LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Rain At Red Oak House

Over an inch of rain in the gauge when we returned from Colorado and some showers this week reminded us that it still “can” rain in this country, and for this we give thanks.

I spent Saturday afternoon sitting on the patio, nursing my knee injury and reading a book that I’m reviewing but eventually retreated to the house to listen to Prairie Home Companion and catch up on some work on my laptop.

Jim dug half of the Pontiac Red potatoes, and he cooked two for supper, along with broccoli, accompanied by grilled steaks from our brother-in-law. The broccoli has been abundant, from a few small plants we bought last spring from Cottontail Greenhouse south of Mandan, N.D.

The freezer is almost full and just needs an infusion of walleye from the fall Missouri River bite and some pheasants and goose. Then, it is “Bring on the Dakota winter”! My sister gifted us with some of her beautiful garlic, to supplement our pitiful harvest.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve put the autumn decor out early this year. Perhaps it is a sign of weariness of this hot and dry summer and readiness for the glorious cool and blue days of September in North Dakota. Perhaps my cue is the arrival of the chrysanthemums. Listening to Jim and Jeff talk about the fall bite on the river puts me in the mood, for certain. None of us particularly like hot weather.

Jim is coaxing hundreds of green tomatoes to ripen, in the face of soon-to-come frost. He applied fertilizer to hasten the process as per the advice of my Aunt Frances, and he is severely pruning the plants, too. Hopefully, this week’s return to high 80s will do its magic.

A couple of late daylilies have peeked out, the last of this season. Soon enough, it will be time to cut back all of the foliage to prepare for winter. But for now, we enjoy the fruits of our labor, and I hope you do as well.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Broccoli Pasta Salad

Salads are for summertime — especially if you have a garden. There’s nothing like a bunch of fresh veggies from the garden — all tossed together in a bowl and seasoned with a homemade vinaigrette — to start off a meal.

With a nice crop of lettuce and kale in our garden, we’ve been enjoying fresh salads for going on three months now. And with the tomatoes just starting to ripen, the salads are only going to get better.

But there is more to salads than the greens. Take, for example, the following broccoli salad recipe, which has many variations, and is a favorite of ours in the summer.

We usually have three or four broccoli plants in the garden, which keep on producing right up until freeze-up. This summer, however, baby bunnies raised havoc with the plants, and we have only two out of four remaining, and they have been stunted by the “Wascally Wabbits,” as cartoon character Elmer Fudd used to call Bugs Bunny and his ilk.

The hasn’t stopped Therese from making the broccoli salad, though. I just finished the last of her most recent batch, all the while wishing there was more.

I guess I’ll have to settle for more garden green salads instead.

Broccoli Pasta Salad
2 cups broccoli, broken into bite-size pieces
4 ounces feta cheese
2 cups uncooked rotini pasta
½ cup black olives, chopped
1 7½-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 16-ounce bottle Italian dressing (can use fat-free)
Cook pasta according to package directions. Cool. Mix in large bowl with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate overnight.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Cheesy Chicken And Broccoli Pasta

Pasta and broccoli is a winning combination. And no matter what you complement those two with, the outcome is sure to be a palate pleaser.

I have several favorite recipes that feature broccoli and pasta. One is Broccoli with Rigatoni, which comes from a cookbook by the late Dom DeLuise, “Eat This … It’ll Make You Feel Better!” DeLuise describes broccoli and rigatoni as “a combination made in heaven.” (Grated cheese, garlic and some fresh basil and parsley round out the ingredients for the recipe.)

Another is Mediterranean Shrimp Medley, from the “Seafood Lover’s Bible” by Michael Bavota. Besides broccoli and angel hair pasta, the entree contains shrimp, scallions and white clam sauce. Truly scrumptious!

Recently, I came across another pasta-broccoli recipe. Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta was shared on Facebook by friend Sara Lovejoy. As its title discloses, the dish contains cheese. But you can’t forget the  onion, garlic and spices.

Each one of these entrees also is a one-pot dish, which will make them appealing to more than your taste buds.

Cheesy Chicken And Broccoli Pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces (can substitute pheasant)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup diced yellow onion (about half an onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 16-ounce bag of pasta of your choice
4 cups broccoli (or one head of broccoli)
½ teaspoon cayenne powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large pot. Add chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and allow the chicken to brown on one side.
Flip chicken, then add onions and garlic as the second side browns. Once the chicken has browned on both sides, add chicken broth, water, and pasta to the pot.
Stir all ingredients, cover the pot with a lid, and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, uncover and stir. Bring the heat to low, stir, then cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, uncover and add in the broccoli. Stir continually as the broccoli steams until the rest of the liquid evaporates. Add milk and cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese melts and you have a smooth cheese sauce. Add salt and pepper (to taste), cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir once more then serve.
Yield: Serve 6 to 8.

