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.

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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

Easter Brunch Special

If dinner is more your style, check out my trio of Greek, Italian and French inspired Easter Dinner menus.

Are you one of those people who would rather brunch than lunch or dinner for Easter? Brunch is a good idea if you want to free up the afternoon for a hike, a long bike ride or a nap. Regardless of how you spend the afternoon, I’ve got a great brunch menu for you to enjoy with family and friends.

When it comes to brunch, you can’t go wrong with a cheesy pie. Try my Quiche Lorraine, Spinach Ricotta Pie or Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart.

Of course you’ll want a big bowl of berries … strawberries, blueberries and blueberries are delicious with a dollop of my Lavender Infused White Chocolate Cream or Creamy Lime Custard.

Next, add a scone or a pound cake or both. I love lemon anytime, especially in the spring. Give my Lemon Scones or Lemon Pound Cake a try.

Top it all off with a delicious cup of espresso or a cappuccino and your favorite cookie. How about Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti or Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache or both!

Have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

What are your plans for Easter? 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, 2017

Three Ways to Celebrate Easter Dinner Special

Brunch more your Easter game. Stay tuned … and come back tomorrow for a great brunch menu and lots more great recipes.

I’m not a fan of ham, so, if you come to my house for Easter, get ready for a delicious lamb dinner. If you are of like mind, I have a few ideas for a festive Easter feast. If you are dreaming of a sunny warm beach, try my Go Greek menu. Are you missing the rolling hills of Tuscany? Well then, Think Italian. However, if cozy sounds more like it, then warm up with my Cheery Bistro Dinner. Feel free to mix and match. Here you go!

Go Greek!
A Greek themed dinner is the perfect excuse to serve one of my all-time favorites – Spanakopita Triangles. Unless you prefer my Zucchini Pancakes with Tapenade … or both.

When you are ready to move to the table, enjoy my Green-less Greek Salad.
Lamb is a favorite at Easter in Greece.
My Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce will not disappoint. Serve the chops with Israeli Couscous and Grilled Asparagus.

End your feast on a sweet and light note with my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream.

Think Italian!
For starters, pass a platter or my Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp and/or
Mushroom Crostini.

Next, gather around the table and give my Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette a try.

For the main course, enjoy my Grilled Butterflied Lamb with Asparagus Risotto.

And for dessert … a bright and delicious Lemon Pound Cake with fresh strawberries!

Cozy Bistro Dinner
Forget the same-ol’ same-ol’ shrimp cocktail, you’ll love my Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli. If you like, add some fresh veggies, they will be delicious with the aioli. Don’t forget the Roasted Almonds and the hors d’oeuvres are done.

Cozy on over to the table and start dinner with my Asparagus & Radish Salad

Keep it cozy with warm and wonderful Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions and Decadent Cheesy Potatoes .

And top it all off with one of my favorite bistro desserts – a sweet and tart Lemon Tart.

Have a Happy Easter and great weekend! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Easter? 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, 2017

Easter at Nana’s & Lemon Pound Cake

My grandmother was happy for any excuse to see her family. Thanksgiving, Independence Day, you name it. At her house or ours, in the dining room or backyard, she loved seeing her clan all together. So, after Mom and Dad built the little brown house in the New Hampshire woods, an early Easter became the bane of Nana’s existence. A March Easter increased the likelihood that we would be skiing instead of headed to Nana’s for baked ham, scalloped potatoes and green beans.

As much as we loved her and we truly did, Nana and her Easter ham could not entice us off the slopes. We’d be more than delighted to indulge in her scalloped potatoes and green beans once the snow was gone. For her part, although she liked to have her family around her table, Nana wasn’t fussy. She’d have come up to our house in the suburbs without hesitation. Why, she would have been more than pleased to bring the scalloped potatoes or a lemon cake or both. (New Hampshire was another matter. She preferred to visit the little house in the woods during the summer.)

When it came to cooking, Nana was old school and a true New Englander. She baked at least once a week or at least she did when her grandchildren were around. I can’t remember ever being at her house when there were not homemade cookies in the jar. My grandfather’s favorites were Hermit Bars and Molasses Cookies. She baked lots of pies, especially blueberry, as well as the occasional cake and pan of brownies.

Her kitchen was tiny, just large enough to hold the stove, refrigerator and the sink with flanking counters. Cheery, calico curtains hid the treasures inside the lower cabinets. The uppers were open and held mysteries not found in my mother’s kitchen. No, these shelves were not filled with exotic spices. After all, Nana was a classic New England cook. However, she had a glass jar of cream of tartar. It was not creamy and was nothing like the tartar sauce that came with our fried clams at the local fish shack. There was also a canister of cornmeal and jars of nuts and raisins, ground ginger, baking powder and a bottle of molasses. Not a single one of these obscurities could be found in my mother’s kitchen.

