School’s Out! & Southwest Turkey Burgers

I don’t know about you but every June when the weather turns warm, I can’t get Alice Cooper out of my head. He follows me around the lake on my morning walks. I hear him when I’m emptying the dishwasher or doing laundry. He’s might even turn up on the radio. In case you don’t remember, the aptly timed School’s Out hit the airwaves in June of 1972 and played incessantly. True or not, School’s Out seemed to be playing every time I got into the car with my friend Martha. Her mother, or maybe it was her father, had a sporty little Mercury Cougar and Martha loved to drive it.

All over the country, schools are closing for the summer. Some this week, a few, like our very own Kearsarge Regional, have already said good bye to pencils, books and teachers’ dirty looks. So let the summer celebrations begin!

By the way, if school vacation isn’t enough for you or doesn’t apply, the summer solstice is tomorrow. It is a fabulous excuse to celebrate. Steeped in folklore and superstition, the summer solstice brings out the best of our imaginations. From Stonehenge to the Scandinavian coast, we can pause and wonder at ancient customs and rites. With lots of extra hours of sunlight, there is certainly plenty of time to ponder. Whatever you do, please, don’t forget to do your sun dance. The last thing we want is rain or clouds on the longest day.

Whether you are celebrating the end of school, the longest day or both, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Take a road trip. You don’t need to go far or anywhere in particular. Open the car windows, roll down the top or open the sunroof, turn up the radio and imagine you’re sixteen again.

Visit the beach. Bring the dog and a tennis ball or find a stick and let her romp. Do it quickly. Once they officially open, most beaches do not allow dogs. Rebel that I am; I figure that as long as there is no lifeguard, the dogs can play. (But pu-leeze, lifeguard or no, pick up after your dog.)

Or leave the dog at home and go gallery hopping. Ramble through some of New England’s prettiest little towns and look for fine art and exquisite crafts and antiques. Whether you find an irresistible treasure or not, it will be a beautiful journey.

Find some live music. With warm weather, there are lots of possibilities, especially if you prefer your tunes outdoors. When in doubt, check out the nearest farmer’s market. We New Englanders seem like a little bluegrass or classic rock with their broccoli and carrots.

At the end of the day, bring the music and mesclun back home. For those of you who might be wondering, please note, that’s mesclun – a mix of assorted baby salad greens – and not mescaline, the hallucinogen found in peyote cacti.

End your celebrations with a long and lazy evening. It’s may not be the land of the midnight sun but the sun won’t set until just after 8:30. You will have plenty of time for a cookout, some singing and dancing. Light a lantern and a few candles and you can make merry until dawn.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Turkey Burgers with Avocado and Southwest Aioli
Perfect on a warm summer evening – a taste of the sunny southwest hot off the grill. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Southwest Aioli (recipe follows)
2 – 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 ounces thinly sliced cheddar cheese (optional)
1-2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1-2 tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
About 1/4 cup finely chopped pickled onion or onion
8 burger buns

Make the Southwest Aioli, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you are going to serve the burgers with pickled onion, pickle the onion.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium hot.

Divide the turkey into 8 pieces and gently pat into patties. Don’t overwork the meat or your burgers will be tough. Brush both sides of the burgers with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the turkey burgers on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip, add a slice of cheddar if you like, and continue grilling until cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Place the buns on the grill, turning once, and toast for about 30 seconds.

Pop each turkey burger onto a bun and top with avocado, tomato and onion, add a dollop of Southwest Aioli and serve.

Southwest Aioli
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup drained and roughly chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2-1 lime
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt to taste
About 3/4 cup or to taste mayonnaise

Put the sundried tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, mustard, lime juice and vinegar in a blender or small food processor, season with salt and process until well combined. Add the mayonnaise and process until smooth.

Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors. Cover and store leftover aioli 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 – Cherry Cobbler
Two Years Ago – Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction
Three Years Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Four Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Six Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Seven Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Eight Years Ago – Asian Slaw

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

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

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

April in Paris & Coq au Vin au Printemps

April in New Hampshire … the ski slopes close down, frost heaves hit new heights and mud season is at its peak. Time to get away to someplace like … Paris! Now, April in Paris, that’s a whole different story. I’ve had the good fortune to spend an April weekend or two in Paris. The chestnut trees are in bloom and beds of daffodils bob in the breeze. The air is spring-like and a whole lot warmer than New Hampshire. Indeed, unlike New Hampshire, a foot of new snow isn’t blanketing the town. Parisians can thank the Gulf Stream for that.

