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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thai Soup with Shrimp, Greens & Noodles

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

Serves 8

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

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

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

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

Prepare the noodles according to package directions and drain.

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

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

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Alternatives & Thai Butternut Squash Soup

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

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

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

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

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

All six Patriots’ Super Bowl wins.

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

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

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

A mah jongg tournament or Scrabble match.

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

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

Or just relax.

Forget about football.

Forget about competition.

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

Or stay home.

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

Enjoy the game any way you like and bon appétit!

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

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

Makes 5-6 quarts

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

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

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

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

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

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A Different Kind of Advent Calendar &A Hint of Asia Cocktail Meatballs

An advent calendar was not an annual thing for the Nye kids. I think my dad’s cousin Ginny sent us one a couple of times but not with any regularity. Since a daily battle erupted over who could open the little doors, I’m guessing Mom didn’t encourage her with effusive thanks. Again, without any regularity and generally a week or two into December, I might have sent a calendar or two to my nieces and nephews when they were little.

From time to time, I bump into a magnificent, handmade advent calendar. That’s figurative bumping rather than literal. Otherwise, I’d have a closet full of broken advent calendars. They are all quite clever, fun and doable. By the time I see them it’s mid-December, so, I put it on the to-do list for next year. And promptly forget about it. Meanwhile, the youngest of the nieces and nephews are in their twenties.

I recently came across a different kind of advent calendar. One that doesn’t require any special paper or quarter-inch finished plywood. You can keep the glue in the junk drawer and the paints and brushes in the craft cupboard. It’s a simple list of nice things to do during the advent season. Instead of a tiny chocolate or peppermint, each square suggests a little act of kindness to offer to family, to friends and, yes, to strangers. In this much too busy season, it even includes acts of self-kindness.

Wishing you a holiday season filled with kindness and bon appétit!

A Hint of Asia Cocktail Meatballs

You can’t get more retro than meatballs for a holiday cocktail party. A little spicy and a little sweet, I promise you’ll like these way-better than the old school version with grape jelly. Enjoy!

Makes about 4 dozen meatballs

  • A Hint of Asia Sauce (recipe follows.)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 pounds ground turkey or chicken or pork
  • 1 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup instant oatmeal
  • Flour, for dusting

Make the Hint of Asia Sauce.

While the sauce simmers, heat a little oil in a skillet over medium high, add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté about 3 minutes more. Cool to room temperature.

Put the eggs and vinegar in a bowl and whisk combine. Add the sour cream and whisk again.

Put the vegetables, turkey, water chestnuts and oatmeal in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the turkey. Gently toss and mix to combine. You can use a couple of large spoons but impeccably clean hands work best. Roll the mixture into little bite-sized meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Dust the meatballs with flour. Lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Working in batches if necessary, brown the meatballs on all sides. Transfer the meatballs to a baking dish and add enough sauce to generously coat – if necessary, add a little more chicken stock.

Can be made ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated.

Transfer the meatballs to the oven. Bake uncovered until piping hot, about 15 minutes or longer if they are straight from the refrigerator. Transfer to a platter and serve.

A Hint of Asia Sauce

Makes about 3 cups sauce

  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup or more chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Lightly coat a saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion and thyme and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 3 minutes more.

Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, honey, sriracha, hoisin, ketchup and chicken stock bring to a simmer and, stirring a few times, continue simmering on very low for about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature, add the sesame oil and process in the blender until smooth.

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

Blahvember & Curried Cauliflower Soup

Oh my, it’s that time of year again. It’s one of my two least favorite months – November. (The other is April by the way.) Also known as Blahvember because, well, look outside. All those brightly colored leaves, the ones that bring fame and tourists to northern New England, they’re lying in soggy piles on the side of the road. Day in and day out, it’s one gray, drizzly day after another. Hmph, I feel like one of those hapless kids stuck in a Dr. Seuss tale.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a lot to do or even look forward to. Halloween is in the rearview mirror and Thanksgiving doesn’t come until the very end of the month. To top it off, if you missed the time change, well, for the past few days, you’ve been early to work or the gym or wherever you spend your mornings. Think of it; just when we need it most, we’re no longer saving daylight. Then again, once bedtime and waketime rearrange themselves, the change doesn’t seem so bad. Afterall, it’s light or almost light when the alarm goes off.

