Free-Range Rambling & Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup

Summer is a special time in New England. Long days and warm weather invite children to explore the world or at least the patch outside their backdoor … and out into the neighborhood. Unencumbered by jackets and boots, children are free to ride bikes, climb trees and ramble through the woods.

There’s a good bet that more than one child will bring home a nasty case of poison ivy and another will slip and slide into the frog pond. There will be scraped knees and possibly a broken bone or two. It’s all part of growing up in the country. Now, if you are concerned about these bumps, and scrapes; don’t be. Yes, there will be tears but they never last long. Besides, each scar will be a wonderful reminder of a fabulous adventure. They are badges of fun, bravery and honor. My generation continues to wear those scars with pride; this generation of kids will too.

In today’s lingo, children who wander about, seeking and finding their own entertainment are called free-range kids. It’s how I grew up. You probably grew up the same way. In our day, we were just called kids. Now, perhaps you’ve wondered, where can these free-range kids roam? If they live in my neighborhood, there is plenty to explore. A hike in the woods will lead them to the remnants of old stone walls, massive boulders and ancient orchards. Every child needs a favorite rock or tree to climb, a special perch to contemplate the world and all its ambiguities.

Most children are collectors. If they weren’t, tiny cars, cuddly stuffed animals, dolls and action figures would not fill toy baskets or get lost at the beach. Rambling young collectors will find a multitude of treasures to fill their pockets. Pinecones, sticks, bits of bark, stones, wild flowers, ferns and what not – there are loads of interesting finds.

But don’t worry. All that flotsam and jetsam will not clutter up the house. Those bits and twigs won’t join the already overflowing baskets of toys. They won’t even cross the threshold. Children know better than anyone that nature’s collectibles are exactly what’s needed to build fairy houses.

Least you think otherwise, free-range kids aren’t constantly on the move. Every child seeks a quiet corner from time to time. Everyone is different: some children need a lot of alone space while others are good with just a little. Even the most enthusiastic ramblers want a break now and then – to read, draw or take a nap. One of the many delights of summer is the freedom to enjoy a book that’s not on the reading list or write your own stories. Without a tightly regimented schedule, kids can explore new music, color and line, arts and crafts. Perhaps they’ll invent a new game or create a new dance.

Now, this practice of raising free-range children is not particularly well appreciated in some circles. I find this both astounding and sad. Why would anyone deny their children the fun and freedom they themselves enjoyed as kids?

So … Mommas and Poppas, do let your children go out and play cowboys. Let them be pirates, ballerinas and such. Let them ramble and wander and gaze at the stars. Encourage them to read, sing and draw. Most of all inspire them to dream. Summer may be short but childhood is even shorter; embrace the freedom to make the most of both.

Have fun and bon appétit!

Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup
Summertime is burger time; make yours special with spicy homemade ketchup. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

1 pound cherry tomatoes
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon or to taste brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1/2-1 lime

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chipotle purée in a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and toss to combine. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cumin and paprika, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Roast for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and caramelized. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a small food processor or blender, add the lime juice and process until very smooth.

* Take a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and toss them, sauce and all, in a small food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a clean glass jar. Store the chipotle purée in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette
One Year Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Two Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Three Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Four Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Five Years Ago – Gazpacho
Six Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Seven Years Ago– Thai Salad
Eight Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Nine Years Ago – Lobster Salad

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

Were you a free-range kid? What was your favorite place to roam? Feel free to share!

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

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Jump In – The Water’s Fine Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli

I am nothing if not lucky. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, I’m absolutely, utterly and totally lucky. Growing up, my sister, brother and I had all sorts of wonderful opportunities. In the summer, we spent two weeks impatiently waiting for a ride to the town beach, two weeks at camp and a month on the Cape. Between the town beach and camp, we learned to swim. While they are now long gone, at least for a while, Mom had the certificates to prove it.

Whether at camp or the town beach, swimming lessons were serious business. For one thing, our instructors wore uniforms – red Speedos with a special lifeguard patch. Regardless of the weather, classes were held first thing in the morning. In addition to the red Speedos, these tyrants sported a whistle and did not hesitate to blow it. Every morning, they’d bark orders and toot the whistle as they put us through our drills: crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and sidestroke.

All those swimming lessons were endured for one reason and one reason only – to pass the raft test. Without a doubt, passing the raft test was an important rite of passage. By important, I mean it was right up there with birth, death and marriage. Although, at seven or eight, I’m not sure we paid much attention to these milestones. In any case, swimming to the raft was certainly more important than a first haircut or high school diploma. Swimming to the raft meant that you were one of the big kids.

