Chillin’ & Grillin’ on Cook’s Corner

If you’re up early and live in or near New Hampshire, you can catch me on Cook’s Corner Saturday morning!Erin_WMUR_02

Just tune into local ABC affiliate WMUR/Channel 9. I’ll be whipping up one of my favorite salads … and a great recipe for your Memorial Day Weekend cookout – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado.

Mixed Greens_Grilled_Asparagus_Cucumber_Avocado_04

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend and Time for a Cookout Special

Memorial Day Weekend! Time to roll the grill out of the garage for the first cookout of the summer! Get your friends and family together for some old fashioned fun and good food.

Start with a dip or two and let your guests wander, meet and greet. You can pick something up at the grocery store or take it up a notch with my Caponata or Baba Ganoush or both! Serve the dips with pita chips or crostini and fresh veggies.

grilling_asparagus_02What’s next? What will you throw on the grill? Fish, fowl, a steak or a burger? Take your pick from my Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa, Red Hot Barbequed ChickenGrilled Rib Eye with Compound Butter or Not Your Ordinary Burger. Complete the main course with a couple of salads. Think green and give my Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado a try. A tasty pasta salad is always welcome. Try my Orzo Salad with Lemony Pesto & Grilled Tomatoes or Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables.

chocolate_peanut_butter_tart_04Top it all off with a delicious dessert. If you have not had enough rhubarb yet, it’s still in season and delicious in my Rhubarb Crisp. Alternatively, what could be more American on this Memorial Day Weekend than my Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart.

Have a great weekend) and bon appétit!

How will you celebrate the Memorial Day Weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

First Cookout of the Season & Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado

Covered_bridge_flagHere, there and more or less everywhere, Memorial Day has been declared the unofficial start of summer. The pressure is on to throw the first cookout of the season. That said; planning a Memorial Day anything could be dicey business in New Hampshire. I don’t think it has ever snowed on Memorial Day but I could be wrong. Let’s hope for sunshine with a smattering of laughter and a whiff of fragrant smoke from barbeque and burgers on the grill.

You can help make it happen. Do your sun dance, make a few phone calls and roll the grill out of the garage. It’s been awhile so here are a few helpful hints for a great cookout.

Three letters: ICE. No one likes warm beer or lemonade, so, on a (hopefully) warm evening, you can never have enough ice. Load up a cooler or oversized tub with lots of ice and your favorite beverages.

About those drinks. If it’s a long afternoon-into-evening kind of party, it’s can’t be all cocktails, wine and beer. Make sure you have plenty of water, lemonade and soft drinks to keep everyone hydrated and safe on the road. Consider serving shandies as the party’s signature drink. A fifty-fifty mix of beer and lemonade or ginger beer, a shandy is a refreshing choice. When it comes to logistics, avoid a logjam by separating the drink area from the food table.

Wonderful food. From the appetizers to dessert and everything in between, focus on great ingredients and delicious recipes. When you go to all that trouble, keep everything fresh and safe. Don’t let dinner sit in the hot sun for hours. Leave everything in the refrigerator until you are more or less ready to cook and serve.

Unless you have a ginormous grill and very patient friends, save that piece of blazing real estate for the main event. Grilled veggies, tossed into a salad or arranged on a platter, will make a delicious addition to the meal. However, get them on and off the grill before your guests arrive.

You can’t be everywhere at once. It’s okay to outsource the grillwork. Just make sure you choose wisely. Beware of the hyper attentive cook. You know the type. He (or she but usually he) will poke, prod and push dinner all over the grill until it is dried out and overcooked. On the other end of the spectrum, avoid your easily distracted friend. Before the chicken is ready to turn, he (or she, it could be either) will wander off for a game of touch football or join an emergency run to the store for more ice.

Keep it casual. One of the many reasons that everyone loves a cookout is the easy, breezy, wear-your-bare-feet attitude. If for some strange reason, you are tempted to take it up a notch – don’t. Remember high heels and grass doesn’t mix. Leave the preppy blazers and designer dresses to Gatsby. This is New Hampshire not the Hamptons.

