A Mostly Sunny Summer Weekend Special

blueberriesIt’s been a funny week. More than ever we have been able to quip and share a favorite New England saying, if you don’t like the weather, well, just wait a few minutes. To that end, we had a microburst crashed through town on Sunday evening. Rain was pounding and trees were flying. Thankfully, it only lasted a few minutes and I did not lose power. Yesterday, a threatening sky sent me racing home. On the way, I could see a line of heavy rain and wind make its way up the lake. I made it home in time to close the skylights. (But wasn’t so lucky a few other times.)

It looks like we may have more of the same for the next few days. Brilliant sun followed by raucous thunderstorms and then sunny again. Enjoy plenty of time outdoors – including (hopefully) a cookout – but be prepared to run for cover.

So what about that cookout?

Start with a trip to the Farmers’ Market. Then roll out the grill for some delicious Caponata Crostini. Enjoy a glass a wine while you nibble. When you’re ready, throw some chicken on the grill but make sure you marinate it first. Try my Hint of Asia Marinade and/or Barbecue Sauce. Serve the chicken with my Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad for a light and bright supper.

Local blueberries are ready for the picking! That can only mean one thing … okay, make that two (or more). It’s time to make a Blueberry Crumb Cake or my Blueberry Crisp.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are you planning for the 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

Getting Out of a Hammock & Other Trials of Middle Age &Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad

mom_80sI remember vividly the day my mother discovered she was middle aged. Well maybe not the exact day, I was away at college. Anyway, it was Monday, September 22, 1975. Mom told me about the distressing revelation during our weekly Sunday night phone call. Heck, she was still talking about it at Thanksgiving.

How did it all come about? Well, Sara Jane Moore tried to shoot the president and the story hit the airwaves immediately and nonstop. According to Mom, the reporters insisted on describing Sara Jane as a forty-five year old, middle-aged woman. Not once or twice, this horrifying phrase was repeated constantly in newscasts and special reports that, of course, went on for days. Mom had just turned forty-six but it had never occurred to her that she was middle aged. No self-respecting forty-six year old would.

I’m not sure how or when I discovered I was middle aged. In fact, I’m not convinced that I’ve discovered anything of the sort. In spite of my research or maybe because of it, middle age seems a nebulous concept at best. What research you ask? Well, I looked up the average life expectancy for women and discovered it was eighty-one. Therefore, the middle is, oh heck, you do the math.

Although I never lie about my age, I routinely think of myself as decades younger than what’s indicated on my driver’s license. In spite of this denial (or self-delusion), there are some ever so subtle and other not-so subtle indications that it’s happened. Welcome or not, I think I may have slid into the middle years.

Perhaps you too are wondering if you’ve somehow managed slipped into middle age. Well, there are clues. With warm weather, the menacing signs of aging seem constant. Kind of like those newscasters who assaulted my mother’s sensibilities back in 1975. For anyone pondering the possibility that they have reached their middle years, here are a few clues to consider:

Are you longing to spend a lazy afternoon in a hammock but fearful that once in you will never get out? You imagine the nightmare of waiting helplessly for someone to come along and tip you out like sack of potatoes. Don’t dwell on the negative; buy an Adirondack chair instead. A classic, it will look great in your yard and last forever. At eighty-eight, my dear old dad can still get out of one.

You exercise. You eat right. You have no problem slipping into a little black dress, skinny jeans or hiking shorts. But a bathing suit! Just the thought of it makes your blood run cold. Perhaps it’s time to consider a solitary sunrise swim or midnight skinny-dipping.

If you are worried about swimming without a lifeguard, haven’t you noticed? Somewhere along the line, the lifeguards got younger, a whole lot younger. Too young to buy a beer, vote or shave. Moreover, should the need arise, they are much too busy flirting with other cute, young things to save you.

Then there is summer music. You realize that, except for a couple of new crooners, you know nothing, NOTHING, in the top 100. Okay, you’ve heard of Taylor Swift; even middle-aged people have heard of Taylor Swift. On the other hand, you know all the words to Heat Wave by Martha and the Vandellas, School’s Out for Summer by Alice Cooper and every song the Beach Boys ever sang. Plus, you can Walk Like an Egyptian and do the Macarena. Proving once again that, even if you are middle aged (and I’m not saying you are), life is good.

