Cinco de Mayo Weekend Special

Well – if yesterday wasn’t wonderful … then I don’t know what is! Summer in May is the best. Not only is it a surprise (even if it happens every year!) but on top of the warm air, you can hear the peepers once the sun goes down.

The weekend promises to be a bit of a mix with some clouds, some sun and some thundershowers. Throw a colorful cloth on the table, find some salsa music on Spotify or Pandora, drag the grill under an overhang and go for it. Saturday is Cinco de Mayo – time to celebrate!

Let’s start with a great appetizer. You will love my Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Salsa. Add a few raw veggies to dip along with the shrimp. Not enough? You can’t go wrong with my Guacamole and Simple Salsa.

Ready for dinner? Keep that grill going. If you haven’t tried my Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter, now is the perfect time. Serve the swordfish with a delicious mix of Grilled Balsamic Vegetables. Choose any and all of your favorite veggies to throw on the grill. If you like, add a spoonful of Lemony Green Rice.

For dessert, think .. what else but chocolate? A few bites are all you’ll need of my Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème. Over-the-top delicious and rich, they may just become your new favorite dessert.

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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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo & Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago Massachusetts and Maine celebrated Patriots’ Day. The day commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. Those of us who grew up in Massachusetts learned a lot about the State’s early history. We spent most of the fall studying the pilgrims. In the spring, we turned to Mad King George’s tyrannical rule and our forbearers’ heroic quest for freedom.

I share this only to point out that, as far as I know, no one in Mexico celebrated Patriots’ Day. Okay, I’m sure that a few of their athletes came north to run the Boston Marathon. However, I can’t imagine that there were lots of parties with baked beans and brown bread down in Cancun or Puebla.

And yet, in a few short days, we’ll be pulling out all the stops for a fun and festive Cinco de Mayo. Before you go making assumptions, no, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t celebrate Mexican independence. It’s the anniversary of the victorious Battle of Puebla against the French in 1862. Just as the Battles of Lexington and Concord were early victories in the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Puebla was an quick win in the Franco-Mexican War.

So why in the world do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo? First of all, it’s a lot easier for Americans to pronounce than Día de la Independencia – Independence Day. And second, Día de la Independencia is in mid-September. Life is good in September. The weather is fine. The leaves are starting to change to red and gold. We’re busy picking apples and showing off our new pencil boxes. We don’t have time for a Mexican fiesta.

Compare that to early May. It’s mud season. There is no red or gold and very little green. The trees are barely in bud. If it’s not raining, it’s cloudy or it will be soon. Sand is everywhere and I could (almost) kill for a mudroom. We could all use a little celebration right about now. Why not shake off the mud season doldrums with a ginormous Cinco de Mayo potluck. Your friends and neighbors will love you for it.

Don’t’ worry, you don’t need to make a huge fuss. The point is to get everyone together and have some fun. Here are a few pointers –

Start with a little color. Track down that sunshine yellow tablecloth and throw it on the table. Use the bright red napkins and add some candles or tea lights. A bowl of lemons and limes will make a perfect centerpiece.

Skip the hokey sombreros and silly mustaches from the party store but encourage everyone to think spring. It’s probably too cold and muddy for flip-flops but take a few minutes to find that bright pink sweater. It’s in the back of the closet somewhere.

Encourage everyone to bring a favorite Mexican-inspired dish. Hopefully, your foodie friends will go one better and create something deliciously authentic.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo y buen provecho!

Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème
Very creamy chocolate with just a touch of Mexican spice, I can’t think of a better dessert for Cinco de Mayo. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 1/3 cups half & half
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon for to taste chipotle powder
8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon espresso or coffee powder
8 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Triple Sec
Garnish: unsweetened whipped cream

Put the half & half and cream in a heavy saucepan, add the cinnamon, chipotle and orange zest. Stirring frequently, heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and let the orange zest and spices steep for about 30 minutes.

Put the chocolate and espresso powder in a large measuring cup or bowl. Set aside.

Reheat the cream to steaming.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly add the hot cream to the egg yolks.

Return the egg-cream mixture to the saucepan and set over low heat. Stirring constantly, cook until the custard reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from the heat, stir in the Triple Sec and immediately strain the hot custard through a fine mesh sieve into the measuring cup with the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for a few minutes and then whisk until smooth and completely melted.

Pour the chocolate crème into 8 small dessert bowls or glasses. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Serve the pots de crème with unsweetened whipped cream.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Two Years Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake
Three Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Four Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Five Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Six Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Seven Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Eight Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Nine Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

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

How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Feel free to share!

