Another Weekend Special – Holiday Cocktails

Will you invite friends in for cocktails this holiday season? A great way to entertain a crowd, a cocktail party lets your friends meet each other, mix and mingle. Whether you sport an ugly sweater or the classic little black dress, a cocktail party is a wonderful excuse to celebrate the season in your party best.

I’ll leave the fashion advice to someone else but here are a few foodie ideas …

Start with a cocktail … what could be more festive than a rosy red tini.

PomegranaTinis
Serves 8

1 cup vodka
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
2 1/2 cups or to taste pomegranate juice
Seltzer water, cold (optional)
Garnish: orange twist

Combine the vodka, Grand Marnier and pomegranate juice in a pitcher or jar, stir or shake and store in the refrigerator or freezer until very cold.

Stir again, pour into martini glasses, add a splash of seltzer and garnish with a twist of orange.

For a large party, quart Mason jars are a perfect fit for each batch of martinis. Keep them cold in the refrigerator or frosty in the freezer or out in the snow until ready to serve.

Now, what to munch? Why not cook up a few of my favorite appetizers. If you aren’t hosting but heading to a potluck, any one of these delightful little treats will be welcomed by your host.

You’ll want to start with a savory or two to pass. Here are a few ideas:
Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce
Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks
Spanakopita Triangles

You’ll also want a platter, maybe two:
Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Three to five of your favorite artisanal cheeses, thinly sliced sausage and Spicy Olives
Add some delicious artisanal crackers and toasted banquette.

A nice spread will make a nice addition …. how about
Chicken Liver Pâté
Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts
Artichoke Pesto

When it’s time to kiss everyone goodnight, pass a tray of sweet treats. Think …
Chocolate Mousse or White Chocolate Mousse served in tiny dessert glasses (even a shot glass) and top with a raspberry
Gingerbread Cupcakes or Coconut Cupcakes
Snowy Pecan Balls or Sweet Dream Bars

Happy holidays and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

Check out the list of all the recipes with links on this blog!

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

Want more? or create your own. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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

Want more? Try one of my seasonal menus or create your own with the help of my extensive recipe index. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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Christmas Red & Greenery & Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce

The Fourth of July has its parades and fireworks. Thanksgiving has turkey. When it comes to traditions, Christmas has cornered the market. We bake dozens of cookies and roam the streets serenading the neighbors with seasonal ditties. We hang our stocks on the fireplace, wait only somewhat-patiently for reindeer to fly and a jolly old elf to arrive. Hmm, if you stop and think about it, some of our favorite Christmas traditions can best be described as, well, odd. Take, just for instance, the foliage we bring into the house for the holidays.

First, there’s the tree. Forget settling for a houseplant or flower-filled vase. No indeed, we cut down a full-grown evergreen and drag it into the living room. If that’s not strange enough, we then foolishly think that the dog and cat won’t notice. Really? Even the most standoffish of felines can’t help but observe a tree in the middle of living room. Perhaps, we think our furry friends will just ignore it. Could that explain our astonishment when the puppy lifts his leg? As for our show of surprise at the cat racing up the tree and then refusing climb down; just who are we trying to kid?

Speaking of bringing the outside in, mistletoe could be an even odder choice to deck the halls. First of all, it’s a parasite. New Hampshire is too cold for mistletoe but I used to see it all the time in Geneva. It latches on to a tree and grows into a massive ball. As that ball of greenery and white berries grows, it robs the tree of moisture and nutrients and eventually kills it.

If that’s not bad enough, mistletoe is poisonous. It’s not so bad for humans. Rather than kill you, it might make you drowsy, blur your vision or cause vomiting, maybe even seizures. However, it can be very dangerous for the hamster, cat and dog. In spite of all that, we hang it in doorways throughout the house. Not because we want a stash of poison handy but to induce loved ones and strangers to kiss under it. What’s next? Hemlock wreaths.

