Le Premier Août & Szechuan Noodle Salad

Flipping the calendar from July to August sends the message home. Holy smokes, summer is half-over. I suppose some might say it’s more than half. In a few weeks, life in our little town will begin to get very quiet again. Moms, Pops and their kids will head south for pre-school soccer practice and back-to-school buying binges. But that’s them. For me, the first of August will always be summer’s midpoint.

Of course, I may be confused but I seem to remember that summer vacation always began the last week in June. I think the final school bell rang on Wednesday but it could have been Tuesday or Thursday. Ten weeks later, on the day after Labor Day, we returned to cinderblock walls and linoleum floors. By the way, if this description suggests that I attended reform school or kiddie lockup, I can assure you that is not the case. Most of the schools in my suburban town were built quickly during the post-WWII baby boom. They weren’t pretty but they went up fast. In any case, August 1 was more or less the midpoint of our summer vacation.

The first day of August also commemorates the founding of the Swiss federation. Having lived there for almost two decades, La Suisse will always be my second home. Le Premier Août (translation the first of August) is Fête Nationale Suisse or Swiss National Day. You might want to think of it as the Swiss equivalent of our Independence Day. You might but you’d be a bit off base. The day commemorates the peaceful start of the Swiss federation not the start of a revolution.

The hoopla (or lack-of) dates back to 1291. Maybe things have changed but to say that Le Premier Août festivities are understated would be an extreme exaggeration. At least when I lived in and around Geneva, celebrations were pretty low key. Then again, so are the Swiss. As a tourist wandering through, if you didn’t know something was happening, you’d probably miss it.

If you can believe it, Fête Nationale Suisse was more or less ignored until 1891. (America held its first birthday party one year to the day of signing the Declaration of Independence.) For most of the time I lived in Switzerland, August 1 was business as usual. You might see a flag or two waving in a window box but not much more. (The flags did lend a cheery, patriotic air to the geraniums.)

Now admittedly, there was at least a modest amount of enthusiasm for the seven hundredth anniversary in 1991. Low keyed as they were, those celebrations triggered something. I’m guessing someone in Bern realized that a few festivities were good for the economy. So with very little fanfare, Fête Nationale Suisse was finally declared an official holiday in 1994.

Now, I seem to remember celebrating Le Premier Août at least a time or two. If nothing else, it was a nice excuse to spend an evening by the lake. We’d reserve a table at one of the lakeside, seasonal cafés and enjoy filet de perche or pack a picnic and head to the town beach.

One year, it might have been 1994, I returned home to find a cheerful crowd gathered in the field across the road. At the time, I was living in the countryside outside of Geneva. I loved that apartment. It was one of three in an ancient barn renovation. The apartment was huge with a view of fields and hills on one side and the Alps on the other. As I got ready to call it a night, I paused to watch several families celebrate. The kids danced around and their dads helped them set off fireworks. It was a jolly gathering, filled with fun … and a bit of excitement. No ambulances were called but more than one fire was stamped out amid shrieks of glee.

Wishing you bonne fête and bon appétit!

Szechuan Noodle Salad with Chicken or Pork
So, no – this recipe is not Swiss. However, it was one of my favorite summer dishes to take along to a lakeside picnic when I lived in Geneva. Enjoy!
Serves 8

8-12 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon or to taste chili sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2-2 pounds cooked chicken or pork, thinly sliced or shredded
6-8 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Put the vermicelli in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again.

While the noodles soak, put the garlic, ginger, soy, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil and chili sauce in a small food processor or blender, season with salt and pepper and process until the garlic and ginger are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Put the well-drained noodles in a bowl, add enough sauce to lightly coat and toss to combine. Let the noodles chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Add the vegetables and chicken or pork to the noodles and, adding more sauce if necessary, give everything a toss. Add half of the herbs and toss again.

Transfer the noodles to a serving platter or individual plates, garnish with the remaining herbs, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Feel free to add more veggies – thinly sliced red pepper, carrot curls, peapods, thinly sliced Napa cabbage and bean sprouts will all make great additions.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus
Two Years Ago – Cucumber-Mint Agua Fresca
Three Years Ago – Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins
Four Years Ago – Blueberry Clafouti
Five Years Ago – Blackberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
Six Years Ago – Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato
Seven Years Ago – Red Pepper Dip
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Chicken, Shallots & New Potatoes
Nine Years Ago – Barbecue Chicken

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

What about you? Do you have a camp story to tell? Feel free to share!