Broccoli with Rigatoni
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch broccoli, separated into florets (reserve stems for another use)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1 pound rigatoni
Fresh parsley, chopped
Pepper
Grated cheese
In a large skillet, heat oil and butter and gently brown the garlic. Add broccoli and stir gently until pan gets very hot.
Add chicken broth, cover, and simmer just until broccoli is al dente.
Add half the fresh basil and the drained hot rigatoni, cooked al dente, to the skillet and mix thoroughly. Put on a hot serving dish and sprinkle with parsley, pepper, grated cheese and remaining basil.
Yield: Serves 4.

Mediterranean Shrimp Medley
1 pound any size shell-on shrimp
½ pound angel hair pasta
1 stalk broccoli
½ bunch scallions
1 10½-ounce can white clam sauce
Peel, devein and rinse shrimp. Cook pasta in boiling water, following directions on the box. Rinse pasta with cold water and set aside. In a medium saucepan, boil shrimp for only 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Cut broccoli and scallions into small bite-size pieces and boil until colors turn vivid green. Remove from heat and drain. In a large skillet, heat clam sauce and vegetables for 4 minutes at medium heat. Place pasta in shallow bowls, spoon clam and vegetable mixture over pasta, and garnish with cooked shrimp.
Yield: Serves 2 to 4.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Mediterranean Shrimp Medley

A highlight of the Super Bowl for a lot of people is a party where the food lineup is more important than the much-ballyhooed commercials, halftime show or the players who are taking the field.

But people don’t need to leave the friendly confines of their own homes to enjoy food that rivals buffalo wings, pizza and chips and dips.

Therese and I stayed at home Sunday, and we enjoyed a meal during the game that would have rivaled any served at the millions of get-togethers across the country, where fans were viewing the clash between the winning Denver Broncos and the hard-luck Carolina Panthers.

We took advantage of one of the pre-Lenten seafood and fish specials at our local Hugo’s supermarket to feast on one of our favorites dishes — Mediterranean Shrimp Medley — that also features broccoli, pasta and clam sauce.

The recipe comes from “Seafood Lover’s Bible,”  a cookbook by Michael Bavota, which is full of great fish and seafood recipes.

We’ve sampled many of the recipes over the years, each of which scores a touchdown in my playbook.

Mediterranean Shrimp Medley
1 pound any size shell-on shrimp
½ pound angel hair pasta
1 stalk broccoli
½ bunch scallions or one small onion, diced
1 10½-ounce can white clam sauce
Peel, devein and rinse shrimp. Cook pasta in boiling water, following directions on the box. Rinse pasta with cold water and set aside. In a medium saucepan, boil shrimp for only 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Cut broccoli and scallions into small bite-size pieces and boil until colors turn vivid green. Remove from heat and drain. In a large skillet, heat clam sauce and vegetables for 4 minutes at medium heat. Place pasta in shallow bowls, spoon clam and vegetable mixture over pasta, and garnish with cooked shrimp.
Yield: Serves 2 to 4.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Broccoli Pasta Salad

Broccoli is one of those garden vegetables that keeps on giving. After the first cutting of a large center head, the plant will produce smaller side heads for several weeks.

And for those like me who enjoy a good broccoli salad, that’s dandy.

Just yesterday, I was able to harvest several smaller heads on my four plants, which Therese used to make one of my summer garden favorites, her Broccoli Pasta Salad. The salad is comprised of broccoli, artichoke hearts, ripe olives, rotini and feta cheese that is marinated in Zesty Italian Dressing.

Another nice thing about this salad is that it gets tastier the longer it sits.

And because of that, I’ll give it an A.

Broccoli Pasta Salad
1 large bunch broccoli, including stalks, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 16-ounce jar Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 13.75-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts in brine
1 3.8-ounce can sliced pitted ripe olives, drained
½ cup (more or less to taste) of crumbled feta cheese
12 ounces cooked rotini
Mix all of ingredients and marinate overnight.
Note: For those who have broccoli growing in gardens, second, third and fourth cuttings should be done when the heads are small, tight and firm. If flower buds appear, it should be cut immediately. Once the yellow flowers open, broccoli becomes bitter.