Keep it comfortable. At some point in the evening, some or all of your guests will be ready to pull up a chair. Make sure you have plenty to go around. It’s okay to ask a friend or two to bring a few spares. In addition, don’t forget it’s only the end of May. It can get downright chilly as soon as the sun goes down. Be prepared to move inside.

Don’t forget the tunes. From the classic to the latest hits, create a playlist of summery tunes on one of the internet radio stations and blast it into the backyard. Of course, the Beach Boys are a must as well as Alice Cooper wailing School’s Out. The rest is up to you.

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

Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado  Mixed Greens_Grilled_Asparagus_Cucumber_Avocado_02
nderful combination of flavors and textures for your next cookout, smoky grilled asparagus meets crunchy cucumbers and creamy avocado. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Sherry-Citrus Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 1/2-2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed
4-8 scallions
Olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
About 8 ounces arugula or mixed baby greens
2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and chopped
About 1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

Make the vinaigrette (recipe follows).

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Put the asparagus and scallions in a large dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Arrange the asparagus and scallions on the grill and cook for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook, the asparagus should be tender-crisp. Remove from the grill, drizzle with lemon juice and cool to room temperature. If you like, chop the asparagus and scallions.

Put the greens in a bowl, add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Transfer the greens to a platter or individual plates. Put the cucumber in the bowl, add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Arrange the asparagus, avocado, cucumber and scallions on top of the greens and serve.

Sherry-Citrus Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, citrus juices, mustard, shallot and garlic in a blender, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil to taste and continue processing until well combined.

Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator before serving.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Two Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Three Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Five Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Six Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend the long Memorial Day Weekend? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Black Fly Weekend Special

The black flies are here and buzzing. Sounds like an excellent excuse to hang out in the kitchen and cook up something amazing. On top of the flies, rain is in the forecast. So, another good reason to spend some quality cooking time.

Why not invite some friends over to share all that great food? Here are a few delicious ideas for your dinner.

Kick things off with a tasty crostini and a glass of prosecco. Rumor has it the first asparagus are in. if you can find some, try my Asparagus Crostini with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese . Otherwise, Artichoke Crostini sounds pretty good.

Now then, what to have for dinner? If rain is really in the forecast, then a cozy chowder sounds good. My Lobster-Corn Chowder is really wonderfully. For a taste of the Mediterranean, go for my Seafood Stew. Unless you have a hankering for pasta; then it’s time for my Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers . Add a nice salad, maybe my Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad or Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette .

Next, a deliciously sweet and tart dessert to finish dinner. Rhubarb is in season so bake a tasty Crumb Cake or Crisp.

Have a good (if slightly soggy weekend) and bon appétit!

What are you cooking this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

What I Like About Spring & Rhubarb Crumb Cake

daffodils_april_10_03_editedIf you have a mind to, there is plenty to complain about spring. Particularly for those of us who live in New Hampshire. Muddy roads, black flies, red eyes and sneezing from allergies … I’m sure the list can go on and on. At least for today, let’s forget that onerous list of tiresome complaints. Instead, let’s put together something upbeat and uplifting. How about a list of all the things we like?

Sounds good to me. You may be surprised at how happy you will feel when you are done.

So here goes … in no particular order …

I like the smell of spring first thing in the morning and in the evening after it rains. The scent is fresh and clean with a hint of mud and moss. On top of the fresh smell, the air feels strangely warm and cool at the same time. I hope you know what I mean because I think it’s wonderful.

I like the sound of spring peepers in the evening. They are outside chirping right now. It reminds me of being a kid. I have this vague memory of coming home one rainy night and the car’s headlights flashing on hundreds of tiny frogs. First, we made Dad stop so not to run them over. Then, we got out of the car danced among them.

I like spotting the first spotted newt of the season. There is something quite endearing about our state amphibian. Or maybe it’s just endearing that a group of high school students managed to convince Concord that we needed a state amphibian.

