I used to be a die hard margarine fan. It was what I grew up with, I was comfortable using it and it was cheap. Why mess with a good thing? But my culinary friends would all tell rapturous stories of their experiences with butter. They would have a dreamy look in their eyes as they told me about their flakier pie crusts, lighter breads and richer gravies. The retelling of their experience with butter resembled their stories of first loves and I started to think maybe I was missing out on something really big. So I went to get my first package to see for myself. From that day on I understood what the cult of butter was all about.
Butter is one of the most highly concentrated forms of fluid milk. Even though it is made up of the fat of cow’s milk only 80% is fat and the other 20% is water and milk solids. It comes in salted or unsalted forms but the salt is there purely as a preservative and as long as you use your butter within about a month’s time it won’t go bad. When baking you should always choose unsalted or “sweet” because the salt reacts to the gluten in the flour and toughens up your final product. But really, the use of butter is all about the taste. The reason why it creates such a noticeable difference in our food is because most flavors dissolve better in fats. Butter is a delivery system for anything you decide to cook in it. For instance, if you sauté on onion in butter before adding all the other ingredients, all the flavor from the onion will be carried by the butter throughout the whole dish. It’s creamy taste and ability to enhance flavors is what sends us culinary folk into such euphoria. So if you haven’t converted to butter yet, here are a few recipes that just might give you the push you need.
Pan Seared Tilapia with Chili Lime Butter
For chile lime butter
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
• 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
• 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh Serrano chili, including seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 6 (5 ounce) skinless tilapia fillets
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Stir together butter, shallot, zest, lime juice, chile and salt in a bowl and set aside. Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until just smoking. Sauté 3 pieces of fish, using a spatula to turn once, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sauté remaining fish in same manner. Serve each piece of fish with a dollop of chile lime butter.
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter
(“San Francisco Flavors” San Francisco Jr. League Cookbook)
• 1 (1 1/2 lb.) butternut squash, halved and seeded
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• salt & freshly ground black pepper
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 large leek, white part only, halved length wise and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
• Wonton wrappers (square)
• 12 sage leaves
Preheat the oven to 400°F Brush the olive oil over the cut sides of the squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place, cut-side down, in a glass baking dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until soft. Let cool. Scoop the squash out of the skin and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat and sauté the leek until browned, about 7 minutes. Add the squash, cheese, and parsley and stir until just heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place 1 tablespoon filling on a wonton wrapper. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water, fold, and seal shut around the filling. Repeat until all the filling is used. In a large pot of salted slowly boiling water, cook the ravioli until they float to the top, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to serving bowls. While the ravioli are cooking, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Brown the sage leaves in the butter for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour over the ravioli and serve at once.
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 1 cup oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 3 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 4 cups raw diced pears
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1/4 lb. butter
Mix all cake ingredients by hand in order given. Pour in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan or spring form pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and remove. In saucepan mix all topping ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 3 minutes. Pour over cake and return to oven for 4 minutes.