The Long Columbus Day Weekend Special

I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to the long weekend. Oktoberfest ends on Sunday – so you might want to hoist a beer and grill some sausages. Or you might want to create a beautiful Italian feast.

Let’s start with the Italian feast…

Start with a lovely antipasto platter. Before it’s too cold to cook outside, assemble a beautiful platter with your favorite Grilled Vegetables & More. You might want to create a second platter with one of my favorites – Tomato & Burrata Salad.

Now for dinner. We all love pasta, so why not toss up some spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) with Pesto alla Genovese. Complete your main course with a few Garlicky Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives.

Finish the evening with a wonderful chocolaty dessert … something like my Chocolate Walnut Tart.

As for Oktoberfest, I have a few suggestions if you want to take your celebration in a Bavarian direction. Only a few and I’m going to flub a little because I don’t do a lot of German cooking …

Fire up the grill and start the evening with Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard. Alternatively (and stealing a page from Eastern Europe), you might like my Savory Blinis with Smoked Salmon.

Moving to the table, I’ll recommend my Roasted Carrot Salad. Although hardly German, it is delicious.

For the main course, well, I admit it – when I think of Oktoberfest I think of Sausages with Sauerkraut. You’ll want to add some Potato Salad. However, Roasted Pork Loin with Apples & Onions and Smashed Potatoes would be a very nice alternative. Or more Austrian or Eastern European, try my Pork Stew Paprika with buttered noodles.

Now, for dessert, everyone will love my Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Have a great weekend. Bon Appétit – Buon Appetito – Guten appetit!

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

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A Tale of Discovery & Pesto alla Genovese

What’s the deal with Columbus Day anyway? Perhaps they’ve been rewritten but according to my childhood schoolbooks, Christopher Columbus was trying to find a shortcut to India and China when he discovered America in 1492. Admittedly, we’ve all known for years that these stories romanticized his voyage across the Atlantic. It’s hardly been a secret that he was put on a pedestal and made into a hero.

While I like a good hero story as much as the next guy, at some point somewhere in high school, or maybe it was a little later, two little details struck me.

The first and perhaps inconvenient truth is the fact that there were already people here when he arrived. Well, not really here, Columbus didn’t land in New Hampshire. He landed in the Bahamas. To say he discovered the Bahamas is a little bit like telling your friends you discovered Barcelona. Sure, you spent a great semester there junior year. You probably discovered some interesting things about yourself. But Barcelona, no, you didn’t discover Barcelona.

Anyway, while there aren’t too many today, I’m sure there were some never-before-seen, uninhabited spots around the world in 1492. He could have discovered one of them but, as far as I know, he didn’t. After all, Columbus wasn’t trying to discover a new world. Remember, he was attempting to find a shorter route to Asia but he bumped into the Bahamas instead.

The second little detail is that Columbus never set foot in what was to become the United State or even North America. Not only that, Vikings led by Leif Eriksson built a settlement in Newfoundland several centuries before Columbus was born. They stayed for about ten years. Unfortunately, they were terrible neighbors. After constantly fighting with the locals, they headed back to Greenland.

So, given that he found something that wasn’t lost and isn’t even part of what is now known as United States, why do we celebrate Columbus Day? Why did we make him a hero and close schools, banks and the post office? While I’m happy for a day off, it does seem a bit odd. Doubly so since, by most accounts, Columbus was a pretty nasty guy.

Taking another look, it’s pretty clear that Columbus Day’s roots are in ethnic pride. First commemorated in 1792, the celebrations honored Italian American heritage and culture. While President Benjamin Harrison encouraged a day of patriotic recreation in 1892, FDR made Columbus Day a national holiday. A political move, President Roosevelt’s proclamation came after considerable lobbying by his Italian American and Catholic constituents.

Columbus Day came under a cloud thirty, maybe forty, years ago. Long hidden cracks in Columbus’ heroic façade started to appear. The daring explorer from our elementary school lessons is only a part of the story. Columbus might have been brave but he was also greedy and heartless. His cruelty towards the inhabitants of the islands he claimed for Spain is unfathomable. The atrocities he ordered were so brutal that he spent time in prison for them.

Columbus Day weekend might be a good time to make a few discoveries of your own. Nothing as momentous as a continent or even a small island. Instead, discover, observe and consider some of the contradicting complexities of life. The good, the bad and the ugly mix and mingle in astonishing ways. Open yourself and your mind to understanding some of these conflicting points of view.

What will you discover this fall? A hard truth, a new talent or an old friend? Bon appétit!