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

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Happy Anniversary & Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint

A few weeks ago, I passed a rather odd anniversary. It got lost in the general busyness of life and thoughts of Mother’s Day. I’m sorry to say that there was no cake or champagne. This is just wrong, especially since there were actually two anniversaries. Although I am not positive of the exact date, the first is simple. I moved to Switzerland on May 10 but it could have been the 8th or maybe the 9th. It was definitely a weekday because the traffic to Logan Airport was awful. The second is the slightly odd one. I have been back in the US for sixteen and a half years. It may seem a funny time to celebrate but this anniversary means that I have been back as long as I was away.

I write often of my time as an expatriate. It started with an internship. After the eight week project, I somehow or other forgot to come home. My repatriation date is easy to remember. It was one day before the 2000 election. Yes, I returned to the recount in Florida and the hanging chad debacle. If that wasn’t enough, for only the fourth time in history and the first time in more than a century, the president did not win the popular majority. So, in case you are wondering, yes, I did scratch my head and think, “What the heck have I come back to!?”

Now, why in the world would I think this odd anniversary is significant? Well, I can no longer say that I have spent most of my adult life living abroad. My time in Switzerland was and forever will be a remarkable experience, one that shaped me to the core. Not only did I live in Geneva but for many of those years, I managed a business that stretched from the tip of Africa to the Sea of Japan. An amazing time, it was the early days of post-apartheid as well as the post-perestroika and glasnost era.

My sales team was a great melting pot bubbling with more than a dozen nationalities, a raft of different languages and a whole host of religious traditions. Some young, some not so young, we were smart and strong men and women from vastly different circumstances with vastly different windows of opportunity. It was a great job. Not just because there were lots of wins (salespeople love wins!) but because it was a team of champions.

Diversity is a wonderful thing. There may be strength in numbers but we are even stronger when those numbers bring a vast and rich variety of experience. Sure, there is a certain comfort in sameness. Why else would we gravitate to mac and cheese or meatloaf and mashed potatoes when we’re feeling low? These are the foods of our childhood and as familiar as a comfortable, old shoe.

This group from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa were not comfortable old shoes. In fact, they were quite the opposite. Together, we embraced change and made things happen. We did our best to exchange ideas and tear down obstacles. We thought strategically and then executed well. We didn’t worry about flawless. Sometimes we stumbled, sometimes we bumbled but we always made good things happen. Together, a group of talented individuals built a winning team. We measured our success in customer delight, revenue, profits, growth and employee satisfaction. Oh, and by the way, I can assure you that this spectacular team never got tired of winning.

As much as I love my life today, I sometimes miss that other half of my adult life. I don’t miss the constant travel or even for the excitement of closing a deal. I miss those remarkable individuals who came together and became a team. But not to worry, the adventures continue! Last November, I celebrated another anniversary. By some strange coincidence, it was overshadowed by another election. Anyway, ten years ago last November, I began a newspaper column that continues to this day.

Thank you for reading and bon appétit!

Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint
Lamb is popular in and around Geneva as well as throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. It is great for a celebration of family and friends. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4-5 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Dash or to taste Harissa
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 2 cups dry red wine
3-4 pounds trimmed, boned and butterflied lamb
1 bay leaf

Put the garlic, onion, fresh chopped herbs, lemon juice and zest, mustard, honey and harissa in the bowl of a food processor or blender, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Add about 1/2 cup wine and process until smooth. Add the remaining wine and process until well combined.

Put the lamb in a large, heavy-duty, plastic, re-sealable bag. Add the marinade and bay leaf and seal the bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate the lamb in the refrigerator, turning every few hours, for at least 6 hours. Overnight is better.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium high.

Remove the lamb from the marinade and place it on the grill. Turning it once or twice, grill until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers at 120 for rare and 130 degrees for medium, 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice the lamb and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Two Years Ago – Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Three Years Ago – Asparagus & Radish Salad
Four Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Five Years Ago – Asian Noodle Salad
Six Years Ago – Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart
Seven Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Eight Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

What about you? Do you have an interesting past life? Feel free to share!

