Summer Bucket List & Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries

When we were kids, we started each summer with a bucket list. One year, the raft test was the top goal. Once we’d perfected our strokes, there was the swim to the island. Climbing Kearsarge was on the list most years. After I started running, a run around the lake was de rigueur. On top of whatever athletic endeavors, there were books to read, a first beer to drink and maybe a blueberry pie to bake.

What’s on your summer bucket list this year? If you don’t have one, well, then it’s time to get one together! Not sure of what to put on it? Well then, may I suggest:

  1. Ride a zip line. You know you want to. Any number of New England ski resorts are adding summer fun to their playlist. A ride down the mountain on a zip line sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon.
  2. Make pickles. I rarely make jams or jellies and I’m not a canner. However, I do like to make refrigerator pickles. They are quick, easy and delicious.
  3. Rent a flashy sports car and drive to the coast for fried clams and beer. One of my longtime traditions is to have fried clams once a year. Summer is by far the best time to indulge. What could be better than a trip to the coast, a walk on the beach and dinner with a view.
  4. Pick some berries. Maybe you’ll spend a morning at the pick-your-own strawberry field, stop by the blueberry farm or visit the raspberry lady. If you’re lucky, you’ll time to pick all three. Be sure to make at least one pie, tart or cobbler this summer.
  5. Take a three-day tech vacation. No computer. No Facebook. No Twitter, Instagram or YouTube. No television. No gadgets. Just you, family and friends face to face real time.
  6. Start a new hobby, try a new craft or learn a new game. At least for three days, you’ll have plenty of time. Take a dance lesson and keep going. Try watercolors or calligraphy. Maybe this is the summer to discover, or re-discover, darts, billiards or mah jongg.
  7. Try paddle boarding. It turns out that kayaks are sooo yesterday. Who knew? Then again, paddle boarding has already been around for a few years. Maybe it too is passé. It’s hard to stay up to date.
  8. Run through the sprinkler and throw water balloons. Even in New England, we have soaring temperatures and plenty of humidity. If you can’t get to the beach, a sprinkler is the next best thing. A water balloon fight with your kids or grandkids is even better.
  9. Invent an exotic cocktail. Think of it as your reward for hiking to the top of whatever mountain or running however many miles every morning.
  10. Watch a movie in the backyard. No, you don’t need a giant television screen. Plug your laptop into a projector and pin a sheet onto the back of the garage. As for titles, think Top Gun, Jaws, Grease or that one with the dancing and Patrick Swayze. Don’t forget the popcorn and maybe one of those exotic cocktails.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
A creamy and delicious tart to start the summer. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 cups plain yogurt
Graham Cracker Crust (recipe follows)
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 – 1/2 cup (to taste) honey
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved
Brown sugar to taste
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)

Put the yogurt in a colander or sieve lined with a clean dishtowel or coffee filter and drain for several hours or overnight. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of yogurt cheese.

Make the Graham Cracker Crust.

Make the Yogurt-Cream Cheese Filling: Put the cream cheese in a bowl, add the honey, vanilla, orange zest and salt and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. With the mixer on medium-low, add the yogurt a few spoonfuls at a time beat until smooth. Spoon the filling into the graham cracker crust and smooth the top. Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

Put the strawberries in a bowl and gently toss with brown sugar and Grand Marnier.

To serve: if you like, you can artfully arrange the berries in concentric circles on top of the tart, slice and serve. Alternatively, you can slice the tart and then top each piece with a spoonful of berries.

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Set a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a 9-inch glass pie plate and whisk with a fork to combine. Add the melted butter, mix until well combined and firmly press the crumbs into the pan. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 7 minutes and cool on a rack.

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One Year Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Two Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Three Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Four Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
Five Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Six Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Seven Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

What about you? Do you have a summer bucket list? Feel free to share!

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

What to Love about Late August & Berry Peachy Crisp

corn_field_06As kids, we greeted the end of August with mixed feelings. The start of the school year was looming. After a long, lazy summer, we were almost looking forward to going back to school. Almost. Sure, we’d get to see all the kids we’d missed since June but a return to suburbia and the classroom meant the end of carefree fun and freedom.