Pesto alla Genovese
My version of the Italian classic is both a handy and favorite staple. Perfect for last minute suppers, if you can’t find a jar in my refrigerator, there is always some in the freezer. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 cups

8 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)*
1/2 cup plus more for serving freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup plus more for serving freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Put half of the basil, the pine nuts, garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse to chop and combine. Add the remaining basil, the parsley, olive oil and lemon zest and juice and process until smooth. Add the cheeses and more olive oil if necessary and pulse to combine.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to combine the flavors.

To serve: cook your favorite pasta according to package directions less one minute. Reserving some pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add a dollop or two of pesto – enough to generously coat the pasta, and a little pasta water. Toss to combine, cover and set over low heat for about 1 minute. Serve immediately and pass more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for your cheese loving friends.

* Lemon zest and juice will add a little sparkle and keep the pesto bright green.

You can easily double or triple the recipe and store it in small containers in the freezer.

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One Year Ago – Pasta with Roasted Grape Tomatoes & Corn
Two Years Ago – Cardamom Plum Tort
Three Years Ago – Easy Microwave Popcorn
Four Years Ago – Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
Five Years Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Six Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Seven Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Eight Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Nine Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Ten Years Ago – Mulled Cider

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

What will you discover this Columbus Day Weekend? Feel free to share!

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

Shoes & Grilled Eggplant Caponata

I have this thing about shoes. I like them … a lot. It’s possible I like them as much as Imelda. However, since I don’t have her resources; my collection is both smaller and considerably more modest. Besides, unlike the Philippines’ former first lady, I’m a sneakers and flats kind of girl.

In my defense, my addiction to shoes has improved. Why, it’s been at least a year, since I bought a new pair. Okay, maybe six months and it was three pairs, I guess I should avoid alternative facts. In my defense, they were all on sale and a step above the definitely adorable but oh so casual flats I generally wear. What’s a girl to do?

Confession time – I do need to be careful with this buying on sale business. I love a bargain but it often means buying out of season. I have been known to purchase sandals in October and forget about them by the time summer rolls around. Same goes for buying boots in May. Oh, my goodness, the trials and tribulations of a first world woman.

Growing up, back-to-school shopping always included a trip to Bob Dexter’s Shoes on Central Street. To avoid a return visit in the busy weeks to come, Mom really took care of business. That’s when I learned an important lesson – never settle for one pair, when you can buy three.

First, foremost and absolutely mandatory – new school shoes were on the list. Mom always insisted we start there. If a fire broke out and cut our shopping short, we were not leaving that store without a sturdy pair of Buster Browns. I guess the doctor told her that young feet need lots of support. Until I was nine or ten, I was stuck with those dreadful brown brogues. In third or fourth grade, Mom finally relented and I was able to move on to penny loafers.

Now, Mom was hardly heartless. To make up for the brogues and salve my wounded feminine pride, she would let me pick out a new pair of patent leather Mary Janes. They were for Sunday school and birthday parties. Finally, after a summer playing outside, my sneakers were worn and torn – just the way I liked them. Mom didn’t agree and a new pair of Keds went into the bag.

Although, it has its roots in elementary school, this love affair with shoes began in earnest once I hit adolescence. That’s when things got both interesting and complicated. A woman in search of an identity, from one day to the next, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a perky preppy or a cool hippie.

The perky preppy in me coveted shiny flats and Pappagallo was the brand of choice. These sweet little emblems of conservative style came in a rainbow of colors and were decorated with flowers, buckles and cutouts. The bohemian wanted no name ballet flats or funky black cotton slippers. The slippers had orange rubber soles, straps like Mary Janes and were made in China. The hippie shoes were considerably cheaper than the colorful flats. However, they didn’t last more than a month or so.

For now, I’ll stay out of the shops. Better to stick with the trio of flats I bought last winter and then forgot in the back of the closet. Black leather, the faux snakeskin and shiny pink – what could be better – a different pair for every mood. Just like Mom, I like a bargain and buy in threes.

Happy Almost Fall and bon appétit!

Grilled Eggplant Caponata
The local harvest is at its peak. It’s time to fire up the grill and make delicious magic with some of my favorite vegetables. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons or to taste red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons or to taste extra virgin olive oil
2 medium eggplants, cut into thick slices
1 large red onion, cut in thick rings
1 pint grape tomatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2-3 tablespoons capers, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Make the vinaigrette: put the garlic, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and continue whisking until well combined. Set aside.