Don’t tell me you were asleep the day your science teacher gave his illuminating lecture on this wondrous current? Without going into detail, let’s just say the Gulf Stream is the reason that April in Paris is a good bit warmer than the Granite State. If all this snow and mud has got you feeling glum, how about we take a tour of the City of Light?

Paris is a city for walkers so you will need comfortable shoes. Let’s start the tour by taking in the magnificence of the Champs-Élysées and the Jardin des Tuileries. Then we can wander over to the Seine and contemplate the river with all its grandeur. You’ll want to pause to enjoy the ancient architecture as we cross a few of its many bridges. While we’re out and about, let’s stop in and see the beautiful rose window at Notre-Dame Cathedral and marvel at the Church of Saint-Sulpice.

Next, it’s time to delight in Paris’ old world charm. We’ll wander over cobblestones and down narrow streets. You never know what charming bistro or amazing shop you will discover. When you need a break, we can stop for a leisurely coffee at a sidewalk café. If it’s a sunny day, we can probably sit outside. People-watching is one of my favorite activities in Paris.

When mid-day hunger pains strike, we’ll pick up an elegant picnic at the Marché St-Germain. The fruits and vegetables are gorgeous. The beautiful breads and cheeses take an ordinary picnic to a whole new level. We’ll add a view of the Seine or the Eiffel Tower or more people-watching at the luxurious Luxembourg Garden. Our picnic will be a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

Paris is not immune to April showers so if it rains during the trip, and it probably will, we can visit the museum. From the ancient Egyptians to the Mona Lisa, you can easily spend an entire week or more at the Louvre. The Musée d’Orsay is a must for fans of impressionism and post-impressionism. Built in a beaux arts railway station, it makes for a fascinating afternoon. Rain or shine, the Centre Georges Pompidou is a fun place to visit. From the jugglers and musicians out front to the cinemas and National Museum of Modern Art inside, the Centre Pompidou is not-to-be-missed.

At the end of a busy day, there is nothing better than dinner in a cozy bistro. No need to rush, take it easy and relax over a long, leisurely meal. The food and wine in Paris are nothing short of wonderful. After all that walking, feel free to indulge in a traditional five-course dinner. Each course will be loaded with flavor but you shouldn’t worry about overindulging. Portions are smaller than a typical American restaurant.

Oops, daydream and tour over. Don’t despair; instead, enjoy a walk around Pleasant Lake and a beautiful bistro dinner at home. Pick up a bunch of daffodils, download Ella Fitzgerald’s version of April in Paris and gather friends and family around your table for a taste of Paris.

Here’s to a little Parisian spring charm and bon appétit!

Eiffel Tower photo credit: Thank you Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Coq au Vin au Printemps
Roast chicken is a typical bistro meal. Add veggies for a typical spring bistro meal! Enjoy!
Serves 8

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups or more chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup or more dry white wine
1 pound whole mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and chopped
1 pound baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoons herb and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the mushrooms in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Add the onions, sprinkle with the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Put the mustard and garlic in a measuring cup, whisking constantly slowly add the lemon juice, stock and wine.

Turn the chicken, add the wine and broth mixture and scatter the mushrooms and onions around the pan. Return the pan to the oven. Continue roasting, adding more wine and broth if necessary, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked-through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A few spoonfuls at a time, whisk 1/2-1 cup of the hot braising liquid into the sour cream. Moving the chicken around if necessary, stir the sour cream and asparagus into the vegetables and around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven for about 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Add the spinach and toss to combine. Return the pan to the oven for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.

Transfer the vegetables to a large platter or individual plates, top with the chicken and serve.

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One Year Ago – Moroccan Baked Cod
Two Years Ago – Artichoke Pesto
Three Years Ago – Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Four Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Five Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Six Years Ago – Tapenade
Seven Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Eight Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

What about you? What is your favorite spring destination? Feel free to share!

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

Groundhog Day & Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore

punxsutawney_philGroundhog Day, we’ve all seen it or at least part of it. No, I don’t mean the annual folderol in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I mean the movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. You know the one where they take a road trip to Punxsutawney. Their mission is to report on the auspicious occasion of a groundhog leaving his burrow to check the weather. Sure, it’s kind of silly but it’s also brilliant, classic Bill Murray. Who can resist?

