Another Holiday Special – The Cocktail Party

Will you be celebrating the season with a festive cocktail party? If it’s been awhile since you entertained a crowd, this could be your year. December is a great time to entertain. After all, your house is decorated and spirits are high.

Not sure what to serve? Keep it simple with a few serve-yourself platters and a couple of one or two bite savories to pass. Here are a few ideas:

As for those platters –

Arrange a three or five beautiful cheeses on a cutting board. You’ll want to include a variety of textures and flavors. Combine a firm cheese like a beautiful aged cheddar, add a soft cheese like a triple-crème brie and don’t shy away from a fabulous blue cheese. Stilton is always a good choice or try my Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts. (You can prep it in advance.) Feel free to add a Spanish Manchego, a smoked Gouda or a log of goat cheese.

You can’t go wrong adding some prosciutto, pâté and artisanal sausage to your cheese board. Alternatively, you can create a separate charcuterie platter.

A seafood platter is a great idea. You can go crazy with oysters, shrimp and crab or keep it simple with gravlax or smoked salmon. Embellish the salmon with wedges of lemon, thinly sliced onion and capers. A little caviar or chopped egg would also be nice.

Finally, a vegetable platter with a wonderful dip or two is a good idea. Most of your guests will consider it dinner, so a few veggies will be appreciated. As for dips, can I suggest Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus, Sun-dried Tomato Aioli and/or Spicy Red Pepper Aioli?

Now, what to pass?

Cook up a couple of one- or two-bite savories. (BTW – if you aren’t hosting but heading to a potluck, any one of these delightful little treats will be welcomed.) Could I suggest – Cheesy Spinach Tartlets, Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms and Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce.

Don’t forget to scatter small bowls of Spicy Olives and my favorite Rosemary Cashews an strategic spots. At the very least, put one of both on the buffet table and on the bar.

Finally, finish the evening with a sweet treat. Who wouldn’t enjoy a Christmas cookie, brownie or mini cupcake or all three? Fill a tray with rows of Macadamia Snow Balls,  Gingerbread Cupcakes and Sweet Dream Bars. For a smooth and creamy treat, fill tiny dessert glasses (even a shot glass) with Chocolate Mousse or White Chocolate Mousse and topped with a raspberry.

Bon fête and bon appétit!

Want more? Try one of my seasonal menus or create your own with the help of my extensive recipe index.

What are your favorite recipes for cocktail party nibbles? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

© Susan W. Nye, 2018

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Holiday Cocktails & Cheesy Spinach Tartlets

The holiday season means holiday parties. Don’t ask me why but expectations always seem to be over-the-top. Forget a casual get-together; it just won’t do. No indeed, our holiday parties should sparkle. If you’re thinking of hosting one this year, you may be feeling a wee bit of pressure. It’s okay, take a deep breath and don’t panic. After all, ’tis the season for holiday magic.

Be it dinner for eight or cocktails for fifty, don’t worry, everything will be smashing. Not only will you figure it out, you might even keep your sanity. First, let’s start by stating categorically and for the record that one-of-a-kind, special and specular do not mean perfect. After all, why settle for perfect when you can have wonderful?

It starts with the company. Collect a group of brilliant, funny conversationalists and the party will be a success. Good company makes for a good party. However, add great food and a beautiful setting and the evening becomes exceptional.

Whenever you put together an eclectic group, it’s a good idea to enlist some kind of conversation starter. Some hosts do it with ugly sweaters or twenty questions. I find that food, yes food, is a fantastic ice breaker. Set out a beautiful cheese board and someone will share a story about a recent trip to France. Smoked salmon with all the fixings will encourage a tall tale of a fishing trip or Christmas Eve smorgasbord.

Keep it simple but elegant. There is no need to buy box after box of hors d’oeuvres from Trader Joes or Costco. Instead, think homemade and two or three, not tens, of different appetizers to pass. Add a few beautiful platters, scatter bowls of olives and nuts or other nibbles and you’ve got it covered.

Every family has its holiday food traditions. From oysters on the half shell to Christmas cakes and sugar cookies, certain foods are inextricably linked to yuletide. When planning your menu, consider bringing a few updated family favorites to the table. That said, you might want to skip the green Jello salad in the Christmas tree mold. Some things are better left in the past.

End on a sweet note. Let’s face it, at least a few of your friends are night owls and don’t know when it’s time to go home. A subtle and delicious hint is to put the savory treats away and pass a tray of holiday cookies. After all, aren’t you suppose to go home after dessert? Even if they don’t get the hint, be flattered. Everyone is having too much fun to call it a night.

