Spring Has Sprung? & Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms

Well, this is all rather odd isn’t it? Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere and just one short week before the first day of spring, snowmageddon dropped in. For everyone out there who is so over winter, I’m sorry. Well no, I’m not really sorry at all. In fact, I’m absolutely thrilled.

Between work, bitter cold, rain, gale force winds and who knows what else, I have not spent nearly enough days on the slopes this year. Then, like a miracle, a good old-fashioned snowstorm roars through the northeast. Just like that, it’s winter again.

If you were really looking forward to an early spring, you might be feeling a bit glum with all this fluffy white stuff. Take heart, there may be snow on the ground but you can revel in twelve wonderful hours of daylight. The long days of summer will be here before you know it.

While I’m skiing, here are a few things you can do to cheer up:

Plant seedlings. With two feet of new snow on the ground, it’s still a tad early to be planting in the garden. However, there is nothing to stop you from creating your own seedlings. Get some peat pots and medium and sow as many flats of seedlings as you have sunny windows. There is something quite cheering about watching little plants sprout and grow.

Listen to Vivaldi. It may be clique but I can’t help myself. Every spring, I find myself rustling through the CDs looking for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It you prefer, you can always listen to Frank Sinatra crooning “It Might as Well Be Spring” or Carly Simon sing “Spring Is Here”. Why not put together a whole spring playlist and dance through the day.

Go snowshoeing. In warmer climates, people will be pulling on their rubber boots and happily splashing in spring puddles. Not here. However, there are lots of beautiful trails open to the public. With the sun high in the sky, the snow will begin to melt faster than you would think. Great Brook will begin to babble and the birds will begin to sing. See, living in New Hampshire isn’t half bad.

Dress like an Easter egg. They’re not for everyone but a few pastels might brighten up your day. Trade in that grey sweater for something lemon yellow or lavender. You might be surprised by what you might find in the bottom of the sweater chest. If nothing else, that chartreuse number will stir up fun memories of your trip to Bermuda. As for that lilac turtleneck, it will remind you of your dear old aunt. Might be because she gave it to you or more likely, she always wore lilac.

Make spring rolls or some other spring-y dish. No, of course the veggies won’t be, can’t be local. It’s New Hampshire; there’s two feet of new snow on the ground. However, you can find artichokes and asparagus, peas and pineapples, mangoes, mushrooms, rhubarb and chives in the market. Add the ultimate early sign of spring – a pinch of saffron. This luxurious spice comes from our favorite spring flower, the ever-bright and cheery crocus. It will bring a taste of spring to your table.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Pasta with a creamy saffron sauce and grilled veggies is a perfect dish for our not-really-spring season. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Quick Pickled Red Onion (do ahead – recipe follows)
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large pinches saffron
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces whole mushrooms, stemmed
Olive oil
Champagne or white wine vinegar
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1 3/4-2 pounds homemade, fresh or frozen ravioli
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Prepare the saffron cream sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream, saffron, thyme and bay leaf and heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10-15 minutes.

Grill the vegetables: preheat a grill pan or a gas or charcoal grill to medium high.

Toss the mushrooms with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Place the mushrooms on grill, cup-side up, and grill, turning once, until tender, 5–10 minutes. Remove from the grill, cut in quarters and keep warm.

Toss the asparagus with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Grill the asparagus for 1-2 minutes, turn and grill 1 minute more. Remove from the grill, roughly chop and keep warm.

Prepare the ravioli and put it all together: cook the ravioli according to recipe or package directions less 2 minutes. Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme twig from the saffron cream. Add the ravioli to the cream with some or all of the pasta water as necessary and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the ravioli to a large platter or individual shallow bowls, top with mushrooms and asparagus, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish with pickled onions and serve.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in Mason jar, let everything sit for a minute or two to dissolve and give it a good shake. Add 1 cup of water and shake again.

Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. If necessary, add a little more vinegar and water to cover the onion. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks. Drain before using.

Refrigerate the extra onion –it is delicious in salads and on burgers.

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One Year Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Two Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Three Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Four Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Five Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Six Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

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

What about you? How do you cope when the calendar says spring but meteorologist says winter? Feel free to share!

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

Spring Skiing & Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives

skiing_01Less than a month ago, a furry, little fellow popped out of a hole in Pennsylvania and saw his shadow. According to legend, the shadow meant we were in for six more weeks of winter. However, get this! This little pageant has been going on for more than one hundred years. Over all those decades, an early spring has been predicted all of seventeen times. (Nine years of records are missing so it could be a few more.) Now, some curious weather geeks did a few calculations to see how accurate that furry, little fellow is. Their discovery? Well, the groundhog was correct only thirty-nine per cent of the time.