On the Border & Pissaladière

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Skiing & Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives

skiing_01Less than a month ago, a furry, little fellow popped out of a hole in Pennsylvania and saw his shadow. According to legend, the shadow meant we were in for six more weeks of winter. However, get this! This little pageant has been going on for more than one hundred years. Over all those decades, an early spring has been predicted all of seventeen times. (Nine years of records are missing so it could be a few more.) Now, some curious weather geeks did a few calculations to see how accurate that furry, little fellow is. Their discovery? Well, the groundhog was correct only thirty-nine per cent of the time.

That’s less than a coin toss!

Anyone living in New Hampshire can predict winter’s end with or without a furry friend or coin to toss. Here in the Granite State, winter hangs around until it’s good and ready to quit. Last week’s glorious few days of spring skiing could be the start of warmer things to come … or not. It’s just as likely that the magnificent spring-like weather was nothing more than a blip in northern New England’s decidedly fickle weather patterns.

New Hampshire skiers live for those wonderfully warm, end-of-the season days. We want nothing more than to ski in a t-shirt, even shorts. However, we all know that there are two sides to an early spring. We love the sun and curse the rain. Although we would happily greet one last blizzard, just the threat of a shower sends skiers into a tizzy.

To make matters worse, I was admittedly spoiled during all those years I lived in Switzerland. Spoiled rotten! Even in a mediocre snow year, the season lasted through the first or second weekend of April. In a spectacular year, skiing went on and on until mid-May. Of course, the elevations are a heck of a lot higher in the Alps; way up above the tree line higher.

This extended ski season did lead to a few misadventures. Most were due to the stubborn determination of my friends and I to ski from top to bottom. Just because the ski season lasted until Easter and beyond, did not mean there was snow cover on the bottom third or half of the mountain. By early April, skiers were advised to take the lift down from the mid-station. After a glorious day in the sun and snow, riding a chairlift to the bottom was nothing short of anticlimactic. A gondola was even worse. (The cliché packed in like sardines would be an apt description.)

I’m not one to let a TRAIL CLOSED sign stand in my way. Neither were my ski pals. After a quick peek left and right, we ducked under the rope and headed down. We had the trail to ourselves and it was fabulous. Well, fabulous until we hit a south facing, mud covered slope. Jumping from one small patch of snow to another, we clamored through trees and over a few rocks. Finally and inevitably, we ran out of snow. Off came the skis; we were in for a long slog to the car in our ski boots.

As the weather warms, on the slopes or not, enjoy some time outside! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Olives
This recipe has its roots in sunny Spain and Sicily. It is a great dish when you are pining for a little sun and warm weather. Enjoy!cauliflower_05
Serves 4-6

1 head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-1 onion, cut in thin wedges
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8-12 ounces spaghetti
About 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped green olives
3 tablespoons capers
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
3-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Grated pecorino Romano cheese

Toss the cauliflower with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and spread in a single layer in a roasting pan. Tossing once or twice, roast at 375 degrees until browned and tender, about 40 minutes.

(If you roast the cauliflower in advance, a delicious dinner will be ready in minutes.)

While the cauliflower roasts, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the cauliflower, olives and capers, sprinkle with lemon zest and toss to combine. Cover and keep warm.

spaghetti_cauliflower_olives_03Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water.

Toss the pasta with the vegetables. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water and cook on low for 1 minute. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with grated pecorino Romano.

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One Year Ago – Flourless Chocolate Cake
Two Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Three Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Four Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Five Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Six Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Seven Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Eight Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

What about you? Now that the seasons are changing, how will you spend time outside? Feel free to share!

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

La Dolce Vita & Tiramisu

spanish_steps_romeEaster is this coming weekend. Anyone who lives in northern New England knows that spring comes in two parts: Mud Season and Black Fly Season. Easter falls firmly in the former. Which means that, more often than not, Easter is windy, wet and wild. When we were little girls, my dad’s cousin Ginny or my grandmother bought fancy dresses for my sister and me for Easter. Regardless of the weather, we wore those light and frothy dresses to church and Easter dinner. While we were truly adorable, our outfits were hardly appropriate for the icy rain and whipping winds of a typical early spring day in New England.

