Native Strawberries, a Little Taste of Heaven! & Strawberries & Cream Parfaits

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”       

— William Butler

The world’s most popular berry, the strawberry, is finally, thankfully, just-about-ready for picking. Now, in reality this luscious red gem is not a berry at all, but a member of the rose family. Okay, wait a minute, stop the presses, back up the train … school’s out for summer. Could we maybe have a break here and skip the botany lesson. Berries or not, who can resist one (or two or a dozen or more) of these perfectly ripe, beautifully red, err, flowers? Particularly when they are growing right down the road.

While strawberries are available throughout the year, nothing can compare to a local, just picked berry. In the off season, at farms as far away as Chile, strawberries are picked before they are ripe and shipped around the world. They tempt us, they’re big, they’re bright and shiny red but unfortunately, their beauty is in the beholding. They may be pretty to look at but more often than not, they are pretty tasteless.

Native berries are ready just in time for end of school celebrations, the Fourth of July and, of course, Wimbledon. The tradition of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon may be as old as the famous lawn tennis tournament itself. Every year tons and tons of strawberries swimming in an ocean of cream are enjoyed at the All England Club.

But you don’t have to fly to England to celebrate the famous tournament; you don’t even have to like tennis. Just bring a few friends and family together, wear white, sip champagne or Pimms and nibble strawberries. I guess you had better put a television tuned into the matches in a corner somewhere for the enthusiasts. And for those who would rather play than watch; well, the ground and grass in most backyards, or at least my backyard, are not optimal for tennis. How about croquet?

In England strawberries are in season between May and September but in New Hampshire the season is fleeting and much too short. It begins in the last few days of June and goes into early July. Local strawberries are ready and ripe for just a few wonderful weeks so take advantage of the season before it runs out. Hurry over to your nearest Pick-Your-Own field, farm stand or farmers’ market and enjoy the heavenly aroma and sweet taste of native strawberries.

If you are looking for activities to keep the children or grandchildren busy and happy, berry picking could be just the ticket. With lots of little helpers, it won’t take long to pick enough strawberries to feed a hunger contingent of tennis or croquet players and Wimbledon watchers. That said, I have noticed that some young helpers have a tendency to put more in their mouths than in their baskets.

From the simplest dessert of strawberries and cream to shortcakes, ice cream, trifles and pies, strawberries are perfect for your early summer festivities. Strawberry season is short, so, make the most of this sweet time.

Enjoy the sunshine and bon appétit!

Strawberries & Cream Parfaits
Try this easy and delicious strawberry dessert at your Wimbledon or 4th of July or any early summer party. Enjoy!
8 servings

About 2 pounds fresh strawberries, halved or quartered

Mascarpone cream (recipe follows)
About 1/2 cup finely chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips
About 1/2 cup toasted chopped or slivered almonds
About 1/2 cup toasted coconut

Put a layer of fruit in the bottom of 8 wine or dessert glasses. Top with a layer of the mascarpone cream. Sprinkle with chocolate, almonds and coconut. Repeat for 2 or 3 layers.

Mascarpone Cream
6 ounces mascarpone
2-4 tablespoons honey
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups very cold heavy cream

Put the mascarpone, honey and orange zest in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly add the heavy cream and beat until smooth. Continue beating until soft peaks form.

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

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

What is (are) your favorite summer fruit(s)/dessert(s)? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

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Thinking about Gratitude & Rhubarb Tarlets

A few years ago, I was asked to take a look at an early draft of a job description and share any thoughts or advice. I’m a sucker for that pitch. Tell me, who doesn’t like to spout an opinion or two? Anyway, the job description included an outline of key responsibilities. Nothing stuck out; it was pretty typical for the job at hand.

Next, it described the personal qualities needed to excel at the job. Excellent communication skills, the ability to work independently and problem solve topped the list. I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a help wanted ad in search of a bad communicator. Furthermore, I’ve yet to hear of a company looking for someone totally dependent on minute-to-minute guidance and instruction. Of course, there was something about technology – like it or not computers are part of life and work.

In other words, it was all pretty standard … with one exception. The person was expected to be grateful. It was a bit vague but, along with a warm and friendly demeanor, something about gratitude was on the list. I immediately put on my contrarian hat or maybe it was my Bolshevik hat and asked, “Grateful for what?” It reminded me of my parents, insisting that I not only eat my peas but like them too. After all, children were starving in Africa.

Now this all happened a while ago – back when gratitude was all the rage. It might have been a sign of the times. The country was starting to find its way out of the mortgage debacle. While not great, the economy was steadily improving. With a sigh of relief, people were thanking their lucky stars that they had a roof over their heads, food on the table and a job to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, researchers discovered that feeling grateful was actually good for you. They figured out that gratitude led to happiness. Perhaps I was too quick to raise those hackles; what employer doesn’t want happy employees? They’re more productive and don’t quit in a huff. Then again, maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe happiness leads to gratitude. I’m not so sure about the whole cause and effect with this psychological stuff.

In any case, it seems to me that gratitude comes from within and can’t be dictated
by an employer. Hopefully, most of us can easily come up with any number of people, places and things we’re grateful for. Let’s start with the basics – a safe place to live, food and water. Now, a decent paying job is usually part of that. An interesting job, one you like or even love, takes it up a notch. I must say having the good fortune to live in beautiful New Hampshire is better than basic. Even when I am harried and rushed, the lake and surrounding hills bring me peace and fill me with happiness.