Preheat grill to high. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the onion and tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Put the onion and tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time. Grill the eggplant for 4 to 6 minutes per side until nicely browned and tender. Remove the vegetables from the grill. When they are cool enough to handle, finely chop the veggies.

Give the vinaigrette another whisk, add the vegetables, olives, pine nuts and capers and toss to combine. Add the parsley and mint and toss again. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with pita chips for an appetizer or use as a salsa with grilled chicken, lamb or fish.

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One Year Ago – Savory Rosemary Biscotti
Two Years Ago – Dilly Beans
Three Years Ago– All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
Four Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Five Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Six Years Ago – Curried Green Bean Pickles
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
Eight Years Ago – Apple Crisp
Nine Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Ten Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet

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

What’s your not-so-secret indulgence? Feel free to share!

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

Around the Lake & Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes & Basil

With very few exceptions, there’s something cool or quirky about almost everyone. When things get dull, there’s almost always something you can show or tell at a cocktail party. For some it’s an extra finger or toe. Others can claim that the snotty-nosed kid they babysat in high school grew up to be Jeff Bezos or they share a great-great-grandmother with Emma Stone. Perhaps you’ve written a one hit wonder or your uncle invented the Pet Rock. You get the picture; the possibilities for five minutes of fame or near-fame are indeed endless.

Along with meeting Andy Warhol, interviewing an Olympian and asking a then-candidate-soon-to-be-president a question at a televised town meeting, I’d say my coolest claim would be living abroad. Yes, lots of people live overseas for a while but I flew to Switzerland for an eight week internship and forgot to come home… for almost seventeen years.

Besides many wonderful friends, the best part of living in Geneva was the beautiful lake and countryside. I lived in half a dozen apartments and my windows invariably framed something spectacular – an ancient cathedral, mountains or a field filled with roses. Lac Leman (sometimes called Lake Geneva) was within walking distance. The Alps were about an hour’s drive away.

Now, speaking of friends, Geneva is a transient town and people come and go. However, for a summer or two, a group of young and youngish expatriates came together for what can only be described as adult adventure camp. Almost every weekend, we enjoyed a new escapade. White water rafting, glacier skiing and mountain biking – day trip or weekend – it was always good fun.

A bicycle ride around Lac Leman was among my favorite trips. The ride is just under 200 kilometers. If you don’t speak metric, it’s a bit more than 120 miles. First, I freely admit that from the start we planned a two-day ride. It was not meant to be an endurance test but a fun weekend with an overnight stop in Montreux for dinner and dancing. (If it sounds familiar, Montreux is famous for its Jazz Festival.) The route through Switzerland and France is mostly flat with a few gently rolling hills and spectacular scenery. The weather was perfect.

Gently rolling hills or not, there is nothing like a 100+ mile ride to separate the fit from the non. Within an hour, maybe less, our group was scattered across the plain above Geneva. Only wanting to be polite, the leaders stopped and patiently waited for the stragglers to catchup. I proudly admit I was among the handful at the head of the pack. It was soon apparent that we would never make Montreux, let alone back to Geneva, if we continued to stop and wait every five or so miles.

A goal was set with a town square named as the lunchtime rendez-vous. If all else failed, we’d meet at the hotel in Montreux at the end of the day. If you didn’t show up by six, the support car would go out and fetch you. Finally, we were well and truly off. For some of us, it was a delightful day. It was late summer and the relaxing ride took us past fields of sunflowers and vineyards filled with fat grapes. The Alps were to the right, the lake to the left. For others, it was sixty miles of pure hell.

Although dinner that night was festive, there was little dancing. The next day was as beautiful as the first. The Alps rose over the lake on our left and terraced vineyards climbed up the hill on our right. About a third of our little group were among the missing on day two. Well, not really missing, they took advantage of Switzerland’s highly efficient train service and were home in time for lunch.

Happy trails and bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes & Basil
For a simple supper, you can’t beat pasta with fresh, local tomatoes and herbs from the garden. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

3 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Dash or to taste hot pepper sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 large handful basil leaves, cut in julienne
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Grated pecorino Romano cheese to taste

Put the chopped tomatoes and their juice in a bowl, add the garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar and pepper sauce, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Let the tomatoes sit for about an hour.

Cook the spaghetti according package directions, less one minute. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot, add the tomatoes and toss to combine. Cover and set pot of pasta over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or bowl, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, sprinkle with basil and pine nuts and toss to combine. Sprinkle with grated pecorino Romano and serve.

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

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

Were you a free-range kid? Where was your favorite place to roam? Feel free to share!

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

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

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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Three Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
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Five Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
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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