That’s not the case in Italy. Fast forward a few decades … to the long Easter weekend I spent in and around Rome. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. I was living in Geneva at the time and dating an Italian. We had four days off and he decided it was time to take me home to meet the family.

Unlike New England or even Geneva, spring had arrived in central Italy. Daffodils bobbed in the warm breezes and the sun gave everything a soft, golden glow. Now, I don’t want to disappoint you but if you are conjuring up visions of a sporty little convertible zipping through the Italian countryside and streets of Rome … well, stop. In spite of his roots, my beau drove a very practical sedan of some sort. I think it was German.

Anyway, we traveled light with no heavy coats or muddy boots to weigh us down. With sweaters casually draped over our shoulders, we wandered through the ancient streets of Rome. We sipped espresso in Piazza Navono, visited the Spanish Steps and Saint Peter’s square. It had been rainy and cool when we left Geneva and we reveled in the sweet life of the Italian spring. Ahhhh, la dolce vita.

Early Sunday morning we headed up into the nearby Apennine Mountains to meet the family. We spent a delightful day in a picturesque medieval village. It was the kind of village you see in the travel books or on picture post cards. Thick stonewalls protected the entire village. Narrow three- and four- story houses were jammed together. We meandered through the winding, cobblestone streets, past my friend’s boyhood home, his grandparents’ old house and the houses of numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and school chums. Along the way, he entertained me with stories of his family, a young boy’s mischief-making and, of course, soccer games played here there and everywhere. It was a wonderful glimpse of what it was like to grow up in a tiny village in central Italy.

Around noon, we found ourselves in the village square with its ancient church. The ringing bells announced the end of mass. Within minutes, people, shouts and laughter filled the square. It was like a scene out of a movie. Widows were dressed in black from head to toe. Men played Bocce. Extended families and friends came together to celebrate. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. New babies were admired. Foreign girlfriends were eyed and not so surreptitiously.

Next, our walk took us out of the protective walls and into the surrounding hills. It was time to stop strolling and work up an appetite for the feast to come. Several hours later, showered and changed, we settled down to an enormous family dinner. The food was perfect and, in a word, abbondanza. We were treated to delicious springtime delicacies – beautiful artichokes, delicious lamb and bright spring greens. Everything was fresh from farms in the nearby valley. Everyone was full of good cheer, the conversation was animated and laughter flowed like good wine.

Have a wonderful Easter with your friends and family. Buon appetito!

Tiramisu
London to New York to Tokyo and everywhere in between, Tiramisu gained worldwide popularity during the 1990’s. For many, it is still the quintessential Italian dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 12

12 egg large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Marsala
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 cup very cold heavy cream
About 30 crispy ladyfingers
About 1 1/2 cups freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
4-6 ounces dark or milk chocolate, grated

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice. Set a medium bowl in the ice water and have a fine mesh sieve handy.

Put the yolks, 1 1/4 cups sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a heavy saucepan and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly add 1 1/4 cups Marsala and whisk until smooth. Set over medium-low heat, and stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is thick and reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Immediately remove the pan from heat and pass the custard through the fine mesh sieve into the bowl sitting in the ice water. Add the vanilla and, stirring frequently, let the custard stand until cool.

While the custard cools, put the espresso and remaining sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the Marsala and stir to combine.

When the custard has cooled, put the mascarpone and cream in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the custard into the whipped mascarpone and cream.

Cover the bottom of a deep 9×13-inch glass or ceramic dish with a single layer of ladyfingers and drizzle the cookies with half the espresso mixture. Let the ladyfingers sit for a minute to absorb the espresso. Top the ladyfingers with half of the custard-mascarpone mixture and smooth the top. Add another layer of cookies and drizzle with the remaining espresso. Top with the remaining custard-mascarpone, cover and refrigerate for several hours.

To serve: generously sprinkle the tiramisu with grated chocolate, spoon into individual bowls and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Two Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Four Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Five Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Spicy Olives
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

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

Discovering Skiing in the Alps & Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux

Geneva_02I will always think of Geneva as my second home. Oh, that’s Switzerland, not New York or Illinois or a lake in Wisconsin. One of the best things about living in Geneva is the proximity to the mountains. Not any little hills mind you, the Alps.

