The Cruelest Month & Pasta Primavera

In northern New England, April is truly the cruelest month. It is not, to steal from T.S. Eliot, because the month breeds lilacs and stirs dull roots with spring rain. It is because it doesn’t. April is cruel because the chairlift grinds to a final halt, dirty snow lines the highways and byways and cold rain stirs up sand and mud.

Throughout the northern hemisphere, spring has sprung but not in New Hampshire. Here mud season has arrived with a resounding splat. I suppose I could, I should, embrace mud season. After all, April is also tax season. With all that muck, there is nothing to distract me from the mire of all those tax forms.

Hopefully, your situation is not so complex that you will have your nose in your taxes for the next two weeks. April and all its muddy grayness, shouts for an audacious revolt. And by the way, if your taxes are really that complex, it’s time to call in a professional.

So, how audacious is audacious and what kind of mutiny? If you have enough pennies in your bank, the easiest answer is to pack your bag and go somewhere warm. A trip to Florida would probably count as mutinous but hardly daring. A trip to Morocco could be both and at the very least, very interesting. On the other hand, a trip to Finland wouldn’t solve anything.

However, if you are stuck in the New Hampshire drizzle, April is not without hope. Forget your inclination to hibernate. Or if you do stay in, invite a crowd to join you. I imagine that back in the eighties, Martha Stewart encouraged her fans to chase away the mud season blues with a spectacular party.

Martha would cook a wonderful three, make that five, course dinner. The care and details of her table setting would rival a Buckingham Palace butler. Flowers would fill every room of her grand Connecticut farmhouse. She would dress herself in a fabulous little black dress and then-husband Andrew in an impeccable tuxedo. Champagne would flow. Serious talk and laughter would find the right balance for a stimulating and fun evening.

So you see, April doesn’t have to be the cruelest month. Sure it can be soggy; it can make you groggy and more than a little bit cranky. It doesn’t have to. Gray days and drizzly nights can turn you into a hermit. Don’t let them. Brightly colored rain boots are all the rage with the shop-til-you-drop crowd. Treat yourself; they’re cheaper than a trip to Cabo San Lucas and you’ll need them to go shopping for that dinner.

Yes, dinner! In the spirit of WWMD (what would Martha do), how about you fight the April blues by hosting a spectacular dinner party? Of course, you’ll want to skip the big hair and black tie. Times have changed and no one wants to worry about fancy shoes during mud season. Think wonderful food in a relaxed atmosphere. Maybe you’ll try one of those more complicated recipes, something awe-inspiring that you’ve been dying to try but avoiding for lack of time and courage. Or maybe not!

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta)
A delightful pasta dish to celebrate spring in relaxed twenty-first century style. Enjoy!
Serves 8 for dinner and twice that as an appetizer

 

1-1 1/2 pounds linguine
Olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2-1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into match sticks
1/4-1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook the linguine according to package directions, less 1 minute. Prepare the vegetables while the water heats and the pasta cooks.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil and the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and 1/2 of the lemon juice and continue to cook until almost dry.

 

Add the bell pepper and asparagus to the pan, season with salt and pepper and toss and cook for 2 minutes. Return the mushrooms to the pan and toss to combine.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, snow peas, lemon zest, remaining lemon juice and a little pasta water to the skillet and toss to combine. Cover and cook on low for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil, parsley and scallions and toss to combine.

Transfer the pasta to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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One Year Ago – Coq au Vin au Printemps
Two Years Ago – Moroccan Baked Cod
Three Years Ago – Artichoke Pesto
Four Years Ago – Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Five Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Six Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Seven Years Ago – Tapenade
Eight Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Nine Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? 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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Is it spring yet? & Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara

Is it spring yet? As a matter of fact, it is. Don’t believe me? Check your calendar, March 20 is the vernal equinox. I’m sure you figured it out long ago but vernal is just a fancy name for spring; like autumn is for fall. Anyway, the equinox is when the sun is directly over the equator. It happens twice a year, on the first day of spring and the first day of fall. On these two days, daytime and nighttime are each twelve hours long. Well, approximately and somewhere but not here. My sunrise/sunset guide tells me we’ll have twelve hours and eleven minutes of sunshine today. Think of it as a reward for living in northern New England.