Apart from the countertops on either side of the sink, her only work space was a small table. My sister Brenda and I would sit at that table and ask her countless questions while she bustled about. My grandmother was a bustle-er. We were more than curious as to why she didn’t bake her cakes from a mix or buy her cookies ready-to-eat and lined up in a plastic tray. After all, that’s what our mother did.

Now, this was not the kitchen my dad grew up with, that one might have been larger but maybe not. The kitchen I connect with my grandmother was in their cozy retirement house on Buzzards Bay. Infrequent or not, it continues to amaze me that Nana prepared family dinners for eight, twelve or more in that tiny kitchen.

Although it might have happened at least once, maybe twice, I never saw even a hint of chaos when Nana cooked. When we arrived for dinner, Easter or otherwise, everything was under control and close to ready. The ham was roasting and the potatoes were bubbling in the oven. The beans were trimmed, snapped and ready for steaming. A lemony cake was sitting on the kitchen table and strawberries were ready in the refrigerator.

… and if Easter was early, well, there was always Mother’s Day. Bon appétit!

Lemon Pound Cake
Lemony cake with fresh berries is a bright and sunny dessert for Easter or any spring feast. Enjoy!
Serves 12

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Grated zest of 2 lemons
2 1/4 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
Whipped Mascarpone & Cream (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8×4 1/2-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and whisk again.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until fluffy. With the mixer running on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the lemon juice and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat again.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Increase the mixer speed and beat until just smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Cool to room temperature and serve with a spoonful of fresh strawberries and a dollop of Whipped Mascarpone & Cream

Whipped Mascarpone & Cream
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Put the mascarpone, zest, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat until fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the cream and beat until well combined. Increase the mixer speed and continue beating until soft peaks form.

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

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

What about you? How will you celebrate Easter this year? Feel free to share!

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

It’s a Patriots Super Bowl Weekend Special

New England is ecstatic. Tom Brady and the boys are in Houston for Super Bowl 51! Whether you’ve invited the entire neighborhood over or need to bring a dish to someone else’s party … here are a few delicious ideas.new_england_patriotsThe almighty apps … As in appetizers, not software for your smart phone. Here are a few favorites:

If it the Super Bowl, you gotta have a great dip. Try any or all of the following!
Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus
Artichoke Pesto
Barba Ganoush
Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts

Don’t forget the wings! Roast them in the oven or get out the grill:
Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Hoisin Chicken Wings

Next, comes that football favorite … chili!  I’ve got something for everyone – carnivores to vegetarian:
Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
Red Bean & Pork Chili
Chicken, Black Beans & Corn
Chili Con Carne
White Bean & Veggie Chili

Add something green. Add a little crunch with a great salad or slaw.
Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint and Peanuts
Jicama Slaw
Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons

Finish it off with something sweet.
Chocolate Hazelnut Bars
Peanutbutter Brownies
Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

What’s Cooking? Christmas Special

Christmas_Tree_Fells_2015_01Are you in a panic? Wondering what to cook for Christmas? If that more or less describes your current state, you might ask, “What about you Susan? What are you cooking this Christmas weekend?”

I’m delighted to be cooking with my nieces again on Christmas Eve. We’ll be eight around the table. Seafood is traditional for the night before Christmas so that’s what we’ll be doing.

While a feast of seven fishes might be fun, we’ll keep it a lot simpler. Here what I’m thinking … a feast of a couple of fishes …

We’ll want a few things to nibble before dinner. I think Smoked Salmon Mousse sounds good. (I’ll check with the girlies – we may need to take it up a notch with a batch of Blinis with Smoked Salmon & Caviar.) I have some Sriracha Aioli and Tapenade on hand and I’ll get some veggies for dipping. And we’ll definitely want to roast some Rosemary Cashews.

A salad for the first course, kale sounds good. We’ll toss up a colorful combination healthy veggies with my Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad.

There will be shrimp for the main course. We could toss up a batch of Mediterranean Shrimp but I think we’ll roast the shrimp (but skip the Tarragon Aioli). Instead, we’ll stir up a creamy and delicious Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs.

And for dessert? Chocolate of course. While I suppose with three or four women in the kitchen, all is subject to change. For now, Flourless Chocolate Cake is on the menu.

What about Christmas morning? While we are in the kitchen, we might as well prep a batch of Sticky Buns or bake a Cranberry Coffee Cake.

I will not be cooking Christmas dinner. If you are and still trying to decide what to cook … I’ve got two menus for you to peruse. In the meantime, I’m waiting for instructions or suggestions of what I can bring along to help.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

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

What are your plans for the weekend? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going.