Even though I’d been on the slopes for years, since I was seven, I didn’t really learn to ski until I moved to Switzerland. There is something both thrilling and terrifying about a really big mountain. And by big, we’re talking above-the-tree-line-and-trails-that-go-on-for-miles-and-miles big. For a girl who learned to ski at King Ridge, it was more than a bit daunting at first.

As a proud New England skier, a few things came as a surprise. First of all, there was a lot of snow; like ten or fifteen feet of snow. While late autumn in Geneva was one wet day after another, rain in town meant snow in the mountains. The season usually started by the first week in December and continued on to May. Unlike the areas I grew up with, alpine resorts didn’t brag about huge investments in snowmaking equipment and awards for grooming. They didn’t have to.

My early ventures onto the slopes are a bit of a blur. However, one December day stands out. It began with me lugging my skis to the train station through the quiet, early morning streets of Geneva. A gentle drizzle did not bode well. Ignoring my friend John’s enthusiast assurances, I caught a snooze on the train to Champéry. Once there, we lugged our skis through the bustling streets of the village to the lift.

Perfectly picturesque, a gentle snow was falling as we began our first descent. Unfortunately, that’s were picturesque ended and I began. To say that my form could easily have been mistaken for a lame rhinoceros is not an exaggeration. To make matters worse, I had yet to adopt the alpine-chic style of a European skier. Even though he’d been in Switzerland for three, maybe four, years John hadn’t adopted alpine-chic either.

John was not from New England but Canada. However, we both sported what I came to think of as northeast scruffy. Perhaps it was a holdover of a more bohemian time. My carefully combined ensemble was designed to project an image of someone too laidback and interesting to worry about anything as silly as clothes. That said, the outfit was just as easily the product of New England frugality or grad school debt. I don’t know John’s excuse.

Still December, the temperature hovered around freezing but the snow never turned to rain. It was a long day. The snow was heavy and the slopes were steep and long. Much steeper and much longer than the Queen’s Run and Knave of Hearts at family-friendly King Ridge. While John was no fashion plate, he was a superb skier. Graceful and strong, he was poetry in motion.

With brute force (picture that poor, lame rhinoceros), I plowed my way through the heavy snow. I don’t know what kept me going; grit, determination or plain, stinking pride. Whatever it was, I was more than a little grateful for my daily running habit. Running didn’t make me a better skier but, thankfully, it made me fit and strong. And yes, skiing the alps did get easier and better with time and practice. Lots of time and lots of practice.

Anyway, enjoy the latest snowfall and a day on the slopes. Bon appétit!

Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux
(Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)

These earthy little tartlets are perfect for passing at your next cocktail party or before a cozy après ski dinner. Enjoy!
Tartelettes_au_Fromage_avec_Saucisse_et_Poireaux_06Makes 30 tartlets

Savory Tartlet Pastry (recipe follows)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 ounces Italian or other fresh sausage, sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed
5-6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup half &half

Make the Savory Pastry Dough. Cut the dough into 24 rounds, press the dough into nonstick mini muffin tin cups and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until tender, 5-10 minutes. add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl, cool and reserve.

Raise the heat to medium-high and put the sausage in the skillet. Breaking the meat up into small pieces, sauté until lightly browned. Drain and cool the sausage on paper towels. Add the sausage and cheese to the leeks and toss to combine.

Put the eggs in a bowl, add the mustard and spices and whisk until smooth. Add the half & half and whisk again.

In one bowl or the other, combine the wet ingredients with the leeks, sausage and cheese.

Spoon the filling into the pastry shells and bake until the filling sets and the top and crusts are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and serving. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets.

Can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate in the muffin tins. Reheat, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Savory Tartlet Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
3 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps.

Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a log about 12-inches long and wrap in plastic or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Two Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Three Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Four Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Five Years Ago – Cassoulet
Six Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

Do you have a ski story? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

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

Rethinking Bacon & White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale

bacon_03What can you say about bacon? Well, how about …

Your grandfather loved it and enjoyed bacon and eggs every morning for, oh let’s say, eighty-something, oops, make that ninety-something years. Not just granddad, you love it and wish you could have it every morning for the rest of your life. Not only that, if there’s bacon for breakfast you fervently hope to live to be one hundred. In fact, you’d be more than happy to find ways to sneak it into lunch and dinner.