Anyway, I’ve started to notice something in recent weeks. While not everyone agrees, there seems to be two types of people who, by chance or design, spend the winter in New Hampshire.

The first group absolutely, positively loves it here. They live to ski, snowshoe and ice skate. These intrepid chionophiles throw caution to the wind and head to the slopes in the middle of a nor’easter. If there is fresh powdah, they are fearless when it comes to slippery highways and byways.

While some might think them brazen or reckless, they can’t contain themselves. There they go, posting selfies on the first chairlift. Do they realize it’s a Thursday? I guess they must. Otherwise, why shout to the world; make that flout that they are working out of the Danbury (or Sunapee) office. (And by the way boys and girls, the world includes that green-eyed tattletale of a colleague and your boss.) In any case, their joy is infectious and their smiles wonders to behold.

The second group stays away from gleeful selfies in the snow. They post pictures of beaches with blue skies and bluer water. Wistful captions read, “Wish I was here!” Sometimes, in a total funk, they share the view from their kitchen windows – a photograph of the fifteen-foot snow bank at the end of the driveway or a video of Sisyphus shoveling the deck. Oh wait, that’s not Sisyphus. That’s their fourteen year old.

Instead of shouting or flouting, they rail and rant, pout and sulk. One minute they are howling, “ENOUGH” and ordering the snow gods back to Siberia. Then, only minutes later, fearing reprisal, they try a new tact and beseech Mother Nature, Jack Frost and Old Man Winter to have pity. Throughout the winter, they ask time and time again, “Why do I live here?”

A few days ago, I shared my Two Types Theory with a couple of friends. They protested and disagreed. Although neither are skiers, both professed to loving New Hampshire in winter. They have no desire to take flight with the snowbirds. A six-month stint in Florida is not on their winter wish list. However, … there’s always a but in there isn’t there … they suggested that a shorter winter without those awful subzero temperatures in January would be nice.

So, here is where I am betwixt and between. I agree that we could all do without the polar vortex or arctic cyclone or whatever you want to call the beastly cold that comes down from Canada. I’m more than delighted with sunny days that make it feel warmer than the thermometer’s readout. However, … here’s my predictable but … I’d be happy if the ski season went until the first of May. There is nothing better than spring skiing when the days are long and the sun is shining.

See you on the slopes and après ski! Bon appétit!

Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara
The calendar says it’s spring but the thermometer and snow in the yard tell a different story. There is still plenty of time to gather friends and family for cozy comfort food. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12

2-3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
4 medium eggplants (about 4 pounds), trimmed and cut in rounds
Olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
About 4 ounces fontina, shredded
About 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
About 1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated
24 ounces spaghetti
Additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the spaghetti 

Make the Marinara Sauce (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant with thyme, season with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant and continue baking until tender and browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the eggplant bakes, put the cheeses in a bowl, toss to combine and set aside.

Top each round of eggplant with a generous tablespoonful or 2 or 3 Marinara Sauce and sprinkle with the cheeses.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake the eggplant at 375 degrees until the cheeses are bubbling and golden, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot with enough Marinara Sauce to coat. Don’t drown the pasta in sauce. Cover the pot and let the spaghetti sit for about 1 minute to absorb some of the sauce.

Divide the spaghetti among shallow bowls, top each with 2-3 slices of eggplant and serve. Pass additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the pasta.

Traditional Marinara Sauce
Makes about 3 quarts*

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or to taste dried chili pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
9-10 cups (three 28-ounce cans) crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons each chopped, fresh basil and parsley

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and parsley and simmer for a minute or two more.