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

It’s Summer! Weekend Special

It’s time for some summer fun. Swimming, boating, biking, tennis or golf, name your sport and have a great time. Just be sure to end the day with a delicious cookout with family and friends.

Not sure what to throw on that grill? Let the southwest inspire you!

Start the evening with a craft beer, chips and a great salsa. May I suggest my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa?

On to dinner, you can’t go wrong with a burger. I think that everyone will enjoy my Southwest Turkey Burgers. Complete your meal with a spoonful of Jicama Slaw and Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad.

For dessert, the first local strawberries are here! How about Panna Cotta with Strawberries or Strawberries with Yogurt Cream?

Happy summer – have a great weekend 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. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

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

School’s Out! & Southwest Turkey Burgers

I don’t know about you but every June when the weather turns warm, I can’t get Alice Cooper out of my head. He follows me around the lake on my morning walks. I hear him when I’m emptying the dishwasher or doing laundry. He’s might even turn up on the radio. In case you don’t remember, the aptly timed School’s Out hit the airwaves in June of 1972 and played incessantly. True or not, School’s Out seemed to be playing every time I got into the car with my friend Martha. Her mother, or maybe it was her father, had a sporty little Mercury Cougar and Martha loved to drive it.

All over the country, schools are closing for the summer. Some this week, a few, like our very own Kearsarge Regional, have already said good bye to pencils, books and teachers’ dirty looks. So let the summer celebrations begin!

By the way, if school vacation isn’t enough for you or doesn’t apply, the summer solstice is tomorrow. It is a fabulous excuse to celebrate. Steeped in folklore and superstition, the summer solstice brings out the best of our imaginations. From Stonehenge to the Scandinavian coast, we can pause and wonder at ancient customs and rites. With lots of extra hours of sunlight, there is certainly plenty of time to ponder. Whatever you do, please, don’t forget to do your sun dance. The last thing we want is rain or clouds on the longest day.

Whether you are celebrating the end of school, the longest day or both, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Take a road trip. You don’t need to go far or anywhere in particular. Open the car windows, roll down the top or open the sunroof, turn up the radio and imagine you’re sixteen again.

Visit the beach. Bring the dog and a tennis ball or find a stick and let her romp. Do it quickly. Once they officially open, most beaches do not allow dogs. Rebel that I am; I figure that as long as there is no lifeguard, the dogs can play. (But pu-leeze, lifeguard or no, pick up after your dog.)

Or leave the dog at home and go gallery hopping. Ramble through some of New England’s prettiest little towns and look for fine art and exquisite crafts and antiques. Whether you find an irresistible treasure or not, it will be a beautiful journey.

Find some live music. With warm weather, there are lots of possibilities, especially if you prefer your tunes outdoors. When in doubt, check out the nearest farmer’s market. We New Englanders seem like a little bluegrass or classic rock with their broccoli and carrots.

At the end of the day, bring the music and mesclun back home. For those of you who might be wondering, please note, that’s mesclun – a mix of assorted baby salad greens – and not mescaline, the hallucinogen found in peyote cacti.

End your celebrations with a long and lazy evening. It’s may not be the land of the midnight sun but the sun won’t set until just after 8:30. You will have plenty of time for a cookout, some singing and dancing. Light a lantern and a few candles and you can make merry until dawn.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Turkey Burgers with Avocado and Southwest Aioli
Perfect on a warm summer evening – a taste of the sunny southwest hot off the grill. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Southwest Aioli (recipe follows)
2 – 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 ounces thinly sliced cheddar cheese (optional)
1-2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1-2 tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
About 1/4 cup finely chopped pickled onion or onion
8 burger buns

Make the Southwest Aioli, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you are going to serve the burgers with pickled onion, pickle the onion.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium hot.

Divide the turkey into 8 pieces and gently pat into patties. Don’t overwork the meat or your burgers will be tough. Brush both sides of the burgers with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the turkey burgers on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip, add a slice of cheddar if you like, and continue grilling until cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Place the buns on the grill, turning once, and toast for about 30 seconds.

Pop each turkey burger onto a bun and top with avocado, tomato and onion, add a dollop of Southwest Aioli and serve.

Southwest Aioli
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup drained and roughly chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2-1 lime
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt to taste
About 3/4 cup or to taste mayonnaise

Put the sundried tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, mustard, lime juice and vinegar in a blender or small food processor, season with salt and process until well combined. Add the mayonnaise and process until smooth.

Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors. Cover and store leftover aioli in the refrigerator.

* Toss a can of chipotle peppers along with the adobo in a small food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar, store in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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

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

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

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

Olympic Fun Facts & Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde

rio-2016-logoHeld every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus, the ancient Olympics games had a pretty good run. For twelve centuries, athletes ran, jumped, threw javelins and raced chariots. The games went a bit haywire after the Romans conquered Greece. Nero, who is most famous for fiddling while Rome burned, cheated in the 67 AD games. In spite of falling off his chariot mid-race, he declared himself winner. It was downhill from there and the games met their demise at the end of the 4th century AD.

Happily for athletes and sports fans, the games were revived in 1896 with the first modern Olympics. Although there were forty-three different events at the 1896 games, there were no chariot races. The nine-day competition was packed with a multitude of track and field, cycling, fencing, shooting, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling and gymnastics events. Fourteen nations sent athletes to Athens for the games. More than 200 men competed but not a single woman. That omission was rectified at the second modern Olympiad in Paris in 1900.

A lot has changed since the first few Olympics. Here are a few fun facts about the Rio Games:

Rio 2016 is an Olympic first! Rio de Janeiro beat Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo to become the first South American city to host the games.

Part cat, part monkey and bird, Rio’s Olympic mascot has musical roots. He is named for Vinicius de Moraesis, one of the authors of the bossa nova jazz classic “The Girl From Ipanema.” Unlike some of the more bizarre and even downright frightening mascots of the past, Vinicius is cute in a colorful, cartoonish sort of way.

More than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries are expected to participate in Rio. Five hundred and fifty-four of those athletes make up the US Team.

For the first time men and women without a country will compete at the Olympics. A team of ten refugees will compete under the Olympic flag. The team includes runners from South Sudan, swimmers from Syria, judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a marathon runner from Ethiopia.

Gymnastics, track and field, swimming, tennis, wrestling, boxing and weightlifting are just the start. The list of events may seem endless but there are actually 306. From the sands of Copacabana beach to the legendary Maracanã Stadium, the games will be held at thirty-two different venues.

By the way, rugby returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1924 and the US is the defending champion. Golf has waited even longer. It’s returning after more than a century. The last time golf was played at the Olympics was in 1904 in Saint Louis.

Of course, our hopes are high for US victories. Although geopolitics and shifting national boundaries have had an impact, the US is at the top of the charts with an all-time count of 2,681 medals.

A whole lot of cookin’ wi1l be goin’ on in Rio. Tens of thousands of meals will be prepared in the Olympic village every day. Athletes will discover Brazilian staples like black beans and rice and some of the best grillin’ they’ll ever eat!

Enjoy the games! Bon appétit!

Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde
Get out the bossa nova records and whip up a flavorful salsa for a jazzy new take on the backyard cookout. Enjoy!  Grilled_Filets_Mignons_w_Salsa_Verde_06
Serves 8

8 (4-6 ounce) filets mignons or your favorite cut of steak
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salsa Verde (recipe follows)

Brush the filets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (In hot weather, reduce the sitting time.) Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-hot or a gas grill to high.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, turn and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes more for medium-rare. Reduce the cooking time for rare and increase for medium. Transfer the filets to a platter or individual plates, top each with a generous spoonful of Salsa Verde and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with more Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde
Serves 8

2-3 tablespoons or to taste sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons or to taste minced jalapeno or serrano chili
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

Put the vinegar and lime juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add garlic and jalapeno, season with the cumin, salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the lime zest, scallions and herbs and pulse to chop and combine. Let sit for 10-20 minutes before serving

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Corncakes
Two Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Three Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Four Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Five Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Six Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Eight Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

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

What are your favorite summer Olympic events? Feel free to share.

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

Snow Daze & Black Bean & Beef Chili

snowy_day_New_London_02It’s been a snowy February. While the snowbanks in front of my house are not yet up to the roofline, all sorts of all-time records have been broken. And it’s not over yet! There’s still plenty of time before winter calls it quits. In the meantime, school has been cancelled left and right.

Growing up, snow days were a special treat, an unexpected and welcome holiday. Life was put on hold for a day. We slept in and then played outside in the snow. Eventually the cold drove us back inside for hot chocolate, old movies, books, jigsaw puzzles and marathon matches of Scrabble.