That’s less than a coin toss!

Anyone living in New Hampshire can predict winter’s end with or without a furry friend or coin to toss. Here in the Granite State, winter hangs around until it’s good and ready to quit. Last week’s glorious few days of spring skiing could be the start of warmer things to come … or not. It’s just as likely that the magnificent spring-like weather was nothing more than a blip in northern New England’s decidedly fickle weather patterns.

New Hampshire skiers live for those wonderfully warm, end-of-the season days. We want nothing more than to ski in a t-shirt, even shorts. However, we all know that there are two sides to an early spring. We love the sun and curse the rain. Although we would happily greet one last blizzard, just the threat of a shower sends skiers into a tizzy.

To make matters worse, I was admittedly spoiled during all those years I lived in Switzerland. Spoiled rotten! Even in a mediocre snow year, the season lasted through the first or second weekend of April. In a spectacular year, skiing went on and on until mid-May. Of course, the elevations are a heck of a lot higher in the Alps; way up above the tree line higher.

This extended ski season did lead to a few misadventures. Most were due to the stubborn determination of my friends and I to ski from top to bottom. Just because the ski season lasted until Easter and beyond, did not mean there was snow cover on the bottom third or half of the mountain. By early April, skiers were advised to take the lift down from the mid-station. After a glorious day in the sun and snow, riding a chairlift to the bottom was nothing short of anticlimactic. A gondola was even worse. (The cliché packed in like sardines would be an apt description.)

I’m not one to let a TRAIL CLOSED sign stand in my way. Neither were my ski pals. After a quick peek left and right, we ducked under the rope and headed down. We had the trail to ourselves and it was fabulous. Well, fabulous until we hit a south facing, mud covered slope. Jumping from one small patch of snow to another, we clamored through trees and over a few rocks. Finally and inevitably, we ran out of snow. Off came the skis; we were in for a long slog to the car in our ski boots.

As the weather warms, on the slopes or not, enjoy some time outside! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Olives
This recipe has its roots in sunny Spain and Sicily. It is a great dish when you are pining for a little sun and warm weather. Enjoy!cauliflower_05
Serves 4-6

1 head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-1 onion, cut in thin wedges
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8-12 ounces spaghetti
About 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped green olives
3 tablespoons capers
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
3-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Grated pecorino Romano cheese

Toss the cauliflower with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and spread in a single layer in a roasting pan. Tossing once or twice, roast at 375 degrees until browned and tender, about 40 minutes.

(If you roast the cauliflower in advance, a delicious dinner will be ready in minutes.)

While the cauliflower roasts, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the cauliflower, olives and capers, sprinkle with lemon zest and toss to combine. Cover and keep warm.

spaghetti_cauliflower_olives_03Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water.

Toss the pasta with the vegetables. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water and cook on low for 1 minute. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with grated pecorino Romano.

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

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

What about you? Now that the seasons are changing, how will you spend time outside? Feel free to share!

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

Valentine’s Day DOs and DON’Ts & Scrod Florentine

Valentine’s Day is the most wonderful, romantic day of the year.hearts Alright, maybe from where you’re sitting, it’s just another Hallmark holiday … or worse a painful reminder of a relationship gone bad. Whether you are ready to embrace or shrug off the day, here are a few DOs and DON’Ts.

Like it or not, if you are a woman, your enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day is tenfold that of your sweetheart. Yes, there are exceptions but for most women, a big romantic gesture is not going to happen. DON’T go out and buy every vase you can find. Unless you are dating a billionaire (and you’re in a movie), you probably won’t be receiving 200 dozen roses. Same goes for packing a suitcase for a surprise trip to Paris; it’s probably not going to happen.

Even with this reset to your expectations, you can have a lovely Valentine’s Day, romantic even. DO get dressed up, DO enjoy a fabulous meal and DO drink champagne. DO insist that your sweetheart do the same.

By all means, remember Valentine’s Day deserves a special venue. Unless there is some delightfully romantic story involved, DON’T pick up dinner at the drive-thru. At the very least, there should be a candle and flowers on the table and a waiter to take your order.

Or forget the restaurant, cooking together can inspire all sorts of passion. DO know your limits; it’s not the night to make your very first beef wellington. DO choose a menu of foods you both love and can have fun with it. Turn on the music, pour some champagne and cook up some magic.

