First in the Nation & Thai Soup with Shrimp, Greens & Noodles

We Granite Staters are ever so proud to hold the first in the nation primary. A lot of pundits complain that New Hampshire has too much visibility and sway in the presidential election. Although not known for its diversity, the people of our little state take presidential politics seriously.

For months now, we have been changing or cancelling other plans to attend rallies and town halls to meet the candidates. That’s one of the cool things about New Hampshire. If you’re willing to make the effort, you can shake the hand of every candidate. Which in turn means, you can meet each and every president. Or it did until Mike Bloomberg. He’s skipping the Granite State and pinning his hopes on Super Tuesday. If he wins the oval office there are going be more than a few disgruntled, old guys who can no longer brag that they’ve shaken the hand of every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Along with seeing the candidates up close and personal, we get a lot of telephone calls. Sometimes it’s professional pollsters. Their survey can be short; press a few keys and you’re done. Others take forever. Still, I do my best to stay on the line while the poor kid at the other end takes me through round after round of what-ifs. In the final week leading up to the primary, phones rang nonstop with invitation after invitation to see the candidates – giving us one final chance to cement or change our choices.

That’s right, today’s the day to get off any fences and make a decision. No more top three, it’s time to pick one. So, here’s a thought, before you cast your vote, consider all the people who matter to you. How will your vote affect them? And don’t forget your forefathers and foremothers. While no longer with us, they certainly had opinions.

Let’s start with Nana, as in – what would Nana say? If your grandmother or great grandmother was born before the 19th amendment was passed, what would she tell you? What issues would she want you to consider? For one thing, I bet she’d tell you to get to the polls. No excuses.

On the other hand, what about grandpa? Isn’t he due to sign up for Medicare or social security in a year or two? Or maybe it’s your son who’s about to join you in one or both of these programs. What’s on his mind when it comes to the candidates?

Think of your children. If they’re full grown, think of them but also your grandchildren and great grandchildren. As the youngest members of your family make their way to school or work on this chilly, winter morning, what’s important to them and for them. Go beyond today’s concern and worries, imagine the future and what it could hold for them.

If you’re one of those children and old enough to vote, think of your mom and dad. Whether they’re living large and spending the winter in a condo in Florida or struggling to pay the propane bill, what’s best for them and their future?

Embrace your spouse or the memory of your spouse. How will he or she vote today … or would have? When you cast your ballot, stop and think about how your vote could help make your mate’s life better.

Beyond your near and dear, think of your friends and neighbors and their families plus the strangers from towns near and far and all their families. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to vote and bon appétit!

Thai Soup with Shrimp, Greens & Noodles

Special enough for company and quick for a weeknight, this flavorful soup will be the perfect end to a busy day. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • Vegetable oil
  • About 8 ounces shitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3-4 tablespoons Thai curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • About 1 pound baby spinach or your favorite greens
  • 8 ounces rice noodles
  • Garnish: cilantro leaves, thinly sliced scallions, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.

Lightly coat a soup kettle with oil and heat over medium-high, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pot and reserve.

If necessary, add more oil to coat the kettle along with the onion, garlic, ginger, curry paste and cumin, and sauté until the onion is translucent.

Add the stock, soy and fish sauces and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Prepare the noodles according to package directions and drain.

Raise the heat under the soup and bring it a rapid boil. Add the shrimp, spinach and mushrooms and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes.

To serve: divide the noodles among individual bowls, ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish with cilantro, scallions, peanuts and lime wedges.

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Hollywood Beckons & Sundried Tomato & White Bean Hummus

Last week, it was the Super Bowl. This Sunday, it’s the mother of all award shows, The Oscars! For everyone who didn’t host a Super Bowl party, well, now’s your chance. You can throw an Oscar bash for all your movie loving friends.

When comes to the Oscars, it’s all about Hollywood glam. Forget the football shaped cakes, buffalo wings and chili. This Sunday, to do it up right, your dishes should be as beautiful as they are delicious. Unless you decide to go in another direction. (Sounds like a producer dashing your hopes and dreams to be the next Marilyn.) What might that alternative direction be? Why – a cozy slumber party of course.