Rather than grumble, we mostly went into denial. A whole day or more could go by without a single thought of our imminent return to suburbia. Then we’d trip over one of our summer reading books and realize it was almost over. Or we’d need to put on a sweater first thing in the morning. Shrugging into a pullover, our thoughts might turn ever so briefly to the bitter and sweet of back-to-school shopping. Let’s face it; back-to-school or not, what girl doesn’t love a new pair of shoes?

With September in our sights, we don’t need to grumble or go into denial. Here are more than a few things to love about late August:

In spite of needing a sweater at either end of the day, shorts and a t-shirt, flip-flops and those cute, little sundresses still dominate our wardrobes.

The dog has stopped panting. Grab a Frisbee and let Fido run and jump to his heart’s content.

Local corn and tomatoes are not just plentiful; they are at their best. Slice and dice them into salsas and salads, stir the tomatoes into soup and the corn into chowder. Just remember; in New England, we never put tomatoes in the chowder.

You can bake again. In an effort to keep the house from overheating, you’ve probably kept the oven off limits for weeks. How does a warm blueberry muffin or peach crisp sound?

In spite of an earlier sunset, you can still enjoy dinner alfresco. No need to hurry, there is a reason we New Englanders leave our Christmas lights up all year long. Throw on a sweater and bask in the glow of twinkle lights while you nibble a fruity dessert or s’more.

Speaking of which, those earlier sunsets and cooler evenings are perfect for bonfires and s’mores.

No more tossing and turning in the heat or trying to sleep with noisy fans or deafening air conditioners. Throw open the windows to the cool night air and sleep in luxurious peace.

Even if we are still donning our light and breezy summer wardrobes, old habits die hard. So what if you’re not going back to school this September? That little detail shouldn’t stop you from hitting the shops. The summer stuff is on sale and new fall fashions are starting to arrive.

Although sunrise is a little later, you still needn’t worry about finding a flashlight for your morning walk. Sure, the air has a bit of a chill but pick up the pace. Heck, you might score a personal best.

As much as we love them, the summer people start to leave. The long lines at the supermarket shorten and the seemingly endless wait time for a table at our favorite café disappears.

Enjoy the end of summer! Bon appétit!

Berry Peachy Crisp
Berry_Peachy_Crisp_02Who doesn’t love a fruity crisp? The air is cooling down so turn the oven back on and enjoy!
Serves 8

Butter
1/2 cup or to taste brown sugar
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
3-4 pounds peaches
1 pint blueberries
Crumble Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter a 2 quart baking dish.

Put the sugar, ginger, zest, cornstarch and spices in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Peel the peaches and cut them into thick wedges. (To peel peaches with ease – first dunk them in boiling water for 20-30 seconds and then immerse them in ice water. The skins will slip off easily.)

Add the peaches, blueberries and lime juice to the sugar mixture and toss to combine. Pour the fruit into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with Crumble Topping.

Put the crisp on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for about 30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

You can also bake the crisp early in the day and warm it up in a 275 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch nutmeg
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse until the topping comes together in little lumps.

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One Year Ago – Spicy Refrigerator Pickles
Two Years Ago – Double Trouble Chocolate-Oragne Cupcakes
Three Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad
Four Years Ago – Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone Cream
Five Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa
Six Years Ago – Crostini with Goat Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Corn & Chicken Chowder
Eight Years Ago – Joe Nye’s Perfect Lobster

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

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, 2016

Playlist & Cherry Cobbler

Alice_Cooper_School's_out_45Do you have a playlist in your head? Does it change with every crop of new hits? Or maybe, just maybe it’s a musical memoir covering the many phases of your life. If you are like me, the songs change with mood and season. Fall conjures up Carly Simon and Simon and Garfunkel. The holidays bring a handful of carols. Cooking, walking around the lake or wandering though the hardware store, each can prompt its own sets of tunes.