* You’ll want to make plenty of sauce. It freezes beautifully and can always come in handy.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Three Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Four Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Five Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Six Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Seven Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

In Defense of the Closed Kitchen & Fettucine with Mushrooms & Kale

I probably should have written this one last summer. That’s when the walls in my 1970’s closed kitchen did NOT come down. Anyone who watches HGTV (and who doesn’t?) knows that an open floor plan and open kitchen are all the rage. Combining the kitchen, living and dining rooms into one large space brings families together. Starting with the post-war housing boom, open concept design picked up momentum and continues to grow.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been plenty of holdouts. My house near Pleasant Lake is one of them. Built in 1973, it’s was a lot like my mother’s closed kitchen on Trinity Court. Although wider than most, both are essentially galley kitchens with a small eating area. Well, mine was and still is. Mom’s kitchen, along with the rest of house, has been torn down and replaced with a McMansion.

With the old cabinets heading to the dumpster and the walls about to go down to the studs, I received plenty of advice. Much of it entailed taking down the wall between the kitchen and the dining and living room. It was time to break down the barriers and enjoy the free flow of open concept living.

I don’t think so.

I listened and smiled politely. This long and relatively narrow space, takes up about half the front of the house. It was enough of a bowling alley already. I felt no needed to extend it. Besides, call me old-fashioned, a nineteenth century holdout but I like a closed kitchen.

I discovered this personal peculiarity years ago when I rented an apartment on a rose farm. Yes, I lived on a rosary. Anyway, my apartment was a three-story corner of an old barn. It had a wonderful farmhouse kitchen. Okay, it was a little dark but the work area was roomy and there was plenty of space for a large table. Signing the lease, I imagined it would be the perfect backdrop for Thanksgiving dinner.

It was fine for small dinner parties but Thanksgiving – no thanks. Any big, complicated meal generates a lot of mess. From my seat at the table, I could see dirty dishes piled high in the sink. A clutter of pots and pans plus the turkey carcass adorned the kitchen counter. Maybe no one else noticed but I did. How could I relax and enjoy my guests with pandemonium reigning in the background? Once was enough, that was my first and only open kitchen.

Post renovation, my shiny new, red kitchen breaks down into four sections. From either side, you enter through a hallway. At one end, a pantry and a powder/laundry room flank the hall. At the other end, there is another pantry (you can’t have too much storage) and a small mudroom. As long as we all like each other, the work area is big enough to accommodate two sous-chefs and me. Since everyone likes to be in the kitchen, I have a small eating area. A handful of friends can watch the cooks while they sip, nibble and enjoy lively conversation.

However, when everything is going wrong or dinner is taking longer than planned, it’s really nice to know I can steer everyone (except maybe the sous-chefs) into the living room. Like Julia, there are times when I need the comfort of knowing, “You’re alone in the kitchen.” Even better is enjoying dinner without a pile of dirty dishes in the background.

Open or closed, I wish you happy cooking in your kitchen and bon appétit!

Fettucine with Mushrooms & Kale
I’ve been going a little nuts with pasta this winter. As long as you have the space, you can make this quick and easy dish with a handful of people looking on and chatting. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
12-16 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch (or to taste) chili flakes and/or smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 onion, cut in thin wedges
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, trimmed and cut in bitesize pieces
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
16-20 ounces fettucine
1 pound baby kale
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for serving

Put a large pot of salted water on to a boil. Cook the fettucine according to package directions less 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the bacon and stirring occasionally, cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the onion, sprinkle with thyme, chili flakes and smoked paprika, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.

Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

Add the chicken broth and wine and cook until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and cognac.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the fettucine. Return the fettucine to the pot, add the mushroom mixture and kale and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add some pasta water. Cover and cook on low for 1-2 minute. Sprinkle with about 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss to combine. Cover and cook 1 more minute.