The town beach had two rafts. Both required a swimming test. The first was more than difficult. The second was almost beyond endurance. However, it was worth the struggle. As we all know, there is not a little kid alive who doesn’t vie for the privileges of older siblings and neighbors. In the scheme of life, earning a driver’s license is perhaps the only challenge on par with (and possibly more significant than) passing the raft test. That said; a three-point turn on a hill is nothing compared to the hundreds of laps required to exit the baby area and join the big kids on that elusive raft. Okay, so maybe it was only eight or twelve laps but it seemed like hundreds.

For a long time, I thought everyone knew how to swim. When you grow up in New England, in spite of our short summers, swimming is part of life. From the ice-cold ocean to a somewhat tepid pond, opportunities abound. As added insurance, our school district mandated swimming lessons for all sixth graders. Once a week, we hopped on a bus and headed to a pool for swimming lessons. No kid was going slip through the cracks.

Eventually, life took me outside of my familiar New England boundaries. On my quest for adventure, my horizons expanded and I met all sorts of wonderful people. Imagine my surprise to learn that a good many of them could barely swim a stroke. Meeting these non-swimmers reminded me of the charmed existence I lived as a child.

When you’re young, swimming is all about the joy of diving under the lines that keep your little brother and his friends safe in shallow water. It’s the wonderful sense of freedom from swimming away from the crowded beach. It’s the feeling of strength and accomplishment as you climb out of the cool lake and on the raft. It’s the fun and silliness when that cute boy throws you back in.

News stories of a dozen young boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave is a powerful reminder of my fabulously lucky life. So, to those Speedo-clad tyrants, their whistles and drills, I say thank you. My crawl may be weak but I can do a decent breaststroke for about a mile, maybe more.

Enjoy the water, stay safe and have a wonderful summer. Bon appétit!

Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
A taste of Provençal sunshine – hot off the grill. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 – 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces goat cheese, sliced
8 burger buns

Make the Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium hot.

Divide the turkey into 8 pieces and gently pat into patties, brush both sides with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the turkey burgers on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue grilling for 2 minutes. Top each burger with sliced goat cheese and grill for 1 minute more.

Place the buns on the grill, turning once, and toast for 1 minute or less. Pop each turkey burger onto a bun, add a dollop of Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli and serve.

Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
Makes about 1 cup

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup prepared mayonnaise
1/3 cup tapenade (recipe follows)

Put the garlic, rosemary and lemon juice into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped and combined. Add the mayonnaise and tapenade and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tapenade
Makes about 1 cup

Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or to taste
About 8 ounces dry pack, oil cured black olives, pitted

Throw everything except the olives into the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until well chopped and combined. About a quarter at a time, add the olives and process until smooth. You may need to add a little more olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Blueberry Bread Pudding
Two Years Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Four Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Five Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Sic Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Seven Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Nine Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What’s your summer beach story? Feel free to share!

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

Don’t Jinx It & Lettuce Cups with Stir-fried Chicken & Vegetables

I haven’t seen so many teeth in all my life. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but it’s been just about year since I’ve seen so many and such big smiles. More or less everyone was beaming last Wednesday. At least for a day, it was not just summery, it was a perfect summer day. Blue sky, low humidity and eighty-five degrees, you can’t beat it. And it was only May!

Now here’s the question – what exactly was that perfect summer day all about? Was it a harbinger of more to come, a tease or a blip on the National Weather Service radar? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter. The challenge is simple – DON’T JINX IT. Come on; don’t play innocent. You know what I’m talking about – we’ve all got a million examples, some more memorable than others.

Here’s one … the first time I dressed down for casual Friday. To set the scene – it was long before I reinvented myself and became a plucky freelancer. Only a small handful of women executives worked in my employer’s European operations. I was one of them. On that particular Friday morning, I’d been out the office for at least a week and I was dragging. Half asleep, I grabbed a mug of coffee, threw on a pair shorts and headed out the door. Yes shorts, take your pick; you can blame it on the nineties or jetlag. Anyway, I was no sooner at my desk that a colleague asks me to meet with his client. Oh, and not just any client, a stuffy, British, pinstripe-type and I’m dressed like Gidget on her way to a pep rally.

Need more proof? Well, a few years later I was on the fence, dithering back and forth on whether to stay or leave Geneva. I ferreted around, investigated a few job leads but nothing looked promising. Deciding it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, I upgraded and bought new stereo equipment. Within three months, I was house hunting in California and the stereo was on the Swiss equivalent of Craig’s list.