As an early morning walker, I appreciate the earlier sunrise. Then something happens. Once a week, twice a week, I wake to a deluge or have an early morning appointment. No big deal. These little inconveniences can’t keep me from my daily tour of the lake. I simply postpone until afternoon. That’s when, heading into the homestretch, it becomes miserably apparent that it’s dark at 4:30. Yes … dark, as in dark as night … at 4:30 … in the afternoon. Ugh!

So, what can you do about it? There’s always sulking or a Hallmark Channel movie marathon. Then again, how about that list of chores that never seem to get done? If your list is anything like mine, it’s not very motivating.

It might be more productive, make that more fun, to get a jump on holidays. You know, get out the knitting needles or your favorite crafty supplies and make stuff. An afternoon in the kitchen is always a pleasure or at least it is for me. Stir up a pot of soup or marinara sauce. Speaking of holidays, my butternut squash soup is perfect for Thanksgiving and freezes beautifully. Or you could bake some Christmas cookies and tuck them into the freezer. Cooking is a lot more fun than cleaning the garage; warmer too.

Skiers, snowshoers and other outdoor types can bring it in and out of the rain. Think about signing up for one of those super-duper fitness classes. It will help you get your abs, gluts and quads in shape. (If that sounds like I know what I’m talking about, don’t be fooled.) Oh, and by the way, signing up is fine but to make it work; you actually have to go to the class and participate.

Alternatively, November might be a good time to take up tai chi or yoga. While not as hardcore as boot camp or whatever those high-powered conditioning classes are called, both will build flexibility, strength and balance. Keeping your balance on an icy sidewalk is always a good thing. An added bonus, meditative exercise is a great stress reliever.

Wishing you a happy and boredom-free November. Bon appétit!

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Cold, gray, drizzly November, is the perfect time to stir up a kettle of soup – or two. Get an early start on Thanksgiving preparations with my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and/or try something new with a little spice. Either way or both – enjoy!

Makes about 4 quarts

  • 1/2 cup or to taste curry paste (recipe follows or use your favorite store bought)
  • 2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2-3 pounds cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
  • 1-2 Yukon gold potatoes, about 8 ounces, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, cut in eighths
  • About 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • About 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Cilantro-Lime Chutney (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the curry paste in a small bowl, add the vinegar and oil and whisk with a fork to combine. Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, add with the curry paste mixture and toss to coat.

Stirring and tossing once or twice, roast the vegetables at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Add 4 cups of stock, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little stock and/or coconut milk in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the cauliflower puree into a soup pot, add the remaining stock and coconut milk and the bay leaf and place on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Reheat on medium low.

To serve: ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, swirl a dollop of Cilantro-Lime Chutney into the soup and serve.

Curry Paste

Makes about 1 cup

  • 4 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil

Put the spices in a small food processor and pulse to combine. Add the garlic and ginger and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Cover and store leftover curry paste in the refrigerator.

Cilantro-Lime Chutney

Makes about 1 cup

  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1/2 or to taste jalapeno pepper
  • 2-3 cups roughly chopped cilantro – leaves and tender stems
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar and lime zest and juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add the scallions, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Let the chutney sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Cover and store leftover chutney in the refrigerator or in the freezer.

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All Hallows Eve & Vegetable & Rice (or Noodle) Bowls

There are holidays and, then, there are HOLIDAYS. Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to top the charts but Halloween has to be an ever-so-close runner up. So, why does Halloween beat all the other movers and shakers? Think about it, kids get the day off from school on Columbus Day – in spite of a ton of controversy. On the other hand, All Hallows Eve, is loads of fun but no one gets the day off.

Then again, Halloween is not without controversy. Over the past several of years, some Halloween costumes have found themselves in the news. Instead of fun fantasy or scary spookdom, some disguises are nothing short of offensive. So, here’s some simple advice, when it comes to Halloween, don’t be a yahoo.

In case you are wondering, what’s a yahoo? Say the word a few times, out loud with enthusiasm. Now, think about the kind of person who might fit that description and you’ll get the picture. If you’re still not sure; it all boils down to this – don’t choose an offensive costume. Traditional or inventive, have fun with it but show some common sense. Show some common courtesy.