Right about now, I can’t get Alice Cooper out of my head. Mind you, I’m not a fan of Alice Cooper. His theatrical, horror-laced approach to music doesn’t work for me. When it comes to guillotines, electric chairs and blood, I’ll take a pass. So why Alice Cooper ? Why not some other raucous band? Okay, maybe Pink Floyd’s Wall has tumbled around my head a time or two recently but I’ll leave the wall building talk to others. Besides it is all very secondary to Alice Cooper bellowing, “Schools Out for Summer.” That song lives in my head every June. There’s no use trying to avoid it, whether I like it or not, “Schools Out” will always be part of my playlist.

It doesn’t last long. The last bell rang on Friday and school buses are off the road. The longest day was yesterday and summer has officially started. The Pointer Sisters, Martha & The Vandellas and The Supremes are due to take over any minute. (Truth be told, I love these girls year round. The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” works when I find the perfect sweater or the first asparagus is at the farm stand. The Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” rolls around my brain whenever I get good news and “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes works when I’m feeling impatient.)

However, summer is made to boogie so Motown and anything danceable tends to take over my internal broadcast system. Bright sky and sunshine is all I need for an entire medley to resound in my brain. But hey, not just Motown and not just in my head. When the music demands it, I’m more than happy to roll down the car windows, slide back the moonroof and turn up the radio. You see, I just assume you want me to share my joyful music.

Of course, “I’m so Excited” doesn’t work with absolutely everything. Some victory celebrations demand Vangelis or maybe Queen. It may be a generational thing or a former runner’s thing. Anyway, Chariots of Fire is definitely on my list of favorite films. The title song has boomed across the starting line of countless fun runs and 10Ks. It’s a keeper on my playlist.

Let’s face it, life is not all fun runs and dancing in the street. When work frustrates me, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” seems like a reasonable response. For more contemplative times, there is nothing like Billie Holiday or Joni Mitchell. Joni hooked me during my freshman year in college; melancholy has to be her middle name.

While Joni will always have a special place in my heart, it is Sarah McLachlan I hear when I visit my mother. Mom’s memories have grown dim, confused and disjointed. It doesn’t matter because “I Will Remember You”. Of course, Mom has her own playlist. Perhaps this phenomenon is inherited. Mom frequently hums along with hers. Ol’ Blue Eyes and Sting are her long time favorites. It’s hard to tell but she may have added a few new top picks; the tunes she hums are rarely recognizable.

But that’s okay; let the music play and bon appétit!

Cherry Cobbler
Neil Diamond’s “Cherry Cherry” is not on my playlist but cherries are in season … so here goes! Enjoy.
Serves 8

Butter for the pan
About 2 pounds (about 8 cups pitted and halved) cherries
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-2 tablespoons kirsch or Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pinches cloves
1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small bits
1/2-34 sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Prepare the filling: working over a bowl to reserve the juice, pit the cherries. Add the brown sugar, cornstarch, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch each cloves and salt and stir to combine and set aside.

Make the biscuit dough: put the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and the remaining salt, cinnamon and cloves in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process again until the mixture resembles fine meal. Transfer to a bowl, add the sour cream and stir until the dough comes together.

Assemble the cobble and bake: transfer the cherry mixture to the prepared baking dish, drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough onto the fruit and transfer the cobble to the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden. Serve warm with ice cream.

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One Year Ago – Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Three Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Four Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Five Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Six Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Seven Years Ago – Asian Slaw
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s on your playlist? Feel free to share.

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

Language Lessons & Bluebree Grunt

picking_blueberriesMy niece left New Hampshire for sunny California about the time she turned twenty. Although she lives on the other coast, Gillian has never forgotten her New England roots. We are more than delighted that she makes a pilgrimage East every summer.

Of course, she brings her two boys with her. Why they put up with us, I don’t know. Since we feel duty-bound to educate the boys on all things New England, it is a good thing they do. Yes, you can take the boys out of New England, heck these two weren’t even born here, but you can’t take New England out of the boys. Not if their grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles have anything to do about it.

