The Taxman Cometh & Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde

It doesn’t rain but it pours. If you live in northern New England and it’s April, that’s both literally and figuratively. As if April wasn’t bad enough already with mud season, someone had to throw in Tax Day. Sure, I knew it was coming but I was too busy skiing to start in March let alone February.

With a week to go, I’m scrambling to get through all the forms. I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. It’s not the difficulty; I can add and subtract. (Heck, I can multiple and divide too.) It’s the complexity, the arcane language and wading through all those forms. Before you go and recommend one, I already use one of those software tax packages. Except for the one W2, the pile of 1099s and receipts from the dentist, home office expense and the like, I’m not shuffling paper. The majority of the slogging is from one screen to another. It may be automated but the whole thing still feels like a quagmire. Come to think of it, all those forms and receipts are still a lot of paper.

That’s what I get for being part of the gig economy. Gigs – sounds like fun doesn’t it. Not only is it a cute little word but it reminds me of musicians. While it definitely has its benefits, it’s not always as cool as it sounds. The gig economy is all about contract work, part-time and temporary jobs. Musicians, writers and artists have been doing it forever.

Now, everybody is getting in on the action. Corporations, large and small, are hiring gig workers to fill gaps and manage the ebbs and flow of business. Some gigs are fulltime and last for months. They’re the consultants, software developers and graphic designers who come on board for big projects. I’m guessing H&R Block has been hiring gig workers like crazy for the past month or so.

Not all gigs are nine to five. Many are for a few hours a week – the teacher who tutors your reluctant fourth grader. Some giggers start young – the middle schooler who walks your dog. Some are seasonal. Think of the guy who cuts your grass every summer. Others, like your Uber driver, start and finish a gig in less than an hour.

Long or short, it doesn’t matter. Before you know it, the gig is up and it’s time to find a new one.

I love gig work because it opens the door to all sorts of interesting, new people, experiences and places. From the everyday to special occasions, I’m delighted to cover it. I’ve written about celebrations and tragedies as well as history, religion, traditions and the lack-of. Every story is a challenge. Every story is an adventure.

Gig work isn’t perfect. You’re generally on your own for health insurance, retirement savings and whatever other benefits a company might offer. Forget about paid vacation time, sick days or holidays. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Then, when it comes to filing your taxes, gone are the days of a single W2. With multiple employers, you have a pile of W2s and/or 1099s plus a bunch of self-employment driven deductions. As I said, it’s not difficult; it just takes a while, like forever.

Happy tax season and bon appétit!

Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Whether you get a refund or need to write a check, this hearty stew will get you through all the shuffling and calculations. If you need to write a really big check, skip the chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried black beans
2 bay leaves
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
Olive oil
About 3 pounds chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
About 4 cups chicken stock or broth
Sweet Potato Polenta or plain polenta cooked according to package directions
Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde (recipes follows)

Rinse and soak the beans overnight in 10-12 cups water.

Drain and rinse the beans, put them in a pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until tender, 45 minutes-1 hour.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a casserole with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Breaking it up into pieces, sauté the sausage until cooked through, remove from the pan, drain and let cool. When it is cool enough to handle, finely chop the sausage. Reserve.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the casserole, skin side down and cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the casserole and reserve.

Put the onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, spices and oregano in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the wine, espresso, sausage, beans and remaining bay leaf.

Add the chicken and wiggle the pieces about half way down into the beans, add enough stock to cover the beans plus about an inch. Bring everything to a simmer and transfer to the oven.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 30 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the casserole. Discard the skin and bones and cut or tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir the chicken back into the beans.

The stew is best if be covered and refrigerated for several hours or overnight.

Reheat the stew on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven until bubbling.

Serve the stew with a spoonful of Sweet Potato Polenta and a dollop of Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde.

* 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.

Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon or to taste roughly chopped jalapeno
About 2 cups cilantro leaves
1/4 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Put the lime zest and juice, garlic, scallion and jalapeno in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to chop and combine. Add the cilantro and olive oil, season with salt and process until finely chopped and well combined.

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

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Lemon Pound Cake
Two Years Ago – Lavender Scones
Three Years Ago – Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Four Years Ago – Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
Five Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Six Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Eight Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Nine Years Ago – Chicken Provençal

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

How are you coping with tax season? Feel free to share!

