Autumn – A Season of Renewal & Resolutions & Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes & Feta

This past Saturday marked the autumnal equinox. If you’ve forgotten what that means, well, day and night are each about twelve hours long. For the next few months, with each passing day, the sun will be a little slower to rise and quicker to set. Don’t let the end of summer get you all mopey. The fall is beyond beautiful in New Hampshire.

Most mornings, an enigmatic mist shrouds the lake. On their way south for the winter, geese squawk overhead. The highways and byways become increasingly colorful. Most days, you’ll want to grab a sweater before heading out the door but you can usually shed it by lunch. Speaking of lunch (as well as breakfast, dinner, coffee, cocktails and a snack), pumpkin spice is suddenly in everything from coffee to martinis as well as cheerios, muffins and barbecue sauce. I like pumpkin and I like spice but I think the world has gone a little nuts with this pumpkin spice business.

Anyway, it’s autumn in New England and my favorite time of year. With beautiful weather and foliage, you can’t help but feel good about life. Why not funnel that goodwill into taking another crack at some still unmet challenge? After all, bitterly cold January is hardly a good time to resolve anything. Spring might work but it’s not particularly timely in New England. Then, when it finally comes, it only lasts a few days.

But fall, fall is good. It could be years since you went back-to-school but you still know the joy of new shoes and a fresh start.

What will your fresh start look like? What will you do this fall to renew yourself? You don’t need a total reinvention. How about you work on three things? For instance – try something new that will bring you joy. Next, develop a new habit that will give you peace. Finally, do some good.

Find joy. Besides shoes, where will you find joy this fall? It could be as simple as finally painting the living room that new color. I’m a strong believer in the power of small things. I have made more than a couple big, audacious changes in my life. Most of them worked out very well. More often than not, these life changes were preceded by a considerably smaller step or two.

Discover peace. It could be yoga or meditation or weed wacking the garden – find what brings you peace. You’ll know it when you find it. As if by magic, your overactive brain will relax and you’ll gain new perspective. We are so proud of our ability to multitask that our senses are constantly in overdrive and under attack. Whether it is once a day or once a week, give yourself a break. For one hour, do something that puts your mind at rest and revitalizes you.

Do good. The world can be a harsh place. You can make it better by practicing small acts of kindness. Sure, a huge foundation to end illiteracy or world hunger would be wonderful but small is also good. Rake leaves for a neighbor, hold the door for a stranger and smile. Little things will make the day brighter. A few years ago, someone distributed at least a couple dozen mini pumpkins up and down my street. Perched on stone walls and fence posts, they cheerfully decorated the neighborhood. Those little pumpkins didn’t cure cancer but they made a lot of people smile.

Here’s to a joyful, peaceful and kinder fall. Bon appétit!

Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes & Feta
It’s much too early to put the grill away. Pasta with grilled vegetables and fresh herbs from the garden is a wonderful dish to help you transition into fall. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 red onion, cut in thin wedges
Olive oil
About 1 pound cherry tomatoes
4-6 zucchini (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 pound short pasta – try rigatoni, fusilli, cavatappi or fiorelli
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano

Put the garlic and vinegar in a bowl, season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the onion in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the onion in a grill basket and, stirring from time to time, grill until tender-crisp and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Remove the onion from the grill, add it to the garlic and toss to combine.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the tomatoes in a grill basket and, stirring from time to time, grill until lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the onion and garlic and toss to combine.

Brush the zucchini halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender. Remove the zucchinis from the grill, chop into bite-size pieces, add them to the other veggies and toss to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions less one minute. Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the vegetables and 1/4-1/2 cup pasta water and toss to combine. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with feta and herbs, toss to combine and serve.

Serve as a main course or side dish with grilled chicken or fish.

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One Year Ago – Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Crema
Two Years Ago – Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Four Years Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Seven Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Nine Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Ten Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

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

Do you have any fall fresh start resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

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Another Labor Day Weekend Special

And just like that … it’s Labor Day Weekend. The time certainly passed at warp speed. It will be a busy weekend – with last minute hikes and bike rides as well as end of summer chores.

Make sure you save some time for a cookout with friends and family. If you aren’t sure what to throw on the grill this year … I’ve got a few suggestions for a delicious cookout.

Start the evening with appetizers loaded with fresh from farm produce. You will love the simplicity of my Fresh Tomato Crostini. Chip and salsa lovers with flip for my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa.

For fabulous summer salad, try my Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta. Fresh, local green beans are a treat you will miss all winter long.

Now for the main course. How about my Citrus & Spice Grilled Chicken? It is delicious. If your cookout is at home on the deck, add a spoonful of my Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn. If you’re picnic-ing in the park or on a beach go with my Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts.

For dessert, local blueberries are calling. Try my Almost Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake. If you like, add a few candles and raise your glass to toast … what would be my mom’s eighty-ninth birthday.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend. Bon appétit!

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

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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

The Final Days of Summer & Citrus & Spice Grilled Chicken

I’m one of those people. Sound intriguing – sorry, it’s not. I’m the kind of person who arrives at the supermarket at the exact same time as the rest of humanity. The parking lot is always full. It’s not just that the aisles are crowded with shoppers and their carts. No, that would be too easy. During my shopping excursions, traffic is further stalled by employees frantically restocking shelves. It doesn’t end there. No, the checkouts lines are always miles long.