Have a great summer, stay young or at least young at heart and bon appétit!

Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Perfect on a hot night – add this salad to the list for your next cookout or beach picnic. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sambal oelek*
12 radishes, stemmed and chopped
6 small cucumbers, peeled and chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Put the vinegar, both oils, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic and chili paste in a bowl and whisk to combine. Let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes to combine the flavors.

Add the radishes, cucumber and scallions and toss to combine. If serving immediately, sprinkle with mint, cilantro and sesame seeds and toss again. If serving in a few hours, sprinkle with mint and cilantro, toss, cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, sprinkle with sesame seeds and give the salad a final toss.

* Sambal Oelek is an Indonesian chili paste. You can find it in specialty stores, on-line and in some supermarkets. If you can’t find Sambal Oelek, use your favorite chili sauce or paste.

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One Year Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Two Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Three Years Ago – Gazpacho
Four Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Five Years Ago– Thai Salad
Six Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Seven Years Ago – Lobster Salad

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

No matter how old you are, wear your age with pride. What is your favorite telltale sign that you’ve hit the next stage? 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

A Toe Tapping Summer Weekend Special

What a beautiful day! Let’s hope it lasts through the weekend so we can continue to live the outdoor life. That’s what summer is all about … sun, sports and celebrations, at least on the weekends. So what’s up with you? Golf or tennis, sand castles and waterskiing, shopping at the farmers’ market and dancing at the bandstand?

We New Englanders have a long tradition of summer evenings at the bandstand. There are three within minutes of my house most summer weekends. If you’re tied up with other plans on Saturday, well, there’s always Friday and Sunday night. A picnic and some toe-tapping is a great way to spend a summer evening. That said, you’ll need a picnic.

To start you evening of delicious, toe-tapping fun, think tomato … or is it tomahto? I can’t think of a better way to start the evening than locally grown tomatoes. You’ll be in heaven with my Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil . Next dish up some tasty Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables and top the salad with my Grilled Shrimp.

What’s your favorite portable dessert. I’m guessing brownies top your list. Looking for a bit of change, give my rich and oh so wonderful Cheesecake Brownies a try.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are you planning for the 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

It Takes a Circle & Cheesecake Brownies

John_PLeasant_LakeSharing some of the tales told around my table is a lot of fun; especially some of my childhood adventures. Except for the on-going trauma and drama of being a middle child, mine was pretty much an idyllic childhood. However, I have to admit that, from time to time, my fingers hesitate on the keyboard. Although I never ran with scissors, I worry that some readers might be horrified by the easy-going nature of my childhood.

Compared to today’s moms and dads, mine were the epitome of slap-dash. We now lovingly refer to it as the Joe and Libby Nye School of Negligent Parenting. Yes, they loved my sister, brother and I. They still do; but there was no hovering or helicoptering. They didn’t shuttle us from one play date to the next and then on to a never-ending lineup of practices and lessons. They simply told us, in no uncertain terms, to turn off the television and go out to play. And we did.

That said; we were never far from watchful, caring eyes. The moms in our neighborhood were mostly stay-at-home and all their kitchen windows faced the street. These women knew each other’s children and all our quirks. They knew who took jelly with their peanut butter and who took fluff. They even knew that I was the only kid in the United States who didn’t like peanut butter sandwiches, with or without fluff or jelly. They knew who was having trouble with math and who needed to work on the beanbag toss. They tut-tutted any mishaps and applauded our successes. They still do.

These women were more or less everywhere, or at least it seemed that way. Whenever we tried to make a break from the straight and narrow, one of them would appear to give us (and our conscience) a nudge. It didn’t matter if we were throwing crab apples at the new kid, cutting the lift line at the ski hill or hitchhiking; someone’s mother always turned up. Then, gently but firmly, she would ask, “Does your mother know what you are doing?” Except in the case of hitchhiking – then it was more like, “Get in this car this minute! Does your mother know what you’re doing!?!” When we were teenagers, we were convinced that these women were nosey busybodies, a collective pain in our you know whats. Years later, we figured out that they were just looking out for us.