Before you shout, “I can!” (By the way, that’s my inclination too.) Let’s consider the pros and cons:

First, there’s a definite plus, especially for those of us with unruly hair. Let’s face it; we’d all like nothing more than to wake up one day and look like Andie MacDowell. Who knows, after Green Card, some of us might even want to be her. Anyway, like our beloved Mary Richards (aka Mary Tyler Moore), Andie works in a newsroom as a producer. Like Mary, she is smart, charming, funny and beautiful. Okay, she is a bit of a goody-goody but she had one heck of a curly mane.

Next, there’s the mixed pros and cons of Bill Murray. He’s the egomaniacal weatherman sent to Punxsutawney to cover the groundhog festivities. Funny, yes, Bill Murray is funny but he is also painfully obnoxious. He takes petty, peevish and petulant to new levels. Feigning self-assurance, he flirts with the lovely Andie and bullies the cameraman. He is scornful of the Punxsutawnians who just want to have their fun and celebrate their world famous groundhog.

Looking back, it’s pretty clear, in spite of being Bill Murray and famous and funny, he was everything we didn’t want to date. After all, the film came out in the nineties. From coast to coast and around the globe, we single women were convinced that we could do better. Of course, Andie agreed with us.

And finally, here’s where Groundhog Day (the movie not the sort of holiday) comes out on top. The movie is all about change and redemption. As most people know, the movie tells the story of this dreadful man who finds himself living the same day over and over and over again. As the movie progresses, a new twist develops. We figure out that Bill Murray’s character is not only insufferable; he is miserable.

Let’s face it; we’ve all had those times when nothing but nothing is going right. Unfortunately, although we hate to admit it, some of our difficulties are of our own making. Even worse, we’ve all been known to misbehave when things aren’t going our way. Who hasn’t gone off on a ridiculous tirade, done something petty or spent a good part of a day whinging or snapping at any and every one? Like a groundhog in a maze of underground tunnels, we get lost in our foolishness, pride or plain stupidity. Not every day, mind you, but at least occasionally we lose sight of our best selves. It’s okay to admit it; we’ve all done it … well, maybe not Saint Theresa.

As the snarky weatherman relives February 2nd again and again, he slowly but surely begins to figure things out. He begins to learn and change. If we let it, this little piece of cinema shows us that even at our most dreadful and depressed we are still redeemable. Even if our unhappiness turns us into a despicable bully, there is hope. Just like Bill Murray, we can change and grow. We can find love and happiness.

Have a happy Groundhog Day! Bon appétit!

Thank you Anthony Quintano for the photo of Punxsutawney Phil provided under a Creative Commons License.

Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore
Whether the groundhog comes out on Thursday or not, winter is here for the duration. This chicken_cacciatore_05comforting chicken dish is perfect for a cold winter night. Enjoy!
Serves 4

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
About 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup or more chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup or more dry white wine
4 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, trimmed, peeled and left whole
8 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with half of the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot skillet. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the chicken broth, tomatoes and wine in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Turn the chicken, scatter the onions, carrots and garlic around the chicken and add the liquid ingredients. Return the pan to the oven and continue cooking at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken and vegetables bubble, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Scatter the mushrooms over the top of the chicken and veggies. Adding more broth and/or wine if necessary, cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and nicely browned and the vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve the chicken thighs with a spoonful of mushrooms, onion and garlic.

A great dish for a party, double or triple the recipe and use a large roasting pan. This recipe is very forgiving. If dinner is delayed, add more broth and wine, reduce the oven temperature and let it bubble for an additional 30, even 45, minutes. It can also be made ahead and reheated.

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One Year Ago – Poverty Casserole
Two Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower
Three Years Ago – Savory Blinis
Four Years Ago – Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
Five Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Six Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
EIght Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta

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

What about you? What’s the change you want to make this Groundhog Day? Feel free to share!

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

First in the Nation – Primary Day in New Hampshire & Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic

I_votedThose of us lucky enough to live in New Hampshire have lots to be proud of. (Yes, yes, I know. For the grammar police, that should be … lots of which to be proud.) Anyway, our glorious foliage in the fall is world famous. But that’s not all. Our state offers beautiful lakes for swimming, waterskiing and sailing, country roads for cycling and mountains for skiing and hiking. And finally, more than a few luminaries hail from the Granite State. Bode Miller, Robert Frost and the Budweiser Clydesdales are the first that come to mind.