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve. Pass more grated parm for the cheese lovers.

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

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

Open or closed? What is your idea of the perfect kitchen? Feel free to share!

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

Hindsight & Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon

Banal as they may be, we use them all the time. Actions speak louder than words.You can’t judge a book by its cover. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Then there is my mother’s favorite – What goes around comes around. So why do we use these clichés? Is it possible that we’re not clever enough or eloquent enough to share our thoughts in a more original way? Or perhaps we can’t be bothered. Oh no, that can’t be true. Alright, let’s be generous. We all have a lot on our minds. These platitudes are a quick and easy way to send our message.

Now just to be contrarian, I’m going to argue with one of these platitudes. Whoever said hindsight is twenty-twenty didn’t grow up skiing in New Hampshire. The line could be defined as oops-I-got-that-one-wrong or oops-I-guess-I-should-have-done-more-research. It’s what you might say when you discover the property you bought online is not beachfront but – uh oh, is that an alligator? – a swamp. When it comes to childhood memories and February ski vacations, hindsight is definitely not twenty-twenty. In fact, I suspect that hindsight is blind or, at the very least, wears rose-colored glasses.

I don’t know about you but all my childhood winter vacations were good. Once Mom and Dad built the little weekend and vacation house near Pleasant Lake, they were perfect. If anything, February was better than Christmas week. The start of the ski season could be a little iffy but by mid-February, snow was plentiful. The sun shone every day and there were never any lift lines. Okay, maybe that last one is wishful thinking … if not an outright lie.

Anyway, year in and year out, February vacation was nothing short of wonderful. One year, it was even stupendous. Thanks to a couple of well-placed nor’easters, the break expanded. Instead of a much too short one-week vacation, we enjoyed three glorious weeks in the snow.

The trouble (although I’d hardly call it that) began five or six days before winter vacation was due to start. Gentle but persistent snow began falling Saturday night and continued through Sunday. To play it safe, we stayed put in New Hampshire. By Monday morning, more than a foot of snow had fallen. All of New Hampshire’s roads were clear by noon. Across the border, snow and abandoned cars clogged the roads for days. We weren’t snowed in New Hampshire but snowed out of Massachusetts.

Throughout the Commonwealth, schools and businesses were closed. It took at least three, maybe four days to dig out. By the time traffic was flowing, February vacation was more or less upon us. (I think we might have played hooky on the Friday. Hey, there was no need to drive all that way for one measly day of school.)

The vacation week was delightfully snowy but uneventful. There were no major storms or upsets, just sunshine and plenty of skiing. Then as if by a miracle, it started to snow early Sunday afternoon and showed no signs of slowing down. Using the recent debacle on Massachusetts highways as justification, we stayed safe and warm in our little house in the New Hampshire woods … and then spent another week on the slopes.

There is nothing like a Sunday nor’easter to make a skier smile. Bon appétit!

Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon
A cozy après ski dish. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
8 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 large cauliflower, cut in bite-sized florets
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch (or to taste) chili flakes and/or smoked paprika
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
16 ounces Orecchiette
Grated pecorino Romano cheese
Fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a large, heavy skillet with olive oil and heat on medium. Add the bacon and sauté until brown and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve.

Put the cauliflower in a large roasting pan, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and 3/4 of the bacon fat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the cauliflower at 375 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the onion in the remaining bacon fat on medium until translucent. Add the garlic, sprinkle with the chili flakes and/or paprika and remaining thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the broth and wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and bacon to the skillet, toss to combine and set aside.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, less 1 minute. Saving 1 cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, add it to the vegetables and bacon and toss to combine.

If the pasta seems dry, add more or less pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer on low for 1 minute. (If you add too much water and the pasta is soupy, don’t worry. Uncover, raise the heat to high and simmer for 1 minute.)

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with pecorino Romano and chopped parsley. Pass more grated pecorino Romano for the cheese lovers.