However, when it comes to poison, poinsettias get a bit of a bad rap. By the way, what’s with the name? If it wasn’t for spellcheck, I couldn’t even write about these bright red beauties. Although no one sings about it, poinsettia is another one of those tomato-tomahto kind of words.

Growing up, everyone had a grandmother or aunt or a fancy-pants neighbor who pronounced it poin-set-ee-ah. The rest of us, and by that I mean everyone at my house including both Nanas, pronounced it poin-set-ah. Although, come to think of it, I think some of us added a -t- along with dropping the -ee- for point-set-ah. All that said; my Grandfather Westland might have used the la-di-da pronunciation once or twice. The family comedian, he delighted in making us giggle with, among other things, fancy-pants accents and pronunciations.

Anyway, regardless of an extra t, ee-ah or ah, poinsettias are barely toxic. There’s little reason to worry about kids or grandkids keeling over. They’d need to chow down about 500 leaves to become ill. That would be quite some salad for a little one. Given the awful taste, there’s little chance the children will indulge.

Enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce
My grandfather always brought cocktail shrimp to family celebrations. Dad continues the tradition. He serves boiled shrimp with ketchup-based cocktail sauce. I like to shake it up a little. Enjoy!
Makes about 36 pieces

Rémoulade Sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1-2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons capers, drained and finely chopped
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 finely chopped scallion
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Put the mustards, vinegar, garlic, lemon juice and zest, capers and anchovy paste in a bowl, season with the spices, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the mayonnaise, scallion and herbs and whisk again. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to mix and meld the flavors.

Makes about 1 cup. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Roasted Shrimp
2 pounds extra-jumbo (16-20 per pound) shrimp
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Olive oil

Put the shrimp in a bowl, sprinkle with the garlic and lemon zest and toss to combine. Drizzle with the lemon juice and enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss again. Let the shrimp marinade for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the shrimp on rimmed baking sheets in a single layer and roast at 450 degrees for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through and opaque. Don’t overcook.

Serve immediately or at room temperature with Rémoulade Sauce.

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One Year Ago – Bûche de Noël
Two Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens
Three Years Ago – Very Ginger Gingerbread Muffins
Four Years Ago – Ginger Shortbread
Five Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Six Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Seven Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes
Eight Years Ago – Savory Bread Pudding
Nine Years Ago – Triple Chocolate Parfait

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

How will you decorate for the Holidays? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Getting Ready to Give Thanks & Cheesy Pumpkin-Sage Biscuits

I thought we had another week at least! Ten days out, it’s past time to think about Thanksgiving. Professional chef or home cook, your most important tool is between your ears. If you are hosting the harvest feast, before you do anything, think it through and make your plan. No, I don’t mean one of those la-di-da, it’s-all-in-my-head, loosey-goosey plans. Get out your pencil and write it down.

Maybe you are skeptical; you’ve been doing this for years! Maybe you are nervous; it’s your first big sit down dinner. In either case, you can’t help but ask, “Okay, what’s in this plan?” Well, truth be told, it’s nothing more and nothing less than a series of lists.

It starts with the menu. That’s right, what do you want to serve at the great feast? Will you stay with tradition and pull Nana’s menu out of your memory bank? By the way, if you let tradition rule, are you absolutely certain that you want to make that green Jell-O mold again? You know the one – with crushed pineapple, grated carrots and mini-marshmallows. Just askin’.

Then again, maybe you skimmed the latest issue of one of those foodie magazines in the checkout line at the supermarket. If so, tried and true might be looking a little done and donner. If so, it could be time to change things up – a little or a lot. Hesitating? Don’t, it will be fun.

But where to start? That’s easy, the internet of course. Type in a few key words and to search for those intriguing recipes you perused in the checkout line. If you’re more of a cookbook person, spend an hour at the kitchen table leafing through your collection. You’re bound to find something similar. Regardless of your menu, make sure it includes a good number of make-ahead dishes. You have enough to do on Thanksgiving morning without whipping up another casserole.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, don’t be shy about accepting or asking for help if you need it. At least one or two guests will probably offer to bring something. When friends or family suggest something delicious, say yes, and answer quickly before they change their minds. I was delighted when my sister-in-law volunteered to bring the pies. However, kind as friends and rellies are, not all offers are equal. (Sorry, but there will be no green bean casserole on my Thanksgiving table.) Be kind and politely suggest an alternative to the rutabaga mash or Jell-O mold or assure them you’ve got everything covered.

