Summer Pies

Homemade pies using fresh fruit are hard to beat. I imagine a lot of rhubarb pies have been made and consumed the past several weeks. And soon, fresh strawberries and raspberries will be ripe for the picking, and more desserts will be the order of business.

Small-town cafes are a good place to cash in on this culinary bonanza during the summer. A fried, Lillian Elsinga, Grand Forks, found that out recently. Lillian and some friends went on a road trip to Edinburg, N.D., to visit a friend who had moved there.

During their time in the small Walsh County town, which was named after the city in Scotland (without the "h"), they visited Anderson’s Cafe. Lillian said the meatloaf special for lunch was very good, but the coup de grace was the blackberry-blueberry pie. She said the slice of pie, with a dollop of ice cream, will always keep the trip fresh in her memory.

For those who would like to try their hand at a blackberry-blueberry pie, here’s a recipe from that’s received several favorable reviews.

Blackberry-Blueberry Pie
2/3 cup shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold water
¾ cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1½ cups fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
Cut shortening into 2 cups flour and salt until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle in water 1 tablespoon at a time until flour is moistened. Gather into a ball, and roll out onto a lightly floured board. Make two rounds. Place one crust in a 9-inch pie dish.
Mix sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and cinnamon. Stir in berries to coat. Turn filling into pastry lined pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice, dot with butter. Cover with top crust; cut slits in the top. Seal and flute.
Bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. Cover edges with foil to prevent burning, and remove foil for last 12 minutes of baking.

Meatball Sandwich

Meatball subs or sandwiches are a popular item these days. Sometimes when we’ve had meatballs with a marinara sauce, I like to use the leftovers in a sandwich.

While talking about this with my friend, Mac, he told of a place he used to go to eat when working in Denver that served a meatball sandwich with cherry peppers on the side. He said he probably ate a couple hundred of them during the time he lived there.

I thought he might be exaggerating a little, but knowing the kind of appetite he has specifically and how good meatball sandwiches are in general, my doubts soon were erased.

That brings me to the following recipe, which I found while looking through some old cookbooks. It looked pretty tasty to me. How about you?

Meatball Sandwich
¼ cup onions, chopped, or to taste
1teaspoon crushed, bottled garlic or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound canned tomatoes, broken up
1 pound tomato sauce
2 teaspoons parsley
2 to 2½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
1½ teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 pound ground beef
4 slices bread, whole wheat or white
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
½ cup Romano cheese, grated
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon crushed, bottled garlic or 1 minced clove garlic
1 teaspoon oregano, crushed
Dash of pepper
4 submarine sandwich buns or small loaves French or Italian bread or ciabatta
2 4-ounce packages Mozzarella cheese
To make sauce, cook and stir onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, salt, oregano and basil. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 1 to 1½ hours. When sauce is almost finished simmering, brown ground beef in separate skillet, drain off fat, and stir into sauce. Simmer another 20 minutes.
For meatballs, soak bread in water 3 minutes, then squeeze dry and add the ground beef, eggs, Romano cheese, salt, parsley, garlic, oregano and pepper. Form into 16 meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until done.To assemble sandwiches, put 4 meatballs in each of the buns or loaves, add sauce, then cheese on top, dividing ingredients evenly. (Don’t use too much sauce or sandwiches will be soggy.) Wrap each sandwich in foil and bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts.


Tuna Casserole

There are some days when I just crave comfort food. Saturday was one of those.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s suffice to say my spirits needed lifting. Plus, it was cloudy, windy a little cooler than it had been all week. So, I turned to one of my favorite comfort foods — tuna noodle casserole. It’s been at the top of my list since my childhood.

I usually don’t have a set recipe when it comes to tuna casserole. This time, all I did was saute some celery and red onion in a little olive oil and added two cans of tuna (water drained), a can of cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup, a half-cup of Miracle Whip Lite, a tablespoon of cornstarch, a half-cup of milk and salt and pepper to taste. I cooked this a bit while my homemade egg noodles (from Hosmer, S.D.) cooked.

