Mud Season Weekend Special

Raining, snowing or a clear blue sky, I like to cook dishes from sunny climates during mud season. Think cheery recipes from the Caribbean, Asia and the Mediterranean. Friends and family will love the change. Here are a few suggestions to help you through a muddy weekend:

Let’s start with a few dips inspired by the Mediterranean. You love my Artichoke Pesto, and Baba Ganoush and Feta-Walnut Spread. Pita chips and some fresh veggies will make great dippers. Want to add a nibble or two? Try one or both of my favorites – Roasted Almonds or Spicy Olives.

Heading to the table, make the switch to south Asia with a flavorful soup. Either my Curried Carrot Soup or Curried Eggplant Soup would be a terrific choice.

Now, on to the main event. Serve up a little spice with my Vindaloo Chicken. Complete the dinner with spoonfuls of Roasted Cauliflower and basmati rice.

For dessert, think strawberries. They’re on sale at my local supermarket. Simply delicious, you will love my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream. That said, if you can find some rhubarb, you must try my Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup.

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.

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

Advertisements

Easter Dinner Special

Get out your bonnet – the one with all the frills! In case you haven’t been paying attention, Easter is this Sunday. Invite friends and family to gather around your table for a festive feast.

Let’s start with a tasty dip or two. Try one or more of my favorites – Baba Ganoush, Feta-Walnut Spread and/or Artichoke Pesto. Serve the dips with fresh vegetables and pita chips. Add a bowl of Roasted Almonds and another of Spicy Olives. Relax with a glass of wine and let everyone help themselves.

When you’re ready, gather at the table for a colorful salad. Can I suggest – Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad or Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette?

For the main course, at my house, it has to be lamb. While ham is a popular choice in the US, lamb is the favorite Easter dish in France, Greece and Italy. For a taste of the Mediterranean try my Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint or Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce. Enjoy the lamb with Roasted Moroccan Carrots and Israeli Couscous. If you’d prefer a cozy stew, try my Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms & Creamy Polenta.

Now for a few of my favorite spring desserts … There is nothing like lemon at Easter. My Lemon Tart is both easy and fabulous. If you’d like to get fancy, try my beautiful and delicious White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries.

If you’re more of an Easter Brunch type … Stay tuned for a brunch menu … it’s coming tomorrow!

Have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

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

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

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

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.

Print-friendly version  of this post.

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

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

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

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

Hindsight & Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Printer-friendly version of this post.

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

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

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

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

The Zen of Comfort Food & Mediterranean Meatballs with Couscous

You could blame it on the Columbus Day Weekend but I’ve had meatballs on my mind for several days now. A holiday fraught with controversy, both cherished and despised, Columbus Day nonetheless reminds us of the Italian-American part of our heritage. Although he never set foot in North America, we still claim Columbus as our first Italian-American. Stereotype or not, meatballs are a beloved part of the Italian in America.

That said; meatballs are not just Italian. You will find them all across Europe, the Americas, Middle East and Asia. More than some vague cultural reference, they are pure comfort food. They are one of the many dishes made by hand with love by our Nana, Nonni, Meme or Mormor. That connection to our past elevates them to the top of the comfort food pyramid. Think of meatballs as comfort food with a capital C and capital F.

Of course, they are not alone. Up there at the pinnacle of comfortdom sits mac & cheese, chicken noodle soup and chili. Of course, there is a long list of easy comfort foods. Indulgent snacks like fast food French fries and dumplings from the Chinese take-out come to mind. The quickest way to mend a broken heart is a pint of Rocky Road. Generations of Moms’ have served grilled cheese with a cup of tomato soup after a lost soccer game.

So why are meatballs so special? What puts them at the pinnacle? I have a theory but it may only apply to those of us who like to cook. Here goes. Meatballs provide comfort at both the destination and throughout the journey. In case you haven’t guessed, making them is the journey and enjoying them with family and friends is the destination.

Comfort food is all about love. Preparing a comfort dish is part of the Zen of everyday life. Although comfort food is rarely complicated, its preparation is often time consuming. The very nature of these recipes invites us to slow down.

The day my mother died, I made two batches of chili. It sounds strange, doesn’t it? I had been awake half the night. Sometime in the wee hours, I remembered that two pounds of black beans had been soaking for almost two days. I could have thrown them out. Instead, around five-thirty, I stopped tossing and turning and began making chili. Dad left for the hospital and I promised to relieve him by noon.