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

Advertisements

Loving Late Summer & Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde

The back-to-school ads have started. Backpacks, notebooks, laptops and high tops – it’s a sign. A sign that summer is waning and fall will be here before you know. However, it is a sign that I suggest we all choose to ignore. After all, late summer might be the very best kind.

Think about it for a minute.

If you’re nine, you’re ecstatic. After several tries, finally, you passed your raft test. Since then you’ve been back and forth to the raft at least a thousand times. Maybe more. There is nothing better than swimming out to the raft with your friends. Okay, maybe a swim to the raft with your great-grandpa beats all.

If you’re nineteen, you’ve had a bit more than half the summer to develop a gorgeous tan. You may be due back at school in a matter of days but you don’t care. You’ve had a great summer. The menial summer job you were expecting to hate turned out fine. Your co-workers were fantastic and you made some money. You read several unexpectedly great novels. You look marvelous. Your friends will be green with envy.

If you’re twenty-nine you’re probably on a wonderful adventure or just back from one. Maybe you traveled through Europe or hiked the Himalayas. Maybe you took a week, maybe the entire summer. When I was twenty-nine, I spent the summer in Switzerland. And then, wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to come home. My friends were divided, some were jealous. The rest didn’t quite know what to think.

If you’re thirty-nine you may be having a bit of a crisis. At least I did. Don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine. With all that running (I ran a lot in my thirties) and Sundays at the beach and sailing, you look stunning. Confidence becomes you. Admit it; you’re coming into your own. You may not be the smartest person in the room but you get it. You know how great you are.

If you’re forty-nine or maybe fifty-nine and lucky, the summer sun has had plenty of time to give your hair a few highlights. You can pretend all those streaks are blond, not gray. Your friends will be amazed at how young you look. And that crisis-thingy you had back in your late thirties, it’s long gone. Wisdom looks good on you. Speaking of wisdom, you know and really don’t care that those streaks are gray. Truth is – you don’t want to spend half the afternoon every third week at the hair salon.

If you’re sixty-nine and beyond, you’ve made an exciting discovery. You are happier than you have ever been. You’ve spent the good part of the summer enjoying life. That’s what retirement is all about. Maybe you’ve taken a trip, maybe not. When you live in a beautiful place, a staycation is just fine. In fact, it’s more than fine.

Now finally, if you’re ninety or even ninety-nine the water is finally warm enough for your annual swim. Unlike your nine-year-old great-grandson, you have not been back and forth to the raft a hundred times a day. However, your friends of all ages will still be very much impressed that you continue take your annual plunge. They should be.

So, you see, regardless of your age, life couldn’t be sweeter.

All the best for the final days of summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde
A tasty late summer feast for people of all ages! Enjoy!
Serves 8

3-4 ears corn
Olive oil
2 – 2 1/2 pounds extra-jumbo (16-20 per pound) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo puree*
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt to taste
16 small or 8 large flour tortillas
Salsa Verde (recipe follows)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
About 4 ounces queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush the corn with a little olive oil. Lay the ears directly on the grill and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning to cook evenly. Remove from the grill and when cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cob.

Meanwhile, put 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, the wine, lime juice and zest, garlic, cumin and chipotle puree in a bowl, season with salt and stir to combine. Add the shrimp and turn to coat. Stirring once or twice, marinate the shrimp at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Thread the shrimp onto wooden skewers** or place them directly on the grill. Grill the shrimp, turning once, until just opaque, 1-2 minutes per side.

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

To serve: place a tortilla on each plate, top with shrimp, charred corn and chopped tomatoes, drizzle with Salsa Verde and sprinkle with queso fresco.

* To make chipotle puree – take a can of chipotle in adobo and toss the peppers and the adobo sauce in a small food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Use as needed.

** If you like, you can thread the shrimp onto wooden skewers like kabobs. When cooking for a crowd, it is quicker to turn kabobs than lots of individual shrimp. Be sure to soak the skewers in water for about 30 minutes.

