Twelve Wishes for Christmas & Baked French Toast

santa_01Throughout the holiday season I hum a lot of carols. When I’m walking, I tend to favor all the faster paced songs. They keep me moving on a cold day. So if you happen to see me on my walk around Pleasant Lake, there is a good chance that Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells or The Twelve Days of Christmas is running through my head.

When I was small, I think I was a bit envious of anyone who celebrated Christmas for twelve whole days. Although Santa was always quite generous, the idea of days and days of gifts, not to mention a true love, was certainly intriguing. That said; I must have assumed that my twelve days would be filled with Barbies, books and maybe a sweater or teddy bear. A cavalcade of livestock, leaping lords and dancing ladies were definitely not on my list to Santa.

Sure Mrs. Ferguson taught ball room dancing to most of the kids in town but pipe and drum corps marched in parades, not the living room. Although a small minority preferred cats, almost everyone in the neighborhood had a dog or two. Along with our two family dogs, my brother John was the proud owner of three turtles but no turtle doves. I’m guessing a few kids kept a gold fish or maybe a parakeet or canary. But French chickens or flocks of geese? Herds of cows and maids to milk them? Definitely not.

In the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, here are twelve gifts I wish for you for the holiday season and beyond.Christmas_Presents_02

1. Good health.

2. A good laugh.

3. Peace of mind and peace in your heart.

4. Lots of reasons to smile and a smile for no reason at all.

5. Curiosity.

6. Creativity.

7. Courage.

8. Knowledge.

9. Wisdom.

10. Wonder.

11. Wanderlust and an open return ticket home.

12. Friends you love you like family and a family you love like friends.

My list is in no particular order and far from complete. What about you? What would yours look like?

Wishing you a joy-filled holiday and bon appétit!

Baked French Toast
A sweet and hearty breakfast treat for young and old! Prep the casserole in advance and pop it in the oven while you open your stockings. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

3/4 cup raisins, currents or dried cranberries
eggs_pecan_brown_sugar_02About 1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 – 1 loaf country-style bread, cut in cubes
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
8 eggs
3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cups half and half
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Topping
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish.

Put the raisins in a small, microwave safe bowl and add enough orange juice to cover. Loosely cover the bowl and zap the raisins in the microwave on high for one minute. Let the raisins sit, covered, for 30 minutes to plump.

Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Cool the bread to room temperature.

In a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk in the eggs and maple syrup. Add the milk and half and half and whisk until well combined.

Place the bread cubes in the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the raisins and drizzle the soaking liquid in and around the bread cubes. Gently pour the egg mixture over the bread and raisins. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.

In the morning: remove the casserole from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the topping: melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the nuts.

Spoon the topping evenly over the bread and bake until the casserole is set, puffed and golden, 45-55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Two Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes
Three Years Ago – Savory Bread Pudding
Four Years Ago – Triple Chocolate Parfait
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What would are your wishes for the holiday season and beyond? Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2012

Rainy Summer Weekend Special – Brunch

Yes, yes, I know we need the rain. In fact, we desperately need the rain. But does it have to come and stay for day after day after day. I like my summer rains after dinner, the middle of the night is good. Booming thundershowers are okay, even kind of exciting.

So what to do on a rainy summer weekend? When it’s been a too long day cooped up with too many games of Scrabble, my vote is dinner out. Hey, if it avoids an axe murder and helps the local economy, I’m all for it.

But how about brunch on Sunday. If it’s a gorgeous outside the last thing I want is brunch. However, a rainy day is perfect for a long, lazy morning or early afternoon brunch.

There are lots of great options. Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelets are great for a cozy group but omelets for twelve or twenty is a bit of a pain. If you invite the entire neighborhood, a beautiful savory tart or two or three is great. My favorites include Spinach Ricotta Pie,Tomato, Olive and Feta Tart and Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart).

But what about side dishes? A big Grilled Corn Salad with, Tomatoes & Arugula sounds good. For something fun and fruity, add a gorgeous fruit platter or Mojito Melons. Light and bring, fruit will make a great addition to your brunch.