Back to the grand plan, add whatever potluck offerings to your menu and adjust accordingly. If your cousin is bringing the aforementioned green bean casserole (hey, it’s your party not mine) then you can skip the broccoli gratin. Unless you are hosting a cast of thousands, you don’t need two kinds of yams, roasted and mashed potatoes and five or six different green and/or yellow vegetables.

With your menu done, use it to create your shopping list. Go through each recipe and your pantry and then write down any and everything you need to create your wonderful feast. Don’t forget to add the wine, cider, flowers and whatever else you might need.

Finally, create your to-do list and make a time line. Remember those make-ahead dishes? Figure out when you will make them plus set the table and run the vacuum cleaner around the living room. Be realistic about time. Whether it’s peeling the potatoes or finding the turkey platter, don’t let optimism get in the way of reality. It will take longer than think. By all means, enlist help. Remember those that can’t cook can run errands and the vacuum cleaner.

Wishing you good luck and fun with your Turkey Day preparations and bon appétit!

Cheesy Pumpkin- Sage Biscuits
Pass these versatile biscuits before dinner for a tasty appetizer or serve them with the main course. Bake up another batch over the weekend for extra special turkey sandwiches. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 dozen dinner biscuits or 8 dozen minis*

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon or to taste chipotle chili powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut in small pieces
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Cream or melted butter

Position the racks in the top and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal. Add the cheddar and sage and pulse to combine. Transfer the dough to a bowl.

Put the pumpkin, sour cream and maple syrup in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dough and stir to combine. If necessary, add an extra tablespoon or two of sour cream.

Divide and pat the dough into 2 balls, place on a lightly floured work surface and shape each piece into rectangle about 9×12-inches and about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the biscuits into 3-inch* squares and place them on the prepared baking sheets.

Brush the top of each biscuit with cream or melted butter and bake at 425 until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove the biscuits from the oven, cool for 5-10 minutes and serve warm.

* For tasty appetizers, cut the biscuits into 1 1/2-inch squares and reduce the baking time.

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One Year Ago – Butternut Squash Tartlets
Two Years Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Three Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Four Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Five Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Six Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Seven Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Eight Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Nine Years Ago – Broccoli Puree
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Are you ready for the next power outage? What are secret survival tricks? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Lights Out & Warm Brie with Cranberry Chutney

It was a dark and stormy night. The rain was coming down in buckets. The wind was blowing a gale. And the trees, they were toppling like Legos struck down by a petulant four year old. Suddenly, I was wide awake. I seem to have this uncanny knack to wake up just as the lights go out. Maybe it’s the sound of wind in the trees. Then again, maybe it’s some sixth sense.

Perhaps, it’s not the noise that awakens me but a premonition of doom. Anyway that feeling of doom yanked me out of bed. After a bit of fumbling, I found the electric company’s telephone number and I stumbled downstairs to call them. I then spent most of the rest of the night tossing and turning.

Finally, it was morning. Never wanting to miss my daily walk around Pleasant Lake, I set off. I figured I would check out the reason for the power failure and get some exercise. The sun was doing its best to break through the murky fog but failing miserably. It didn’t take long to find an answer to the power outage. Less than a mile down the road, I found the culprit. An enormous hemlock had tipped over and rolled itself up in the electrical wires.

Careful to stay clear of any downed wires, I skirted the tree and continued. Not more than a quarter mile later, another massive tree had flung itself across the road, downing still more wires. Further on, more curious then damaging, a large branch was nonchalantly hanging from a wire in the center of the road. Next, not another tree but a jumble of wires lay on the road surrounded by a few downed branches.