When the noodles where al dente, I drained them and mixed them with the tuna in a greased casserole. I then topped this with a little grated Cheddar cheese and baked for about 35 to 40 minutes.

It tasted great.

Here are a couple of other recipes for tuna casserole. Give them a try. I’ll guarntee you feel better if you’re down in the dumps.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4½ tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick (4 cups)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 6-ounce can tuna in olive oil, drained
6 ounces dried curly egg noodles (Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3¼ cups)
1½ cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices white bread)
4 ounces coarsely grated cheddar (1 cup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in 1½ tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then saute until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to saute until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, five minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Cook noodles until al dente. Drain noodles and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish, spreading evenly.
Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.
Yield: Serves: 4 to 6

Tuna Rice Casserole
12 ounces water-packed canned tuna, drained
1 10.5-ounce can low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup diced onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ cups cooked brown rice
2 teaspoons canola oil
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place tuna in a bowl and flake with a fork. Fold in half the mushroom soup, 2 tablespoons shredded cheese and the onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Microwave brown rice 90 seconds on high or according to package instructions. Place rice on bottom of casserole dish and toss with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread over bottom of dish. Spoon tuna mixture on top, and cover with remaining soup. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes. Place under the broiler to brown top, about 1 minute.
Yield: Serve 2.
Approximate nutritional analysisper serving: 624 calories (27 percent from fat), 18.7 grams fat (7.3 grams saturated, 7 grams monounsaturated), 84 milligrams cholesterol, 57.5 grams protein, 54.2 grams carbohydrates, 4.3 grams fiber, 682 milligrams sodium.

Sweet Peppers — A Stir-fry Must

There’s no comparison between sweet bell peppers from the garden and those you buy at the supermarket, and that is why I always make a point of planting at least a dozen plants in my garden each spring.

I was pretty disappointed with the production of my  peppers last summer, but it looks like this year will be a different story. My pepper plants have been thriving in the recent hot spell. In fact, several have tiny peppers already forming on them.

While I like to eat peppers raw — perhaps dipped in a little ranch dressing — or in a nice salad, my preference is in stir-fries. I can’t imagine a stir-fry without sweet peppers. The red ones make dishes especially colorful.

One food I particularly like to pair with the peppers in a stir-fry is shrimp. I like to use medium-sized shrimp because they take about the same time to cook as vegetables such as peppers.

A favorite Web site of mine to find healthy eating tips and tasty dishes, the American Institute for Cancer Research (, recently featured a stir-fry recipe (which follows) that stars shrimp and bell peppers, both green and red. I plan on tucking it away and using it when the first peppers from my garden are big and ripe.

Teriyaki Shrimp Stir-fry with Pineapple and Peppers
¾ cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lite Teriyaki sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
¾ pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tablespoon grated or minced ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
8 large white mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup fresh pineapple, in 1-inch cubes
Cooked brown rice
Pour ¼ cup of broth into small bowl. Add cornstarch and whisk to blend. Add remaining broth, Teriyaki sauce and ground pepper. Set seasoning sauce aside.
In wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. Add shrimp and stir-fry until they look pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn shrimp out into bowl.
Add remaining oil to wok. Stir-fry ginger and garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and peppers and stir-fry until mushrooms look moist, 2 minutes. Add pineapple and return shrimp to wok. Stir seasoning sauce and pour it into pan. Stir-fry until the sauce thickens and boils, about 2 minutes. The shrimp should be white in the center. Serve immediately, accompanied by cooked brown rice.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 200 calories, 9 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 13 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 2 grams dietary fiber, 290 milligrams sodium.

Green Potato Salad

The quick arrival of summer earlier this month has turned my garden into a lush paradise. It won’t be too long before my lettuce is ready. In fact, my neighber, Duane Jeffrey, already has given us a big bag from his garden. He said the key was planting it in the fall. And cherry tomatoes won’t be far behind.

One thing that is ready in my garden is the spinach. I’m looking forward to the first salad either at lunch today or supper.