And don’t forget the bakery basket. If you’ve got a great bakery in your neighborhood, warm, flakey croissants sound good. Or a delicious bagel with Smoked Salmon Mousse. And for something sweet, how about a beautiful batch of Blueberry Muffins or a Blueberry Crumb Cake?

Stay dry and have a good weekend! Bon appétit!

Want more? Click Here! for more seasonal menus or Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s on tap for you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button.

And if you’ve got a minute … many thanks for taking a look at my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. Why not join me at the next Eat Well-Do Good dinner?

© Susan W. Nye, 2012

Weekend Special – Happy Mothers’ Day

Hip hip hooray it’s Mothers’ Day this weekend. If you are not sure what to cook for your favorite mom or moms this weekend, maybe I can help!

First, what’s your plan … breakfast in bed? Brunch or lunch? Or a festive dinner? Here are a few ideas:

Breakfast in bed? Keep it simple and save room for a great noontime brunch. I remember bringing cold English muffins and orange juice to my mom when I was little. If you’ve got a great bakery in your neighborhood, why not take it up a notch with a warm croissant? Or a delicious bagel with Smoked Salmon Mousse? Or bake up a beautiful batch of Blueberry Muffins or Lemon Scones. Add a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea and a few strawberries.

Join forces for great family brunch: There are a lot of great options for the main event from Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelets for a small crowd (omelets for twelve or twenty are a bit of a pain) to a beautiful savory tart or two or three for a crowd. My favorites include Spinach Ricotta Pie,Tomato, Olive and Feta Tart and Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart).

But what about side dishes? The market is full of asparagus and most of it is on special. I love Roasted Asparagus & Walnuts and they will make a great addition to your brunch. (If you’ve got an extra minute or two, watch me make the asparagus with Erin Fehlau on WMUR’s Cook’s Corner.) Lemon Roasted Potatoes will be a lighter and brighter alternative to hash browns. And finally, don’t forget to add a big garden salad with mixed greens and lots of fresh veggies tossed with a Classic Vinaigrette.

End on a sweet note with Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool. (Strawberries are also on special at my local market this week. They aren’t local but they are still lovely.) Or make up a some Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème and serve it with lots of fresh berries. If your mom is a chocoholic like mine, she’ll love my Cappuccino Brownies.

And if you’d rather do dinner than brunch? Start with Fennel & Feta Salad or Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes. Next, keep the Asparagus and Lemon Potatoes on the menu but add Roasted or Grilled Salmon.

Not into salmon, how about a Roast Chicken or Grilled Lamb.

And for dessert? Any of the brunch suggestions will work beautifully at dinner but I’d go with Fresh Strawberries with Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème!

Have a wonderful weekend! Bon appétit!

Want more? Click Here! for more seasonal menus or Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s on tap for you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button.

And if you’ve got a minute … many thanks for taking a look at my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. Why not join me at the next Eat Well-Do Good dinner?

© Susan W. Nye, 2012

My Mother’s Gift & Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)

With Mothers’ Day approaching I’m feeling a little sentimental. I’ve been thinking about some of the gifts my mom has given me. Not the baby dolls or bicycles, the Fair Isle sweaters or even the bright red stew pot I still use today. I could dwell on the fact that she didn’t passed on her very long legs but I won’t.

Looking back, one of the best gifts my mother gave me was her enthusiasm for spirited conversation.

Dinner at our house served two critical purposes. It kept the family from starving and, more important, it brought us together every night. My mother was never particularly interested in cooking. I don’t remember her spending long hours in the kitchen. She gravitated toward quick and easy recipes and didn’t hesitate to throw a can of soup on a piece of chicken or into a pot of stew.

In spite of her indifference towards most things culinary, Mom was very keen about family dinner. For some of our neighbors, family dinner was a rare occasion, reserved for holidays or special occasions. Others raced through the evening meal and fled the table. Not so at my house, most evenings we hung out for a good hour, sometimes longer. The television was never on. Phone calls were only answered to take a message to call back later.

Every night we shared our news, victories, trials and tribulations. We discussed everything and anything. We talked about our day at school, our favorite books, celebrities and stars as well as the Boston Bruins and Red Sox. As we got older, political and social issues became key topics during our nightly conversations.