I kept moving and found an even more exciting trouble spot. This time the wires were actually on fire. Scrambling through the woods, I managed to avoid electrocution. Was that it? No, certainly not. Just at the corner, not a stone’s throw from my house was the last of the fallen hemlocks. Caught in the wires and suspended over the road, it looked like an accident ready to happen.

How disappointing is that? Not only was the power out but seeing that tree made me realize something. I probably don’t have a sixth sense after all. That tree must have made a hell of a racket when it crashed. It was a conifer and not some mystical psychic power that woke me in the night.

Anyway, let this outage be a reminder. If you are like me, you went to bed on Sunday night completely unprepared for two days without power. In my case, I had a large stash of triple-A but no flashlight batteries. Then again, the flashlight I faithfully keep in my bedside table had been moved. Yes of course, by me. Who else? And yes, I know better.

Furthermore, to answer the next question, no, I had not filled my five-gallon lobster pot and a dozen jugs with water. In fact, I threw out a bunch of old gallon jugs when I stripped the kitchen for the remodel. The lobster pot is somewhere in the garage.

I did manage a bit of luck though. Although I forgot to charge my cell phone before going to bed, it wasn’t dead. At twenty-six percent, it had more than enough power for me to call the power company, be cut off, call back and be put on hold, cut off again and, finally, get through and register my outrage … oops … I mean outage.

Stay safe and dry. Bon appétit!

Warm Brie with Cranberry Chutney
Although it is still early, I’m already thinking ahead to Thanksgiving. May I suggest that you start the festivities with a bit of warm brie topped with a dollop of sweet and spicy chutney? Enjoy!
Makes about 30 pieces

Cranberry Chutney (recipe follows)
1 (16 ounce) wheel Brie cheese
Your favorite artisanal crackers

Make the Cranberry Chutney (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the brie wheel on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until soft and starting to ooze, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the brie to a cheese board, add a bowl of Cranberry Chutney and a basket of your favorite artisanal crackers. Invite your guests to help themselves.

Cranberry Chutney
Makes about 2 cups

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon or to taste cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 ounces (2 cups) whole cranberries
1 small apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup or to taste light brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider or water
3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion, carrot, ginger and spices, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

Stir in the cranberries, apple, raisins, brown sugar and cider and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chutney reaches a jam consistency, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature and stir in the vinegar.

Best if made ahead, covered and refrigerated until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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One Year Ago – Butternut Squash Tartlets
Two Years Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Three Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Four Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Five Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Six Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Seven Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Eight Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Nine Years Ago – Broccoli Puree

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

Are you ready for the next power outage? What are secret survival tricks? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Stuff Happens & Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Crema

It started about four years ago. I desperately wanted to re-do my kitchen and began saving my pennies. However, since a bathroom renovation had turned into what seemed like an endless saga, I needed reassurance. I needed a timeline. Bruce, my eternally optimistic contractor, provided me, the eternally optimistic client, with the magic number … three weeks.

In case you think these two optimists are crazy, Bruce had a plan and I bought into it 100 percent. Here’s how it worked. Week one Bruce tears everything apart. Week two, he puts it all back together. The cabinets are installed, the appliances arrive and the plumber, electrician and painter make their magic. On Friday of week two, the countertop guy draws up the template. Week three is busy with a long list of odds and ends until the grand finale on Friday. The countertops are installed.

For my part, I insisted that demolition would absolutely, positively not begin until everything was ready to go. Cabinets, flooring and appliances had to be stacked from floor to ceiling in every available nook or cranny. At bare minimum, materials had to be on a truck and headed my way. There would be no delay because the refrigerator was on back order.

As we neared the start date, there were a few hiccups. Throughout the process, a few more setbacks demanded solutions. In spite of our optimism and mostly careful planning, stuff happens and lessons are learned.