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One Year Ago – Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
Two Years Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Three Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Four Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Five Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Six Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Seven Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Eight Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Nine Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

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

What is your favorite winter Olympic event? Feel free to share!

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

It’s Another Patriots Super Bowl Weekend Special

New Englanders are beside themselves with excitement. Tom Brady and the boys are in Minneapolis for Super Bowl 52! They’re going for number six … that’s six Super Bowl wins. It’s party time throughout the region. Football fans will be watching (and eating) in fancy screening rooms and ordinary family rooms. Man caves will be packed and, invited or not, women will be there in their number twelve jerseys.

Now for the spread … how about Italian? … because – who doesn’t love an Italian feast. Here are a few ideas for a delicious spread:

Let’s start with beautiful antipasto platters. To start, arrange some of your favorite cheeses, sliced sausages and prosciutto on a platter, add some fruit and a few nuts. Next, roast some of your favorite veggies. Think Cauliflower, Beets and Butternut Squash as well as Mushrooms, Leeks, Shallots & Pearl Onions. If you like, add a small pitcher of Balsamic Reduction Finally, fill a basket with artisanal crackers, toasted baguette slices and a few breadsticks and invite your friends to make their own crostini.

Enjoy your favorite pasta at halftime. Now you can keep it simple and toss up a big batch of Penne alla Vodka. (Hint: make the sauce in advance.) Or take the make ahead route with Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake or everyone’s favorite Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach. Serve the pasta with a colorful Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad.

For dessert? How about a cupcake? Of course you’ll want to bake one with a white frosting … so you can add a few drops of food color to celebrate your favorite team. You might like my Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting. Not enough chocolate? Well, then give my Double Trouble Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes a try. Too much, then maybe you’d like my favorite Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Touch down and bon appétit!

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

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

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

The Super Bowl LII logo is a trademark of the National Football League.  

Winter Carnival & Penne alla Vodka

It’s that time of year again. We hold our breath and do our sun dance. Okay, we do that more or less every day but this time with a purpose. It’s Winter Carnival in small towns and at colleges throughout the northeast. Midwinter festivities aren’t just popular here; you’ll find them around the world. Mardi Gras, Karneval, Fasnacht and Carnaval are celebrated right before Lent. Perhaps our wintery celebrations are somehow connected. Then again, maybe these northeast revelries are nothing more than an excuse to ski, skate and drink too much beer.

About the beer, Winter Carnival makes me think of my college days. That said, I’m not altogether certain we had one at St. Lawrence. Way up there just a few miles from the Canadian border, it makes sense that we did. Then again, I might have only seen Winter Carnival in a movie. I can just picture it – watching the movie that is. I’m probably thirteen or fourteen. Outside it should be snowing, but instead, it’s raining or twenty below zero. Inside, I’m cuddled up on the sofa in front of an ancient black and white film. Attractive boys in letter sweaters run around in the snow and flirt with pretty girls. At some point someone shouts, “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” or “let’s build an ice sculpture” or “climb Moose Mountain” or something like that.

There actually is a movie called Winter Carnival. It takes place up the road in Hanover at Dartmouth College. It seems that F. Scott Fitzgerald was involved but his name does not appear in the credits. Legend has it that F. Scott was falling down drunk before filming even began. Irritated, the producer kicked the Princeton dropout out of Hanover. Or maybe it was the police. When I was at St. Lawrence, I wrote a paper on Zelda Fitzgerald. From the little I remember of my research, F. Scott on a bender sounds more than plausible.

Anyway, the movie did get made in 1939. That’s the same year as The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Unlike Scarlett, Rhett, Dorothy and her pals, Winter Carnival was not received with acclaim and wild applause. In the words of critic Leonard Maltin, Winter Carnival was contrived romance. Even Ann Sheridan in the lead couldn’t save it. That’s saying something since she was the girl with the most oomph that same year. Perhaps she forgot the oomph when she packed her bags for Hanover.