Then, every four years, our brilliant leaves and wonderful outdoorsy activities pale in comparison to the hoopla created around our first in the nation primary. As for those famous faces? We’ll brag about them again later. For now, they take a backseat to the notables who travel our highways and byways during primary season. Suddenly, our little state is the place to be.

The excitement goes on for months. The candidates were here last summer to march in Fourth of July parades, still here in October to buy pumpkins for Halloween and back again in December to pick up their Christmas trees. Unlike the rest of the country, except of course for Iowa who threw their caucus last week, we get to see all of the presidential candidates up front and personal.

Followed by packs of handlers and journalists, they hold court in town halls and coffee shops. We have a front row seat to their every move. And, if by chance we miss something, well, the leading story on the evening news invariably starts with, “In New Hampshire today …”

Admittedly, this election has been more entertaining than most. Neither Barnum nor Baily could have staged a more interesting spectacle. Sometimes inspiring, other times infuriating, frightening, or laugh out loud funny, no one can deny the theatrical quality of this particular election. Part pep rally, part revival meeting, part over-rehearsed and part improvisation, it is the best reality television has to offer. From the soft-spoken few to the wild-eyed and impassioned many, none of the candidates are short on declarations, recriminations, claims and counterclaims. Look up melodrama in an on-line dictionary and you’ll find multiple links to the 2016 primary campaign.

Speaking of Barnum and Bailey, the republicans started out with enough candidates to fill a clown car. (It’s true; I checked the math.) Party establishment types, upstarts, a billionaire and a brain surgeon, jammed into the car. While the republican field still has plenty of candidates, several have been trumped. Their numbers are rapidly dwindling and the clown car is now half-empty. Or should I say half-full? Anyway, I expect that the New Hampshire primary will help to weed out a few more.

What about the democrats? In the early days of the campaign, the rivalry on the democratic side was not so much dull as nonexistent. Forget the clown car; a unicycle was about all the democrats needed for their parade. Then, one of our neighbors from Vermont, stepped into the race. Democrats across the Granite State and across the country are feeling the Bern. The democratic run to the convention may have fewer players but the contest is getting more and more interesting.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting cloudy skies and a chance of scattered snow flurries on primary day. Assuming that the farmer is correct and you have some flexibility as to when you go to the polls, you’ll have no excuse to stay home. Besides, they’ll give you an I VOTED TODAY sticker. With any luck, that sticker will buy you a free cup of coffee or a doughnut. If not, well then, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did your part and contributed to the democratic process.

Don’t forget to vote and bon appétit!

Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
In the old days, politicians promised a chicken in every pot. Try this one on primary night. You’ll be glad you did. Enjoy!
Serves 4

2-3 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
About 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup or more dry white wine
1/2 cup or more chicken broth
4 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
4-6 cloves garlic, trimmed, peeled and left whole
8 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and cut in half or quarters

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Put the bacon in a skillet and place over medium-low heat. Stirring occasion, cook until the bacon is crisp. Reserve.

Sprinkle the chicken with half of the herbs de Provence and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot skillet. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the onions, mushrooms and garlic in a bowl, sprinkle with the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the bacon and drizzle with enough bacon fat to lightly coat and toss again.

Put the mustard in a measuring cup or small bowl, whisking constantly slowly add the wine and broth.

Turn the chicken, add the wine and broth mixture and scatter the mushrooms, onions and garlic around the pan. Return the pan to the oven. Adding more wine and broth if necessary, continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden and the vegetables are tender and caramelized, 30-45 minutes more.

Serve the chicken thighs with a spoonful of mushrooms, onion and garlic.

A great dish for a party, double or triple the recipe use a large roasting pan. This recipe is very forgiving. If dinner is delayed, add more broth and wine, reduce the oven temperature and let it bubble for an additional 30, even 45, minutes. It can also be made ahead and reheated.

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One Year Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Two Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Three Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Five Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Six Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Seven Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you resolute or not? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Kitchen Hacks & Chicken with Onions & Olives

pitting_olives_01We are all on the hunt for the perfect hack. Come on, you know what I’m talking about and if you don’t; you should. A hack is one of those clever little tips or tricks that save time, money or both. Some hacks work. Some don’t. For instance, placing a wooden spoon on top of a pot will not keep it from boiling over. However, perhaps you have trouble unrolling the duct or packing tape. Next time, slip a toothpick under the end before tossing it back in the junk drawer. You’ll always find the end with ease.