Sorry, those floors are no longer available. In fact, the company has gone out of business. Bruce got on the phone and online. His favorite supplier got on the phone and online. Nothing. I got online and then in the car. Nothing until I fell in love with plan B, a kitchen-friendly cork. That said; the lead-time was three weeks. Anyway, stay flexible.

Speaking of floors, that old linoleum is not coming up without a fight. There were actually two layers of linoleum. The first ripped out easily. The second was put down with super glue or some other miracle adhesive invented by a super-secret government agency. In the end, it was no match to Chuck’s resolve. Tenancy is good.

There is working time and waiting time. You see both during a renovation. As promised, it took less than a week to install the new floors and cabinets. The only problem, it didn’t happen until week three. Blame it on the new laundry/half bath and mudroom. Installation was delayed a week while these two, itty-bitty spaces were framed and drywall was installed, mudded and sanded. Be patient.

Wait a minute, that’s a joist exactly where the flange should go. When the plumber went to install the flange for the toilet in the new half bath, he discovered a floor joist in just the wrong spot. However, within minutes, a return/exchange order was in the works for a new toilet to fit the tight space. Yes, a big box store would have taken the return but I’m very glad I didn’t need to cram a toilet in the back of the Mini. Thank goodness, I bought local.

Now, the confession – in spite of my sunny disposition and optimism, I knew from the start that the kitchen would take more than three weeks. You remember my eighty-twenty rule: just when you think you are eighty percent done; you have eighty percent more to do. Well, I figured the first eighty percent would happen quickly, in about three weeks. I was hoping the second eighty percent wouldn’t take more than a week but realized another two, okay maybe three weeks, was more likely.

I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be cooking again this weekend. Bon appétit!

My temporary kitchen – microwave, hotplate and toaster oven on an old door in the garage.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Crema
With September winding to a close, it’s time for a favorite early fall treat. Fry up some of the green tomatoes that won’t have time to ripen on the vine. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large eggs
Vegetable oil
4-6 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Chipotle Crema (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting.

Put the cornmeal, flour, salt, cumin and pepper in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Put the eggs in a separate bowl and beat well.

Generously coat a heavy skillet with oil and heat over medium-high.

Dip the tomato slices in the egg and then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Working in batches, carefully, place the tomatoes in the skillet and fry until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan and place in a warm oven. Adding more oil to the pan if necessary, continue with the remaining tomato slices. Serve hot with a dollop of Chipotle Aioli.

Chipotle Crema
Makes about 1 cup

2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt to taste
About 1/2 cup or to taste sour cream

Put the mayonnaise, chipotle, garlic, mustard and lime zest and juice in bowl, season with cumin and salt and whisk to combine. Add the sour cream and whisk until smooth. Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors.

Cover and store leftover crema in the refrigerator.

* Toss a can of chipotle peppers along with the adobo in a small food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar, store in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Three Years Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Four Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Five Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Six Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Seven Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Eight Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Nine Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

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

Do you have any reno advice to add? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

The New Kitchen Adventure Continues & Savory Rosemary Biscotti

Well, the fun has begun. My forty-something year old kitchen is now nothing but an empty shell. I managed, just barely, to clear everything out before Bruce the contractor arrived. A pile of freebies, including several interior doors and a gas range, is sitting in my driveway. Most days, something disappears and, just as often, I add something to the pile. The rarely used deep fryer, some thermal mugs and most of the drawers are gone. At some point, anything left will go into the dumpster.

Yes, that’s right; I have a dumpster. In fact, we are on dumpster number two. I really don’t know how the first one filled up so fast. The kitchen isn’t all that big. Why, it’s not much more than a glorified galley. Glorified because instead of the typical eight by eight or ten feet you find in a classic galley kitchen, mine is a luxurious ten by twelve. By the way, those ten feet are just narrow enough that, no matter where he stands, my dad is always in the way.

Now, just because I have a dumpster – don’t go thinking you can come down here with your old television set or that ancient sofa or whatever else the dump won’t take. Sure, I know; it’s tempting but don’t throw any of that stuff in my dumpster. It may be half empty now but it won’t be for long.

