Hidden Beauty & Green Olive Salsa or Tapenade

I always complain about April. Well not just April, I also have this thing about November. As far as I’m concerned, they are the two worst months of the year. They are funky, in-between months. The days pass slowly as we anticipate the new season and next adventure. In November, we anxiously look to sky for enough snow to ski or snowshoe and ice to skate. In April, we anxiously wait for the last of that snow and ice to disappear.

In both cases, the predominant color is gray. We New Englanders love our blazing fall colors but by November the trees are bare. We also love the bright green buds on the trees, the pink and white apple blossoms and the first cheery yellow daffodils of spring.

If anything, April is worst than November. Both are gray but April is just so messy. I’m far from being a clean freak but the mountain of sand that come into the house gets to me every year. As much as I’d like to enjoy a beach right now, I don’t want one in my kitchen.

Speaking of beaches, that’s the other thing about these two in-between months. There’s nothing special to do. Next season’s fun is still a month or two away. The lake is covered with ice but probably not all that safe for skating. The mountain has closed down for the season. Hiking paths are covered with a mix of mud and ice. Perhaps I could take up mah jongg or go nuts with spring cleaning. Both would keep me busy but I’m unsure of the fun factor. That’s not quite true, spring cleaning is low on my list of fun stuff to do.

Then, like the proverbial silver lining, I spied a bright spot in the drab landscape. Maybe the barren countryside isn’t so bad. Without foliage or four feet of snow, I made an interesting discovery on my walk the other day.

Looking out from the sandy edge of the road, I saw evidence of beavers. They’ve been at work in a swampy area near Great Brook. Bands of newly exposed wood were visible at the bottom of several trees. Still others, were mere stumps, chewed to a sharp point. The wind was blowing a gale. The sky had clouded over but none of that mattered. A soothing abstract arrangement of trees in pale gold and gray was etched against the snow. It was beautiful.

beaver_landscape_014

While I have never tried to ramble around back there, I suspect it’s barely accessible. Part of the network of wetlands that surround much of the lake, it would make for a soggy walkabout. Melting snow and any significant rainstorm create a maze of little streams. As soon as it warms up, poison ivy will again be rampant.

For most of year, this magical view is shielded by thick foliage or mountainous snowbanks. Perhaps, that’s the magic. Hidden away, it’s ignored by all but the most curious puppy out for a walk. That combination of light and dark, gray and gold is only revealed for a few days. Soon the snow will melt and the trees will retreat into a muddy backdrop.

Sun or clouds, be sure to spend some time exploring your world and bon appétit!

Green Olive Tapenade or Salsa
Same ingredients – two results. Both are delicious.  Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

2 cups pitted Castelvetrano olives or your favorite green olives, rinsed and well drained
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or to taste
1 bay leaf (optional)

Salsa: finely chop the olives and capers and mince the garlic. Put all of ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Cover and let sit for up to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Serve the salsa on crostini with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano or with grilled fish or chicken or toss with pasta.

Tapenade: working in batches, throw everything but the bay leaf into a small food processor. Process until the mixture comes together in a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl or jar, add the bay leaf, cover and let sit for up to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Serve the tapenade with raw vegetables and flatbread crackers or use it to add a bit of punch to sandwiches and pizza.

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One Year Ago – Pasta Primavera
Two Years Ago – Coq au Vin au Printemps
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Baked Cod
Four Years Ago – Artichoke Pesto
Five Years Ago – Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Six Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Seven Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Eight Years Ago – Tapenade
Nine Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Ten Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

How do you survivemud season a favorite dog? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

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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

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