It was an exciting, turbulent time, a time of great change; kind of like now. We vigorously discussed the virtues and vices of the President and a whole host of politicians, public figures, crusaders and crooks. We deliberated over the war, civil rights, women’s rights and the environment. We shouted, we laughed, we jockeyed for position. We talked all at once, we interrupted each other in our excitement and enthusiasm. Somehow or other we managed to listen to each other (if only barely) and respect each other (if sometimes grudgingly).

Once in a blue moon, a subject was deemed off limits, inappropriate for my little brother’s young ears. Those times were few and far between. For the most part it was no holds barred. My sister and I were free to discuss, rant and rave with the passion and intensity of idealistic teenagers. Mom insisted that we never argued. In her words, we discussed enthusiastically.

Looking back, those dinners were tremendous confidence builders. I don’t ever remember my mother telling me I was wrong. From time to time she cautioned me that a particular opinion could be unpopular. She sometimes warned that a certain stand could put me on the outs with friends or neighbors. Even when she disagreed, she never discouraged my youthful dance with new ideas. Within our protective family circle, I was able to test new insights and changing opinions. I learned to listen and scrutinize an idea before accepting or rejecting it. Those dinners helped me develop the self-confidence to speak up, share my ideas and stories and listen to others. I am forever grateful.

How did I thank her? When we were little, my sister, brother and I took turns serving Mom an English muffin in bed on Mothers’ Day. Later I sent cards and flowers (when I remembered.) Now it’s a plant and I invite the family over for brunch or lunch. All in all, I definitely got the better half of the bargain.

Thank you Mom and Happy Mothers’ Day! Bon appétit!

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Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
This earthy French tart is perfect for brunch, lunch or a casual supper. Give it a try on Mothers’ Day and enjoy!
Serves 6-8
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4 slices thick cut bacon (about 1/4 pound), chopped (optional – substitute with olive oil)
About 1 tablespoon butter
2 pounds onions, cut in half lengthwise and sliced in thin wedges
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Savory Flakey Pastry (recipe follows)
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch nutmeg

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove from the skillet, drain on paper towels and reserve.

Add more or less butter to the bacon drippings to coat the skillet and melt. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the onions with the bacon and thyme. Cool to room temperature.

While the onion is cooking and cooling, roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Line a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with the pastry leaving about 1/4-inch for shrinkage; crimp the edges. Cover the pastry and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and arrange the rack in the middle of the oven.

Put the eggs, sour cream, mustard and nutmeg in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the onions and bacon and toss to combine. Pour the onion mixture into the tart shell.

Put the tart in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is golden brown. Cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Savory Flakey Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Blend the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Two Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Three Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s the best (or worse) place to kick you out?!? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2012

Weekend Special – Brunch for Easter

Do you skip Easter dinner in favor of brunch? It’s not a bad idea … especially if you plan to eat at midday and have lots of friends and family coming (and maybe bringing a dish as well!) Whether you are hosting or offered to bring something along, here are a few suggestions for a fabulous Easter Brunch:

Relax with Cocktails: Greet your guests with something to sip and something to nibble. You could serve mimosas but why not try something a little different like Strawberry Bellinis? Warm up some bagels or toast some thinly sliced ciabatta and let everyone help themselves to Smoked Salmon Mousse. Or pass around wedges of Flatbread with Mushroom, Caramelized Onions & Spinach. Take your time and enjoy the day. While the adults chat, mix and mingle, the kids can scour the lawn for Easter eggs.

The Buffet Table: A nice selection of quiches will look lovely on your table. Even manly men won’t mind if they are delicious. If it helps, call them tarts or better yet pies. Try my Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart, Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart and/or Spinach Ricotta Pie. A baked ham will be great with the quiches. You might like to try my recipe for Maple Glazed Ham with Apples & Onions in the on-line version of the spring 2011 issue of Image Magazine. And everyone will love my Penne Gratin, think of it as Mac & Cheese with an Italian accent. For a few greens, add a salad or two. My Corn & Tomato Salad or Caesar Salad are both good choices.