So, you ask, what’s it like having your kitchen remodeled? Well, noisy is the first word that comes to mind, very noisy. Followed by dusty. God love Bruce. He can’t do anything about the banging and clanging but he has covered all the doorways with plastic sheeting. It should help keep the dust from spreading to every corner of every room in the house. And God bless my dad, who promptly bumbled through, creating puddles of plastic at every doorway.

Speaking of Dad, Joe Nye thinks the world of Bruce. You see, he reminds Dad of his own father. Grandpa Nye was also a builder. If he was still around today, Grandpa could have been one of those guys on the home and garden network. Not because he could remodel an entire house for $25,000 and then flip it for a huge profit. No, Grandpa Nye could see the whole picture and was all about the details. He made sure all the pieces fit together. In today’s dollars, it would cost more than $25,000 but you would have no doubt that it was worth every penny. I guess, maybe Grandpa was more PBS than HGTV.

Anyway, the key reason Bruce reminds Dad of Grandpa is that, along with his good work, they both sweep up after each task and at the end of the day. Renovations are messy. However, when I walk through the room that once was and will again be my kitchen, there are no dusty piles of bent nails or drywall rubble. There are no half-empty water bottles or coffee cups. As for the plastic sheeting, it’s been carefully re-taped to each doorway.

Although it’s nothing new, the other fallout of renovation is insomnia. Without fail, I wake up around two o’clock every morning for a round of second guessing. Will the utility closet be big enough to hold the vacuum cleaner? A predawn trip downstairs solves that one; the answer is yes, just barely. Should the door slide on the inside of the laundry room or outside? I’m going with outside. The cork flooring is due on Tuesday. Does Tuesday mean before noon or after five? We’ll see. Should the modem stay in the kitchen or move to my office? TBD. Granite or butcher block for that cabinet on the far wall? I have a day or two to figure this one out. Did I remember to email the appliance guy and postpone delivery until Tuesday? Not yet. Does it make sense to have a drain board carved into the granite by the sink? Hmmm, maybe but what would it cost?

… and perhaps most important, what to cook that first night in the new kitchen?

… Bon appétit!

Savory Rosemary Biscotti
Although I have cooked in a convection oven, I have never owned one. That’s all about to change. I’ll be baking up this savory take on the Italian classic for the kitchenwarming. Enjoy!
Makes about 6 dozen biscuits

3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, cut in small cubes
2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, cut in small cubes
4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold butter, cut into small cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream

Put the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the cheeses in a food processor and pulse to grate and combine. Remove about 1/2 cup of cheese and reserve.

Add the flour, rosemary, baking powder, salt, pepper and paprika to the food processor and pulse to combine with the cheese. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the dough to a large bowl.

Put 3 eggs in a bowl and whisk to combine, add the sour cream and whisk again until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dough and stir until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into four pieces. Using well-floured hands, pat each piece into a flat log about 10-inches long, 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Placing them about 3 inches apart, transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheets.

Put the remaining egg in a bowl and whisk until pale yellow. Brush the logs with the egg and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake the biscotti for 15 minutes, turn and swap the position of the pans. Continue baking until the logs are golden, about 15 minutes more. Cool the biscotti for about 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

With a serrated knife, slice the logs about 1/2-inch-thick on the diagonal. Arrange the slices, cut side down, in a single layer on baking sheets. Turning once, bake until golden and crisp, 35-45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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

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

Help! Do you have any renovation advice to share? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

On the Border & Pissaladière

I was something of a biking fanatic when I lived in Switzerland. I was still running and cycling once or twice a week gave my knees a break. Either that or the boyfriend who truly was a biking fanatic got me hooked. From the first of May through October, most weekends found me pedaling.

Just a few miles from the center of the Geneva, the office buildings, banks and apartment houses give way to ancient farms and rustic villages. Although I lived there for years, it never ceased to amaze me how quickly you could go from international metropolis to farm country. That said, I had no trouble taking advantage of the open space. As long as the day was warm and the sky clear, I’d hop on my bike and take a spin through the countryside.