Now for the decorations. Start with lots of greenery and boughs of holly. Next, big bowls of simple glass balls are lovely – especially in candlelight. Elegant gold and silver or cheery red – it’s up to you. Of course, you will want to bring out all your favorite decorations. Whether you have a grand army of nutcrackers or Santas from around the globe, your collection is part of your holiday story.

Finally, everything looks better by candlelight. I’m rather fond of red candles for the holidays but it’s up to you. Fat ones, skinny ones, tall and short, more is better so don’t be shy. (Do be careful to place candles where they won’t be knocked over. As much as we love our volunteer firefighters, I’m guessing you’d rather they come as guests – not to the rescue.)

Have a lovely party and bon appétit!

Cheesy Spinach Tartlets
For a delicious little nibble, pass flavorful tartlets at your holiday cocktail party. You can buy and fill phyllo tartlet shells or make your own pastry. Enjoy!
Makes about 24 tartlets

Savory Tartlet Pastry (recipe follows) or frozen Phyllo Tartlet Shells
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If using Savory Tartlet Pastry, make the dough and divide into 1 1/2 to 2-inch balls. Place the balls in mini muffin tins and, using your fingers, shape each ball into a tartlet shell. Place the tins in the freezer for 15 minutes. If using phyllo tartlet shells, put the shells in mini muffin tins and store in the freezer until ready to fill.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and make the spinach filling.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the heat, stir in the spinach and cool for a few minutes.

Put the eggs in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the ricotta, season with thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Fold in the spinach and mozzarella.

Spoon the filling into the tartlet shells, sprinkle the tops with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bake until the filling sets and the top and crusts are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing and serving. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets.

The tartlet shells and filling can be prepped 1 day in advance and stored separately.

Savory Tartlet Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2-3 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps. Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a ball and wrap in plastic or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Romaine, Radicchio & Avocado Salad with Pomegranate & Walnuts
Two Years Ago – Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
Three Years Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Four Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Five Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Six Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Seven Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Eight Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Nine Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Ten Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

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

What are your favorite holiday cocktail party tips? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Shoes & Grilled Eggplant Caponata

I have this thing about shoes. I like them … a lot. It’s possible I like them as much as Imelda. However, since I don’t have her resources; my collection is both smaller and considerably more modest. Besides, unlike the Philippines’ former first lady, I’m a sneakers and flats kind of girl.

In my defense, my addiction to shoes has improved. Why, it’s been at least a year, since I bought a new pair. Okay, maybe six months and it was three pairs, I guess I should avoid alternative facts. In my defense, they were all on sale and a step above the definitely adorable but oh so casual flats I generally wear. What’s a girl to do?

Confession time – I do need to be careful with this buying on sale business. I love a bargain but it often means buying out of season. I have been known to purchase sandals in October and forget about them by the time summer rolls around. Same goes for buying boots in May. Oh, my goodness, the trials and tribulations of a first world woman.

Growing up, back-to-school shopping always included a trip to Bob Dexter’s Shoes on Central Street. To avoid a return visit in the busy weeks to come, Mom really took care of business. That’s when I learned an important lesson – never settle for one pair, when you can buy three.

First, foremost and absolutely mandatory – new school shoes were on the list. Mom always insisted we start there. If a fire broke out and cut our shopping short, we were not leaving that store without a sturdy pair of Buster Browns. I guess the doctor told her that young feet need lots of support. Until I was nine or ten, I was stuck with those dreadful brown brogues. In third or fourth grade, Mom finally relented and I was able to move on to penny loafers.

Now, Mom was hardly heartless. To make up for the brogues and salve my wounded feminine pride, she would let me pick out a new pair of patent leather Mary Janes. They were for Sunday school and birthday parties. Finally, after a summer playing outside, my sneakers were worn and torn – just the way I liked them. Mom didn’t agree and a new pair of Keds went into the bag.

Although, it has its roots in elementary school, this love affair with shoes began in earnest once I hit adolescence. That’s when things got both interesting and complicated. A woman in search of an identity, from one day to the next, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a perky preppy or a cool hippie.

The perky preppy in me coveted shiny flats and Pappagallo was the brand of choice. These sweet little emblems of conservative style came in a rainbow of colors and were decorated with flowers, buckles and cutouts. The bohemian wanted no name ballet flats or funky black cotton slippers. The slippers had orange rubber soles, straps like Mary Janes and were made in China. The hippie shoes were considerably cheaper than the colorful flats. However, they didn’t last more than a month or so.

For now, I’ll stay out of the shops. Better to stick with the trio of flats I bought last winter and then forgot in the back of the closet. Black leather, the faux snakeskin and shiny pink – what could be better – a different pair for every mood. Just like Mom, I like a bargain and buy in threes.