For a Sweet Finish: Scones Ginger or Lemon, Blueberry Muffins and maybe Hot Cross Buns will be perfect in a sweet bakery basket and Creamy Yogurt with Honeyed Apricots will be a great addition to the sweets table. Or go all out! Lemon Cheesecake with lots of fresh strawberries will make a wonderful, rich finish to your bunch.

Have a great weekend with family and friends. Bon appétit!

Strawberry Bellini Cocktails
Makes about 2 cups strawberry puree, enough for 8 cocktails

1 – 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, thawed but still very cold
2 tablespooons or to taste honey (optional)
Cold prosecco sparkling wine*

Puree the strawberries with the honey in batches in a blender until very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the seeds and solids. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve: pour 2 ounces strawberry puree into a champagne flute, add 3 ounces of prosecco and serve immediately.

*For the kids, substitute the prosecco with lemon-lime soda or ginger ale.

Have a wonderful weekend with family and friends. Bon appétit!

Brunch not your thing? I’ve got you covered with a great menu for an Easter Lamb Feast and Traditional Holiday Ham Dinner. Feel free to mix and match!

Want more? Click Here! for more seasonal menus or Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s on your Easter menu? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button.

And if you’ve got a minute … many thanks for taking a look at my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good

© Susan W. Nye, 2012

Holiday Special – Christmas Brunch

Throughout December I’m sharing different menus to help you create beautiful feasts for the holidays. You can find helpful hints and a beautiful Mediterranean menu and recipes for a fabulous cocktail party. I’ve put together seven fun plates for a Feast of Seven Fishes Tapas Party. Then again, maybe you’re serving turkey for Christmas? Well, I’ve got a great menu for you. And if you’d rather go with roast beast? I’ve got you covered with a delicious menu for beef or pork tenderloin.

But today … it’s all about Christmas Brunch.

Whether you have a long, lazy morning in bed followed by a leisurely coffee and a few presents or rise before dawn with over-excited little ones … brunch is a great alternative to a big Christmas dinner. Especially, if you cooked up a huge feast on Christmas Eve.

Keep it very casual. Let everyone stay in their pajamas … all day if they like. Serve the food buffet style and relax. There is no need to hurry.

Start with a toast to Santa and your good fortune with a colorful Mango Sparkle. There are two versions, one with and one without alcohol. If you need something cozy, warm up with a mug of Mulled Cider.

Hopefully, you’ve got a good bakery or bagelry nearby, there is nothing better than bagels and lox. (No one said you had to make everything from scratch.) It will only take a few minutes to create a beautiful platter of smoked salmon, capers, red onions and a small bowl of cream cheese. (Don’t forget to soak the onions in cold water for several hours or overnight to take the bite out!)

If you want to get fancy … A beautiful Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart will make a delicious addition to your party. Unless you’re looking for something a little heartier like Spinach & Ricotta Pie. If you’ve got a small group, Brie & Sundried Tomato Omelets are a great choice. Don’t forget to make up a batch of Baked French Toast. This yummy casserole is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.

But if you’ve got a crowd, forget the individual omelets and whip up a big batch of Scrambled Eggs. If you like, dress up the eggs with some grated cheddar or crumbled goat cheese and a few chopped chives. Who doesn’t like cheesy eggs? With a strip or two of crispy bacon and/or a few sausage links, you’ve got everyone’s favorite breakfast feast!

Large or small crowd and especially for a late brunch, I like to add a simple Salad and some fresh fruit to the buffet table.

Complete your feast with a sweet treat. Don’t hesitate to pick up muffins and scones at the bakery. You’ve got a lot going on. However, if you were born to bake, try a batch of my Ginger Scones or an Apple Crumb Cake. For something creamy and sweet, give my Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt a try.

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What are you cooking for Christmas? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Weekend Special – Summer Breakfast

Summer weekends are the perfect time for a lazy summer breakfast.

No hustle. No bustle. Sleep late or get up early and ease ever so slowly into the day. The best thing about summer mornings is the complete lack of urgency as you face another wonderful day on the lake.

