Summer Suppers and Questionable Quotes

June 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

   “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” or so penned some dyslexic copywriter in that 70’s public service announcement, thus driving my grammar-conscious father mad with frustration.  While I would agree that to waste one’s intellect is appalling, I rather think the mind can be a weird and wonderful apparatus.  In my case trending toward weird, as when I get an out-of-nowhere quote stuck in it, setting off an inexplicable flash through neural pathways that seem to have little connection to one another.

A recent example is the clever Charles Dudley Warner quote cited in a lecture by Mark Twain, “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.”  This lodged itself in my thoughts during a recent rainy spell and set me to imagining what it would be like if God got bored and handed the weather-management assignment off to a human being.  Who would possibly qualify for that responsibility? 

Or (flash) what if every one of us possessed that power?  Here my intra-cranial movie screen projects an image of each of us walking around in our own little sub-climate bubbles, everyone indulging in their own idea of ideal.  We might never get enough accumulated rain to avoid parching, and then there would be all of those mini tornadoes whenever one person’s bubble of warm and dry bumped up against the next guy’s pocket of cool and wet. 

The current arrangement certainly makes more sense:  If you like dry heat, there’s Phoenix.  Prefer distinct seasonal changes?  Try Minnesota or Illinois.  Dreams of a tropical paradise?  Move to Hawaii or even Samoa.  Cool and remote?  Alaska, of course.  Eventually my fanciful flight touches down on the reasonable conclusion that I should stop, already, with the “complaining about it” and adapt.  I put on a water-repellant hat and rediscover the childhood joy of walking in the rain, and later, as things get steamy,  plop a roast into the crock pot and watch the neighbor’s dog dive into her own inflatable kiddie pool. 

With the air conditioner circulating dehumidified air and no heat emanating from the kitchen, our dinner of Loin Pork Roast with Onions and Sweet Potatoes, and sides of Sauteed Bok Choy with Sugar Snap Peas, Cucumber and Tomato Salad, and  Raspberry-Nectarine Five Grain Muffins goes down just fine.  We finish the meal with our own cool splash in the form of Slabs of Chilled Watermelon, and think ahead to a leisurely evening stroll in whatever conditions the Master Meteorologist doles out to us.  No complaints; I promise. 

I recently came upon a bargain on some Possmann® imported German apple juice – a wonderful offering of 100% pure juice and absolutely nothin’ else.  I used this to adapt a recipe for pork roast from the Southern Food section of, with wonderful results: 

2# boneless pork loin roast, trimmed                        1-1/3 C natural apple juice                              1 tsp chicken soup base                                 2 med onions, sliced                           

1/8 tsp pepper                                                  1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp crushed dried marjoram                         2 cloves minced garlic

2 TB cider vinegar                                     2 lge sweet potatoes

Place roast in small, deep crock pot and pour in apple juice.  Stir soup base into liquid, lay onion slices on top of roast, and sprinkle on pepper, allspice, marjoram, and garlic.  Turn onions to distribute spices and set crock pot on high for one hour.  

Add vinegar, stir, and reduce crock pot to low setting for additional three hours.  Peel and cut sweet potatoes into wedges and lay wedges on top of roast.  Cook another 3 hours on low.

I sautéed bothe the white and green parts of bok choy – washed, trimmed, and sliced ito 1/2 ” pieces – in a tiny bit of canola oil (an oil-sprayed non-stick pan works well) just until crisp-tender then sprinkled it with a bit of sea salt.  The sugar snap peas cook up in three or four minutes in a shallow pan with 1″ of water bubbling in it.  Serve separately or tossed gently together – depending on the open-mindedness of your dinner guests. 

The straightforward marinated cucumber and tomato salad provides a crisp counterpoint: 

2 lge cucumbers, peeled & cubed               2 lge tomatoes, peeled & cubed

1 TB olive oil                                                    1 TB lemon juice

1/8 tsp onion powder                                                salt/pepper to taste

fresh snipped chives

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  Place tomatoes and cucumbers in a serving bowl and drizzle dressing over all, tossing gently to coat.  Store covered in refrigerator for about an hour; longer storage may cause liquid to collect, so drain a bit if necessary.  Sprinkle with chives before serving. 

While caring for my dad (Bill) and stepmother (Mary) a few years ago I found a parent-pleasing muffin recipe in Mary’s 1950 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook.  More recently, a batch of fresh raspberries at their prime and some nectarines threatening to pass theirs led me to develop my own version of this classic oatmeal muffin.  The novelty here is a simple cellophane bag of Bob’s Red Mill 5 Grain Plus Flaxseed Rolled Whole Grain Hot Cereal® – a mouthful in more ways than one: 

1 C Five Grain Cereal*                                    1 C buttermilk

1/3 C softened butter                                       1/2 C brown sugar

1 egg                                                                1/2 C flour

1/2 C whole wheat flour                               1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda                                         1 tsp salt

1/2 C fresh raspberries                               1/2 C peeled, chopped nectarine 

In a small mixing bowl, stir together cereal (*whole grain oats, wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and flaxseed) and buttermilk.  (No buttermilk?  Use a teaspoon of lemon juice to sour a cup of milk.)  Let sit for one hour.  In an electric mixer bowl, cream butter and brown sugar then beat in egg until thoroughly blended.  In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, powder, soda, and salt. 

Alternately and in small portions, blend the oats mixture and the flour mixture into the creamed mixture on low speed just until blended.  By hand, stir in the nectarines and then carefully fold the raspberries into the blended batter.  Fill 12 greased medium muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 375° for 25 minutes, testing very carefully with a toothpick to ensure they are baked through.  Serve warm. 

I doubled this recipe in order to use up the fruit I had on hand, and then baked the batter in sixteen large muffin cups with good results.  The appeal of these little treasures is their unique texture and subtle fruitiness – features that I’m sure Dad and Mary would have appreciated.  Through my research I learned that triticale is a high-fiber, high protein whole grain source of magnesium and manganese, and I appreciate that.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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