Imagine my surprise last Thursday morning. First, I found a parking space close to the store. Next, the aisles were smooth sailing. Finally, each checkout line had one, maybe two people in it and no one’s cart was filled to overflowing. I was in and out in minutes. That’s when I realized, the summer people or at least a good many of them have up and left. It was a sign.

I headed to the farmstand, again, no lines. As I drove home, I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of the first red leaves. I reassured myself that a few trees always turn early. As I unpacked my groceries, I planned a pleasant evening on the porch. Fast forward several hours, with silverware in hand and ready to set the table, I realized with dismay that it was too chilly to eat outside.

The signs continue to pile up. The dawn’s early light is getting later and later while sunset comes too soon. I suddenly find I need a long sleeve shirt on my early morning walk. Like it or not, summer is singing its last swan song.

As for the summer people, even with shorter days and cooler mornings, I’m sure most of them would rather be here than wherever they are. Who wouldn’t – but I guess they don’t have a choice. After weeks of silence, school bells are starting to ring. The first yellow buses have been spotted. Practice fields are filling up in the afternoon.

With the days flying by, it’s time for one last celebration of summer. Back-to-school shopping can wait. You know everything will be on sale Columbus Day weekend, right? For now, I can’t think of anything better than playing and relaxing outside. To help you get started, here’s more than a day’s worth of ideas –

How about you …

… start the morning with yoga and a sun salutation.
… visit a farmers market.
… pick blueberries.
… take a hike.
… go on a long bike ride.
… sit on a beach.
… read a book.
… swim.
… waterski.
… paddle a SUP or sail a boat.
… sit some more, wait until dark and skinny dip.
… cook dinner over a campfire.
… make s’mores
… raise your glass and toast the moon.
… sleep under the stars.

Happy Labor Day and bon appétit!

Citrus & Spice Grilled Chicken
Take your grilled chicken to the next level with citrus, spice and fresh herbs. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
1-2 tablespoons or to taste harissa or sriracha
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lime
About 2 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
Garnish: Citrus Salsa Verde

Put the garlic, onion, harissa, cumin, cinnamon and cloves in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil and pulse until the garlic and onion are finely chopped. Add the orange and lime zests and juices and process until smooth.

Slather both sides of the chicken with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and several hours if you can.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Place the chicken on the grill and cook about 5 minutes per side or until nicely browned and cooked through.

Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes and serve with a generous drizzle of Citrus Salsa Verde.

Citrus Salsa Verde
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2-1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Put the garlic and jalapeno in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil and pulse until finely chopped.

Add the cilantro, mint, orange and lime zest and juice and process until smooth.

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One Year Ago – Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn
Two Years Ago – Fresh Corn with Sriracha Aioli
Three Years Ago – Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado
Four Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Orange Tart
Six Years Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Eight Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Ten Years Ago – Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

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

What’s on your final days of summer bucket list? Feel free to share!

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

Burger Time – Summer Weekend Special

Summertime is burger time. If you don’t have any special plans this weekend, why not roll out the grill and flip some burgers? Backyard or beach, gather friends and family together, I can’t think of anything better with this beautiful weather. Here are a few suggestions …

Keep the appetizers easy with chips or veggies and dips. The first corn is at the farmstand. It’s not NH native but it’s still pretty good. Toss a few charred kernels into my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa and dig in. Alternatively, you might enjoy fresh veggies and chips with Baba Ganoush.

For the main course … bring on the burgers. Beef eaters will love my Not Your Ordinary Burger with goat cheese and sundried tomato aioli. If you like a little spice with your burger, add a slice of cheddar and a dollop of my Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup. If you prefer a delicious turkey burger then give my Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli or Southwest Turkey Burgers with Cheddar & Chipotle Aioli or my Turkey Burgers with Greek Salsa.

Don’t forget the salads. To stay with the grilling theme, treat yourself and your friends to my Grilled Romaine Salad or Grilled Zucchini Salad. You might also like to add a platter of Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction. It wouldn’t be a summer cookout without potato salad. Try my Grilled Potato Salad or Dijon Potato Salad.

Brownies are the perfect cookout dessert. I have two great suggestions for you – Triple Threat Brownies or Cheesecake Browines. Want more? Well, then, bring on the s’mores.

Have a wonderful weekend. Bon appétit!

p.s. It’s too late for this weekend but don’t forget to put up some pickles. If you mix up a batch of my Spicy Refrigerator Pickles this weekend, they’ll be ready for your next cookout.

p.p.s. It’s too early for local green beans in New Hampshire but they’ll be here soon. Be sure to put up a few jars of my favorite Dilly Beans.

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

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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Back on Cook’s Corner – Grilled Shrimp Tacos

width=It’s summertime and the grilling is easy. I’m back on Cook’s Corner to demonstrate one of my favorite summer dishes.