Here are a few ideas for a relaxed summer breakfast:

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To Start:
Strawberries, blueberries, nectarines! Enjoy a big bowl of your favorite summer fruit. Top it off with a dollop of Thick & Creamy Honeyed Yogurt. Or for a change of pace, try my Mojito Melons

The Main Event:
I love a good omelet. Whether you keep it simple with a few chopped herbs or dress it up with Brie and Sundried Tomatoes, it’s a quick and easy start to the day. Then again, if you’ve got a crowd at your house, nothing beats easy like a big pan of Scrambled Eggs. Not special enough? Dress them up with a sprinkle of cheddar or goat cheese.

Sweet Treats:
What could be better than a muffin? I’m partial to Rhubarb but my favorite is Blueberry. Unless you’ve got a hankering for a scone. It’s a toss-up, I’m not sure if my favorite is Ginger or Lemon.

Enjoy a perfect lazy morning! Bon appétit!

Thick & Creamy Honeyed Yogurt
Makes about 2 cups

32 ounces nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup (or to taste) honey
1 tablespoon sweet Marsala (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Juice of 1/2 orange
Grated zest orange of 1/2 orange

Put the yogurt in a colander or sieve lined with a clean dishtowel or coffee filter; let drain for at least 2-3 hours.

Put the honey,  Marsala, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice and zest in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the yogurt and whisk until smooth.

What’s your favorite summer breakfast? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011

In the Kitchen … Scrambling Eggs

I’m the chef at a private club in the summer and every Sunday morning I whip up a ginormous mound of scrambled eggs. Last weekend I cracked ten dozen, yes TEN DOZEN, eggs.

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Through trial and error I’ve figured out how many eggs and how much milk or half & half and butter I need to scramble eggs for a crowd. (Heaven forbid I should have to make an additional batch of eggs part way through brunch. I’ve got a beach and a book calling my name!)
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Here are my quick and easy formulas to make perfect scrambled eggs for a crowd:

Number of people x 2.5 = number of large eggs
Number of people ÷ 16 = cups of half & half
1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter per dozen eggs

So for 8 people, you will need:

20 eggs
1/2 cup half & half

Whisk them up in a big bowl and season with salt to taste.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a non-stick pan over low heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add the eggs. Gently stir and fold the eggs with a rubber spatula until they start to form big clumps. Sprinkle with pepper to taste and continue stirring and folding until you reach the desired doneness. Serve hot.

What to do when a little piece of egg shell falls into the eggs? I’m sure it’s happened to you. With ten dozen eggs or more every weekend, I can assure you it happens to me at least once or twice every weekend. To remove the renegade piece of shell quickly and easily, use half of the egg shell as a scoop and remove the piece. It works much better than a spoon (or your finger)!

Bon appétit!

More Tips, Tricks & Tools

What’s your favorite summer breakfast? Mine’s a muffin with big fat blueberries! Post your favorite in the comments section – I’d love to hear from you!  

©Susan W. Nye, 2011

Asparagus & Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart

Memorial Day has come and gone. June brings sunny days and warm nights. Lilacs, lupine and iris bloom. Beautiful brides put jitters aside and walk gracefully down the aisle. Students dread, cram and cram some more for final exams and then celebrate joyous graduations.
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And cooks, we do our own little happy dance. Fresh, local asparagus is in the market.

In case you are wondering what to do with early summer’s bounty …
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1. Wrap it in up. Roll up whole spears in sheets of buttery phyllo. Add a sprinkle of parmesan and you’ve got a wonderfully simple appetizer.

2. Steam it until it is tender-crisp. Whatever you do, don’t overcook. No one but no one likes soggy grey asparagus. Finish the bright green stalks with a drizzle of lemon butter. If you want to get a little fancy, dress it up with hollandaise.

3. Roast it. Before you slide it in the oven lightly coat with walnut oil and white wine vinegar and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

4. Grill it on high heat after a light toss in extra virgin olive oil. Hot off the grill, add a squirt of lemon and serve.