A critical part of their education is learning to speak New England. And by New England, we really mean they need to develop an understanding of the melodious pronunciation and dulcet tones of their great grandmother.

My mother grew up in Massachusetts, on the south shore just outside of Boston. Within the family, her accent has always been the most pronounced. Dad also grew up on the south shore but learned to modify his accent when business took him to such far-flung places as New Haven and Chicago. It’s hard to make a sale if your customer doesn’t understand a word you’re saying.

First and most important, our Californians have learned that they are not boys but boh-eys. Or perhaps, I should say, “The Boh-eys”. As babies they were cunnin’. When they grew older, they learned that they were the best in the whole orchestra. In both cases, Mom was and is absolutely right.

Every summah we use their visit as just one more excuse to fill up on lobsta and foolish idears. As California natives, The Boh-eys don’t drop and add Rs willy-nilly like their New England family. Even if they don’t adopt this quirk, they should know this kind of thing.

Not just a language lesson, lobsta is a part of New England culcha and their great grandfatha’s love of all things nautical. A lobster feast gives Dad an excuse to share sailing stories with the boys and anyone else willing to listen.

Most years, Gillian times their arrival with the staht of the kohn season. You know, those things with the husks and yellow kernels. If they want tomahtoes, they have to go elsewhere but local tomatoes are abundant on my table.

For desseht, it’s anything with bluebrees. Blueberry pie is not just Dad’s favorite dessert; it is a wonderful excuse for him to share stories about his fatha. After he retired, my Grampa Nye helped make ends meet with a variety of odd jobs. Picking blueberries was among his favorites. A blueberry dessert invariably leads my brother to mutter something about a coupla yads a bluebree grunt.

Grampa Nye may have measured dessert by the yard but he knew the difference between pie, cake and grunt. I’m not sure if my brother even knows that grunt is an old New England dessert made with fruit and dumplings. However, he finds the word hysterically funny and uses it for pretty much anything with blueberries. You say crostata, he says grunt.

I hope that your summah is filled with fun and family from neah and fah. Bon appétit!

Bluebree Grunt
With primitive kitchens and new ingredients, New England’s earliest settlers improvised and invented new desserts like Indian Pudding and Blueberry Grunt. Enjoy! blueberries_02
Serves 6

6 cups blueberries, stemmed and washed
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half & half or whole milk

Put the blueberries in a skillet, add the water, brown sugar, lemon juice, spices and a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Bring the fruit to a gentle boil over low heat.

While the blueberries are heating, put the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Transfer to a large bowl.

Put the sour cream in a bowl and whisk in the half & half until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the flour and butter mixture and stir to combine.

Drop spoonfuls of dough over the bubbling blueberry mixture. Cover and cook over low heat until the dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Serve the dumplings with spoonfuls of blueberries. Grampa Nye would recommend adding a scoop of ice cream. That way if someone doesn’t like the grunt, he or she can enjoy the ice cream.

Alternatively, you might prefer a more modern, baked version:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Put the blueberries, brown sugar, lemon zest and juice, spices and a pinch of salt in a bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking dish.

Drop spoonfuls of dough over the blueberries and bake at 375 degrees until bubbling and golden, 45-60 minutes.

Again, serve with ice cream and no one, least of all my brother, will know the difference.

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

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

Do you speak New England? 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

Food Rules & Blueberry Crostata

lobsterEvery family has them. Some might call them comfort zones, others label them habits or even peculiarities. Most we learned while still in our highchairs but we develop a few on our own and maybe pick up one or two from friends. What the heck am I talking about? Why food rules of course.

You won’t find them in any book. If you are a newcomer to a family, no one will, or even can, give you a list. You just have to figure it out as you go along. Here are a few from my family:

If you are having lobster, you need potato chips. And PLEASE, none of those with artificial flavoring so they taste like chemicals or imitation barbecue sauce or dill pickles. Only simple, ordinary, kettle cooked chips with salt will do.