Happy Almost Fall and bon appétit!

Grilled Eggplant Caponata
The local harvest is at its peak. It’s time to fire up the grill and make delicious magic with some of my favorite vegetables. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons or to taste red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons or to taste extra virgin olive oil
2 medium eggplants, cut into thick slices
1 large red onion, cut in thick rings
1 pint grape tomatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2-3 tablespoons capers, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Make the vinaigrette: put the garlic, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and continue whisking until well combined. Set aside.

Preheat grill to high. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the onion and tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Put the onion and tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time. Grill the eggplant for 4 to 6 minutes per side until nicely browned and tender. Remove the vegetables from the grill. When they are cool enough to handle, finely chop the veggies.

Give the vinaigrette another whisk, add the vegetables, olives, pine nuts and capers and toss to combine. Add the parsley and mint and toss again. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with pita chips for an appetizer or use as a salsa with grilled chicken, lamb or fish.

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One Year Ago – Savory Rosemary Biscotti
Two Years Ago – Dilly Beans
Three Years Ago– All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
Four Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Five Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Six Years Ago – Curried Green Bean Pickles
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
Eight Years Ago – Apple Crisp
Nine Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Ten Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet

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

What’s your not-so-secret indulgence? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Back on Cook’s Corner – Asparagus & Goat Cheese Crostini

Looking for a new appetizer? I’m back on WMUR today demonstrating delicious Crostini with Asparagus & Goat Cheese. Relax on the deck with a platter of these tasty treats and a glass of wine.

In case you’d like to make up a batch this weekend … my recipe for Asparagus & Goat Cheese Crostini is just a click away. Enjoy!

If you missed the segment … you can always watch it online.

You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again & Shrimp & Cucumber Bites

The school bell rang for the last time on Friday, not forever but for this school year. By now, many families have packed the car, locked the backdoor and headed off for a favorite place or parts unknown. The rest? Well, they realize they already live in a favorite place so they’re relaxing at the town beach or climbing Mount Kearsarge.

My mother was one of the car packers. With Independence Day approaching, she loaded up the trunk, tossed us in the back with the dog and headed to Cape Cod. Now mind you, as families go, we weren’t very good on long car trips. By long, I mean anything more than a half hour was a problem. When I was very little, our starting point was Connecticut and that trip took forever. I don’t know why. It’s not like we took side trips to see giant balls of twine or stopped for selfies with dinosaurs.

For some reason, my grandmother traveled with us. It’s not terribly clear why. We were in Connecticut and my grandparents lived just outside of Boston. As best I can figure, Grandpa drove Nana down, spent the weekend and then went back to work. Nana stayed and hung out with us. I’m sure she applauded my sister’s end of kindergarten extravaganza. She probably babysat while Mom ran last minute errands. However, I believe her key role was to provide moral support on the long drive to the Cape. I can’t be absolutely certain about that; I was only two or three years old at the time.

Finally, the car was packed and a few toys were tossed in the backseat. Everyone made one last trip to the bathroom and we were off. Without air conditioning, we tootled along with the windows open wide. A paper doll or stuffed animal frequently caught the breeze and took flight. Tears and wails ensued but there was no turning back. The Connecticut Turnpike was littered with the flotsam and jetsam of countless children.

Except when it rained, then the windows were rolled up to all but an inch or two. It was miserably muggy. Instead of bereft over a lost toy, we were hot and fussy in the steamy car. Of course, the dog would fart not once but a few times because that’s what dogs do. It was more than enough to make a little girl queasy.

That was just the beginning. It was before the age of enlightenment and Mom smoked cigarette after cigarette. I guess I can’t blame her. Rain was pelting, the dog was smelly and my sister and I were whiny. Nana was not all that good at the moral support thing. (Don’t get me wrong. I loved my grandmother dearly. However, she was not the first person you’d choose in an emergency. Nana was loving and lovely but … resourceful, well, not so much.) Anyway, the cigarettes only made matters worse, sending me into full-blown carsick mode.

Eventually, a combination of cranky kids and hunger compelled Mom to think about stopping for lunch. Ben and Mildred’s Chicken House, a beacon of cheer with greasy food and friendly waitresses was on the way. Alas, Mom could think about it but could not act. Ben and Mildred along with a dozen hot dog stands, burger joints and diners were looking for hungry travelers but not for us. Their culinary delights were all off limits to the Nyes. It seems that a small, curly-headed child had an uncanny habit of throwing up as soon as the family sat down.

