Another September Weekend Special

Fall is my favorite season and September is my favorite month. I’m partial to September because the temperatures are almost summerlike. More often than not, the summery temperatures come without oppressive humidity. It’s a great time for hiking and biking, relaxing on a beach, picking apples or baking a pie.

After all that hiking and biking or relaxing, it might be fun to cook up a Mediterranean feast. The key to this approach to dining is more than a few small courses. Think variety. Here are a few ideas:

Start with a relaxing glass of wine and couple of lovely dips for an easy antipasto. Try my Artichoke Pesto and Tapenade with fresh veggies and your favorite artisanal crackers. Add a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a few Roasted Almonds.

At the table, start with a lovely pasta. Keep the portions small – this is your first, not the main course. Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes & Feta would make a lovely start to your dinner.

After a rainy week, it’s time to grill. You’ll love my Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint. Serve the lamb with your favorite Grilled Balsamic Vegetables.

Now it’s time for salad. Yes, salad comes after the main course with a Mediterranean feast. May I suggest my Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad?

Finally for dessert, time to take advantage of apple season. Pick a peck or grab a bag at the farm stand and make a delicious Rustic Apple Tart.

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.

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

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Welcome Fall Weekend Special

Saturday is the first day of autumn. Summer lovers will be a little mopey this weekend. Cheer them up with a welcome fall cookout. While you might end up eating dinner inside, you don’t need to put the grill away for another month or more. (Although not often, I grill throughout the winter.)

Here are a few ideas for a delicious end of summer cookout:

Before those beautiful local tomatoes are gone for the season … start with Fresh Tomato Crostini. They definitely taste like summer – even if there is a little nip in the air.

Now to the table … one of my favorite summer salads is sure to please. With the grill out you can’t do better than Grilled Romaine Salad.

For your main course … If you have never enjoyed my Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa, now is the perfect time. Serve the fish with a spoonful of Grilled Ratatouille.

There’s always room for dessert … late summer or early fall – it’s time for plums. It’s the perfect weekend for my Cardamom Plum Tort.

Have a great weekend. Bon appétit!

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

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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

Staying Busy & Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Well, not necessarily in our house! My mother’s greatest fear was that even a few minutes of free time would lead her kids to some horrible mischief. She was bound and determined to keep us busy.

When we were little, it was swimming lessons, tennis and sailing. When we got older, the lessons ended but we were expected to find a summer job. If we couldn’t find one then a bunch of odd jobs would do. I did a fair amount of babysitting, ran a weekend lunch counter at the beach and sold raffle tickets for Hospital Day.

My last summer before college, I managed to land a full time job. Every day, I donned a bright smile, an ugly white uniform and even uglier white shoes. Sugar & Spice Restaurant was the beginning and end of my mercifully short career as a waitress.

Actually, I was a very good waitress. What I lacked in experience, I made up in enthusiasm. At eighteen, I had boundless energy, a bright smile and a sharp eye and ear for detail. I rarely mixed up orders or checks, filled and refilled water glasses promptly and didn’t keep people waiting for the ketchup and mustard. What more could you ask for?

A diner of sorts, Sugar & Spice opened at dawn, served three greasy meals and closed by eight. If your sweet tooth acted up, the afternoon shift’s lone waitress could help you out. She was more than happy to stop vacuuming or filling saltshakers to scoop you some ice cream, pour you a Coke or whip up a frappe.

Except for those few hours between lunch and dinner, you could get anything you wanted at Sugar & Spice. Okay, make that anything that could be thrown into a fryolator or slung onto a griddle. The kitchen produced a steady stream of burgers, hot dogs and French fries as well as mountains of fried chicken and fish. Except for dessert, the food was ordinary at best. One of the year-round waitresses did the baking and arrived every morning with fresh cakes and pies.

Speaking of staff, the crew at Sugar & Spice would have made a great cast for a sitcom. The tall, skinny boss sported an enormous handlebar mustache and wore coke bottle glasses. The vertically-challenged cook was as laid back as the boss was uptight. Two teenage brothers washed dishes. They were cute and funny as only fourteen and fifteen year old redheaded boys can be. Finally, there were half a dozen waitresses in every size, shape and temperament.

Well, not quite finally, I mustn’t forget the milkman. Not only did he come by most every day but he was my fling that summer. Between his sophomore and junior years at Dartmouth, I’m not sure why Harry decided to spend the summer delivering milk. We thought our nickname for him, Harry from the Dairy, was ever so clever but I don’t think he did. It didn’t really matter because he was feeling bored, perhaps even desperate, when he met our motley crew.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad summer. Mom was happy that I was busy and working. Waiting on table was hardly terrific but the cast of characters was entertaining. I wasn’t in love but dating a smart and funny college boy was certainly a plus. The tips weren’t great but I headed off to my first year of college with enough cash to pay for books, beer and late night pizza.

I hope the summer is keeping you busy and happy! Bon appétit!

Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta
Salad at the Sugar & Spice was tired Boston lettuce with a wedge of pale, hothouse tomato. This green bean salad is fresh, colorful and delicious. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2-1 small red onion, cut in half and then into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 1 pound fresh green beans
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes (in a mix of different shapes and colors if you can find them), halved
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
16-20 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Put the vinegar and mustard in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil and whisk again. Add the onion and garlic and toss to combine. Stirring occasionally, let the onions marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the beans and cook until bright green and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

While the beans cook, fill a large bowl about half way with ice and add cold water to cover. Set aside.

Drain the beans and immediately transfer them to the bowl of ice water to cool. Drain the beans and pat dry.

Put the beans and tomatoes in a bowl, add the onions and toss to combine. Sprinkle with about 2/3 of the herbs and toss again.

To serve: transfer the salad to a large, deep serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with olives, feta and the remaining herbs.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta
Three Years Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Four Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Five Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Six Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Seven Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Ninet Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Ten Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

Do you have a summer job story? Feel free to share!

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Hindsight & Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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