Probably my favorite hack of all time is the little black dress. It’s simple and, at least in my vivid imagination, elegant and slimming. Not to mention that it works no matter what the occasion; cocktails, dinner, funerals, even weddings. Yes Mom, even a wedding. If you’re old enough to have been around awhile, you remember when women didn’t wear black to a wedding. Considered inappropriately somber at best and a passive-aggressive protest at worst, it just wasn’t done.

Of course, a few of us might be extrapolating the little black dress thing a bit too far. I’m also a fan of the little black skirt and black jeans, t-shirts, turtlenecks, sweaters, jackets and, and, and …

Anyway, enough of that. When it comes to hacks, kitchen tips and tricks are always in great demand. Since the wooden spoon thing doesn’t work, I guess I should offer up a few that do. Like onions …

Unless you are in need of a good cry (and who isn’t from time to time), there are a couple of tricks to avoid tears when cutting an onion. First, use a good, sharp knife for a clean cut. Dull blades release more onion fumes. In addition, a sharp knife will make short work of the onion, giving you less time to cry. While you’re at it, breathe through your mouth instead of your nose and open a window or plug in a fan to send the fumes in another direction. Alternatively, kitchen gadget lovers can invest in a pair of onion goggles. If your kitchen already has way too many gadgets, slip on your swim goggles or your kid’s snorkel mask.

While garlic doesn’t make you cry; peeling it can be tedious and stink up your fingers. The easiest way I know to peel garlic is simply to smash it. Place a clove of garlic under the flat side of your favorite chef’s knife and give it a whack. The papery skin pops right off and you are ready to chop.

Speaking of smashing things, do you love olives but worry that one of your guests or kids will break a tooth on a pit? You can pit olives in a flash. Place the flat side of a chef’s knife on top of the olive and hit the knife with your fist. The pit pops right out.

Not comfortable hitting a sharp knife? Take a can – whatever you find in your cupboard that easily fits in your hand and has a little weight behind it. Carefully clean the lid and then crush the olive or garlic clove with the can. Again, the papery skins pop right off and pits slip out easily.

Yes, yes, I know you can buy garlic powder or jars of minced garlic but your dish will not taste the same. As for those cans of pitted supermarket olives? Sure, they’re easy but you’ll miss out on a lot of variety and flavor.

Okay, one last quickie. Avoid a crumbly mess by cutting soft cheeses with dental floss or nylon fishing line. Worried it will somehow taste funny? Please, use new, unused fishing line or plain dental floss, also unused.

That’s it for now but the list goes on and on. Bon appétit!

Chicken with Onions & Olives
Chicken_w_Onions_Olives_04Use my onion, garlic and olive hacks to put this tasty chicken dish together and enjoy!
Serves 8

8 chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 red onions, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and then in 1/4-inch wedges
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2-1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup your favorite olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons butter (optional), cut in small pieces
Garnish: fresh, chopped parsley

 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a roasting pan (make sure it is large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer) in the oven for 10 minutes.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put enough olive oil in a large skillet to lightly coat and heat on medium-high. Add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, toss to combine and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Stir in 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, 1/2 cup wine, the mustard and herbs and bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives, capers and cognac.

Turn the chicken and, adding more stock and/or wine if necessary, spoon the vegetables and sauce in and around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden, about 30 minutes more. Check the chicken after 15-20 minutes and add more stock and/or wine if necessary.

Transfer the chicken to a platter or individual plates. Add the butter to the vegetables and stir until melted and well combined. Top the chicken with a spoonful of onions, olives and sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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One Year Ago – Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam
Two Years Ago – Soupe de Poisson Provençal
Three Years Ago – Hearty Black Bean Soup
Four Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Five Years Ago – Gingerbread Cupcakes
Six Years Ago – Buttery Chocolate Almond Brittle
Seven Years Ago – Pork Stew Paprika

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

What about you? What’s your favorite kitchen hack? Feel free to share!