While they can drive us absolutely, positively crazy, most of us are grateful for our families. I suppose that, if all else fails, they are fodder for a great story or two or more (probably lots more.) Still and all, I don’t think I could do without mine. Same goes for friends. From a fun-filled day to a shoulder to cry on or a new perspective on an old problem, what would we do without our friends. Whether the circle is huge or just a few close besties, we are grateful for each and every one.

When it comes to people and gratitude, I hope that you are grateful for you. Don’t be shy, it’s okay to appreciate, to value and to give thanks to the wonderful person you are. Perhaps you make the world’s best cup of coffee, are a fantastic listener or can touch your nose with your tongue, any and all of that are worthy of thanks and gratitude. Let’s hope your boss agrees!

Feeling grateful for warmer and longer days – bon appétit!

Rhubarb Tartlets
I’m grateful that local rhubarb is ready for harvest. Enjoy!
Makes about 30 tartlets

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed and chopped very fine
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the sugar, corn starch and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb, orange zest and Grand Marnier and toss to combine.

Spoon the filling into the tartlet shells, sprinkle the tops with Crunchy Topping and bake until the crusts are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets from the tins. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2-4 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls (about 1/2 ounce each). Place the balls in mini muffin tins and, using your fingers, shape each into a tartlet shell. Freeze the shells for at least 15 minutes.

Crunchy Topping
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Combine the flour, nuts, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand and starts to clump together.

Store extra topping in the refrigerator and sprinkle on your next fruit crisp or crumble.

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

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

What are you grateful for? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

Graduating Advice & Strawberries in Cointreau

It’s graduation season. Politicians, celebrities and the wisest among us take to podiums and blather on about one thing or another. In most cases, they offer some kind of advice. These important people extol the virtues of goal setting and hard work. They like to use phrases like dream big, dare to fail and never give up. They hope to inspire the next generation to climb mountains, reach for the stars and seek the truth … or some such thing.

My advice is simpler, much simpler. Learn to cook. In an age of fast food and microwave dinners, it’s tempting to give the kitchen a pass. Don’t. Cooking is both creative and calming. As you gain knowledge and confidence, you will delight in combining ingredients in new and different ways. Plus, the rhythmic stirring and chopping will calm you after a busy day. Knowing how to cook will feed your stomach and your soul. (It will also help you save money to pay off those student loans.)

When I look at life and work, cooking stands out for one particular reason. It can bring almost instant gratification. For so much of what we do, progress is not measured in hours but in weeks, months or years. A book can take years to write, rewrite and write again. A teacher will work for months hoping for a breakthrough with reluctant students. Complicated business projects take weeks or months to complete. As for raising kids, tending a garden, building and maintain strong and happy relationships – these are never-ending works in progress.

But cooking – even Thanksgiving, the biggest of all holiday feasts is prepped, cooked and served in a couple of days. With a little planning, a weekend dinner party can be tossed together in an afternoon and an any-day-of-the-week meal is done in an hour. As for the reward – you will taste it immediately. Better yet, you will see it in the smiles and hear it in the animated chatter and laughter around the table. A good meal with people you love will make your heart sing.

Which brings me to my next point – invite friends and family to eat with you. Food is more than sustenance; eating is a communal rite. A meal is meant to be shared. Food tastes better when served with a side of stimulating conversation, harmless banter and silly jokes.

Perhaps a dinner party, even the idea, scares the bejeebers out of you. Don’t let it. In the words of Julia Child, “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize,” So what if the soup is a little spicy or the dog steals the turkey? If anyone remembers, it will be another great story to tell and retell. Sure, you’ll look back at some of your mishaps with a grimace but, more important, you’ll also look back with a giggle.

To close, I have two utterly practical suggestions. First, get a big bowl. Only the most timid of cooks can make do with one of those nesting sets of three. You won’t use that giant bowl every day but you’ll be happy to have it. I have a couple, a big one at eight quarts and a really big one at fourteen. Cooking requires a lot of tossing and mixing – give yourself plenty of room to do it with gusto.

Second, start every party with an empty dishwasher. Like it or not, even the loveliest of evenings do come to an end. Eventually, you must clear the table. Cleanup is faster and easier if you can immediately stack all those dishes in the dishwasher. Oh, and yes, I know many first (even second) apartments don’t have dishwashers. This rule also applies to the sink. It should be empty of dirty dishes when your guests arrive.

Have a wonderful life filled with happy friends around table. Bon appétit!

Strawberries in Cointreau
Sometimes the simplest of desserts can be the most delicious – especially when local strawberries are coming into season. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered or halved, depending on size
About 2 ounces Cointreau
Zest of 1 orange
Brown sugar to taste
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Place the strawberries in a bowl large enough for tossing. Drizzle with Cointreau, sprinkle with orange zest and gently toss. If necessary, add a little brown sugar and toss again.

Let the strawberries sit for about 10 minutes while you put the dinner dishes in the sink to soak or fill the dishwasher.

Toss again and serve the strawberries with a spoonful of whipped cream or ice cream.

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One Year Ago – Southwest Turkey Burgers
Two Years Ago – Cherry Cobbler
Three Years Ago – Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction
Four Years Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Five Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Six Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Seven Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Eight Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Nine Years Ago – Asian Slaw

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

What advice would you give to this year’s new graduates? Feel free to share!

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

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