Living in New Hampshire creates this simultaneous desire and aversion to dressing up. Desire because we never do, or almost never. Many of us remember the days when we didn’t just own a pair of high heels; we owned several. More important we wore them on a regular basis. At the same time, when push comes to shove, we really don’t want to cram our feet into those sexy little shoes again.

No, as much as we might pine for a past, more glamorous life, we do love our much more casual existence. Think about it. The class may not start until 5:30 in the evening but we’re happy to wear our yoga pants all day. Same goes with the ancient sneakers or clogs on our feet. We delude ourselves into thinking our current versions of party clothes are casual-cool-chic when they’re really just casual. Or maybe there’s no we here; only me.

Anyway, there could be more but I see two choices for an Oscar party – glamorous gowns and tuxedos or pajamas. Given that it’s winter, in New Hampshire, I’m seriously leaning toward pajamas. If you want, you could add a tutu and a tiara. I really need to put those two items on my must-have list. Everyone needs a spot in the back of the closet for costume-y clothes and accessories. My stash is missing these two key items.

For the menu, you can turn to the Oscar’s themselves. Or more precisely the after parties. These days, Hollywood is lending its support to the sustainability movement. There’ll be a spotlight on plant-based delicacies at this year’s post-award galas. There will be lots of locally grown vegetables on the menu. Gathering around the television for an Oscar watching party doesn’t really lend itself to a sit down meal. Vegetarian or vegan small plates, tapas and appetizers will be perfect for your party.

If you’re planning an elegant evening, then beautiful one and two bite wonders will be just the thing. A fun and festive pajama party can take a more serve yourself approach with beautiful dips, mugs of soup and small bowls of fresh salad. Or you could skip all that and pop some popcorn. After all, it is the perfect movie food. To complete the menu, all you need is a glass of champagne. Unless, I suppose, you decide to serve Milk Duds and Twizzlers for dessert.

As for me? Yes, I will be in my pajamas and there will be, among other things, popcorn and champagne. I’ve told a few movie-loving friends that I would be more than delighted if they joined me to watch glamorous stars pass out awards and give speeches. Except for one thing, I can barely make it to best film editing before my eyes start to get heavy and my head starts to nod. No one was hurt. One friend figured she might have to leave in the middle sound mixing or risk falling asleep at the wheel on the way home.

Enjoy the pageantry and bon appétit!

Sundried Tomato & White Bean Hummus

A healthy snack for any occasion, serve the hummus with fresh vegetables and/or pita chips. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch chunk red onion
  • About 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • About 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • About1/4 cup roughly chopped, drained oil-packed sundried tomatoes
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
  • 1 can (about 1 1/2 cups) white beans
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Very hot water
  • Fresh vegetables and pita chips
  • Toasted pine nuts

Put the garlic and onion in a food processor, add the herbs and pulse to combine and chop. Add the sundried tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and sriracha and pulse until everything is finely chopped and combined.

Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. 2-3 tablespoons at a time, add the hot water and process until smooth.

Let the hummus sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to combine the flavors. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Two ways to serve:

Pass sweet little hors d’oeuvres: peel and slice cucumbers. Using a small spoon or a pastry bag, add a dab of hummus on each cucumber slice and top with a pine nut.

… or …

Let everyone help themselves: put the hummus in a bowl, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with pine nuts. Place the bowl in the center of a large platter, surround the bowl with a variety of vegetables and pita chips.

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Alternatives & Thai Butternut Squash Soup

After two decades of dominating the NFL there is a big, cloud hanging over New England. Most everyone from Rhode Island to Maine is bereft. The Super Bowl is this Sunday and the Patriots aren’t in it. Of course, New Englanders aren’t alone; only two teams have golden tickets to Miami. But that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that, at least for now, Tom and the boys and all their fans must settle for six Super Bowl rings.

I’m not sure what you are supposed to do when your team fails to meet the cut. Do you sit around and pout or head to New Orleans or Las Vegas for a wild weekend? Since I’m football impaired, I can only guess about these things.

I’m sure that a fair number of New Englanders will glumly watch San Francisco and Kansas City battle it out. A warm beer in one hand and a tear-soaked handkerchief in the other, they’ll dream of what coulda, shoulda been and do their best to enjoy the game.

What about you? Not feeling tearful or in need of a warm beer? There must be alternatives. In our mix and match, design-your-own-plan world, there are always alternatives.