When I was in the eighth grade, February turned into a month of snow days. Okay, that might not be strictly accurate but it’s how my mother and I like to remember it. It started on a Sunday. We spent a snowy morning on the ski slopes. By noon, several inches of fluffy, new powder had fallen. Regretfully, we grabbed our skis and headed back to our little house in the woods to pack up and return to Massachusetts. The roads were slippery and the visibility nonexistent. That’s when my parents, Mom in particular, decided that the next day was sure to be a snow day. She decreed an extra night in New Hampshire.

One could say her insistence was for our safety. One would be wrong. Pure and simple, we stayed in New Hampshire because, snow or sunshine, Mom loved being there. That said, it was the right call. While we were hunkering, more than a foot of snow fell. Boston and its suburbs were wiped out. There were countless stories of stranded motorists, abandoned cars and impassable highways and byways.

Even worst, New York was an absolute disaster. Fifteen inches of snow coupled with the city’s broken down plows brought New York to its knees. Mom’s joy of spending extra time in New Hampshire was tempered by her dismay. The Big Apple’s mayor, John Lindsay, was her favorite politician. Not necessarily for his politics, she had what could best be described as a schoolgirl crush on the handsome mayor. The snow debacle destroyed his presidential ambitions.

Throughout New Hampshire, the plows were out all night and the roads were quickly cleared. We spent a carefree Monday on the ski slopes. Meanwhile, the news from the Commonwealth was bleak. Overwhelmed by the snow, it took the Bay State almost a week to dig out. We stayed put and enjoyed our winter wonderland. Finally, late Thursday afternoon, the awful announcement: school would resume on Friday.

My wise mother insisted that little if anything would be accomplished in those few hours. After all, it was a Friday and the following week was February vacation. She saw no good reason to pack up and head south. We all agreed; mother knew best.

It was a terrific vacation; the snow was great and the sun was shining. Shining until Sunday morning when clouds drifted in and weathermen began spouting dire warnings of another nor’easter. Having heard the horror stories of that first storm, we took no chances and stayed in New Hampshire, safe and warm. Heavy snow on top of heavy snow was a recipe for trouble. It took Boston and the suburbs several days to dig out again. Meanwhile, the Nyes enjoyed another glorious ski week with another foot of new snow and no lift lines.

Although she never really liked to ski, Mom loves New Hampshire. Years later, she’d smile and reminisce about that February. It was the perfect vacation. Well, almost, she’d wistfully amend; perfect except for the handsome mayor’s fall from grace.

Enjoy the snow and bon appétit!

Black Bean & Beef Chili
A great dish for February vacation. It feeds a crowd of hungry skiers, skaters or sliders. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12Black_Bean_Beef_Chili_02

Start the Beans
1 pound black beans
1/2 large onion, trimmed and cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut in 3-4 chunks
1 stalk celery, cut in 3-4 chunks
1 bay leaf

Pick over the beans and discard any stones or shriveled beans. Rinse and toss in a pot with enough water to cover by 3-4 inches. Add the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are almost tender 1 – 1 1/4 hours. You may need to add more water as the beans cook.

What? No soaking? After reading several articles with clever titles like – To Soak or Not to Soak – I did some experimenting with black and small white beans. My conclusion; there is no need to soak the beans before cooking. You may need to add 15-30 minutes to the cooking time.

While the beans simmer …

Begin the Beef
Olive oil
About 3 pounds chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 large onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon or to taste dried chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno pepper
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
1-2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup espresso or very strong coffee
1 bay leaf

Garnish: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy casserole over medium-high. Generously season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper and brown each side for about 3 minutes. Remove the beef from the pot and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium. Put the onion, carrots and bell pepper in the pot, sprinkle with the spices and herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté 2 minutes more.

Return the beef to the casserole. Stir in the wine, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, espresso and bay leaf. The vegetables and liquid should come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pot roast. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees, turning the roast once or twice, for 1 hour.

Combine the beans and beef
By now, the beans have been simmering for about an hour, drain them, pick out the bay leaf and as much of the carrot, celery and onion as you can and add the beans to the beef. Turn and wiggle the beef around so the beans are submerged in liquid, season the beans with salt and pepper and add more chicken stock if necessary. The vegetables and liquid should still come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the beef. Return the casserole to the oven and continue cooking, covered, until beef is very tender about 1 hour more.

Remove the meat from the casserole and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Cut and/or tear the beef into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pot with the beans. Give everything a good stir, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Bring the chili to a simmer on top of the stove over low heat. Transfer to a 350 degree oven or continue simmering on the stovetop on very low heat for 15-30 minutes. To serve: ladle the chili into bowls and garnish with a little cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro.