With a bunch ready to harvest, I’ve been in search of recipes using the nutrient-packed vegetable. Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables such as spinach provide more nutrients than any other food. This “superfood” is loaded with protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, enzymes and fiber and is a good source of calcium and vitamins A, C, E, K and B. And researchers have identified at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents.

One recipe that’s caught my eye is a warm potato salad (recipe follows) that contains a generous amount of spinach. (For more potato salad recipes, go to The warm bacon dressing looks especially tasty. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Or pass on other spinach recipes that you’d recommend.

Spinach and Fingerling Potato Salad
½ pound fingerling potatoes
½ pound thick-cut bacon (can substitute turkey bacon for a lighter dressing)
2 large shallots, minced
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons minced orange zest
½ teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper
½ pound baby spinach
½ cup pine nuts, toasted (see note)
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil; add potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain; let cool until just warm. Cut into ¼-inch slices; set aside.
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until crisp but still chewy, 8 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels. Let cool. Chop or crumble into bits; set aside. Pour all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet; wipe clean. Turn heat to medium-high. Cook shallots until golden, 1 minute.
Mix bacon, oil, shallots, vinegar, maple syrup and orange zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Heat in microwave until warm, about 30 seconds. Toss potatoes and spinach in large bowl with dressing. Garnish with pine nuts.
Note: To toast pine nuts, place in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring nuts occasionally, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning.
Yield: Serve 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 350 calories, 76 percent calories from fat, 30 grams fat (5.5 grams saturated), 11 milligrams cholesterol, 420 milligrams sodium, 8 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber.

Carne Machaca

My experience with Tex-Mex or Mexican cuisine is fairly limited. Like a lot of people around here, my idea of this kind of food has been shaped by the likes of places with names such as Mexican Village, LaCampana (now called Paradiso), Taco Bell, Taco John’s and the Red Pepper, just to name a few.

I have had the opportunity to eat real Mexican food on a couple of occasions, once in Topeka, Kan., in a restaurant that was set in a home in a residential area, and a couple of times at a Grand Junction, Colo, eatery. That tasty food was far from any I’ve eaten up on the northern Plains and northern Minnesota.

So now, whenever I see a recipe that’s authentic Mexican, my interest is piqued. The most recent recipe that has caught my eye comes from famed chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Mario Batali, who unveiled it at an event to benefit his new charity, The Mario Batali Foundation (, which was established to feed, protect, educate and empower children, encouraging them to dream big while providing them with the necessary tools to become an active force for change in today’s world.

His recipe is for machaca, a shredded beef filling that can be used for any kind of Mexican or Tex-Mex treat, from tacos to burritos. Most people who’ve had machaca swear they’ll never go back to ground beef for tacos again.

Machaca can be made from either skirt steak or veal. The meat is marinated in a mixture of Worcestershire, lime juice, garlic, chipotle, cumin and black pepper. The smoky spice combined with the freshness of the limes seeps into the meat overnight. After browning, onions, peppers and herbs are added. This creates layers of flavor on top of the rich meat, which is cooked for two hours until falling apart, shredded, and returned to the liquid. The mixture is slowly cooked down until the meat is close to dry.

According to a press release, the result is a filling perfect for tacos, flautas, burritos, enchiladas or any other classic Mexican preparation. It suggests leftovers can be topped with softly cooked eggs for a traditional breakfast as full of flavor as it is protein.

I believe this new recipe, which follows, would be perfect summer fare.

Mario Batali’s Carne Machaca Taco Filling
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
Juice of two limes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of chipotle chile in adobo minced (substitute chili powder)
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of black pepper
3 pounds of Allen Brothers skirt steak or veal shoulder (see note)
1 large onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced (substitute a green pepper)
1 Jalapeno, diced
1 can of diced tomatoes (with or without chilies)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a large freezer bag. Cut the skirt steak or veal shoulder into ¼-pound pieces and place in the bag. Refrigerate overnight.
In a large stock pot, fry the pieces of meat until brown. Once the meat has rich coloring, add the onion, peppers, oregano and cumin. Cook until the onions are soft.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release the flavorful bits of browned meat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is just falling apart. Add water or beef broth, if needed.
Remove the pot from the heat and remove the meat pieces. Shred with a pair of forks and return to the liquid. Reduce liquid until the meat is almost dry.
Note: The USDA Prime beef and Strauss Meadow Reserve veal for the machaca recipe can be ordered from Allen Brothers at The 116-year-old company is the leading source of USDA Prime beef in the U.S., and is the exclusive purveyor to noted steak houses like Morton’s, Gene and Georgetti and Del Frisco’s, to name just a few.