To start with, you could invite all your friends over to watch an all-day or all-night marathon of:

All six Patriots’ Super Bowl wins.

Every football movie ever made from Brian’s Song to Any Given Sunday and, of course, Jerry Maguire.

Romantic comedies with at least one scene with a football, including Love Story and Jerry Maguire.

Then of course, you could enjoy a different kind of competition. How about:

A mah jongg tournament or Scrabble match.

A bake-off to see who can make the cutest, the most clever cupcakes.

A sing-off. If the cat doesn’t run away, you’re the winner.

Or just relax.

Forget about football.

Forget about competition.

Except for sports bars, most restaurants and movie theaters are half empty on Super Bowl Sunday. It’s the perfect night to book a table at that always full to overflowing hot spot. Same goes for the latest block buster. The one that’s been sold out every time you’ve tried to see it.

Or stay home.

Invite your football-impaired friends over for a glass of wine and a good long chat. Ask anyone who’s willing to bring a batch of soup or a salad to share. Heck, if you’ve got a busy day on Monday, you can do it on Saturday. When it comes to friendship, there is no schedule or calendar. Any day is a good day to have friends around.

Enjoy the game any way you like and bon appétit!

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

My roasted butternut squash soup is a family favorite but sometimes you need a change. Or maybe a new favorite. Enjoy!

Makes 5-6 quarts

  • Olive oil
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Thai red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha (optional)
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 6 or more cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro

Lightly coat a soup kettle with olive oil and heat over medium high, add the squash, onion, carrots, bell pepper and curry paste, season with thyme, coriander, cumin and sriracha and toss to combine. Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until the vegetables start to brown.

Stir in the vegetable stock, coconut milk, soy and fish sauces. Bring the soup to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and cool the soup for about 20 minutes.

Working in batches and adding more stock if necessary, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth.

Return the soup to the pot and heat to steaming. Ladle into bowls or mugs, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.

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Simple Pleasures & Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Ragù

January is a time of resolutions. Every year, about forty percent of us resolve to make some change or another. We pledge to fix whatever is broken and a few things that aren’t. Popular promises include exercising more, spending less and losing weight. By the Fourth of July, the majority of those resolutions have been kicked to the curb.

Why do we fail? More often than not, these annual attempts at reform are all about deprivation and denial. Not only that, we make them during northern New England’s coldest, darkest days. Even if we somehow manage to keep our resolution through the long winter, there’s still the soggy, black fly infested spring to endure.

Whether we achieve the goal or not, all that deprivation can drive us to foolhardy indulgences. Or maybe it the endless snow and ice that lead us into temptation. Anyway, we take trips we can’t afford. Or spend days binge watching something, anything to avoid going outside for some exercise. Or go on shopping sprees for things we don’t need.

Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and overindulging, how about considering a new approach to resolutions. Why not use them to embrace a happier, healthier and saner lifestyle? Maybe it’s time to pare down and create a life filled with simple pleasures.

An avid walker, I follow the same route almost everyday but it never gets old. There is always something beautiful to experience. One day, it’s the sun filtering through snow covered trees. On another, the songs of the loons fill the air or I bump into a neighbor and enjoy a chat. These simple pleasures send me back out day after day.

However, if the cold isn’t for you, how about dancing? Turn up the music at home or take a class. Find simple joy in good company, in movement and, most of all, in music. An added benefit, you may fulfill another resolution and loose a few pounds.

Is it past time you got out of debt? You are not alone. Just over forty percent of Americans are plagued with credit card debt. The solution is easy; don’t buy anything. And by anything, I mean all of those needless and often impulse purchases that we too often make.

Several years ago, I had a small remodeling project balloon into a much bigger one. I won’t bore you with the details except to say the builder discovered rot. The budget quadrupled. Freaked out, I stopped shopping for at least a year. I went for months without buying another pair of sneakers or a new sweater and whatever other impulse purchases I might have made. My feet were still well shod and body clothed. I already had more than enough dishes and cookware and homey stuff. The house was already filled with piles of books to read and lots of stuff to do

And no, my year without shopping wasn’t enough to cover the increased construction costs. However, it made me feel better – calmer and more in control. Besides, it was surprisingly easy. Except for the supermarket, farm stand and pharmacy, I stayed out stores. The rewards were fantastic. It’s amazing how many interesting adventures, how much fun you can have when you avoid recreational shopping. Instead of deprivation, I enjoyed the simple pleasure of more time to relax, to enjoy nature and to be with loved ones. I still do.