Have a happy, healthy summer and bon appétit!

p.s. In case you are worried or wondering, while dogs still fart, Mom eventually quit smoking and, like most kids, the curly-headed child outgrew motion sickness.

Shrimp & Cucumber Bites
Just in time for summer, an easy but elegant hors d’oeuvre to pass at your next cookout. Enjoy!
Makes 40-50 bite sized hors d’oeuvres

Sun-dried Tomato Dip (recipe follows)
1 pound medium (40-50 pieces) shrimp
1-2 English cucumbers

Make the Sun-dried Tomato Dip.

Peel the cucumbers and cut them into about 1/4-inch thick rounds.

Dab a little Sun-dried Tomato Dip on each cucumber slice and top with a shrimp.

Arrange the Shrimp & Cucumber Bites on a platter and pass.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip
Makes about 1 cup

6-8 halves oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch cayenne pepper
About 1/3 cup mayonnaise
About 1/3 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, herbs and cayenne in a small food processor and process until the tomatoes and garlic are chopped fine and well combined.

Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and process until smooth. Let the dip sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
Two Years Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Three Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Four Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Five Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
Six Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Eight Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

What’s your summer travel story? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

End of School Days & Grilled Zucchini Tacos

As we roll into June, the end is in sight. Ah, I remember it well, those last few weeks of hell. Literally and figuratively, that last month of school is a tough one. If you need any proof, check out the local preschools. Most of them closed at the end of last week. They get it.

With each passing day, temperatures steadily climb and those lumbering brick buildings heat up. The windows may be open wide but, by mid-June, the air is nothing short of oppressive. Some teachers close the blinds; then it’s both hot and stuffy. Toss in some of our famous northeast humidity and the entire school feels a gym locker room. By Friday, it smells like a locker room as well. However, since we live in the northern New England, no one but no one would or should even think about investing in air conditioning. As a taxpayer, I stand firmly behind this long omission. Let the kids sweat. We did.

As bad as those hot, dank classrooms and hallways are, the end of the year cram might be even worse. Who doesn’t remember the day your European history teacher suddenly realized there were only three weeks to the final bell? There you were, smack in the middle of the complexities of the Napoleonic Wars. With lightning speed, the class raced through colonialism, Darwinism, the Russian Revolution, World Wars I and II and the rest of the twentieth century. Dashing from one topic to the next, the teacher affirmed time and time again, yes, you will be tested on this stuff.

While the rush was particularly noticeable in history, it was not limited to delving into the past. Up and down the hallways, our teachers were determined to plow through the remaining curriculum. A final whoosh of angles, differentials and integrals as well as molecules, compounds and diffusion sped into one ear and out the other. One last volume of Shakespeare or Hemingway had to be finished and another group of verbs conjugated.

If anything, afterschool was worse. As teenagers, all we wanted to do was ride around in a convertible with Alice Cooper blasting – school’s out. Up to no good or some harmless fun, we wanted to be anywhere but home on those warm, early summer evenings. A double dose of homework was nowhere on the wish list.

I found it particularly frustrating that my family spent these early summer evenings lolling around outside. Mom and Dad sat on the front stoop while my little brother played with the dog. Neighbors strolled by and stopped to chat. It seemed like everyone was relaxing and having fun but me. While they played, I was in my room, sweating through past participles and suffering through Mendel’s peas. Adding insult to injury, my bedroom was in the front of the house. I could hear everyone having fun while I poured over my books.

Anyway, here’s what I got and it ain’t much. To all the kids still lining up for the bus every morning, be brave. The end is almost in sight. Before you know it, it will be summer and you’ll be complaining about how bored you are.

Stay cool and bon appétit!

Grilled Zucchini Tacos
Zucchini will make a great addition to your next mix and match taco party. Can’t wait? They’ll be perfect by themselves on any Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pints cherry tomatoes – in a mix of colors if available
1-2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut in 1/4-inch strips
1 large red onion, cut in half and then in thin wedges
Olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5-6 medium zucchinis, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal 1/4-1/2 inch thick
8 medium or 16 small flour or corn tortillas
Spicy Cilantro-Mint Salsa (recipe follows)
About 4 ounces queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the tomatoes, peppers and onion in bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and transfer to a grill basket. Grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until just tender, 2-3 minutes per side.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and, turning once, warm on the grill for 2-3 minutes.

To serve: place a tortilla on each plate, top with slices of grilled zucchini and a spoonful or two of grilled tomatoes, drizzle with Spicy Cilantro-Mint Salsa and sprinkle with queso fresco.