In the summer on Pleasant Lake, Mom and her friends gathered every afternoon at the beach. Known as The Ladies of the Beach, they pulled their beach chairs into The Circle to chat and share ideas, large and small. Yes, even in the summer, these women followed our progress, our triumphs and mishaps. We could run, but we couldn’t hide.

These Ladies were better than Homeland Security when it came to sharing information. Much better. There were daily updates on who passed their raft test, had a wicked case of poison ivy or a troublesome earache. They knew who fell off their bicycle or into the pond. When we got older, they fretted about who we were dating or if we were dateless. They wondered and worried if we were sneaking a few beers on the beach at night. Instead of sending our dads down to check, they let us experiment and suffer that first hangover.

As time went on, the Ladies of the Beach knew where we went to college and our majors. Later, they followed job changes, moves, marriages and the blessed arrival of each other’s grandchildren. When our lives became more complex, it was harder to keep track but they did their best.

Sadly, many of them are gone but we were more than fortunate to have The Ladies of the Beach in our lives. They encouraged us, cheered us and celebrated with us. An African proverb tells us that it takes a village to raise a child. On Pleasant Lake, it takes a Circle.

I wish you all a wonderful summer surrounded by friends and family. Bon appétit!

Cheesecake Brownies
Brownies are everyone’s favorite portable dessert. Next time, swirl in cheesecake batter for a more than special treat. Enjoy!
Makes 24 brownies

Start by making the brownie layer:
14 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch pan.

Stirring frequently, heat the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over very low heat. Remove the pan from heat when the butter and chocolate are almost melted. Whisk until completely melted and well combined. Cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk the sugar, espresso powder and salt into the chocolate. Whisking constantly, add the eggs one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan.

Now make the cheesecake batter and swirl it into the brownies:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and well combined. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until smooth and well combined.

Drop dollops of cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter and swirl with a knife.

Finally, garnish and bake:
1 cup your favorite chocolate chips, dark, semisweet or milk

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the cheesecake brownies.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick just comes out clean. Do not over bake! Cool and cut into squares.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Two Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Three Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Four Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Six Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

Do you have any special summer memories? 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

Another Summer Weekend Special & the Days Are Just Packed

Do you feel it? That feverish drive to start the day on the top of Kearsarge (or a mountain near you). That’s not all. There is also the serious need to bike from one end of the Rail Trail to the other and back again. It doesn’t quit but is followed by an almost urgent compulsion to waterski on whatever body of water is handy, play a round of golf and hit a tennis ball. It’s summer and you’re doing your best to make sure the days are just packed.

sunset_pleasant_lake_03A picnic supper sounds like a good way to end a busy summer day. Take a couple of hours to relax and watch the loons or the fireflies. Sip a Shandy , your favorite microbrew or a glass of wine while you enjoy a few nibblies. My Rosemary Cashews are always a hit. Thinking you’d like something a bit more substantial? How about a big crowd, add some fresh veggies and my White Bean Hummus or Baba Ganoush with fresh veggies and pita chips. Or take it easy with a few great cheeses and artisanal crackers.

For the main event, how about a seafood feast. Fire up the grill and enjoy my Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce or Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli? Maybe both. Add a couple of great salads like my colorful Potato Salad Niçoise and everyone’s favorite Caesar Salad.

The pick-your-own strawberry farm is still open for dessert. You’ll love my sweet and tart Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What’s keeping you busy this summer? 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

Grubby, Little Boys & Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard

Within minutes of the bell on the last day of school, we were in my mother’s big, blue station wagon and headed north. It would be the first of many long, lazy summers on Pleasant Lake. It would also be the inaugural year of the Grubby, Little Boys Club.

This rambunctious group of four, five and six year olds were just the right age to appreciate all that New Hampshire had to offer. With only a few exceptions, they were from one or another tidy suburb outside of Boston. Plucked from a world of green lawns and hard-topped playgrounds, they were in heaven. They had the lake. They had the woods, complete with a little brook. They even had a pond brimming with frogs and tadpoles. What more could a little boy ask for?