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

Celebrate! & A Hint of Asia Barbecue

fireworks_101Hip hip hooray! Unfurl the flag. Throw a watermelon on ice and some chicken on the grill. It’s the Fourth of July and time to celebrate! Do you have big plans for the holiday weekend or are you still at loose ends? There is still a day or two to figure it all out. Need some help; here are few thoughts:

Hit the road. There’s never been a better time. Gas prices are down about a buck a gallon from last year. Add an improving economy and AAA estimates that almost 42 million Americans will hit the road over the long holiday weekend. What about you? I vote for staying put and letting the family come to me. What could be better than a weekend in New Hampshire? The days are warm, the nights cool and the locals are even cooler still.

Head to the beach. As a kid, I spent most Fourths on the Cape or at the lake. Somehow, water, sand and Independence Day all go together. Pack your swimsuit, towel and the latest best seller. Bring plenty of sunscreen and a picnic and spend the day … better yet, stash a flashlight in your beach bag and stay until well after the sun has set and the moon has risen.

Turn your bike ride into a parade. From tiny villages to big cities, there will be parades throughout the land. Whether there is a parade in your town or not, you can stage your very own cavalcade of festive bikes. It’s easy. All you need is a few old playing cards and a couple of clothes pins. Attach the cards to your wheel spokes and clackity-clack your way through the neighborhood. While not strictly mandatory, streamers on the handlebars are a nice addition.

Get competitive. What’s your family’s favorite sport? Tennis, golf or sand castles? Whatever it is, organize a round-robin, tournament or contest. Unlike Thanksgiving, Independence Day get-togethers are not fraught with a history of melodrama and rivalry. That’s easy to fix. More than fireworks will fly if you add a little healthy, or not-so healthy, competition to the mix. Never a dull moment.

Transform your backyard. Can’t get to the beach? Don’t pout. Invite the neighborhood over for fun, food and games. Break out the croquet set and volleyball net. Fire up the grill and fill the cooler with ice. Don’t let the setting sun put an end to the fun; those little white lights are not just for Christmas. String them in the trees or the porch rafters and turn your backyard into a magical garden.

Dress the part. No matter where you spend the Fourth, at home or away, get your red, white and blue on. No need to get all fancy; bathing suits, shorts, t-shirts and sneakers are just fine. Stay with the patriotic theme when it comes to your picnic or cookout. Decorate with lots of little flags and pots filled with red geraniums, white daisies and blue petunias. By the way, colorful red, white and blue bandannas will make cheap and cheerful napkins for your party.

Live free and let the fireworks fly. As kids, New Hampshire summers were exciting for many reasons. For the boys, the bottle rockets and cherry bombs were chief among them. Although these childhood favorites are now banned, the Granite State has a long list of incendiary devices available for sale for your Independence Day festivities. Just make sure you read the safety instructions and have a fire extinguisher handy. Sure, the firefighters and EMTs are great people but you really don’t want to set the house on fire or spend the evening in the emergency room. On second thought, maybe you should skip the do-it-yourself solution and head to a public display!

Have a wonderful and safe Independence Day and bon appétit!

A Hint of Asia Barbecue – Marinade & Sauce for Chicken (or Pork)
A little spicy, a little sweet – what more could you ask for in a barbecue. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/2 onion, roughly choppedGrilling_Chicken_01
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 toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha or sambal oelek or your favorite chili paste
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
About 3 pounds boneless chicken breasts

Make the marinade: put the onion, garlic, ginger and thyme in a small food processor or blender, add the soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, sesame oil, honey and sriracha and pulse until smooth. Add the hoisin and ketchup and process until smooth and well combined. Makes about 2 cups marinade.

Marinate the chicken: put the chicken in a bowl or re-sealable plastic bag, add enough marinade to generously coat, cover and, turning a few times, refrigerate for several hours.

Cook the chicken: preheat the grill to medium-high. Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange on the grill. Cook for 5-6 minutes, turn and cook for another 5 minutes or until it registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Remove the chicken from the grill, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice the chicken, arrange on a platter and serve.

Or, if you prefer a barbecue sauce to a marinade …

Make the sauce: 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 2 minutes more. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, honey, sriracha, hoisin and ketchup, bring to a simmer and, stirring a few times, continue simmering on very low for about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature, add the sesame oil and process in the blender for a smooth sauce. Makes about 2 cups sauce.

Cook the chicken: preheat the grill to medium-high. Generously coat the chicken with sauce and arrange on the grill. Cook for 5-6 minutes, turn and cook for another 5 minutes or until it registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Remove the chicken from the grill, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice the chicken, arrange on a platter and serve with more sauce.