I like complaining about black flies. Please note: I don’t like these loathsome creatures. They are nothing short of icky but I do like to tell exaggerated tales of their orneriness.

I like it when everyone with an antique car takes it out of the barn for a spin around Pleasant Lake. Now that the days are warmer, we see a fair number of model T’s and old Buicks on any given Sunday.

I like rhubarb. I don’t always know what to do with it but I like that it is wonderfully tart. I like that it comes back year after year. I like that it will be ready for harvest and a cake by the weekend.

I like that the sun wakes me before the alarm clock can go off. Instead of a jarring buzz, the early morning rays peek in my window, gently tug me from sleep and ease me into the day.

I like daffodils. There is something so charming and optimistic about their bright yellow blooms.

I like lilacs. Their heavy scent fills the air. If you close your eyes and breathe deep, you might think, if only for a second, that your nana is beside you.

I like the warm sun on my skin and wearing shirtsleeves and shorts. That’s in the daytime but the nights are still delightfully cool for a wonderful deep sleep.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Rhubarb Crumb Cake
Every spring I think about new ways to use my rhubarb plant. Here is the latest. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 12 ounces rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
Crumbly Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or deep-dish pie plate. If using a springform pan, line it with parchment paper and butter the paper. Dust the pan or plate with flour and tap out any excess.

Put the flour, orange zest, baking powder and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until just smooth. Do not overbeat.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the rhubarb on top of the batter in a single layer. Sprinkle with the Crumbly Topping.

Bake the cake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until the cake is golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes. Remove the springform collar and continue to cool.

Rhubarb Crumb Cake can be stored, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Crumbly Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Pinch nutmeg
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup oatmeal

Put the flour, sugar and spices in a small food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse until the topping comes together in lumps.

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One Year Ago – A Duo of Aiolis
Two Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Three Years Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Four Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Five Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Six Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak

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

What do you like about spring? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Celebrate Mom’s Day Weekend Special

Mom_SusieIt’s Mother’s Day this weekend. How will you make her day special? A girls’ day out at the spa? A fabulous hike on her favorite path? Shop ‘til you drop at the mall? A long lazy lunch, brunch or dinner? Some of the above? All of the above? Or something else entirely?

Here are a few delicious ideas the weekend, starting with brunch or lunch. For a new and different take on the classic pancake, try my Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa. If your mom loves caviar and/or smoked salmon, then you will want to try my Savory Blinis or Latkes with a dab of sour cream, a sliver of smoked salmon and a bit of caviar.Mom_Brenda_Susie

Then again, maybe brunch with mom demands Quiche or some variation of a cheese and egg pie. Perhaps you’ll cook up my Spinach Ricotta Pie, Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart) or Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart.

For something sweet and creamy, give my Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt, Panna Cotta with Strawberries or Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup.

And for dessert, I love Lemon Scones. Serve them plain or add your favorite jam and clotted cream. Perhaps you’ll let them eat cake, Blueberry Crumb Cake. It is delicious. Maybe you’ll try my Apple Muffins. After all, a muffin is just a cupcake without frosting.mom_susie_70s - 02

Maybe you are more the dinner type. How about a spicy, south of the border feast. Start with tasty Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa or Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa.

When you are ready to sit at the table, toss up a Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons. After all, legend has it that this go-to salad was invented Tijuana in the early 1920’s.

mom_susie_CA_01Grilled Rib Eye or Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri. maybe you prefer your Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter. Be sure to round out your cookout with some Grilled Balsamic Vegetables.

If you are not ready to break out the grill and want something cozy, try my Pork Mole and Quinoa with Sweet Potato and Spinach.

Top off your dinner with something sweet. Maybe you’ll try my New Hampshire Mud Pie or Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans. It’s too early for local berries but strawberries are on special in my local supermarket. Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream might be a good idea. But if your mom is a chocoholic, then you must try by Double Trouble Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes.