Mom had been ill for several years. The rhythmic chopping of onions and mincing of garlic helped me find peace. The easy back and forth from cutting board to stove, pantry and refrigerator was steadying. I had space and time alone for quiet reflection. The act of cooking simple comfort food was grounding on a difficult day. The first batch of chili went to a nonprofit fundraiser. The second was for the family.

Mom and I spent a quiet afternoon together. I told her about my peaceful morning, I think she approved. I read to her and then she was gone. After three hurricanes, an earthquake and the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, perhaps we can all find peace in both the journey and destination of cooking and sharing comfort food.

Chili or chicken soup, mac & cheese or meatballs … take comfort in simple food and bon appétit!

Mediterranean Meatballs and Couscous
I like to combine the flavors of different cultures. Here my mother’s Swedish meatballs meet the flavors of North Africa, Turkey and Greece. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

Mediterranean Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup instant oatmeal
1/3 large onion, minced
1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Flour, for dusting
Olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous

Make the Mediterranean Tomato Sauce.

While the sauce simmers, put the turkey, oatmeal, carrot, onion and garlic in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Put the eggs and vinegar in a bowl and whisk combine. Add the sour cream, whisk again and add the wet ingredients to the turkey. Gently toss and mix to combine. You can use a couple of large spoons but impeccably clean hands work best. Roll the mixture into meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Dust the meatballs with flour, add them to the pan and brown on all sides. You may need to cook the meatballs in batches; don’t crowd the pan.

Transfer the meatballs to the pot of Mediterranean Tomato Sauce, bring to a simmer and transfer to the oven. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. If needed, add more chicken stock to the sauce.

While the meatballs braise in the sauce, prepare the couscous according to package directions.

Drain the couscous and spoon into individual shallow bowls, top with meatballs and sauce and serve.

Mediterranean Tomato Sauce
Makes about 2 quarts

Olive oil
2/3 large onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons or to taste Harissa
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup or more chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Lightly coat a heavy casserole with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onion, carrot and harissa, sprinkle with the spices and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until onion is translucent, add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced half. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, stock and herbs, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Can be made in advance.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Two Years Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Three Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Four Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Five Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Six Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Seven Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Eight Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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

What are your favorite comfort foods? Feel free to share!

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

Hello September Weekend Special

September – it’s where summer meets fall. It is a month filled with contrasts. There are those spectacular days of clear skies and bright sun. Then, to keep you humble and avoid complacency with the sunshine, there is a run of not so great weather. Cloudy, rainy, dreary, foggy … you get the picture. We’re stuck in one of those right now. However, the weekend promises improvement.

Rather than take a chance on the weather and a cookout, you might want to take dinner indoors this weekend. Here are a few ideas for a tasty, end of summer feast:

Start with a glass of wine and my latest appetizer recipe. Crispy, crunchy with lots of flavor, my Savory Rosemary Biscotti may become your new, fall hors d’oeuvre. If you like, enjoy the biscotti with small dollops of Tomato Jam or Savory Fig Jam .

Next, sit down to a colorful salad. How about my Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette ? The name says it all.

Who wouldn’t love a bowl of pasta on a cool night? With the harvest at its peak, you’ve got to love my Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes .

Cap off your meal with a beautiful end of summer dessert. For a sweet finish, try my Cardamom Plum Tort .

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

Another Dreary Weekend Special

Good golly Miss Molly … will it never end. Yes, indeed it looks like another dreary weekend. Although it might not actually rain until Monday, partly cloudy and very cloudy are in the forecast. Forget May flowers, it’s June already. In some places, it is already summer.

Alright, if you can’t play in the sun, you might as well invite family and friends around for a delicious dinner. How about an evening inspired by the sunny Mediterranean?

Get out the retsina or ouzo and try your hand at my Crostini with Cucumber, Radish & Feta or Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad. If you want to really impress, then whip up a batch of my Spanakopita Triangles.

Assuming no downpours, you’ll need the grill again for the main course. I hope that your friends and family enjoy my Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint as much as mine did the other night. If it’s raining or you don’t want to deal with the grill, try my Chicken with Onions & Olives or Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs. Serve any and all of the above with my Lemony Green Rice or Israeli Couscous. Complete your dinner with Grilled Ratatouille Stacks.

Save room for a sweet. I can’t help but go for strawberries this time of year. While we are still waiting for local berries, you can always make due with what’s in the market from California or New Jersey. Try my Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard or Panna Cotta with Strawberries.

Stay dry and have a great weekend! Bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

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