Can’t decide which method? I like to marinate the chicken but you can always combine the two for extra flavor. Whip up a batch of marinade and a batch of sauce. Marinate and grill the chicken and serve it with a spoonful or two of sauce. The marinade and sauce are also great with pork.

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One Year Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Two Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
Three Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Five Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Six Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

How will you spend the long holiday weekend? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

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

June – Time to Celebrate & Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp

And so it begins, June – a month filled with rites of passage, transitions and promise. Pomp and circumstance will fill the air when graduates march from the high school one last time. Bevies of nervous brides will walk down the aisle to meet their just-as-nervous grooms and tie the knot. Families and all their earthly possessions will take to the road for a new life in a new home. Temperatures (and humidity) will inch up and up, proving once again that there really is summer in New Hampshire.

Along with those momentous occasions and wonderful warm weather comes the promise of parties, picnics, freshly squeezed lemonade and local strawberries. But what if there are no smiling graduates or beaming brides in your family this summer? What do you have to celebrate? Hhhmmmm.

Well, today is National Rocky Road Day. This well-loved ice cream got its name soon after the stock market crash of 1929. With the country in depression, the inventor hoped his new flavor would raise a smile on the difficult road to recovery. I suppose an ice cream social would not be amiss; perhaps even obligatory.

National Yo-Yo Day is coming up on Saturday. You could always organize a neighborhood tournament. Unless, you decide to forgo yo-yos in favor of the track, Saturday is also the running of the Belmont Stakes. With American Pharoah two-for-two on his quest for the Triple Crown, it’s a good time to whip up a batch of Belmont Breeze and invite friends over to see if history will again be made. Of course you could combine the two. The race only takes a few minutes, leaving you plenty of time to Walk the Dog and Shoot the Moon.

Sunday is National Donut Day. Although she couldn’t boil water, my father swears that his grandmother was the world’s best donut maker. Although she left a few clues, Nana Slack did not leave her recipe behind. Perhaps I should celebrate the day by trying to recreate her amazing donuts.

Later in the month, we have National Ballpoint Day on June 10th. I suppose we could all go to the bank and make off with a stash of pens. I think I’ll give that one a pass. National Picnic Day on June 18th sounds like a lot more fun. School lets out about that time. Why not celebrate the last day of school with a trip to the coast or lake and a picnic?

On the 21st you can take your pick and celebrate the Summer Solstice or Father’s Day or both. Enjoy the longest day with another picnic. This time, your feast should include Scandinavian delights like gravlax and lingon berries. Fresh lingon berries are more or less impossible to find outside of Scandinavia but you can probably find some jam at IKEA or on line.

If you have little ones at home or visiting, you can’t go wrong with National Fairy Day on June 24th. Spend the afternoon building fanciful Fairy Houses. Start with a walk in the woods to collect twigs, bits of bark and moss, acorns and stones for your whimsical constructions. Find a quiet and cozy spot to build your house (or neighborhood of houses) and put it all together. Finish off the afternoon with a scrumptious tea party with strawberry shortcakes.

Here’s hoping that your June is full of delights and surprises. Bon appétit!

Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Whether your picnic is in the backyard or miles from home, everyone will love this classic summer salad. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 small red onion, cut in half horizontally and then into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
About 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes (in a mix of different shapes and colors if you can find them), halved
1 European cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
8 ounces feta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
16-20 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2-4 pita breads, quartered

Put the onion and garlic in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with vinegar and toss to combine. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and toss again. Stirring occasionally, let the onions marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Put the tomatoes and cucumbers in a bowl, sprinkle with the herbs and toss to combine. Add the onions and olives to the tomatoes and cucumbers and toss to combine. Add the feta and gently toss to combine.

To serve: transfer the salad to a large, deep serving platter or individual plates and top with shrimp and a wedge or two of pita.

Grilled Shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
About 2 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes (optional)

Put the olive oil in a bowl, add the garlic, lemon zest and juice and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to about 30 minutes.

Heat the grill to medium-high. Place the shrimp directly on the grill or thread them onto the soaked skewers. Grill the shrimp, turning once, until just opaque, about 2-4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. The shrimp can be grilled in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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One Year Ago – Asparagus & Radish Salad
Two Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Asian Noodle Salad
Four Years Ago – Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart
Five Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Six Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What will you celebrate this month? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

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