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Cooks' Exchange: Spice up summer by drying herbs

Cooks' Exchange: Spice up summer by drying herbs


When August arrives in its glory, and gardens flourish from sunshine and sprinkles of rain, thoughts seem to wander in many different directions while relaxing outdoors in a favorite summer chair. I love each of our four seasons, which always makes living in Wisconsin interesting.

In 1953, I was hired to work at Carlson’s Dime Store on Union Corners. As a 16-year old making 50 cents an hour, I also became acquainted with Rennebohm’s next door as well as many other locations throughout Madison. When requests arrive today for favorite Rennebohm recipes, I respond with a smile and that’s what happened when Katherine Chartraw recently requested their chili recipe. She thought it may have been published before (it was featured June 15, 2014) and also mentioned that it jogged pleasant memories of living in Madison.

Original Rennebohm chili

2 pounds of hamburger

½ cup chopped onion

72-ounces Bush’s canned red beans, undrained

16-ounces tomato puree

13-ounces canned tomatoes

4 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon salt

¼ teaspoon powdered garlic

½ teaspoon paprika

1/3 teaspoon black pepper

3 ounces spaghetti, broken, boiled and drained

Brown hamburger and chopped onion together; drain. Add remaining ingredients; stir occasionally and simmer 1 hour. In the meantime, break spaghetti in desired lengths. When cooked, rinse and add to chili. Makes 1 gallon.

While my basil, Italian parsley, and Greek oregano also keep me smiling during these special summer months, the search continues for recipes including them along with instructions to follow, making sure they remain happy and healthy before drying them for the months that follow. A neighbor recently asked me about the drying process of such herbs and I shared with her the following, which avoids the old-fashioned way of hanging them from in bunches to dry naturally:

Speed up the drying process in the microwave by placing herbs on a paper towel-covered paper plate. Start with one to two minutes on high. Repeat for 30 seconds as needed until the herbs are brittle. Store dried herbs in an airtight plastic or glass jar.

I’m not sure where I found this recipe, but will be making it as soon as possible.

Basil butter

1 cup (2 sticks) room temperature butter

½ cup finely chopped fresh basil

Coarse salt

Ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine butter and basil, season generously with salt and pepper and stir until combined. Transfer to an 11-by-10-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll into a cylinder, about 6-inches long and 2 inches in diameter; twist ends to seal. Refrigerate until very firm, about 2 hours. To serve, unwrap and slice crosswise. (To store, refrigerate wrapped in waxed paper, up to 1 week. To freeze, transfer cylinder, wrapped in waxed paper, to a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months.)

Try basil butter on broiled or grilled white fish, such as red snapper, cod, or flounder; on grilled steak or chicken; on corn on the cob or boiled potatoes; with boiled green beans or peas.

Here is a wonderful basil vinaigrette for a pasta salad or a marinade for poultry or fish. If you have a mortar and pestle or don’t mind doing a lot of chopping by hand, you can make this without a blender or food processor.

It’s from “Very Salad Dressing” by Teresa Burns.

Perfect pesto vinaigrette

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian flat-leaf parsley)

2 garlic cloves

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a jar with a hand blender or in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine basil, Parmesan, vinegar, lemon juice, parsley and garlic. Blend until herbs are finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add oil and continue processing until oil is fully incorporated into mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill the dressing until you are ready to use it. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before mixing again and serving.

This dressing will keep up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2 cups.

Recently, I discovered an open jar of applesauce in the refrigerator that needed some attention. Because I happen to enjoy slices of homemade fruit bread to enjoy with coffee in the morning, I began to search for an applesauce bread recipe and found one in a 1981 spiral bound, softcover “All American Cookbook” filled with tested recipes from crop and livestock associations throughout the United States, this one from the Western New York Apple Growers Association. I will make this again.

Spiced applesauce bread

1 cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 ¼ cups applesauce

3 tablespoons milk

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

½ cup chopped pecans

Combine sugar, oil, eggs, applesauce, and milk. Add sifted dry ingredients and nuts. Sprinkle topping over batter in greased 4 1/2-x-8 ½ loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


¼ cup pecans

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Note: I had an open bag of Sun-Made chopped dates and added some to the batter. Also, I made 4 small loaves using my 3x5-inch loaf pans and baked them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or until testing done) and will make these again.

While searching for small recipes requiring few ingredients, I came across a recipe in a “Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook” by Phyllis Pellman Good that brought a smile to my face.

Italian chops

16-ounce bottle Italian salad dressing (use less if cooking only 2 pork chops)

2-4 pork chops

Place pork chops in slow cooker. Pour salad dressing (use less if cooking only 2 chops).

Cover and cook on Low 2-4 hours, or until tender.

Variation: Add cubed potatoes and thinly sliced carrots and onions to meat before pouring dressing over top.

A request recently arrived for Jacobson’s potato salad recipe. Longtime reader and local good cook Dorothy Kruse responded immediately with her own tips for potato salad. She boils potatoes in their skins and when a fork slides easily into the boiled potato, they are done. When cool enough to handle, peel and dice potatoes. While potatoes are still hot/warm, sprinkle them with a mixture of 1 tablespoon each of vinegar and sugar and a 1 ½ teaspoon of salt. Toss and let cool.

This seems to distribute flavor to the inside of the diced potato pieces. From that point, she suggests using your own favorite mayonnaise. Here is Kruse’s own blender mayonnaise recipe.

Blender mayonnaise

1 egg

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon paprika, optional

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 cup salad oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Put egg, seasonings, sugar, vinegar and ¼ cup oil into blender, process on WHIP or MIX. Immediately remove feeder cap and pour remaining oil in a steady stream into blender. Stop blender once to scrape down sides of container and blend a few additional seconds. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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