Salsa Verde
Makes about 2 cups

Zest and juice of 1 lime
2-3 tablespoons (to taste) white wine vinegar
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 ancho or jalapeno chili, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

Put the lime zest and juice, vinegar, scallions, capers, garlic and chili in a bowl, season with salt and toss to combine. Finely chop the herbs, add to the bowl and toss to combine. Whisking constantly with a fork, slowly add the olive oil and whisk to combine.

If you prefer, you can make the salsa in a mini processor. Throw everything in and give it a whirl.

Let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta
Two Years Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Three Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Four Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Five Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Six Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp
Seven Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Nine Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

What about you? What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share!

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

Cinco de Mayo & Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol

May 5th, better known as Cinco de Mayo, is this coming Friday. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Celebrated from coast to coast with tequila shots and tacos, it is an excellent excuse for a party. Perhaps you’ve been thinking that it would fun to have a totally authentic Cinco de Mayo celebration. You know, skip the queso dip and Macarena in favor of real Mexican flavors and dance steps. I get it. You want to a party like they do down in sunny Mexico.

Alright then, here’s what you do … nothing. Yup, that’s right. Absolutely nothing.

Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated in Mexico. Widely mistaken for Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo commemorates an early victory in the Franco-Mexican War. The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862. The resulting victory was more than fifty years after Mexico declared its independence from Spain. In case you’ve forgotten, Mexico was a colony of Spain not France.

So indeed, our enthusiastic celebrations of Cinco de Mayo are somewhat akin to the Swiss celebrating the American victory against the British in the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh. In case you’re wondering, they don’t. I know where Plattsburgh is but I doubt that too many of my Swiss friends do. I also know where Puebla is. Not because I’m a geography or history whizz but because I looked it up on a map a few minutes ago.

Regardless of whatever convoluted calculations or interpretations you might try to make, Cinco de Mayo adds up to being a mostly American holiday. I suppose that’s makes sense. After all, we are a nation of immigrants and many of our holidays reflect that. The Chinese New Year celebrates our ties with China. Everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. Oktoberfest has found its way from Munich to Muncie and several other U.S. cities.

Now the question arises – how to celebrate? Well, you could find one of those 100-foot margarita bars, the kind that serves fruity cocktails in glasses the size of fish bowls. Alternatively, you could expand your horizons and spend the day learning something about Mexico. Listen to Mexican music, study Mexican artists, investigate true Mexican cuisine or get a better understanding of how our two economies can and do work together.

Complete your day with a Mexican-inspired celebration. Skip the taco chain restaurants for a more authentic experience. I’m not sure if you can find real Mexican food this far north but you can always try. Many of us dream that one of those absolutely wonderful Mom and Pop-type Mexican restaurant will miraculously appear close to home. So far, it hasn’t happened but one can always hope.

For now, invite a few friends over and try your hand at some Mexican-inspired dishes. Dinner outside in early May in New Hampshire is probably pushing it but cocktails on the porch might work. Set your table with a brightly colored cloth and flowers and think warm and sunny thoughts.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo y ¡buen apetito!

Oh, and by the way, Mexican Independence Day – it’s on September 16.

Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Appetizer or main course, shrimp with spicy peanut sauce will make a delicious addition to your Cinco de Mayo feast. This smooth peanut sauce is also good with chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Olive oil
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 onion, chopped
4 or more (to taste) dried arbol (also called bird’s beak) chiles, stemmed
1/2 teaspoon allspice
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2-3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime or to taste

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, peanuts and chiles, season with allspice, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant, 2-3 minutes more.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Let the salsa cool for about 15 minutes, transfer to a blender and process until very smooth. Cool to room temperature, stir in the lime juice and serve.

The salsa can be prepared in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Grilled Shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
About 2 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
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, lime zest and juice and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator for 15-30 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, 2-4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol.

The shrimp can be grilled in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake

Two Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Three Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Four Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Five Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Six Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Seven Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Eight Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

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

What about you? How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo and our southern neighbor on Friday? Feel free to share!

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

Enjoy the Peak & Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans

fall_leaves_02There is a closely guarded secret in northern New England. It’s not like one of those deep, dark family secrets. You know the type – maybe your uncle is ex-KGB or your grandparents were illegal aliens. Heck, maybe you haven’t paid taxes in a couple of decades or have an email server in your basement. Whatever it is, you’re probably okay as long as you don’t run for office.