Think outside the box for your romantic gift. Instead of a dozen red roses or a box of chocolates, DO give her an armful of tulips or give him a dozen of his absolute favorite bagels. DON’T give any grown man or woman a giant teddy bear or a star. You have each other to cuddle, you don’t need a giant stuffed animal. As for the star-thing, sorry but that’s more or less a hoax.

Think outside the box for your amorous celebration. DO go on a hike and share a delicious picnic afterwards … or go ice-skating (preferably in Central Park!) or rent an amazing sports car, channel Grace Kelly and Cary Grant and go for a long drive.

If there is no Mr. Wonderful in your life right now, DON’T go and get all depressed. DON’T go and eat a pound of chocolate all by yourself. Instead, DO indulge with your girlfriends. DO girly things like spa treatments, mani-pedis or a chick flick marathon … and DO drink champagne.

However, DON’T drink too much champagne. It’s not a night to drive by an ex’s house six or seven time. DON’T stalk him on Facebook, text him incessantly or call him – even if you hang up before he answers. Remember, he has caller ID; everyone has caller ID so don’t call his new girlfriend either.

If you go out on the town with your girlfriends, DON’T reserve a table at the most romantic bistro in town. DON’T surround yourselves with cooing lovebirds. Instead of one lone sobbing and/or cursing woman at home, you’ll have with a tableful of sobbing and/or cursing women. Although I think I’d prefer karaoke, a sports bar might work. You might even find a new Mr. Wonderful.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day! Bon appétit!

Baked Scrod Florentine
Baked Scrod Florentine is one of those wonderfully flexible dishes – you can make it for two or for a dozen or more. Enjoy!scrod_florentine_04

Butter
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Dry white wine

Per portion:
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
About 4 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1-2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
1-2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pinch thyme
5-6 ounces fresh scrod

Garnish: lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Depending on how many portions you are preparing, butter a baking dish, ovenproof skillet or baking sheet.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Remove from the heat, add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Put the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl, season with thyme, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add a little olive oil, enough to lightly coat the breadcrumbs,and toss again.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and place the portions in the prepared pan. Drizzle with a little white wine. Top each piece of fish with spinach and sprinkle with the cheesy breadcrumbs.

Bake the scrod at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. The fish should be flaky but not dry.

Remove from oven, transfer to a platter or individual plates and serve immediately with a lemon wedge.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs
Two Years Ago – Black Bean & Beef Chili
Three Years Ago – Coq au Vin
Four Years Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Five Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Six Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Seven Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Eight Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

There’s Nothing Like a Snow Day & Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Bacon

snowy_day_New_London_02Say what you will, nothing but nothing compares to a snow day. It’s like a gift from the snow gods. Instead of another crazy day, you get to relax, hang out in your PJs and watch the snow fall. If you’re particularly lucky, the snow will stop around 10:30 and you can go play in it. Find your snowshoes and bushwhack through the woods, tour the neighborhood on your cross-country skis or build a snowman. At least that was what it was like when we were kids. No school. No after-school activities. No homework. Of course, there was no internet, so there were no emails sending new assignments our way.

So what’s it like now. Now, that we’re no longer kids with a surprise holiday? Well, the internet came along so we can stay connected. Then, telecommuting was invented to make sure we are always connected and always working. That suggests that there’s no rest for the wicked even if it is a snow day. I suppose for me it doesn’t really matter. I do most of my work from home anyway. So, you’d think that a snow day was no big deal. You’d be wrong.

Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it. Life just slows down when the snow flies and piles up high on the doorstep. There are fewer cars on the road. Sounds seem muffled. Except for the rumbling of the snowplow that periodically breaks the calm, there is this wonderful quiet. The phone doesn’t ring. Email doesn’t ping. People are too busy shoveling their walks or playing endless card games to bother with you.

Suddenly, you can work on that project, the one that requires at least a little quiet and concentration. The one you never seem to get to because … well, you probably know why. Anyway, all cozy in your jammies with a mug of really good coffee, today is the day. Your brain is prepped and ready to solve one of those big, gnarly problems. Of course, your solution will be nothing short of spectacular.

If you’re not careful, you might start to think you’re a genius. You’re not. You just have time to breathe and think things through – logically, creatively, thoughtfully. Your brain hums. You get another cup of really good coffee. You might even find a muffin in the freezer to warm up. Another piece falls into place. The snowplow passes again and then peace and calm. A few more pieces fall into place.