Wishing you many simple pleasures in the days and months to come. Bon appétit!

Sausage & Broccoli Rabe  Ragù

A hearty ragù is simply delicious on a cold winter night. Try the ragù with last week’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi recipe or serve it with polenta or your favorite pasta. Enjoy!

Serves 6

  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausages, sweet or hot, casings removed
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon or to taste hot pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • About 1 1/2 pounds broccoli rabe, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high, Add the sausage and, breaking up into small pieces, cook until lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain.

Add the onion to the pan, sprinkle with thyme and hot pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and garlic, toss to combine and sauté until the broccoli rabe is tender, 5-10 minutes.

Return the sausage to the pan, add the white wine and toss to combine. Sauté until the wine evaporates. Remove from the heat and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Serve the ragù with your favorite gnocchi, pasta or polenta. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Stranger on a Train & Cheesy Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Over the holidays, I watched or sort of watched more than a few movies. By sort of watching, I mean I was multitasking. Anyway, one film in particular comes to mind. I’m not sure what I was doing but it probably included wrapping presents, baking a flourless chocolate cake and setting the table while vacuuming up pine needles. Except for one wonderful line, I don’t remember a thing about the movie. Delivered with just the right amount of indignation, a pretty blond woman responded to a cheery fellow’s questions with “That’s not something I’d tell a stranger on a train.”

It stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder, “What would I tell a stranger on a train?” I stopped what I was doing, found a scrap of paper and wrote it down – in red magic marker. Then went back to baking and decorating or whatever I was doing. Until today. This morning, I sat down at my desk with a story in my head and ready to write. Fumbling through the flotsam and jetsam for lip balm, I found that scrap of paper. (Now, a newly scrawled note with what would have been today’s topic sits amongst the pens and pencils, cables, flash drives and dogeared scraps that surround my laptop.)

Maybe it’s just me but the whole idea of a conversation with a stranger on a train is intriguing. Especially when it’s a stranger that you’ll probably never ever see again. So … what would you tell a stranger on a train? And what’s off limits or too much information?

Would you stick to the top of mind? The newest, biggest thing in your life like the sweet, little dog who just became the latest addition to your family. Of course, you’ll want to cover any and every detail of her adorableness. After all, she is without a doubt the world’s very best dog.

Then again, the everyday stuff might serve you better. Take for instance, the manager who drives you crazy on a daily basis. A stranger is the perfect target for a good long vent. Whether the boss is a micromanager or a drama queen, your fellow passenger will be thrilled to hear all the awful stuff you put up with. After all, everyone knows that you are more than the perfect employee; you are a saint.

Or, perhaps … a cozy compartment might be just the place for a confession. We all have secrets; some deeper and darker. What might you share? Did you sleep with a married man? Or are you the married man who did the cheating? Maybe you bullied the kid who sat behind you in middle school or scarfed that last piece of cake when no one was looking – and blamed it on your little brother.

An hour is generally plenty of time to share a favorite story. Why not skip the here and now and tell a tale that has been burnished by time, telling and retelling? Regale your seatmate with a glimpse into the life of your remarkable grandfather or childhood adventures on Pleasant Lake.

If you are so inclined, you could also lie. You could weave a tale about your engagement to Brad Pitt. So what if the closest you’ve come to marrying the two-time sexiest man alive was spotting him (or someone who looked a lot like him) on a hike in the Hollywood hills. Perhaps you’d rather share the details of your visit to Washington. The one that ended with you sitting next to Justin Trudeau at a fabulous White House dinner.

Or tell nothing, nothing at all. Maybe you’d hide behind a book and keep your stories, secrets and lies to yourself. At least for another day.

Wishing you many good stories in the new year and bon appétit!

Cheesy Sweet Potato Gnocchi

If train travel isn’t in your immediate future, maybe you’ll share your tall tales, confessions, stories and lies during a cozy dinner with family and friends. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 pounds (6-8 servings)

  • 1 large (1-1 1/2 pounds) sweet potato
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 or more cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Prick the sweet potato with a sharp knife, set on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and bake at 425 degrees until soft, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, put the ricotta and egg in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses, sprinkle with thyme and paprika, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir to combine.