From first light to dusk, they were busy, in and out of the lake, slip sliding into the muddy pond and exploring the woods. More often than not, they fell asleep in the middle of dinner. Not willing to wake them for a shower, their mothers shrugged and put their grubby, little boys to bed.

Along with my brother Johnny, this rat pack included Richard, Rip and Randy as well as Scott and Chip. There was at least one Peter, possibly two. I’m not quite sure. There was Swizzy but his family didn’t stay long after he lost part of his finger playing in the brook. There were two Davids, O’Donnell and White.

Each of these grubby little boys had some claim to fame, some more interesting than others. As noted, Swizzy lost part of his finger. One of the boys, I’m not sure which, had a seemingly endless supply of cherry bombs and bottle rockets. David White had wheels. Or rather, his dad had a collection of interesting vehicles and was pretty relaxed about sharing. By the time most of the boys were eight or nine, okay, maybe ten, they had driven the Mini Moke around the White’s field.

To say that these boys were intrigued by anything with a motor would be an understatement. All of these grubby, little boys had a man crush on Mr. Jewell. Unlike their fathers, Mr. Jewell didn’t put on a white shirt and tie and go to an office every morning. Mr. Jewell wore jeans, t-shirts and big, heavy work boots and drove huge bulldozers and dump trucks. Since he was building the roads in our still-new neighborhood, the boys saw him often. At least once or twice a day, they’d stop their play and jealously watch Mr. Jewell riding high atop one of his giant earthmoving machines.

About four o’clock most days, Mr. Jewell climbed down from one giant machine or another and headed home. His oversized Tonka toys sat in a field overnight, admired and often climbed upon by grubby, little boys on their way home from the beach. It was on one of those late afternoons that the other David, David O’Donnell, gained his claim to fame. Sitting high on one of Mr. Jewell’s bulldozers, he somehow managed to turn it on. Delight and panic erupted as David hung on for dear life and a bunch of grubby, little boys leaped around in glee and awe. The blissful panic was cut all too short. Someone’s father, probably in a white shirt and tie, happened by, saw the commotion and rescued David by turning off the bulldozer.

Have a wonderful summer filled with both glee and awe. Bon appétit!

Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
A refreshing dessert for boys and girls of all ages. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Lime Curd, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
1/2 cup very cold heavy cream
About 2 pounds fresh berries – whatever is in season!
Brown sugar to taste (optional)

Make the Lime Curd and refrigerate until cold.

Put the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier in a bowl, beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Increase the mixer speed to high and very slowly add the heavy cream. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Add the cream slowly or it will splatter everywhere.

Fold the cream-cream cheese mixture into the chilled Lime Curd, cover and refrigerate the custard for several hours.

To serve: gently rinse and dry the berries, hull and chop strawberries, leave everything else whole. Put the berries in a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier and brown sugar to taste. Spoon the berries into dessert or wine glasses, add a generous spoonful or two of Creamy Lime Custard and serve. The custard is also delicious with peaches or nectarines.

Lime Curd
Makes about 1 cup

4 large egg yolks
Zest of 2 limes
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut into small pieces

Create an ice bath by filling an oversized bowl halfway with ice and water. Put half of the lime zest in a small bowl and set the bowl in the ice water. Reserve.

Put the yolks, remaining zest, juice and sugar in a small saucepan and whisk until smooth and well combined. Set over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the curd registers 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the pan from heat and, 1 piece at a time, whisk in the butter until smooth. Pass the curd through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl in the ice bath. Stirring frequently, let cool. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

The Lime Curd can be made ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Two Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Three Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Five Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
SixYears Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

Do you have any special summer memories with one or more of your siblings? 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

Fourth of July Grilling on Cook’s Corner

If you’re already off for the long weekend and live in or near New Hampshire, you can catch me on Cook’s Corner at noon today! ????????????????????????????????????
Just tune into local ABC affiliate WMUR/Channel 9. I’ll be whipping up my tasty A Hint of Asia Marinade. it’s great with chicken! If you prefer barbecue sauce to a marinade, well, I’ve also got a A Hint of Asia Barbecue Sauce too!

Not sure what to serve with that  chicken? I’ve got some great menu suggestions.

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2015