As I understand it; there are some politicians, pundits and their fans out there who are getting tired of political correctness. With or without air quotes, politically correct has somehow or other become an insult. But wait a minute there; back up the train. Accusing someone of political correctness is like accusing them of common courtesy. How or why would anyone suggest that being polite is a bad thing?

I don’t know about your mom but Mrs. Nye didn’t raise her kids to be rude. She didn’t raise them to be bullies or to offend people that didn’t look, act or talk the way they did. No, Mrs. Nye raised her kids to be pumpkins and fairy princesses, clowns and super heroes, witches, vampires, ghosts and goblins.

Which brings us back to the initial question, why does Halloween beat all those other holidays in the top of the pops charts? Easy – it’s the costumes. It’s fun to dress up. It’s fun to pretend you are someone or something else. It’s fun to give your imagination free rein and come up with an amazing costume. It’s fun to show how clever you are. Dress up is part of being a kid and being a kid again.

So have a ball. Throw caution to the wind; let your imagination run wild. Be silly, be scary, be surprising. One of my favorite costumes of all time was a group effort. Three or four friends dressed up as a construction site. One put on a yellow slicker, reflective vest and hardhat while the others dressed up as traffic cones, complete with flashing lights. At least for me, it was clever, funny and memorable because – how in the world do you come up with such an idea? To be a traffic cone, a TRAFFIC CONE, for Halloween?

This year and every year, forget stereotypes. Black face and Nazis are more outdated than your great-grandfather’s fedora. However, a fedora could be the start of something interesting. Or maybe a bowler? Anyway, if you are unsure about a costume, ask yourself, “What would my kids or grandkids or future kids or grandkids think?” Would they laugh? Or, would they squirm uncomfortably and, then, shrug, sigh and admit that, as much as they love you; you’re a yahoo.

Happy Halloween and bon appétit!

Vegetable & Rice (or Noodle) Bowls

Everyone likes a cozy dish on a chilly night. These spicy vegetable bowls are quick and easy at the end of a busy day – or after trick or treating! If you like, add tofu or shrimp or slices of leftover chicken or pork. Enjoy!

Serves 4

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 pound broccoli, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced or chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons tahini or smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 12-16 ounces tofu or leftover chicken or pork (optional)
  • 1 cup rice or 8 ounces Chinese or udon noodles
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, toasted and finely chopped or toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

Lightly coat a large wok or skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. Add the broccoli, mushrooms, onion and carrots and tossing frequently, cook until the onion is translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and, tossing frequently, cook for 2 minutes more.

Stir in the sriracha, tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and toss to combine. Stir in the chicken stock. If using, add the tofu, chicken or pork, toss to combine. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer until the broccoli is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles or rice according to package directions.

Transfer the noodles or rice to a large platter or individual bowls. Stir the sesame oil to the vegetables. Top the noodles or rice with vegetables, sprinkle with peanuts, scallions and cilantro and serve immediately.

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What’s your favorite Halloween costume? Feel free to share!

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

Believe in Magic & Spicy Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Eggplant

There is a special magic to summer. It’s in the air – an indefinable sense that anything is possible. The feeling is strongest at dawn and again at dusk or maybe it just seems that way. I suppose it has something to do with the slight dampness that cools the air. Caught between day and night, the sky turns gold and pink. The atmosphere is almost otherworldly and filled with quiet optimism.

Not a believer? Well – look back and look around. It shouldn’t take much to change your mind. Summers past, present and future are filled with mystical, magical happenings. After all, what else but magic can explain …

The moment you suddenly realized that you weren’t going to sink like a stone. No matter how ugly it may have been, you were swimming.

How, after gazillion tries, you pulled your bat back, (finally kept your eye on the ball instead of your friend at first base) and hit it out the park.

A perfect afternoon building fanciful fairy houses with the children. The next morning, still in their jammies, the children discover evidence of sparkly visitors.

Your all-time favorite ice cream shop has your all-time favorite flavor.

After a thunderstorm roars through, a perfect rainbow forms over the lake.