Kebabs — The Price Is Right

If you’ve been using the weather as an excuse for not pulling out the grill, the gig’s up.

I know that spring and cool temperatures lingered far too long this year, and many people, including me, were not in too big a hurry to start grilling.

But that’s changed with the proliferation of daytime temperatures in the 80s and lows in the high 50s to mid-60s. I even spiffed my grill up and threw a couple of rings of sausage on it over the weekend, which we served with some potatoes (both sweet and regular), onions and peppers. It was a fantastic way to celebrate Father’s Day.

Now, I’ve got kebabs on my mind. Kebabs, for the novice, are grilled skewers of marinated meat and veggies. They are perfect fare for any outdoor get-together. And they’re relatively inexpensive, too.

By using cheaper cuts of meat, which get nice and tender after a couple of hours sitting in a marinade, you can lower the cost of a meal considerably. If using beef, give cut-up chuck a try. And boneless sirloin pork chops can save you money over the more costly tenderloin. To really cut down on cost, go vegetarian. 

Here are three recipes that I’m considering, which you may find appealing.

Coffee and Black Pepper Beef Kebabs
1 cup chopped shallots
¾ cup cider vinegar
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons instant coffee
1½ tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1½ pounds top sirloin beef, cut into 1½-inch cubes
16 medium button mushrooms, cleaned and stems trimmed
16 cherry tomatoes
2 small red onions, cut into wedges
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
In a medium bowl, stir together the shallots, vinegar, oil, molasses, coffee, pepper and mustard. Add the meat and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
In a shallow dish, cover 8 10-inch bamboo skewers; set aside to soak. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a charcoal fire.
Assemble the kebabs, alternating meat and vegetables. Brush everything with marinade. Grill for 3 minutes. Turn, brush with additional marinade, then grill for another 3 minutes for medium, or until done to your liking.
Yield: Serve 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 592 calories, 241 calories from fat, 27 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 114 milligrams  cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 50 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, 215 milligrams sodium.

Beef Kebabs
1½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 12-ounce bottle beer
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons butter
20 small white onions, blanched
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch square pieces
Place beef, beer and garlic in a resealable food storage bag; cover. Refrigerate at least 12 hours, turning occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the marinade.
Combine barbecue sauce, reserved marinade and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat to a boil, stirring; cook 1 minute. Set aside.
Heat grill or grill pan. Thread meat, onions and bell peppers on skewers. Grill until desired degree of doneness, turning and brushing frequently with sauce, about 12 minutes for medium. Serve with sauce.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximae nutritional analysis per serving: 219 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat, 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 407 milligrams sodium, 1.5 grams fiber.

Grilled Pork Kebabs and Vegetables with Couscous
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon each: Dijon mustard, honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, more for garnish
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic peeled, finely chopped
1 small red or sweet onion, chopped
1 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 each, thinly sliced lengthwise: yellow squash, zucchini
1 each, seeded, quartered: yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper
1 14.5-ounce can chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 12-ounce box couscous
Soak 12 wooden skewers in water 20 minutes. Combine mustard, honey, lemon juice, thyme, 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper to taste in a food storage bag; add pork. Seal; turn to coat. Let stand at least 30 minutes.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat; add garlic and onion. Cook until soft and slightly browned, 4 minutes. Add tomatoes; heat through. Season to taste. Set aside.
Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Thread pork onto skewers. Grill pork, squash and peppers until browned on one side, 5 minutes; turn. Grill until done, 5 minutes. Remove peppers, zucchini and squash to cutting board; dice. Add to tomato mixture. Heat over medium heat, stirring, to heat through, 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
Meanwhile, combine chicken broth and butter in medium saucepan; heat to a boil. Add couscous; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cover; let rest 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Put couscous on a platter; pour sauce over. Place pork skewers on top.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 540 calories, 26 percent calories from fat, 15 grams fat (4.2 grams saturated), 95 milligrams cholesterol, 890 milligrams sodium, 58 grams carbohydrates, 42 grams protein, 4.7 grams fiber.