That’s when I discovered the leaky borders between Switzerland and France. First, a little lesson in geo-politics. Geneva is more or less surrounded by France on three sides. While Switzerland is part of Europe, it is not part of the European Union. While there are border crossings, there is no great wall to separate the two countries. If you’re out rambling through the fields, you could cross from one country to another without knowing it. As for those border crossings, they look a little like a tollbooth without the basket for your change. Some are manned and some not. If there are any, more often than not, the guards just wave you through.

However, if they are bored, the guards will sometimes make you stop, show your passport and ask if you have anything to declare. As for contraband, I’m not talking about dangerous drugs but a couple of nice, thick steaks, a few kilos of butter or several bottles of wine. All of which are much cheaper in France than Switzerland. Sometimes the guards will go so far as to ask you to step out of the car and open the trunk. According to the aforementioned bike-riding boyfriend, this is particularly true if the driver is wearing a short skirt.

Happily for me, any contraband I may or may not have carried across the border was not detected. I’m pretty sure that the statute of limitations protects me from incarceration for any smuggling that I may or may not have done. However, no need to spill my guts and invite trouble.

Anyway, back to bicycling. Weaving my way by farms, fields and forests, I would head mostly west and just a tad north down to the lake. Although I can read a map, I usually cycled without one. A map offers little help when you travel on narrow, unmarked agricultural roads. Now, my sense of direction is not exactly brilliant. So, you guessed it, on more than one occasion, I unwittingly ended up at the border. I’d slow down, wait for the nod and then sail through with a cheery wave.

That’s assuming the crossing had one of little booths, with or without a guard. On more than one occasion, I’d suddenly realize I wasn’t in Switzerland anymore. Could be a road marker or a maybe a roundabout gave it away. There are lots of roundabouts in France. Sometimes things looked familiar and sometimes not. No need to panic, I would simply keep an eye on the sun or the Salève and work my way down to the lake. At some point, I was bound to cross back over the border.

There is an awful lot of talk about borders and walls these days. Some go so far as to contend that a country can’t truly be a country without a wall. If that’s the case than there are a lot of non-countries out there. I know because I’ve driven, walked, skied and cycled through my fair share of them. I’ve even lived in two.

With longer, warmer days, it’s time for all of us to get out and about. Bon appétit!

Pissaladière
Usually served as an appetizer with a glass of white wine, Pissaladière will be a delicious addition to your French cooking repertoire. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2-2 large onions (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons anchovy paste*
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 pound your favorite pizza dough
12-16 Niçoise olives, pitted and halved
1-2 tablespoons capers

Put the butter and oil in a large pan and heat over medium-low until the butter melts. Add the onions, sprinkle with thyme and rosemary, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Drizzle with the white wine, cover the pan and, stirring occasionally, simmer until the onions are soft.

Uncover the pan, add the garlic, anchovy paste and vinegar and toss to combine. Continue cooking, uncovered, until any liquid has evaporated and the onions are lightly browned and very tender. Remove from heat and reserve.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven and a pizza stone (if you have one) to 450 degrees.

Cut the dough in 2, 3 or 4 pieces – whatever is easiest for you. Pat or roll each piece of dough out into a thin round and place on a piece of parchment paper. Top with the onions, sprinkle with olives and capers.

Working in batches, transfer the pissaladière to the preheated pizza stone or a baking sheet. Bake the pissaladière until golden, 8-12 minutes with a pizza stone and 12-15 minutes with a baking sheet.

Cut into wedges or squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Can be made a few hours ahead and served at room temperature.

* If you prefer, use 6-8 anchovies. Instead of tossing them with the onions, cut them lengthwise and decoratively arrange them on top of the Pissaladière before baking.

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One Year Ago – Tabbouleh
Two Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Three Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Four Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Five Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Six Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Seven Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Eight Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola

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

What about you? How do you get your exercise once spring finally rolls around? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017