You are not alone. Bacon is hot right now and getting hotter. News anchors get positively giddy when visiting chefs fry up a slab. Des Moines, Chicago, Los Angeles and, now, Baltimore have an entire festival dedicated to the salty strips. William and Kate passed out bacon sannies in the wee hours of their wedding reception. Okay, the beaming bride and groom didn’t actually do the passing. They had waiters for that.

So here’s a strange confession. I wouldn’t actually swear to it but I don’t think I’ve eaten a strip of bacon in nearly thirty years. As far as I can figure, I more or less stopped eating bacon for breakfast when I moved to Switzerland. Maybe it’s because the French word for bacon is lard. Or maybe because it didn’t look or taste the same. Oh, I’m sure I might have nibbled a slice or two during visits to the States or indulged at one of those big hotel buffet breakfasts. I traveled a lot on business when I lived in Geneva. I guess I should amend my statement, I don’t remember eating a strip of bacon in nearly thirty years.

Anyway, about the time I moved to Switzerland, I stopped thinking of bacon as breakfast food. That’s also when I discovered lardons. Living en Suisse opened my eyes to a variety of new-to-me ingredients and dishes. Lardons were among those new ingredients. Lardons are less fatty, smaller than bite-sized pieces of bacon. Swiss and French butchers even chop them up for you. They are a key ingredient in many French stews. And let’s face it, lardon sounds a lot more appetizing than lard.

Particularly in cold weather, I have a special affinity for what I like to call peasant food. Think Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon and Cassoulet plus hearty soups like Lentil, Bean or Potato. Some foodies try to dress them up and complicate things but for the most part, peasant food is simple, cheap and made from scratch. Oh, and if it’s French, there is a good chance bacon is involved.

Bacon doesn’t just add flavor to these dishes, the rendered fat comes in handy to sauté the veggies or sear the meat for your wonderful stew or soup. After all, no self-respecting peasant would let anything go to waste; especially if it will enhance the flavor of the dish. It’s best to start with a cold pan and gently cook on medium heat to maximize the release of fat. Remove the lardons and drain on paper towels. Then drain any excess fat from the pan, leaving just enough for your sauté or sear.

If you are worried about cooking with bacon, new research suggests that there is no clear link between heart disease and the so-called bad fats (bacon, cream, butter, etc.). When in doubt, cook and eat like the French – everything in moderation! If you are really concerned, forget about bacon as the king of breakfast food and enjoy it in beautiful French casseroles at dinner. It’s easier than you think and really delicious.

Bon appétit!

White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
A delicious side dish, try it with lamb, pork, poultry or seafood. A great money-saver, you can also serve beans as the main event. Penny-pinching never tasted so good. Enjoy!
Serves about 12 as a side dishwhite_beans_provencal_bacon_kale_02

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
1 1/2 large onion, cut the half onion in half again and finely chop the whole
5 stalks celery, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups crushed tomatoes
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 pound baby kale*

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, half onion, celery and carrot chunks, 1 sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf in a large pot, add cold water to cover plus 2 inches and bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender 1 – 1 1/4 hours. Remove the onion, carrot, celery, thyme twig and bay leaf, drain the beans and season with salt and pepper. (Can be done ahead or use canned beans, rinsed and drained.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, put the bacon in a large casserole and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot, drain and reserve. Leaving just enough to coat the pot, drain any excess fat.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots to the pot, season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in mustard and wine, add the remaining thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and simmer until the wine has reduced by half.

Add the cooked white beans, crushed tomatoes and 1-2 cups chicken stock. Bring the beans to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 45 minutes, adding more chicken stock if the beans seem dry. For a thicker dish, mash about 1 cup of the beans with a fork.

If you have the time, cool the beans to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours. Remove the beans from the refrigerator and return to a simmer on medium-low heat.

Stir the kale into the beans, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking until the kale is tender, about 10 minutes, and serve.

* If you can’t find baby kale, you can use regular kale. Remove the tough ribs, cut in julienne and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Two Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Three Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Four Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What ‘s your favorite way to prepare/eat bacon? Covered in chocolate or sizzling with a side of sunny-side up? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

© Susan W. Nye, 2014