After reading the plot synopsis, it’s possible, even likely that I did indeed see the movie. I watched a lot of old movies on rainy afternoons when I was a kid. I also took a film course in college but I don’t think I would have seen it then. The professor mostly stuck with noteworthy films not harmless, easily forgotten froth.

Winter Carnival in our little town is family-friendly. Attractive boys in letter sweaters will not guzzle beer on the town green. A beautiful girl in an evening gown will not be named Queen of the Snows. Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely that our chief of police will kick a once-famous novelist out of town. We’ll have to settle for dog sleds, ice fishing and snowshoeing. And don’t forget dinner on the green, fireworks and s’mores.

Have fun in the snow and bon appétit!

Penne alla Vodka

 

Invented in Rome in the 1960’s, Penne alla Vodka is a delightfully retro dish. It seems like the kind of a recipe that hungry boys in letter sweaters would like. With or without a pack of fraternity boys, it’s perfect for a weekend filled with outdoor activities. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive Oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
Pinch or to taste crushed red pepper (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup) plus more for passing
2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1 pound penne
Fresh chopped basil and/or parsley

Set a large pot of salted water on the heat to boil.

Lightly coat a saucepan with olive oil and heat on medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot, sprinkle with herbs and pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Optional: Let the sauce cool slightly, remove the bay leaf, transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan.

Cook the penne in rapidly boiling water according to package directions less 1 minute.

While the penne cooks, add the vodka to the sauce and continue to simmer on very low. When the pasta is just about ready, whisk the cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter into the sauce. Continue to simmer and whisk until the cheese and butter have melted and the sauce is piping hot.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot, add enough Vodka Sauce to generously coat and toss to combine. Cover and simmer on low for 1 minute.

Transfer the pasta to a large, deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve. Have more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano ready to pass to the cheese lovers.

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One Year Ago – Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore
Two Years Ago – Poverty Casserole
Three Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower
Four Years Ago – Savory Blinis
Five Years Ago – Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
Six Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Seven Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
eight Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
Nine Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta

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

Do you have a winter carnival story? Feel free to share!

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

Columbus Day Weekend Special

For those of you looking forward to a long weekend, enjoy. For the rest of us, well, we can still enjoy some time away from our day jobs. I’ve got a lot of writing to do but hope to spend some time outside too. Although it officially ended on Tuesday, I have an Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday. What about you? What’s up with you this Columbus Day weekend?

Whether you have a long weekend or not, ya gotta eat! Why not invite a few friends over for an Italian feast. (Columbus was from Genoa.) Here are a few suggestions for a delicious, early fall dinner:

Start with a glass of wine and an antipasto platter inspired by the harvest. I noticed beautiful eggplants at the farmstand this week. I think I have a great use for them. Start your antipasto platter with thinly sliced hard sausage, shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, some olives and nuts. Top it off with a bowl of Caponata. Caponata is a wonderful salsa. It is great with fish and just as delicious as an appetizer on an artisanal cracker.

When you sit down to the table, take a tip from the Italians and start the meal with a lovely vegetarian pasta. Again, you’ll want to benefit from the harvest with my Pasta with Pesto, Roasted Grape Tomatoes & Corn . Serve half portions and you’ll have plenty of room for the main course.

Speaking of which, I’d like to suggest my Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc and Roasted Cauliflower or Roasted Parsnips .

For a sweet finish, try my Rustic Apple Tart or the oh so Italian (and delicious) Chocolate Panna Cotta .

Have a great weekend and buon appetito!

p.s. If you think you’d like to go with an Oktoberfest dinner, you can start with my Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard. Then, move on to my Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad (not at all German but tasty.) For the main course, enjoy my Roasted Pork Loin with Apples & Onions with sides of Sauerkraut and Smashed Potatoes. And finally, for dessert, try my Cardamom Plum Tort .

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. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

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