New Hampshire’s secret is the foliage. Not the fact that we have it and it’s glorious. No, our secret is all about timing. All those people who crowded our highways and byways over the long weekend; they missed it. The peak, at least in my neighborhood, is rarely if ever on the second weekend of October. As long as Hurricane Matthew doesn’t take a turn and strip all the leaves from the trees, the colors should be at their most glorious this coming weekend.

Now that you know the truth, what are you going to do about it? How will you celebrate our bright and brilliant countryside? The peak comes and goes in what seems like instant so you don’t have a lot of time to ponder. Before you know it, the golden days of October will disappear. Is there any debate that New Hampshire is at its worst in November?

First and foremost, get out and about. Take a walk through the woods for an up close and personal foliage tour. Nervous about ticks? Take a walk through town, any town. Is there anything more New England than an old white church framed in scarlet and gold again a bright blue sky? The lake is magic this time of year. When the water is still, it is like glass. A canoe or kayak paddle is definitely in order. Maybe you’d prefer to hop on your bike and cover more ground. Or get in the car and go further still. However you travel, bring a festive picnic or plan to stop at your favorite bistro.

In addition to that bistro, you might want to wander through some of your favorite shops. Admire some antiques, find the perfect pumpkin and splurge on the latest novel by your favorite author. It’s probably due to all those years of back- to- school shopping but there’s something about fall. It makes us want to buy a new sweater, a pair of boots or new pillows for the sofa. Maybe even a new sofa?

While you are wandering around the farmstand looking for pumpkins, don’t forget to stock up on cider, apples, squash and a basket of gnarly gourds. It’s time to bake your first apple pie of the season. I guess anything apple will do – a cake, muffins – you choose! As for that lovely squash or sugar pumpkin, you’ll want to get cozy after a day outside with soup, risotto or chili.

And what about those gnarly gourds? They are for decorating. After Christmas, fall is the most decorated season. Create a festive display of mums, pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks on your front porch. Perhaps you’d like to use some of those pumpkins to build fanciful scarecrows. Whether you go elegant or whimsical, there’s still a bit of time left for outdoor living. Be sure to invite a few friends over to enjoy a cup of afternoon tea or an early evening cocktail surrounded by your creativity.

Enjoy the peak and bon appétit!

Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Make this delicious chili in advance for an easy feast after an adventure-filled day. Enjoy!
Serves 12pumpkins_gords_02

1 pound dried black beans
2 bay leaves
Olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2-2 large onions, chopped
1 (or more to taste) chipotle pepper(s) in adobo, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds ground turkey
2-3 cups homemade (or canned) pumpkin puree
2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock or broth
1 1/2 cups beer, preferably dark beer
3/4 cup sour cream
Garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped cilantro

Rinse the beans, put them in a bowl, add water to cover by about 4 inches and soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans and 1 bay leaf in large pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

While the beans are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a large casserole and heat over medium. Add the carrots, onions, chipotle, spices and herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil to the casserole, add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Return the vegetables to the pot and stir to combine.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, 1-2 cups stock, the beer and remaining bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Simmer on very low until the beans are ready to add to the chili.

After the beans have been cooking for about 45 minutes, drain and add them to the chili. Cover and transfer the chili to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Stirring a few times and adding more chicken stock if necessary, cook for about 1 hour.

Put the sour cream in a bowl. A little at a time, whisk 2 cups of chili into the sour cream. Stir the sour cream mixture into the chili, add more chicken stock if necessary and return the chili to the oven for about 1 hour.

Serve the chili in shallow bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

Best if made ahead, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for serval hours or overnight. To reheat: bring to a simmer over low heat on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree
1 or more sugar pumpkin(s)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the pumpkin(s) in half and scoop and scrape out the seeds. Quarter each of the halves and place the pieces on a baking sheet.

Roast the pumpkin at 350 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse and process until the pumpkin is smooth.

Put the puree in a sieve lined with coffee filters or cheesecloth and drain for several hours or overnight.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Three Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Four Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Five Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Six Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Seven Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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

What’s your secret? Feel free to share.

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

A Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

Limes_Hot_PeppersIt’s Cinco de Mayo (May the 5th) on Thursday. Time for fun and a festive, Mexican feast! Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. It commemorates a battle between the Mexicans and French in 1862. Independence Day or not, inco de Mayo has captured the hearts and stomachs of most of America. What about you? Are you ready for some south of the border treats?