5. Put it in the blender and turn it into a smooth and creamy soup. Serve hot or cold.

6. Throw it in a salad. Raw, steamed, roasted or grilled, asparagus is a great addition to a summer salad. Try it with dandelion greens or a colorful mesclun mix. Top it off with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts or crumbled gorgonzola or both!

7. Toss it with pasta. A little extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped shallot, a touch of garlic and a squeeze of lemon turn asparagus and pasta into a heavenly feast. Sprinkle with grated lemon peel, chopped parsley and crumbled feta. Dinner is served.

8. Stir it into risotto. Who doesn’t love risotto? Add chopped asparagus about five maybe ten minutes before the risotto is al dente. A definite winner!

9. Stir fry it. Start with a little garlic, a little ginger and a touch of spicy hot pepper flakes. Add the asparagus and toss until it’s tender-crisp. Top it off with a splash of soy sauce and lime juice.

10. Bake it in a tart. Combine asparagus, tangy goat cheese and creamy custard in a flakey pastry shell and bake to golden perfection.

For big celebrations, simple family suppers or romantic picnics, June is the month for lots and lots of asparagus.

Bon appétit!

Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart
This versatile dish is great for brunch, lunch or a light supper. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

Savory Flakey Pastry (recipe follows)
Olive oil
About 12 ounces asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
4 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup half & half
1 teaspoon Dijon
Pinch nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and arrange the rack in the middle of the oven.

Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Line a 9-10 inch pie or tart pan with the pastry leaving about 1/4-inch for shrinkage; crimp the edges. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Cool the veggies, sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Put the vegetables in the pie shell. Sprinkle with the cheeses.

Whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the pie shell, adding just enough to come within 1/4-inch of the top of the shell.

Transfer the tart to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes and lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the custard is set and quiche is golden brown. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Savory Flakey Pastry
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Blend flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and shortening; process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic; chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger

Two Years Ago – Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup

Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2011

Weekend Special – Mother’s Day Brunch or Lunch

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Sunday is Mothers’ Day. Just in time for a family celebration, my mom and dad are returning home from Florida tomorrow. Not sure if we will be five or six or twelve but I’m looking forward a fun and festive lunch or maybe brunch.

Here are a few ideas!

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To Start:
Kick off brunch or lunch with a festive cocktail! A little Mango & Sparkle will start you off on the right foot. Instead of bagels and cream cheese, take it up a notch with bagels or lightly toasted sourdough bread and Smoked Salmon Mousse.

The Main Event:
I let the weather be my guide when it comes to my Mothers’ Day feast. If it’s cold and rainy I’m apt to call it brunch and go for quiche. My favorites include Spinach-Ricotta Pie and Tomato & Cheddar Quiche.

If it’s sunny and bright, I call it lunch and make a big salad. I love this
Thai Salad and add Spicy Grilled Chicken or Tequila Shrimp for a one platter lunch. Or maybe this special occasion calls for nothing less than Lobster Salad!

Sweet Treats:
What could be better than Rhubarb or Blueberry Muffins. And don’t forget the Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt

Mango & Sparkle
Serves 8-8

12 ounces mango juice
2 ounces rum
Nutmeg
1 bottle prosecco, chilled
Lime slices or wedges

Combine the mango juice and rum and carefully pour into an ice cube tray. Add a small pinch of nutmeg to each section. Set in the freezer until frozen solid.

To serve: put 1 or 2 frozen mango cubes in each champagne flute. Carefully pour prosecco over the cube(s). Garnish each glass with a lime slice or wedge.

Non-alcohol Mango Sparkler 

Serves 6-8

1 quart mango juice, chilled
Nutmeg
Sparkling water, chilled
Lime slices or wedges

Carefully pour mango juice into an ice cube tray. Add a small pinch of nutmeg to each section. Set in the freezer until frozen solid. Store the remaining mango juice in the refrigerator.

To serve: put 1 or 2 frozen mango cubes in each champagne flute. Fill the glasses about 3/4 full with mango juice, top with sparkling water and garnish with a lime slice or wedge.

Have a fun and festive feast! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Mothers’ Day? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011