You’ll fall in love with my Grilled Shrimp Tacos. With fresh tomatoes, charred corn and a fabulous salsa verde, they take Taco Tuesday to a whole new level. These tacos are fresh and light – the perfect dinner on a hot summer night.

Jump In – The Water’s Fine Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli

I am nothing if not lucky. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, I’m absolutely, utterly and totally lucky. Growing up, my sister, brother and I had all sorts of wonderful opportunities. In the summer, we spent two weeks impatiently waiting for a ride to the town beach, two weeks at camp and a month on the Cape. Between the town beach and camp, we learned to swim. While they are now long gone, at least for a while, Mom had the certificates to prove it.

Whether at camp or the town beach, swimming lessons were serious business. For one thing, our instructors wore uniforms – red Speedos with a special lifeguard patch. Regardless of the weather, classes were held first thing in the morning. In addition to the red Speedos, these tyrants sported a whistle and did not hesitate to blow it. Every morning, they’d bark orders and toot the whistle as they put us through our drills: crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and sidestroke.

All those swimming lessons were endured for one reason and one reason only – to pass the raft test. Without a doubt, passing the raft test was an important rite of passage. By important, I mean it was right up there with birth, death and marriage. Although, at seven or eight, I’m not sure we paid much attention to these milestones. In any case, swimming to the raft was certainly more important than a first haircut or high school diploma. Swimming to the raft meant that you were one of the big kids.

The town beach had two rafts. Both required a swimming test. The first was more than difficult. The second was almost beyond endurance. However, it was worth the struggle. As we all know, there is not a little kid alive who doesn’t vie for the privileges of older siblings and neighbors. In the scheme of life, earning a driver’s license is perhaps the only challenge on par with (and possibly more significant than) passing the raft test. That said; a three-point turn on a hill is nothing compared to the hundreds of laps required to exit the baby area and join the big kids on that elusive raft. Okay, so maybe it was only eight or twelve laps but it seemed like hundreds.

For a long time, I thought everyone knew how to swim. When you grow up in New England, in spite of our short summers, swimming is part of life. From the ice-cold ocean to a somewhat tepid pond, opportunities abound. As added insurance, our school district mandated swimming lessons for all sixth graders. Once a week, we hopped on a bus and headed to a pool for swimming lessons. No kid was going slip through the cracks.

Eventually, life took me outside of my familiar New England boundaries. On my quest for adventure, my horizons expanded and I met all sorts of wonderful people. Imagine my surprise to learn that a good many of them could barely swim a stroke. Meeting these non-swimmers reminded me of the charmed existence I lived as a child.

When you’re young, swimming is all about the joy of diving under the lines that keep your little brother and his friends safe in shallow water. It’s the wonderful sense of freedom from swimming away from the crowded beach. It’s the feeling of strength and accomplishment as you climb out of the cool lake and on the raft. It’s the fun and silliness when that cute boy throws you back in.

News stories of a dozen young boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave is a powerful reminder of my fabulously lucky life. So, to those Speedo-clad tyrants, their whistles and drills, I say thank you. My crawl may be weak but I can do a decent breaststroke for about a mile, maybe more.

Enjoy the water, stay safe and have a wonderful summer. Bon appétit!

Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
A taste of Provençal sunshine – hot off the grill. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 – 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces goat cheese, sliced
8 burger buns

Make the Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium hot.

Divide the turkey into 8 pieces and gently pat into patties, brush both sides with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the turkey burgers on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue grilling for 2 minutes. Top each burger with sliced goat cheese and grill for 1 minute more.

Place the buns on the grill, turning once, and toast for 1 minute or less. Pop each turkey burger onto a bun, add a dollop of Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli and serve.

Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
Makes about 1 cup

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup prepared mayonnaise
1/3 cup tapenade (recipe follows)

Put the garlic, rosemary and lemon juice into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped and combined. Add the mayonnaise and tapenade and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tapenade
Makes about 1 cup

Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or to taste
About 8 ounces dry pack, oil cured black olives, pitted

Throw everything except the olives into the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until well chopped and combined. About a quarter at a time, add the olives and process until smooth. You may need to add a little more olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Blueberry Bread Pudding
Two Years Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Four Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Five Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Sic Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Seven Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Nine Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What’s your summer beach story? Feel free to share!

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

Another Hip Hip Hooray Holiday Weekend Special

As I mentioned last week, a midweek holiday can be a bit awkward. Do the celebrations start the weekend before the Fourth of July? Or do you start on the Fourth and keep celebrating through the weekend? The best solution is to take the entire week and do it proud.

With all this warm weather, a picnic or cookout is a happy holiday must. Need some help with your menu? Not to worry, I have a few suggestions …

For a light and bright appetizer, your friends will love my Rosemary Cashews and
Tapenade with crispy slices of cucumber and red bell pepper.

Now, gather around the picnic table and enjoy my Vietnamese Salad. Next, try my Grilled Shrimp (this time without the peanut sauce) and Szechuan Noodle Salad.

As long as the local strawberries are in season, you’ll want to head to the PYO for dessert. What could be more festive than a Berry Flag Cake or Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool. Parfaits.

Have a wonderful summer and holiday. Bon appétit!

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

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

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018