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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Merry Christmas Vacation & Sticky Buns

King_RidgeHow could we have been so lucky? I don’t know how it happened (maybe it didn’t). When we were kids, we didn’t have to dream it, EVERY Christmas was white. By mid-December, the snow would start to fly. All rain and even the threat of a thaw were postponed until mid-to-late January.

Our winter wonderland made Santa’s job easy. From one year to the next, there was always some combination of Flexible Flyers, Flying Saucers, ice skates and skis under the tree. Oh and by the way, the Flying Saucers were not filled with little green men and did not whirl high overhead like a drone. They were aluminum disks that were perfect for flying down a hill at top speed. Flexible Flyers were made for hard packed, icy snow. Flying Saucers were made for the fluffy stuff.

Christmas vacations were filled with outdoor fun. There were plenty of little hills for sliding on Jackson Road. If we felt more ambitious, the country club was less than a mile away. Longfellow Pond was at the end of the street for skating.

Then, our already more than satisfactory Christmas vacations improved at least tenfold. Mom and Dad built a little brown house in the New Hampshire woods. After that, we spent all of our Christmas vacations whizzing up and down the slopes at King Ridge.

For the sake of our grandparents, we continued to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day in suburbia but we couldn’t get out of town fast enough. In the beginning, we headed north the day after Christmas. Then, we realized that most grandparents, including ours, don’t like to drive after dark. So, we’d have Christmas dinner at noon and they’d be out the door by two, maybe three o’clock. One year, I think they were barely out of the driveway before we were in our big blue station wagon and heading north.

King Ridge was a wonderful place for families. While it admittedly lacked vertical challenge, it made up for it with homey charm. Parents liked it because it was almost impossible to lose your kids. I’m sure a few kids managed to slip away for an hour or two but it took some doing. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into your mom or dad or one of your friends’ parents.

Kids liked King Ridge in spite of the ever-present village of adults. Ever-present, ever-vigilant and ever-ready to keep us from doing anything fun or stupid. Whether our actions were fun or stupid depended entirely on your perspective. If Mom and Dad were within eyeshot, we diplomatically agreed that jump was dangerous and bushwhacking through the woods was a bad idea. But as soon as they turned their backs, well, let’s just say that a kid’s gotta do what a kid’s gotta do.

Besides, you didn’t have to be a kid to do something silly. Take, just for-instance, the time our friends the McCauleys came up from Connecticut. Skip was a teenager and was delighted to have a few ski lessons. Dad was just as delighted to teach him. An athletic kid, Skip made amazing progress, deftly getting from top to bottom in one piece. As for Dad, he was not so deft.

Sometime, around mid-morning on the second or maybe third day of the McCauley’s visit, Skip passed Dad and joined us about three-quarters of the way down the hill. Showing off, Dad swooped down with plans for a dramatic stop and a magnificent rooster tail of light fluffy snow. Rather than dowse his friends and family, he pitched over … and broke his leg.

It looks like we’ll have a beautiful white Christmas this year. Have a safe holiday and bon appétit!

Sticky Buns
A special, old-fashioned treat for Christmas breakfast or any morning during the holiday week. Bakers will want to use their favorite white bread dough. If you’re not a baker, feel free to cheat with frozen dough. Either way, enjoy!
Makes 12-16 bunssticky_buns_02

3-5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup currants
About 1 pound of your favorite homemade white bread dough or frozen, store-bought dough, thawed
Creamy Icing (recipe follows)

Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch or 8×10-inch baking dish.

Put the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the nuts and currants and toss to combine.

If using homemade bread dough, follow your recipe through the first rise.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16×6-inch rectangle. Leaving a 1/2-inch border along one long side, generously butter the dough. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the dough.

Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, forming a 16-inch long log and pinch the seam to seal. Cut the log into 12 or 16 equal pieces. Spacing them evenly, arrange the buns, cut side down, in the baking dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for a slow rise, 8-12 hours or overnight. (If you’re in a hurry, let the buns rise in a warm area until puffed, about 45 minutes.)

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Bake uncovered until the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes and drizzle with Creamy Icing. Serve warm.

Creamy Icing
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
About 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 or more tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy; slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating until well combined. Add the sour cream, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add more sour cream until the icing is perfect for a nice, thick drizzle.

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One Year Ago – Cranberry Coffee Cake
Two Years Ago – Fish Stew Provençal
Three Years Ago – Twice-Baked Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Baked French ToastFive Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Six Years Ago – Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Eight Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What about you? How will you spend the week between Christmas and New Year? Feel free to share!

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