Here are a few ideas!

To Start: A sure crowd pleaser is my Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa. Or maybe you would prefer to keep it simple with some chips, Salsa and Guacamole.

The Main Event:
If you have a hankering for chili try my Chili Con Carne. Chili not your thing? How about
Pork Mole. I won’t verify its authenticity but it is full of flavor and delicious. Complete the either one of these cozy stews with with some steamed rice and crunchy Jicama Slaw.

Sweet Treats:
Chocolate was discovered in Mexico so what could be better than … Flourless Chocolate Cake or Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart? Take your pick!

Have a fun and festive evening! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

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

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

Viva Cinco de Mayo & Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa

Hot_Peppers_01Today is Cinco de Mayo, translation – the 5th of May. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That would be September 16th. May the 5th commemorates a battle between the Mexicans and French in 1862 in the state of Puebla. Although it is not a national holiday in Mexico, you might start to wonder if Cinco de Mayo is a holiday in this country. All over the United States, Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated with tortillas and margaritas.

I suspect that most Americans know little if anything about the battle that led to all this hoopla. To put it in perspective, our celebration of Cinco de Mayo is akin to the Mexicans celebrating Patriots’ Day. If you didn’t grow up in Massachusetts or Maine, you might not know that Patriots’ Day commemorates the first two battles of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord. It is only celebrated in the two aforementioned states.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you are somehow lacking if you don’t know the ins-and-outs of Cinco de Mayo. It’s probably enough to know that, for whatever mysterious reason, it has captured the hearts and stomachs of many Americans. Perhaps it’s because Dieciséis de Septiembre is more difficult to pronounce. I guess it doesn’t really matter why. Regardless of our grasp of our neighbor’s history, we have figured out that Cinco de Mayo is an excellent excuse for a Mexican-style celebration complete with wonderful spicy food, music and of course margaritas.

I discovered Mexican food when I was in high school. A Mexican restaurant, it probably belonged to one or another big chain, opened up a few miles down the road on Route 9. It quickly became one of my favorites. Even if Mexican food was a long-established staple in California, it was wonderfully exotic fare for this New England teenager. In spite of my enjoyment, I’m guessing the dishes were distant cousins to anything prepared in Mexico. But to my inexperienced palette, it was a delicious discovery.

When I moved to Switzerland, I found that the Swiss were behind New England in discovering the delights of Mexican cuisine. I was not ready to give up the spice and heat. For several years, I smuggled pickled jalapeños, tortillas and black beans into the country. In truth, smuggling is much too strong a word for it. Every year I spent a week or two in the US and, at the end of every vacation, I stuffed my suitcase with goodies and schlepped them back to Geneva. Swiss customs could not have cared less that I was bringing in a few jars of jalapeños and a bag or two of dried beans. To the delight of my friends with these few staples, I could put together a party with the spirit and good cheer, if not the authenticity, of a Mexican feast.Limes_Hot_Peppers

So, break out the chilies and cornmeal and cook up some south of the border goodies. Throw a batch of margaritas in the blender and celebrate spring and Cinco de Mayo. It’s okay if your feast is not strictly authentic as long as you enjoy a festive evening with friends and family.

¡Viva México! and ¡Buen Apetito!

Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
This dish makes no claims at authenticity. Imagine that New England had a fling with sunny Mexico and this is the results … corn cakes and salsa. Enjoy!
Makes about 8 large or 16 mini tostadas

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and halved
1/2 cup (or to taste) sour cream
Grated zest of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/2 cup rinsed, drained and roughly chopped cooked black beans
About 1/2 cup seeded and roughly chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon (or to taste) minced jalapeno
2-3ablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher slt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: chopped cilantro leaves

Make the Avocado Crema: Place the avocado in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the sour cream, lime zest and cumin, season with salt and pepper and stir until smooth and well combined. For a creamier mix, add more sour cream. Cover and let sit to combine the flavors.

Make the Black Bean Salsa: Put the black beans, tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, garlic and lime juice in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Cover and let sit to combine the flavors.