As soon it is cool enough to handle, halve the sweet potato, scoop the flesh into a large bowl and mash it with a fork. Add the cheeses and egg mixture and stir to combine.

1/2 cup at a time, stir in the flour until a soft, sticky dough forms. Gently knead the dough on a well-floured surface.

Divide the dough into 6-8 balls. Working on a well-floured surface, roll the dough balls into ropes about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the ropes into 3/4-inch pieces. Place the gnocchi on baking sheets lined with parchment or wax paper.

Can be made a few hours ahead, covered and refrigerated until ready to cook. Or freeze on the baking sheet, transfer to a container, cover and store in the freezer. Do not defrost before cooking.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, simmer until they rise to the surface and then continue simmering for 2 minutes.

Serve the gnocchi tossed with roasted or sautéed vegetables or your favorite sauce and a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

Some Kind of Year & Winter Salad with Broccoli, Kale & Radicchio

2020 promises to be some kind of year. For one thing, there’s the presidential election. While the excitement has been percolating for months, it will soon come to a full-blown, over the top boil. As important, maybe more, life will happen. People will fall in love; others will fall out. Babies will be born. Little children will experience their first day of school. Bigger children will graduate and move on to the next phase of life. People will find first jobs and new jobs or continue with the same old job and some will retire. Houses will be built and homes will be made. Gardens will grow. The bounty will be harvested. Life will happen.

Here’s a rambling list of tips – one for each week of 2020 – to help all of us make it some kind of year:

  1. Hold your head high; you are smart enough, strong enough and important enough. You are enough.
  2. Don’t forget, no matter how important you become – your socks still go on before your shoes.
  3. Drink plenty of water.
  4. Read the entire recipe before plunging in.
  5. Try new things.
  6. Exercise, if not daily, then three or four times a week.
  7. Don’t slouch.
  8. Twinkle lights make everything look better.
  9. It’s okay to write in your cookbooks.
  10. An hour spent doing nothing is time well spent.
  11. Live with integrity.
  12. Practice generosity.
  13. Participate in real conversations.
  14. Look people in the eye.
  15. It’s not always about you.
  16. Smile for real (with your eyes as well as your mouth) or not at all.
  17. Make time for the people who make you happy.
  18. Make time for the places that make you happy.
  19. Make time for the activities that make you happy.
  20. Talk less; listen more.
  21. Save the rind on the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Throw it in the pot when simmering soup or a stew.
  22. Little things matter.
  23. Be curious.
  24. Practice courage.
  25. Every kitchen needs a very big mixing bowl.
  26. Make your bed every day.
  27. Laugh often.
  28. Perfect enough is better than perfect and more attainable.
  29. There’s only one to a customer; treat your body with care and respect.
  30. Fold your laundry and put it away as soon as it comes out of the dryer.
  31. Don’t be afraid to ask. After all, the worst that can happen is the answer could be no.
  32. Own your mistakes, do your best to fix them and move on.
  33. Embrace diversity.
  34. Be kind to others and yourself.
  35. Cultivate creativity and beauty.
  36. Overthinking is as debilitating as it is common.
  37. Love more.
  38. Read a lot.
  39. Complaining rarely solves anything.
  40. Find and maintain balance.
  41. Persist.
  42. Learning never ends.
  43. You can handle a lot more than you think.
  44. Words matter.
  45. Trust your intuition.
  46. Know who you are. Embrace who you are.
  47. Forgive yourself. Forgive others.
  48. Be gracious.
  49. Have fun.
  50. Be here now – not dwelling in the past or daydreaming about the future.
  51. Don’t take any wooden nickels.
  52. Don’t stick your tongue on a frozen metal pole.

Wishing you some kind of new year and bon appétit!

Winter Salad with Broccoli, Kale & Radicchio

My sister-in-law’s broccoli-kale salad is the inspiration for this colorful winter combination. Enjoy!

Serves 8

Start by making the vinaigrette.

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic, onion and mustard in a bowl or clean glass jar, add the lemon juice and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and whisk or shake to combine. Add the olive oil and whisk or shake until well combined. Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

While the vinaigrette mixes and melds, make the salad.