After that same thunderstorm, the brook isn’t just babbling, it’s singing.

The most beautiful butterfly flutters through your garden.

Each morning, you wake not to an alarm but to the sound of birds signing.

Your very best friend in the whole world calls you out of the blue just when you need a good long chat.

After what seems like hundreds of tries, you drop that ski and do a perfect slalom around the lake.

A tiny child giggles with delight upon finding the most perfect strawberry in the pick-your-own field. And then promptly eats it!

Young players’ faces light up with pure joy and admiration when the women’s soccer team score the final, victorious goal at the World Cup.

Magic happens through acts of nature and acts of kindness. It can be the result of hours, even years, of hard work. A bit of good luck might have something to do with it as well. Sometimes I think that I believe in magic because there is no other choice. The alternative is too bleak, too distressing. Summer is a time to dream – to not only see the magic around us but to see the magic within ourselves.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Spicy Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Eggplant
Warm evenings send us outside for one last swim. Why not bring a picnic along? This delicious salad will make an excellent addition to your outdoor feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8

12-16 ounces pad thai rice noodles
Asian Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
About 2 1/2 pounds eggplant, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Peanut or canola oil
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped red or yellow bell pepper
3-4 scallions thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, toasted

Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain well. Transfer the noodles to a bowl, drizzle with enough Asian Vinaigrette to generously coat and toss.

Can be made ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated for several hours. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn and grill until tender, about 2 minutes more. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Add the eggplant, cucumber, pepper and scallions to the noodles and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette if necessary. Add the herbs and peanuts, toss again and serve.

Asian Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon or to taste Sriracha
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Put all of the ingredients in a glass jar and shake vigorously to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to combine the flavors. Give the vinaigrette a good shake before using.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup
Two Years Ago – Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Four Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Five Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Six Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Seven Years Ago – Gazpacho
Eight Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Nine Years Ago– Thai Salad
Ten Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Eleven Years Ago – Lobster Salad

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

What are your favorite summer flavors and dishes? Feel free to share!

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

Thinking about Joy & Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad

It seems to me that June is a particularly joyful month. Or at the very least, it is a month filled with joyful celebrations. There are lots of wedding and, of course, anniversaries as well as graduations and all the parties that go along with them. We are thrilled when that beautiful young couple ties the knot. We are delighted to help family and friends celebrate twenty, thirty, fifty or more years together. In some cases, we’re not just happy for a young graduate, we’re relieved and over the moon that he or she will indeed march to the beat of Pomp and Circumstance. However, it’s not always the big events that bring us joy.

If you are open to them, joy and wonder surround us. June is filled with sunny days and starry nights. After a cold, wet spring, there are no better cures for the doldrums. From simple contentment to unmitigated bliss, it’s up to each of us to embrace the new season.

Here is a handful of little things that bring me joy …

The call of the loon in the early morning.

Local asparagus.

The sound of peepers.

Fireflies dancing in the dark.

The smell of lilacs.

Bright red poppies on the side of the road.

Children giggling.

A game of kick the can.

A beautiful sunset.

Complimenting a stranger.

Complimenting a loved one.

A favorite song comes on the car radio.

Inventing a new recipe.

Sharing a new recipe.

Smiling.

Laughing out loud.

A supermarket checkout lane with no line.

My favorite summer rosé is on sale.

A great hair day.

A table surrounded by friends and family.

While happy accidents happen every day, a joy-filled life takes more than chance. To find happiness, open your senses and your heart to the world around you … and the world of possibilities.

Here’s to a joyful summer and bon appétit!

Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad
Warmer temperatures bring salad season. Simple or complex, I love them all. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds European cucumbers
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
Thai Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro or mint or a mix of the two
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and slice into 1/4-inch half-moons. Put the cucumbers in a bowl, add the scallions and toss to combine.

Drizzle with enough Thai vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and sesame seeds and toss again.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

Thai Vinaigrette
Makes about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Put the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, sriracha, salt, garlic and ginger in a bowl or glass jar and whisk or shake to combine. Let everything sit until the sugar and salt dissolve and whisk or shake again.

Add the sesame oil and whisk or shake to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes or more to mix and mingle the flavors.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

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

What brings you joy? Feel free to share!

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