Eventually the snow stops and wonder of wonders the sun comes out. You grab a shovel and clear the walk. The air is fresh and clean and a few more ideas hit you. Back at the keyboard or drawing board or whatever board, still a few more pieces fit into the puzzle. You’re really humming along.

With the sun high in a blue sky, you better grab those snowshoes and go for a hike, ramble down to the beaver dam on your cross-country skis or build a snowman. If anyone asks, it’s important to clear your head periodically. You’ll be brilliant when you get back to that project.

All that work and play will build an appetite. Brilliance in the kitchen should not be problem. Even if you didn’t have a chance to get to the store, you can create a beautiful supper with whatever’s on hand. Pasta from the pantry always works. Add some sundried tomatoes, olives and capers or toss that spaghetti with a few veggies and sprinkle with cheese. Maybe you are a genius!

Have a happy snow day! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Baconspaghetti_mushrooms_bacon_06
I always have a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the refrigerator. The last time it snowed, I also found some bacon, a few mushrooms and cream. Dinner was ready in about 20 minutes. Enjoy!
Serves 2

2-4 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
About 1/2 teaspoon thyme
About 1/3 onion, cut in thin wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cognac
4-6 ounces spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Put the bacon in a skillet and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, cook until the bacon releases some fat and starts to brown. Add the onion, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushroom and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.

Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and cognac. Place the mushrooms over very low heat to keep warm and stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to directions less 1-2 minutes.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the spaghetti, add it to the mushrooms with a little pasta water and toss to combine. (If you have it, feel free to add a handful of baby spinach!) Cover and cook on low for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls, sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

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One Year Ago – Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
Two Years Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Three Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Four Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Five Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Six Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Seven Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Eight Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

What about you? What’s the change you want to make this Groundhog Day? Feel free to share!

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

Groundhog Day & Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore

punxsutawney_philGroundhog Day, we’ve all seen it or at least part of it. No, I don’t mean the annual folderol in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I mean the movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. You know the one where they take a road trip to Punxsutawney. Their mission is to report on the auspicious occasion of a groundhog leaving his burrow to check the weather. Sure, it’s kind of silly but it’s also brilliant, classic Bill Murray. Who can resist?

Before you shout, “I can!” (By the way, that’s my inclination too.) Let’s consider the pros and cons:

First, there’s a definite plus, especially for those of us with unruly hair. Let’s face it; we’d all like nothing more than to wake up one day and look like Andie MacDowell. Who knows, after Green Card, some of us might even want to be her. Anyway, like our beloved Mary Richards (aka Mary Tyler Moore), Andie works in a newsroom as a producer. Like Mary, she is smart, charming, funny and beautiful. Okay, she is a bit of a goody-goody but she had one heck of a curly mane.

Next, there’s the mixed pros and cons of Bill Murray. He’s the egomaniacal weatherman sent to Punxsutawney to cover the groundhog festivities. Funny, yes, Bill Murray is funny but he is also painfully obnoxious. He takes petty, peevish and petulant to new levels. Feigning self-assurance, he flirts with the lovely Andie and bullies the cameraman. He is scornful of the Punxsutawnians who just want to have their fun and celebrate their world famous groundhog.

Looking back, it’s pretty clear, in spite of being Bill Murray and famous and funny, he was everything we didn’t want to date. After all, the film came out in the nineties. From coast to coast and around the globe, we single women were convinced that we could do better. Of course, Andie agreed with us.

And finally, here’s where Groundhog Day (the movie not the sort of holiday) comes out on top. The movie is all about change and redemption. As most people know, the movie tells the story of this dreadful man who finds himself living the same day over and over and over again. As the movie progresses, a new twist develops. We figure out that Bill Murray’s character is not only insufferable; he is miserable.

Let’s face it; we’ve all had those times when nothing but nothing is going right. Unfortunately, although we hate to admit it, some of our difficulties are of our own making. Even worse, we’ve all been known to misbehave when things aren’t going our way. Who hasn’t gone off on a ridiculous tirade, done something petty or spent a good part of a day whinging or snapping at any and every one? Like a groundhog in a maze of underground tunnels, we get lost in our foolishness, pride or plain stupidity. Not every day, mind you, but at least occasionally we lose sight of our best selves. It’s okay to admit it; we’ve all done it … well, maybe not Saint Theresa.

As the snarky weatherman relives February 2nd again and again, he slowly but surely begins to figure things out. He begins to learn and change. If we let it, this little piece of cinema shows us that even at our most dreadful and depressed we are still redeemable. Even if our unhappiness turns us into a despicable bully, there is hope. Just like Bill Murray, we can change and grow. We can find love and happiness.