Happy day to you and your mom! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Mother’s Day? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

Viva Cinco de Mayo & Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa

Hot_Peppers_01Today is Cinco de Mayo, translation – the 5th of May. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That would be September 16th. May the 5th commemorates a battle between the Mexicans and French in 1862 in the state of Puebla. Although it is not a national holiday in Mexico, you might start to wonder if Cinco de Mayo is a holiday in this country. All over the United States, Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated with tortillas and margaritas.

I suspect that most Americans know little if anything about the battle that led to all this hoopla. To put it in perspective, our celebration of Cinco de Mayo is akin to the Mexicans celebrating Patriots’ Day. If you didn’t grow up in Massachusetts or Maine, you might not know that Patriots’ Day commemorates the first two battles of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord. It is only celebrated in the two aforementioned states.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you are somehow lacking if you don’t know the ins-and-outs of Cinco de Mayo. It’s probably enough to know that, for whatever mysterious reason, it has captured the hearts and stomachs of many Americans. Perhaps it’s because Dieciséis de Septiembre is more difficult to pronounce. I guess it doesn’t really matter why. Regardless of our grasp of our neighbor’s history, we have figured out that Cinco de Mayo is an excellent excuse for a Mexican-style celebration complete with wonderful spicy food, music and of course margaritas.

I discovered Mexican food when I was in high school. A Mexican restaurant, it probably belonged to one or another big chain, opened up a few miles down the road on Route 9. It quickly became one of my favorites. Even if Mexican food was a long-established staple in California, it was wonderfully exotic fare for this New England teenager. In spite of my enjoyment, I’m guessing the dishes were distant cousins to anything prepared in Mexico. But to my inexperienced palette, it was a delicious discovery.

When I moved to Switzerland, I found that the Swiss were behind New England in discovering the delights of Mexican cuisine. I was not ready to give up the spice and heat. For several years, I smuggled pickled jalapeños, tortillas and black beans into the country. In truth, smuggling is much too strong a word for it. Every year I spent a week or two in the US and, at the end of every vacation, I stuffed my suitcase with goodies and schlepped them back to Geneva. Swiss customs could not have cared less that I was bringing in a few jars of jalapeños and a bag or two of dried beans. To the delight of my friends with these few staples, I could put together a party with the spirit and good cheer, if not the authenticity, of a Mexican feast.Limes_Hot_Peppers

So, break out the chilies and cornmeal and cook up some south of the border goodies. Throw a batch of margaritas in the blender and celebrate spring and Cinco de Mayo. It’s okay if your feast is not strictly authentic as long as you enjoy a festive evening with friends and family.

¡Viva México! and ¡Buen Apetito!

Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
This dish makes no claims at authenticity. Imagine that New England had a fling with sunny Mexico and this is the results … corn cakes and salsa. Enjoy!
Makes about 8 large or 16 mini tostadas

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and halved
1/2 cup (or to taste) sour cream
Grated zest of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/2 cup rinsed, drained and roughly chopped cooked black beans
About 1/2 cup seeded and roughly chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon (or to taste) minced jalapeno
2-3ablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher slt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: chopped cilantro leaves

Make the Avocado Crema: Place the avocado in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the sour cream, lime zest and cumin, season with salt and pepper and stir until smooth and well combined. For a creamier mix, add more sour cream. Cover and let sit to combine the flavors.

Make the Black Bean Salsa: Put the black beans, tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, garlic and lime juice in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Cover and let sit to combine the flavors.

Make the Corn Cakes:
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces grated cheddar cheese
1 cup sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
Olive oil

Put the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in bowl andsk to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Add the corn, garlic, jalapeno and onion and toss again.

Stir in the egg and milk and continue stirring until well blended. Cover and let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. After giving the batter a stir, add large or small spoonfuls of batter to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until golden.

To serve: put a small dollop of the avocado crema on top of each corn cake, top with a spoonful of black bean salsa and garnish with cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Two Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Three Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Four Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Five Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Six Years Ago – Rhubarb MuffinsOr Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate spring and Cinco de Mayo? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015