Fresh Pasta Sauce

While pulling a few weeds in my garden on this first day of summer, my thoughts were about what wonderful things I’ll be able to make once the bounty starts flowing.

Actually, it was yesterday, on the last day of spring, when I first started thinking about future meals with fresh produce. I was in the midst of making a tomato-based sauce that featured some dehydrated green pepper and store-bought onions, along with the usual tomato sauce and paste, a little white wine, a couple of garlic cloves and some dried spices.

But in just a month or so, I’ll be making one of my favorite sauces, with fresh peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini and fresh herbs from my garden. And I can’t forget about the fresh tomatoes.

Yes, it’s a wonderful time for cooks, with all the fresh produce that will start showing up in our gardens and farmers markets. For those of you who like to cook these sorts of things like I do, here’s a recipe for one of my favorite sauces, which is great over pasta.

Summer Harvest Linguine
2 tablespoons each: olive oil, butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 medium eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
4 medium tomatoes chopped
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
4 black oil-cured olives, pitted, finely chopped
1 large zucchini, grated
1 cup red wine
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1-pound box linguine, cooked to package directions
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, ½ teaspoon of the salt and bay leaf; cook, stirring, until onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in eggplant and remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms soften, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in tomatoes, bell pepper, basil and tomato paste, mixing well. Lower heat to a simmer; cover. Cook 10 minutes. Stir in olives, zucchini, wine, parsley and pepper; cover. Cook until flavors come together, about 15 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve with linguine.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 474 calories, 27 percent of calories from fat, 14 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat) 22 milligrams cholesterol, 69 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams protein, 746 milligrams sodium, 13 grams fiber.

The Best Cream of Tomato Soup

Anyone who thinks good tomato soup comes out of a can hasn’t tasted the homemade version. I just love a good homemade cream of tomato soup.

When I was growing up, the cream of tomato soup that my mom made was something we always looked forward to eating. Hers was the way cream of tomato soup should be — gentle and soothing.

We usually had tomato soup on Fridays, when we couldn’t eat meat.  The thing I remember most about Mom’s soup was that milk never curdled. The key, she says, it to add baking soda to the tomatoes.

It’s been a while since I’ve had my mom’s, but the homemade cream of tomato soup they serve at Al’s on Gateway Drive in Grand Forks rates right up there with the best.

After sampling some of Al’s recently, my curiosity was piqued, so I went to the Internet in search of a recipe that might be a worthy comparison. Here’s one that came to my attention.

Cream of Tomato Soup
5 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups milk
½ bay leaf
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 cups tomatoes, chopped (fresh or canned)
Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the onion is softened but not browned. Sprinkle the flour over the butter mixture and continue to stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, bay leaf, sugar, and salt and continue to cook and stir until slightly thickened. Stir the baking soda into the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the milk, and bring just to a simmer. Remove from the heat and put through a strainer. Taste and correct seasonings. Reheat before serving.
Yield: 7 cups.

Beyond Tuna Salad Sandwiches

When it comes to sandwiches, it’s hard to beat tuna salad. From the time I was a kid until now, it’s been one of my favorites. I guess what impresses me the most is the number of variations you can come up with if you use your imagination.

Of course, we’re all familiar with a plain old tuna salad sandwich, the kind where all you do is mix up some tuna with a little mayo or Miracle Whip. We all probably had that as kids. Those were the kind we had at school hot lunch, usually on Fridays. That’s because I went to a Catholic school, and we couldn’t eat meat Fridays.