  • 1 broccoli crown, trimmed and finely chopped – about 2 cups
  • 1 bunch kale, ribs and stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2-1 head radicchio, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 6 radishes, cut in julienne
  • 2-3 Persian cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • About 3 ounces coarsely grated Pecorino Romano or Manchego cheese
  • About 1/2 cup roughly chopped hazel nuts, toasted

Prep the vegetables and put them in a large bowl. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine.

Transfer the salad to a deep platter or individual shallow bowls, sprinkle the cheese and nuts and serve.

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Do you have a favorite tip for 2020? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2020

 

 

The Night Before Christmas & Roasted Butternut Squash & Sausage Tart

Over the years, my family’s Christmas and Christmas Eve traditions have morphed and changed. Tiny tots or the lack of have been a key driver to where and how we spend the holidays. It all started with my mother. As soon as my sister came along, she declared that children should be home for Christmas. Grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins were welcomed with open arms. The more the merrier as long as Mom didn’t have to pile kids and dogs and presents and onsies into the car. Her kids were going to sleep (or not) in their own beds on Christmas Eve.

Years later, my sister and brother followed Mom’s example. That’s when the holiday became a mini road trip for Mom, Dad and me. Christmas Eve was spent with John and family and Christmas Day with Brenda and her crew. They lived less than an hour apart so the trip was far from taxing.

Today, there are no wee babies or even small children in the family. There haven’t been for a while. In addition, my brother and family now live a couple of miles down the road. For the past few years, we’ve spent Christmas Eve at my house. The better part of Christmas Day has been spent at John’s. But, you ask, what about my sister and fam?

Since we always try to do our best to extend any holiday for another day or two or three, the fun continues. Dad’s birthday is the 27th (yes, poor Daddy-o is an almost-Christmas baby), so, Brenda and family come over for a post-Christmas plus birthday celebratory brunch.

Of all these events, I think that Christmas Eve dinner is quite possibly my favorite. If I’m smart, I have all my presents bought and wrapped. My little tree is decorated, nutcrackers guard the mantle and greens fill the house with a piney scent. Best of all, around four o’clock, my nieces burst in the door ready to cook.

Christmas Eve – the girlies with Grandpa!

When they were little, their father called them the twirling girlies. They had boundless energy then and they have boundless energy still. They are smart, resourceful and brave. Not to mention, they have the most beautiful smiles. Just being in a room together makes me happy.

Aprons are passed out. We put on some music, pop a cork, maybe two, chat, laugh and chat some more. All the while, there is a whole lot of chopping, stirring and rolling going on. The table is set in festive red and green. Cooking tips are passed back and forth. Family history is shared. New news is exchanged. In spite of whatever bias I may harbor, I can state unequivocally that these are three remarkable young women. Plus, two out of the three really like to cook. The third is not quite there yet but she’s slowly coming around. In any case, all cooks love both an audience and someone to entertain them. She handles both tasks beautifully.

It is a wonderful thing to share something you love with people you love. I’m sure there will come day when our traditions will morph and change again. For now, I’m just relishing the time I get to spend with the girlies in my kitchen.

Wishing you a happy holiday season filled with love and joy. Bon appétit!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Sausage Tart

Christmas morning or birthday celebration, this hearty quiche is perfect for a festive brunch. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

  • Savory Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage – sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) seeded, peeled and chopped butternut squash
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • About 2 cups (8 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
  • About 1/3 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half or whole milk or a mix

Roll out the Savory Flaky Pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Line a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with the pastry and crimp the edges. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Breaking it up into small pieces, sauté the sausage until cooked through, remove from the pan and drain. Cool to room temperature.

Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme and toss to combine. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender. Cool to room temperature.

Bump up the oven temperature to 450 degrees.

Put the cheeses in a bowl, sprinkle with the flour and nutmeg and toss to coat.

Put half cheeses in the tart shell and top with the vegetables and sausage. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Put the eggs and mustard in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Slowly add the half & half, whisking until well combined. Leaving at least 1/4-inch at the top of the tart shell, pour in the egg mixture.

Transfer the tart to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until the custard is set and tart is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Savory Flaky Pastry 

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 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

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. 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. Flatten the dough into a disk, cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

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Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019