Another lobster rule; there will be no pickle juice in the lobster salad, just a little mayonnaise. My dad codified this one about the time he asked my mother to marry him. Mom’s dad always added a little pickle juice to the lobster salad. He probably thought he was being fancy. Anyway, Mom didn’t care one way or the other; she was in love and accepted that she and her soon-to-be husband would create their own rules. I confess; I sidestep this rule. Heaven forbid I should break it but I add a little lemon and fresh tarragon or basil to my lobster salad. So far, no one has objected.

Pie for breakfast is a favorite family tradition started, as far as we know, by my Great-Grandpa Nye. The rule is simple, if there is a piece of leftover pie, the first one up in the morning can have it for breakfast. Interestingly enough, this rule does not apply to cake or any other dessert, only pie. That said, our cousin Virginia used to give my sister and me chocolate cake for breakfast. She was Great Grandpa Nye’s niece so the rules might have varied slightly on her other side of the family. Anyway, I’m looking forward to a piece of leftover blueberry crostata this morning.

Speaking of pie, always order it à la mode in a restaurant. That way, if the pie isn’t any good, you can still enjoy the ice cream. I’m not sure if it’s a rule but it’s good advice from my Grandpa Nye.

At Thanksgiving, regardless of what Martha and the FDA say, you put the stuffing in the bird not in a separate baking dish. (However, for safety sake, cool the stuffing completely, refrigerate until cold and then stuff the bird minutes before tossing it in the oven.) In the various Nye households, you are expected to make my mother’s bread stuffing, the one with the apple. I broke that rule soon after I moved back to the US from Switzerland. While away, I developed a few of my own Thanksgiving traditions, including a delicious wild rice and mushroom stuffing. Since I love my family and having Thanksgiving at my house, I accept the constant reminders of the stuffing-with-apple rule. There are at least four or five of them and start around Halloween.

Whether it’s roast beef or tenderloin, it’s rare. If it’s steak, it’s on the grill and still rare. You should never, ever ruin good beef with steak sauce. If your steaks are somehow missing something, buy a better cut. If you can’t afford a better cut, go without. In case you’re wondering, burgers are also rare and preferably on the grill.

Now, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once started, I can probably go all day. Or maybe not. Truth be told, most food rules are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even think of them as rules. It’s only by chance that we discover that not everyone does it our way. Like the time I was invited for lobster. Imagine my surprise when my friends served potato salad alongside the bright red crustaceans. Of course, these friends are not native New Englanders but transplants from upstate New York.

Whether you follow the rules or break them, have a delicious summer and bon appétit!

Blueberry Crostata
Show your family and friends that you aren’t stuck in a rule rut with this tasty alternative to a traditional blueberry pie. Enjoy! Serves 6-8

1/4 cup or to taste brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 ounces blueberries (about 3 cups)
Grated zest of 1 lime or lemon
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut in tiny pieces
1-2 tablespoons cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

blueberry_crostata_05

Put the brown sugar, cornstarch and spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the blueberries, zest and Grand Marnier in a bowl and toss to combine. Add the sugar mixture and toss again to combine and coat.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a rough 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch glass or ceramic tart pan. Pile the blueberries on top of the dough and dot with butter. Gently fold the edge of the dough over the fruit and brush the dough with cream.

Alternatively, you can skip the tart pan and place the dough on a sheet pan. (You may want to roll your dough out to a 10-inch circle. When baked this way, the crostata is apt to break as it cooks if the dough is too thin.) Leaving a 2-3 inch border, mound the blueberries in the center of the dough and dot with butter. Gently fold the edge of the dough over the fruit and brush the dough with cream.