Spicy Cilantro-Mint Salsa
Makes about 1 cup

2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3-4 cloves garlic
2-3 scallions, cut in inch long pieces
1/2-1 or to taste jalapeno, trimmed, halved and seeded
About 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
About 1 cup fresh mint leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar and lime juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add the white and light green parts of the scallions, garlic and jalapeno, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the lime zest, herbs and scallion greens and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until finely chopped and well combined.

Let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint
Two Years Ago – Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Three Years Ago – Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Four Years Ago – Asparagus & Radish Salad
Five Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Six Years Ago – Asian Noodle Salad
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart
Eight Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

How do you beat the heat in the early days of summer? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Two Countries Separated by a Common Language & Grilled Asparagus with Lemony Tarragon Butter Sauce

Let’s face it, there’s a lot to love about a royal wedding, especially this most recent one. For starters, the bride is American. Across America, loads of little girls dream of becoming a princess but it rarely happens. In case you haven’t been counting, Meghan Markle is only the twelfth American to find a real live prince. She seems truly delighted with him and he with her.

Having moved to the other side of the pond last November, Meghan should be used to all things British. Well, more or less. Alternatively, the newness and excitement may have just about worn off. That could mean she’s good and ready for a major culture shock meltdown. I had one about five months after landing in Switzerland. I remember it well, it wasn’t pretty and, no, I won’t share.

Now, I am hardly an expert but I did know quite a few British people when I lived in Switzerland. (There are a lot of foreigners in Geneva, more than forty percent of the population. Imagine that.) One English friend liked to kid me about my Americanisms. He loved to quote or misquote George Bernard Shaw saying, “America and England – two countries separated by a common language.”

So Meghan, here are a few tips. In case any of the following comes up … just remember –

I’m knackered means that you are very tired. After the weekend you’ve had, you’re probably feeling that about now. It’s shorthand for being ready for the knacker’s yard or slaughterhouse. It’s not particularly polite, so, you might not want to use it in front of your new grandmother-in-law.

This next one is good, especially if you feel a meltdown coming on. Don’t get your knickers in a twist; it’s a fun way to say don’t get all riled up. Again, it might be best to avoid using this one in front of the Queen.

Before you drive off for the honeymoon, don’t forget the storage compartment at the back of the car, it’s called a boot. The bonnet is in front and covers the engine. The windscreen is the thing with the wipers. The whole thing is still a car but a zebra is a crosswalk and the British drive on the wrong side of the road.

Since you are known for your fashion sense, you’ll need to remember a jumper is a sweater as long as it isn’t a cardigan and then it’s a cardigan. Trainers are sneakers. Braces are suspenders and suspenders are garters, the sexy kind.

As a foodie, you’ll want to shop the local farmers market. Take note, an aubergine is an eggplant, a courgette is a zucchini, maize is corn and a tomato is a tomato but pronounced tomahto. In addition, a biscuit is a cookie, a scone is not unlike a biscuit and double cream is heavy cream. Crisps are chips and chips are French fries but, more important if you’re knackered, takeaway is takeout.

This next one can be tricky. The ground floor is the first floor, the first floor is the second, the second floor is the third and up and up you go. Don’t get lost. Homely is homey so don’t be miffed if someone uses it as a compliment for your flat (that’s your new apartment at Kensington).

Finally, a chinwag or natter is what you do when you sit around with friends and a cuppa (tea) or glass of wine. However, if you drink too much wine, you may get pissed as in drunk not angry.

Congratulations, good luck and bon appétit!

Grilled Asparagus with Lemony Tarragon Sauce
Meghan and Harry’s wedding menu was all about local, seasonal fare. I was delighted to find the first spears of local asparagus a few days ago. Enjoy!
Serves 8 as a starter or side dish

2 pounds (more for fanatics) asparagus*, trimmed
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

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

Arrange the asparagus on the grill and, depending on thickness, cook for 1-3 minutes. Do not overcook, the asparagus should be tender-crisp.

Remove from the grill, arrange on a large platter or individual plates. Serve with Lemony Tarragon Sauce.

* Forget the pencil thin asparagus; get the nice thick ones if you can.
They are perfect for the grill.

Lemony Tarragon Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter cut into small cubes
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped tarragon

Put the wine and shallots in a heavy saucepan, season with salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat until the wine has reduced by 3/4, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and, a few cubes at a time, whisk in 1/4 cup butter. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Continue whisking and adding butter, a few cubes at a time.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon zest and juice, vinegar and mustard. Add the tarragon, give everything a final whisk and serve.

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One Year Ago – Lemony Green Rice
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad
Three Years Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Four Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Five Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Six Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
Eight Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

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Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018