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One Year Ago – Coq au Vin
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Three Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Four Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Five Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Six 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!

Do you have a favorite vacation memory? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Starlight & Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Brenda_Susie_Mary_Beth_CarusoWhen you’re little, there was something quite thrilling about being outside after dark. And even better if it is past your bedtime!

I grew up in suburbia, about twenty miles west of Boston. The houses on our street were all fairly small and overflowing with kids. Lucky for us, life in a small house, not to mention the times, encouraged outdoor play. Those houses could hold only so many toys and there were no computers, computer games or Disney Channel. If it wasn’t raining and the sun hadn’t set, our mothers shoved us out the door. Summer was pretty simple. There was nothing to do but play and nowhere to go but out.

We played hopscotch and four-square, rode bikes and climbed trees. We built houses and forts in the woods and staged elaborate games of make believe. There were epic battles of hide and seek, tag and Red Rover. Since every house had at least two children, and usually three or four, there were plenty of kids to join the fray.

My all-time favorite game was something we called Starlight. I later learned that kids in other neighborhoods called it Ghost or Graveyard or maybe Sardines. It was special for a variety of reasons.

Starlight could not be played with a handful of kids. A decent game more or less required the entire neighborhood. Most days and with most games, age lines were drawn and boys and girls didn’t mix a whole lot. A neighborhood melee didn’t happen all that often, making it all the more grand.

Full MoonRunning around in the dark was a real treat. My mother had this boring rule that we had to come home as soon as the streetlights came on.

And finally, no doubt about it, Starlight was an absolutely terrifying game. At least if you were six.

Unlike today’s playdates, these battles were far from perfectly planned events. More often than not, Starlight was play on the fly. It would start when, for no particular rhyme or reason, an impromptu gathering occurred. Warm weather drew families outside for a walk or game of catch. A group would form to admire a new car or welcome a family back from a cross-country vacation. With any luck, the adults moved onto the porch for a nightcap. Before our parents could stop and think about bedtime, we kids disappeared into the darkness. Out of sight, we were out of mind; at least for an hour, maybe more.

Starlight was a simple game. Someone was IT; I think we called this person The Ghost. One big kid or another, often my sister, always wanted to be IT first. The Ghost drifted off into the backyard and hid. Then everyone else carefully crept around the house. Each step was more frightening than the last. Just as our terror reached a fevered pitch, The Ghost leapt out of the bushes and tagged as many kids as possible.

Those who escaped returned to the front stoop, regrouped and did it all over again. If caught, you were declared dead or some such thing. Anyway, you then joined The Ghost and helped chase down the escapees. Eventually, the last kid was captured and became The Ghost in the next round. The game went on until blood, tears or both were shed or our parents realized it was after ten o’clock.

The summer always seems to end before we know it. Day or night, enjoy the outdoors and bon appétit!

Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
The season for local corn and tomatoes is short so indulge often. These quesadillas are great for lunch, a casual supper or appetizer. Enjoy!
Serve 4-6 for dinner or lunch and 12, maybe more, for appetizers

2-3 ears (enough for 1-1 1/2 cups kernels) fresh corn
Olive oil
About 1 1/2 cups (15-ounce can) black beans, drained and rinsed
About 1/4 cup chopped red onion
About 1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeño pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cheddar or Monterey jack, shredded (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup sour cream
6-8 large or 10-12 medium flour tortillas

Grilled Corn_02Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high. Brush the corn with a little olive oil. Lay the ears directly on the grill and, turning to cook evenly, cook for about 15 minutes or until nicely charred and tender. Remove from the grill. When the corn is cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cobs. Can be prepared in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Put the corn, beans, onion, jalapeño and garlic in a bowl, season with cumin, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the cheese and sour cream and toss again.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Grilled_Corn_Black_Bean_Quesadilla_02Set the tortillas on a work surface, evenly spread about 1/3 cup of beans, corn and cheese on one-half of each tortilla and fold the tortilla over the filling.

Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with oil and, working in batches, place the tortillas on the griddle. Flipping once, cook until the tortillas are golden and the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Transfer the quesadillas to an ovenproof patter and keep warm in the oven while you cook the next batch.

Cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve with Fresh Tomato Salsa.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
1/4 cup or to taste chopped red onion
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced (or more to taste) jalapeño pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped or about 12 ounces tomato, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Put the red onion, pepper, garlic and jalapeño in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil, season with salt and pulse until well combined and finely chopped.

If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Two Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Three Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Four Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Five Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Six Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

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Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014