Bake the crostata for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Flakey Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour and more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold and cut into pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice waterblueberry_crostata_03

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper and chill until firm enough to roll, at least 30 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Orzo Salad with Lemony Pesto & Grilled Tomatoes
Two Years Ago – Watermelon & Cucumber Salsa
Three Years Ago – Grilled Chicken Salad Provencal
Four Years Ago – Lobster with Corn, Tomato & Arugula Salad
Five Years Ago – Greek Green Beans
Six Years Ago – Blueberry Pie
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Lamb

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

No matter how old you are, wear your age with pride. What is your favorite telltale sign that you’ve hit the next stage? 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

Grubby, Little Boys & Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard

Within minutes of the bell on the last day of school, we were in my mother’s big, blue station wagon and headed north. It would be the first of many long, lazy summers on Pleasant Lake. It would also be the inaugural year of the Grubby, Little Boys Club.

This rambunctious group of four, five and six year olds were just the right age to appreciate all that New Hampshire had to offer. With only a few exceptions, they were from one or another tidy suburb outside of Boston. Plucked from a world of green lawns and hard-topped playgrounds, they were in heaven. They had the lake. They had the woods, complete with a little brook. They even had a pond brimming with frogs and tadpoles. What more could a little boy ask for?

From first light to dusk, they were busy, in and out of the lake, slip sliding into the muddy pond and exploring the woods. More often than not, they fell asleep in the middle of dinner. Not willing to wake them for a shower, their mothers shrugged and put their grubby, little boys to bed.

Along with my brother Johnny, this rat pack included Richard, Rip and Randy as well as Scott and Chip. There was at least one Peter, possibly two. I’m not quite sure. There was Swizzy but his family didn’t stay long after he lost part of his finger playing in the brook. There were two Davids, O’Donnell and White.

Each of these grubby little boys had some claim to fame, some more interesting than others. As noted, Swizzy lost part of his finger. One of the boys, I’m not sure which, had a seemingly endless supply of cherry bombs and bottle rockets. David White had wheels. Or rather, his dad had a collection of interesting vehicles and was pretty relaxed about sharing. By the time most of the boys were eight or nine, okay, maybe ten, they had driven the Mini Moke around the White’s field.

To say that these boys were intrigued by anything with a motor would be an understatement. All of these grubby, little boys had a man crush on Mr. Jewell. Unlike their fathers, Mr. Jewell didn’t put on a white shirt and tie and go to an office every morning. Mr. Jewell wore jeans, t-shirts and big, heavy work boots and drove huge bulldozers and dump trucks. Since he was building the roads in our still-new neighborhood, the boys saw him often. At least once or twice a day, they’d stop their play and jealously watch Mr. Jewell riding high atop one of his giant earthmoving machines.

About four o’clock most days, Mr. Jewell climbed down from one giant machine or another and headed home. His oversized Tonka toys sat in a field overnight, admired and often climbed upon by grubby, little boys on their way home from the beach. It was on one of those late afternoons that the other David, David O’Donnell, gained his claim to fame. Sitting high on one of Mr. Jewell’s bulldozers, he somehow managed to turn it on. Delight and panic erupted as David hung on for dear life and a bunch of grubby, little boys leaped around in glee and awe. The blissful panic was cut all too short. Someone’s father, probably in a white shirt and tie, happened by, saw the commotion and rescued David by turning off the bulldozer.

Have a wonderful summer filled with both glee and awe. Bon appétit!

Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
A refreshing dessert for boys and girls of all ages. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Lime Curd, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
1/2 cup very cold heavy cream
About 2 pounds fresh berries – whatever is in season!
Brown sugar to taste (optional)

Make the Lime Curd and refrigerate until cold.

Put the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier in a bowl, beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Increase the mixer speed to high and very slowly add the heavy cream. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Add the cream slowly or it will splatter everywhere.

Fold the cream-cream cheese mixture into the chilled Lime Curd, cover and refrigerate the custard for several hours.

To serve: gently rinse and dry the berries, hull and chop strawberries, leave everything else whole. Put the berries in a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier and brown sugar to taste. Spoon the berries into dessert or wine glasses, add a generous spoonful or two of Creamy Lime Custard and serve. The custard is also delicious with peaches or nectarines.