Have a happy Groundhog Day! Bon appétit!

Thank you Anthony Quintano for the photo of Punxsutawney Phil provided under a Creative Commons License.

Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore
Whether the groundhog comes out on Thursday or not, winter is here for the duration. This chicken_cacciatore_05comforting chicken dish is perfect for a cold winter night. Enjoy!
Serves 4

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
About 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup or more chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup or more dry white wine
4 ounces fresh (peeled and trimmed) or frozen pearl onions
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, trimmed, peeled and left whole
8 ounces whole mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer in the oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with half of the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot skillet. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

While the chicken roasts, put the chicken broth, tomatoes and wine in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add the remaining herbs, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Turn the chicken, scatter the onions, carrots and garlic around the chicken and add the liquid ingredients. Return the pan to the oven and continue cooking at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken and vegetables bubble, heat a little olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Scatter the mushrooms over the top of the chicken and veggies. Adding more broth and/or wine if necessary, cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and nicely browned and the vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve the chicken thighs with a spoonful of mushrooms, onion and garlic.

A great dish for a party, double or triple the recipe and use a large roasting pan. This recipe is very forgiving. If dinner is delayed, add more broth and wine, reduce the oven temperature and let it bubble for an additional 30, even 45, minutes. It can also be made ahead and reheated.

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

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

What about you? What’s the change you want to make this Groundhog Day? Feel free to share!

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

A Magical Turn on the Ice & Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci

pl_ice_17Looking back, we can all recall magical times. It could have been a day or a year when by some fantastic good fortune, everything came together. It could be as fleeting as a happy night on the beach, drinking beer with friends while the northern lights danced above. Perhaps a year in Spain or Montana still makes you smile. Maybe it was one unforgettable winter when your love life, job, haircut and the ski conditions were all spectacular.

About this time every year, I remember a few magical weeks on Pleasant Lake. It all started to come together in December. I was a senior in college. After taking my last final, I headed home to our little brown house in the woods near Pleasant Lake. Unlike past Christmas vacations, the week was not filled with glorious snow and fun on the ski slope. Snowmaking was still on the wish list at King Ridge and December reigned cold, calm and dry.

Like many schools, mine had what was called the January Plan. For about three weeks, at school or away, students worked on a special project. Some stayed on campus and watched movies; others went to Florida to count alligators or studied flora and fauna from a chairlift in France. Students loved it; their parents not so much. Dad still rants about the waste of time and money.

Anyway, it took three projects to graduate. Having done my three, I had a few extra weeks of vacation. I picked up a few bucks working the holiday rush and after-Christmas sale at a local clothing store. I slept late. Mom and I took a quick trip to Florida to check on my grandparents. All in all, it should have added up to a rather boring month.

Would have; except for the lake. While the snow drought put the kibosh on skiing, that combination of cold, calm and dry created something wonderful on Pleasant Lake. It was so cold that the lake quickly developed a thick layer of ice. It was so calm that the ice was as shiny and smooth as glass. It was so dry that there wasn’t a flake of snow or drop of rain to mottle the smooth surface. It was perfect.

A day or two after New Year’s, I found my skates and headed down to the beach. Mount Kearsarge loomed majestically over a massive expanse of ice. Almost two miles long and close to a mile wide, it was bigger than any rink and I had it all to myself.

Although cold, the sun was shining when I stepped onto the ice. After a few tentative glides, I found my skating legs and took off. It was exhilarating. Taking a turn around Blueberry Island, I skated from one end of the lake to the other. I explored nooks and crannies along the shore. The ice was so clear, I could almost see, or at least imagined I could see, trout swimming under my feet.

As beautiful as it was, the huge expanse of ice was also a bit terrifying. The ice warbled, creaked and groaned. Was something happening? Something I should know about? As I made my way down the lake, I came across long cracks in the ice. An art major, I knew nothing of the shifts that ice makes with changing temperatures. My active imagination wondered if one of those cracks might expand and swallow me. Active imagination or not, it was too glorious to stop so I continued skating.

The start of the new semester and the inevitable January thaw came much too soon. I headed back to school on a foggy, gray day. But somewhere packed among the clean clothes, Bean boots and ice skates, I brought along the lasting awe and wonder of a few magical weeks on the ice on Pleasant Lake.

Here’s to a magical New Year. Bon appétit!

Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci
Pasta in a hearty broth is the perfect supper after a day on the ice. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
About 12 cups chicken stock
1 rind from a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano* (optional)
2 pounds tortellini
12-16 ounces baby spinach
Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat a little olive oil in a soup kettle over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, season with paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Raise the heat to medium-high, stir in the wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine has reduced by about half. Stir in the stock, add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or longer.

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

Bring the broth to a rapid boil, add the tortellini and cook according to package directions.

Carefully transfer the tortellini to shallow bowls. Stir the spinach into the broth and cook until it wilts, 1-2 minutes. Ladle the broth and spinach over the tortellini and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* While the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind is optional, it makes a world of difference!

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One Year Ago – Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Three Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Six Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Seven Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Eight Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

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

What about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

What NOT to Give this (or any) Christmas & Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives

santa_sleigh_presentsIf you have finished all of your Christmas shopping, well then today’s post is not for you. However, if you have a long list of friends and relatives that you still need TO buy for – well, read on. Unfortunately, I’m not up on the latest and greatest, so, I can’t tell you what to buy for your spouse, your mom and dad or your best friend. However, I can make a few suggestions of what NOT to give to more or less anyone.

Fruitcake. A perennial non-favorite, fruitcake is THE what-not-to-give gift. The world’s most popular re-gift, this sticky-sweet cake is an acquired taste; one that few acquire. I’m guessing that hundreds, even thousands, of re-gifted fruitcakes have been bouncing from one house to the next for decades.

Socks and underwear. Forget coal, socks and underwear are what bad little girls and boys find in their stocking on Christmas morning.

Appliances. Unless you are ready to sleep in the garage for the next month or two, never, ever give your spouse a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. Same goes for a dish washer or washing machine.

Exercise equipment. Buying a loved one exercise equipment is a sort of like hesitating before answering the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” The same holds true for a gym membership, a diet book or, heaven forbid, a scale.

The obvious re-gift. Re-gifting is somewhat controversial. While few admit, many do it. Controversy aside, there are re-gifts and, then, there are re-gifts. If your initials are monogrammed on the cuff, don’t re-gift that shirt. Yes, even if it makes your skin look sallow. Keep it for a Halloween costume or donate it to Goodwill.

Now, are there exceptions to any of these rules? Of course, there are always exceptions. Well, make that usually exceptions. I can’t think of a soul who is pining for a fruitcake. As for that canvas bag with your initials? Sorry, throw it in the truck of the car. Orange may not be your color but it will be great for grocery shopping.

Anyway, back to exceptions. You can break the socks and underwear rule if your gift is beyond special. The key to socks is finding pairs that your friends would never buy for themselves. Simple black, navy and brown or athletic socks are not for gifting. Colorful rainbows, alligators and pink flamingos work for me. Nor should you give a three-pack of tidy-whities to your sweetheart. Think lingerie, silk and sexy. (But make sure you get the right size. Otherwise, you could be sleeping in the garage until Valentine’s Day.)

While a vacuum cleaner never works, a young foodie who is assembling her first kitchen will be delighted with a gourmet gadget or fancy cookware. Think food processors, stand mixers and pasta makers. Or one of those fabulous French cast-iron pots.

Although they make great clothes racks, forget the treadmill or stationary bike. However, it may be okay to give the kids the latest athletic status symbols. Or maybe not. If one of the kids on your list failed the bean bag toss and has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, well, you might want to think again.

Happy shopping and bon appétit!

Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
This quick dish is perfect for the busy holiday season (and that fabulous French cast-iron casserole). Enjoy!

Serves 8 for dinner & 12-16 as a small plate, tapas or appetizer

Olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or to taste red pepper flakes
About 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes*, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
About 2 pounds extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
About 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
8 slices thick cut ciabatta or country bread, toasted

Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until they begin to bubble. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about 1/3.

While the tomatoes simmer, season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high, add the shrimp and toss to combine. Cook the shrimp, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until pink.

Transfer the shrimp to individual shallow bowls.

Add the olives, capers and butter to the skillet and toss to combine. Stirring frequently, cook the sauce for about 2 minutes.

Spoon the sauce over the shrimp, sprinkle with chopped basil and parsley and serve immediately with a slice of toasted ciabatta or country bread to soak up the sauce.

* You can use regular tomatoes but I find that the ones in my grocery store have little taste during the winter months. If you use regular tomatoes, seed and chop.

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One Year Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Two Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Three Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Four Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Five Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Six Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Seven Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Eight Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How do you get in the holiday spirit? Feel free to share!

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