Make the Corn Cakes:
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces grated cheddar cheese
1 cup sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
Olive oil

Put the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in bowl andsk to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Add the corn, garlic, jalapeno and onion and toss again.

Stir in the egg and milk and continue stirring until well blended. Cover and let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. After giving the batter a stir, add large or small spoonfuls of batter to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until golden.

To serve: put a small dollop of the avocado crema on top of each corn cake, top with a spoonful of black bean salsa and garnish with cilantro.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Two Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Three Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Four Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Five Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Six Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate spring and Cinco de Mayo? 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

Earth Day Turns Forty-Five & Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri

grasshopperEarth Day turns forty-five tomorrow. That’s Earth DAY, not the Earth itself. It’s a lot older, billions and billions of years older. Anyway, I have this philosophy about birthdays. Every birthday deserves, at the very least, a nod. The ones that end in zero or five deserve a celebration.

So … how will you celebrate Earth Day?

Of course, you could go to the recycling center and carefully sort all your paper, bottles and cans. But that’s nothing new; you recycle all the time. Maybe you’ll think about bringing muffins or cupcakes to the nice people who help you unload and sort your trash. Unlike most New Englanders, I tend to make monthly rather than weekly trips to the dump. With the back of my ancient SUV piled high, I am always very grateful for the help I get with unloading and sorting.

Your neighbors will applaud you if you pick up trash on the side of the road. This winter’s ginormous snowbanks are rapidly disappearing. Unfortunately, more than a few sports drink bottles, coffee cups and beer cans are emerging.

A delicious way to spend Earth Day is to begin work on your garden. There is still a chance of frost so it’s too soon to plant outside. However, you can prep your soil and start seedlings indoors. Not sure you have time for a big garden? Keep it simple with a few big pots of herbs. Not sure what or how? Ask your favorite foodies for recommendations.

Speaking of foodies, here are a few earth-friendly kitchen tips. First, and I hope you agree, we should name a national holiday after whoever invented leftovers. In the spirit of Earth Day, leftovers are a great way to avoid waste by recycling the weekend’s roast into tonight’s curry.

Next, forget take-out. Or at least resist the shops that package your order in Styrofoam and plastic. Instead, sharpen your knife, break out your wok and cook up delicious dishes from around the world. While you’re at it, think about making enough for leftovers! Tomorrow is another busy day. Hey, come to think about it, the wok became THE kitchen tool about the time of the first Earth Day.

Finally, consider the one pot wonder. Let your mind and taste buds wander to a wonderful risotto, comforting stew or delicious stir-fry. Whether you braise, stir or toss, you and the earth will be happy when you have fewer dishes to wash.

By all means, include your friends and neighbors in your Earth Day celebrations. Organize a group walk to pick up all those bottles and cans. After hibernating for most of winter, it will be a great chance to reconnect. Top it off with dinner and continue the fun. To keep it simple and share the effort, cook up some delicious swordfish and ask your friends to bring an appetizer, some veggies to stir-fry or dessert.

Happy Earth Day and bon appétit!

Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Swordfish is a sustainability success story. Headed for the endangered list in the 1990’s, thanks to conservation efforts, Atlantic swordfish have rebounded. Enjoy!
Serves 8Grilled_Swordfish_Chimichurri_01

Chimichurri (recipe follows)
About 3 pounds swordfish
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Make the Chimichurri (recipe follows).

Preheat your grill to hot. Rub a little olive oil on the swordfish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the fish for about 5 minutes per side or until cooked through and still moist.

Remove the swordfish from the grill and let it sit for about five minutes. Cut the swordfish into thick slices and serve with generous spoonfuls of Chimichurri.

Chimichurri
Chimichurri_04
1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons minced jalapeño
4-6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime or 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves

Put the shallot, garlic, jalapeño, vinegar, lime juice and cumin in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Whisk in about 1/2 cup olive oil and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the cilantro, parsley, oregano and lime zest. If needed, add more olive oil. Let the chimichurri sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Makes about 2 cups. Can be made in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Cover and store any leftover Chimichurri in the refrigerator. Serve this versatile sauce with grilled beef, pork, chicken and fish as well as steamed or grilled veggies.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Two Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Three Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Four Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Five Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Six Years Ago – Dandelion Salad with Grilled Steak, Potatoes & Asparagus
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend Earth Day? 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