Lime Curd
Makes about 1 cup

4 large egg yolks
Zest of 2 limes
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut into small pieces

Create an ice bath by filling an oversized bowl halfway with ice and water. Put half of the lime zest in a small bowl and set the bowl in the ice water. Reserve.

Put the yolks, remaining zest, juice and sugar in a small saucepan and whisk until smooth and well combined. Set over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the curd registers 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the pan from heat and, 1 piece at a time, whisk in the butter until smooth. Pass the curd through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl in the ice bath. Stirring frequently, let cool. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

The Lime Curd can be made ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Two Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Three Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Five Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
SixYears Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

Do you have any special summer memories with one or more of your siblings? 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

Giving Thanks & Cranberry Clafoutis

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you …”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

THANKS_03With Thanksgiving just a few short days away, it’s time to turn our thoughts towards gratitude. Given the holiday, someone is sure to ask, “What are you grateful for this year?” It usually happens just as everyone is sitting down to the fabulous feast, hungry and ready to dig in. Next thing you know, dinner is getting cold while, one after another, everyone takes a turn mumbling and stumbling through a soliloquy of gratitude.

Sharing thanks is a lovely tradition. However, I’d like to recommend that you jump in and suggest that everyone share his or her thoughts while eating rather than before. Both the conversation and the food will be better for it. I’m joining a three-family Thanksgiving extravaganza this year. At last count, there will be twenty-four of us for dinner. With that number, the appreciation-fest could go on for a couple of hours.

So what will it be? Just what are you thankful for?

Feel free to kick things off by sharing your thanks for family and friends. It’s the first thing on most people’s list. If you’re in the second or third grade, you will probably add your pets. They’re family too, you know. It’s always nice to be more specific. Perhaps you can welcome a new baby or share you relief on a loved one’s recovery from a health crisis.

Whether it’s you or a loved one who suffered that health issue, take it as a reminder that a body that works (or works the majority of the time) is no small blessing and worthy of thanks.

With a bit of luck, you’re among the fortunate and thankful for a job you love. For some, surviving the latest round of layoffs is a reason enough to be grateful. Since Thanksgiving is the season for sibling rivalry and family dysfunction, it’s okay to brag about … oops, make that share your thanks for … that big order you just booked.

While most of us spend a lot of time working, hopefully, your vocation doesn’t preempt any and all time for avocations. Are there any interesting, fun, wild or wooly activities that you can share? It could be as simple as a great book you recently read or as grand as a cross-country bicycle adventure.

Speaking of reading, you might also be thankful for a brain that can still fire on all cylinders. From common sense to simple and not so simple reasoning and wisdom, a sound mind is a wonderful thing.

If you are a guest and not the host at this year’s feast, you might give thanks for the break. A wiseacre sibling or two will probably add that they too are grateful that you are not cooking. In which case, you can all be thankful for a sense of humor.

If your group is still sharing the love and thanks when dessert rolls around, you might simply be grateful for the bounty of three or four different pies. Especially if you get your turn to pick before your favorite is gone!

Happy Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Cranberry Clafoutis
nteresting alternative to a New England pie, try this homey French custard at your Thanksgiving or any fall feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12Clafouti_01

About 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups (about 7 ounces) fresh cranberries
1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a deep 9- or 10-inch glass or ceramic pie plate, sprinkle with sugar and turn to coat.

Put the eggs, 3/4 cup brown sugar, Grand Marnier and salt in a blender and process until smooth. Add the flour and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the cream and orange zest and process until smooth. Set the batter aside for 10 minutes.

Roughly chop the cranberries and walnuts and transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining brown sugar, crystallized ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss to combine. Spread the fruit mixture evenly in the pie plate. Carefully pour the batter over the cranberries.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and slide the clafoutis into the oven. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the clafoutis is nicely browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the clafoutis for about 20 minutes, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges and serve.

outis can be made a few hours in advance and sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar just before serving at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Black Friday Enchiladas (Enchiladas with Turkey & Black Beans)
Two Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Three Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Four Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Five Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Six Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? 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