Drain. Set aside.
Place zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, eggplant and partially cooked carrots in a 4 qt glass container and drizzle with 2T olive oil and the juice from half of the lemon. Salt and pepper well. Grill until tender. Slice larger pieces closer to bite-sized ones and cover loosely to keep warm.
While veg are grilling, start the sauce. In a small sauce pan, place 2T olive oil and saute minced onions and chopped parsley. Add wine wine and butter. Squeeze a tablespoon or so of lemon juice into the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain well and put back in pot. Cut or tear the goat’s cheese (all but 3 T or so) into 1/2″ pieces and stir into pasta; let sit a minute or so to melt a bit. Add grilled vegetables and sauce and stir gently, but thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Pour pasta into large bowl or onto platter. Garnish with rest of goat’s cheese and parsley. Drizzle with just a tiny bit of olive oil. Grate some pepper over top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
(All Rights Reserved)

Starters: A tiny bowl of chunked cantalope–maybe a bit of mint
Wine: Pink, definitely. Choose a nice dry rose. It’s summer!
Dessert: Gelato
Need a bigger meal: Grill a skewer of shrimp for each person and place atop the pasta
Sing a new song while you enjoy Gab on the road….. Alyce
Several people I love have recently lost very special pets…Here’s to Fiona, Russert, Ski, Jack and Ralph, great buddies all. Miss you always.