As I got older, my tuna salad sandwiches became a little more varied. It seemed that adding a little sweet pickle to the mix (I still do this) really kicked the sandwich up a notch. One of my favorite ways to have tuna salad was on cracker with a slice or two of sweet pickles on top. While in college, one of my roomates, Ron Amiot, always used to have some of his mom’s homemade bread and butter pickles on hand — but not for long, since I loved them with my tuna and cracker combo.

Now, I like still like my tuna salad with sweet pickles, but only diced (with some of the juice), along with a little onion, some garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Occasionally, I’ll add a little chopped-up hard-cooked egg.

Once in while, I like to put tuna salad on a piece of bread, top it with some cheese and plop it in the oven under the broiler for a minute or two — my own tuna melt.

Here a couple of other variations of the tuna salad sandwich, along with three other sandwiches that would be great summer fare.  

Italian Tuna Sandwich
1 6-ounce can tuna in water, well drained
2 tablespoons low-fat or regular mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ rib celery, minced
½ teaspoon drained capers, chopped
8 slices French bread (cut each slice on diagonal about ½-inch thick), toasted
12 leaves arugula or spinach
Combine tuna, mayonnaise, onion, parsley, lemon juice, celery and capers in small bowl. Spread tuna mixture on top of four slices of bread. Top each with 3 leaves arugula. Top with remaining slice of bread.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per sandwich: 410 calories, 11 percent calories from fat, 4.8 grams fat (0.9 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 1,070 milligrams sodium, 58 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 3.7 grams fiber.

Tuna Nicoise Sandwich
1 6-ounce can tuna in oil, well drained
4 nicoise or other black olives, pitted, chopped
1 hard-cooked egg, peeled, chopped
1 tablespoon each: mayonnaise, diced red bell pepper
1½ teaspoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 pieces (6 inches long) baguette, halved lengthwise
2 leaves Boston lettuce
1 tomato, thinly sliced
Combine tuna with olives, egg, mayonnaise, pepper, parsley, oil, mustard and vinegar in small bowl.
Layer lettuce, tuna mixture and tomato on bottom half of each sandwich. Cover with remaining bread halves.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per sandwich: 360 calories, 48 percent calories from fat, 19 grams fat (3.6 grams saturated), 135 milligramsg cholesterol, 715 milligrams sodium, 18 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 2 grams fiber.

Mediterranean Turkey Wraps
2 12-inch flour tortillas, room temperature
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 ounces smoked turkey
10 kalamata olives, pitted, chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (see note)
2 tablespoons each: diced roasted red pepper, chopped basil
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Spread one side of each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise. Top with turkey. Sprinkle olives, pine nuts, red pepper, basil and cheese on top, leaving 1-inch border all around.
Fold each side over filling by ½-inch; roll up tightly starting from unfolded end.
Note: To toast pine nuts, place on baking sheet. Toast in 425-degree oven until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per sandwich: 575 calories, 51 percent calories from fat, 33 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 1,635 milligrams sodium, 48 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 4.3 grams fiber.

Asian Chicken and Peanut Butter Sandwich
4 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 pita breads, halved
4 leaves leaf curly lettuce
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
½ apple, thinly sliced
Combine peanut butter and teriyaki sauce in small bowl; spread on inside of each pita half.
Stuff each pita with lettuce, cilantro, chicken and apple.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per sandwich: 530 calories, 38 percent calories from fat, 23 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 60 milligrams cholesterol, 1,215 milligrams sodium, 49 grams carbohydrates, 36 grams protein, 5 grams fiber.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Pesto on Ciabatta
4 slices ciabatta
4 tablespoons prepared pesto
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 tomato, thinly sliced
2 leaves red leaf lettuce
Spread each slice of bread with 1 tablespoon of the pesto.
Top two of the bread slices with mozzarella, tomato and lettuce.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutrition analysis per sandwich: 495 calories, 53 percent calories from fat, 29 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 675 milligrams sodium, 36 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams protein, 3.4 grams fiber.