The list goes on. You finally get the car washed and it rains on the drive home. There’s six inches of new powder and it’s still snowing. You lie, call in sick and head to the mountain. A half mile from the ski slopes, you slide off the road and wreck the car. It’s overcast but you don’t bother bring an umbrella to your kid’s soccer game. It doesn’t rain; it snows. You only run into your arch nemesis or an old flame on bad hair days. You sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 and wait eighty-four years before winning another World Series. Like I said, the list goes on and on and on.

So what does all this jinx stuff have to do with summer weather in May? Simple, if you want it to last; don’t jinx it! In other words, don’t go running to the hardware store to buy a new air conditioner. Don’t drag the grill out of the garage and onto the patio. Leave the lawn furniture on the screen porch. Don’t swap out your winter and summer clothes. Sure, it’s a pain but day-by-day, dig through your storage containers to find a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and those sandals you love. If you want good weather to hold, you’ll keep tripping over that plastic box at least through Memorial Day. Flag Day, even the summer solstice, would be safer.

For the next month, maybe two, always bring your umbrella and bon appétit!

Lettuce Cups with Stir-fried Chicken and Vegetables
One of my after-the-movies, go-to restaurants took this off the menu a year or so ago. It is a great addition to any tapas-type meal. Time to add it to my regular repertoire. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth or a mix of both
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon or to taste sambal oelek or sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped*
1 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
About 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/4 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted cashews
Inner leaves – Boston or romaine lettuce, trimmed

Make the sauce: put the wine, hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal oelek, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat,
add the onion and carrot and sauté for 1 minute,
add the mushroom and sauté 2-3 minutes,
add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute,
add the chicken and sauté for 3-5 minutes.

Add the water chestnuts and sauce and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has been reduced down and absorbed, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and sprinkle with cilantro, sliced scallions, cucumber and cashews. Let everyone help themselves to lettuce and spoon chicken and veggies into the leaves. Fold the lettuce leaf around filling and enjoy.

* You can use ground chicken if you want to save a little time.

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One Year Ago – Crostini with Cucumber, Radish & Feta
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts
Three Years Ago – Rhubarb Crumb Cake
Four Years Ago – A Duo of Aiolis
Five Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Six Years Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Eight Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak

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

What will you do to ensure the sun keeps shining? Feel free to share!

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

Surviving Mud Season & Vindaloo Chicken

A week ago Monday, the day dawned with about six inches of cement-like snow in the yard. Only the day before, cheery crocuses were blooming and an inch of two of daffodils had broken ground. It was a bit disheartening to say the least and I wasn’t alone in my dismay.

Everyone had a joke. Mother Nature forgot to tell Father Time it was spring. It’s not the 15th of April, it’s 106th of January. After all, if we don’t laugh we might cry. The snow did raise a few hopes. Would it put a damper on next month’s black flies? (Unfortunately no, a hard frost in May will do that but not snow in April.)

I don’t know why these April storms surprise us. Perhaps we are in denial and only pretend to be surprised. After a few decades away, I admit I more or less had forgotten about New Hampshire’s snowy Aprils. However, my return to reality was swift and sure. The last one hundred or so miles of my journey home were in a snowstorm – it was  April 22.

Let’s face it; we live in a land known for its many seasons. In late October or early November, almost-winter begins. It is followed by winter. Winter is a great time for those of us who like to ski or snowshoe. Unfortunately, around the time the lifts close, still-winter or mud season begins. Spring, for all intents and purposes, is nonexistent.

Okay, I will grudgingly admit it. Sometime in late May or early June, we are not-so-blessed with a few days of black fly infested spring. Finally, there is a wonderful burst of summer, followed by a glorious fall. As lovely as these two mini seasons are, they are just that – mini. Together they barely make up a third of the year.

When it comes to surviving mud season, here’s what I got. It ain’t much but it’s about the best I can offer:

Defy all logic and smile. Smile, even if your car gets stuck in the slush or you loose a sneaker in the mud. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are smiling. If you don’t believe me, try it. Still not convinced? Well, then leaf through a pile of old Scientific Americans; the proof is in there somewhere.

Buy a ridiculously colorful raincoat and an even brighter pair of wellies (also known as rain boots.) It’s okay if they don’t match. Both will keep you dry and make you laugh. It’s hard to be unhappy when you are laughing. (See above for proof.)

If you can, get out of town, if only for a weekend or a day. You don’t need to go all the way to the Bahamas or Hawaii for a change. Spend some time in the city – any city will do. When was the last time you visited a museum? It’s been a while hasn’t it? How about shopping and lunch in a smart café? Indulge a bit; you deserve it.

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Vindaloo Chicken
When New Hampshire turns muddy, I have a yearning for dishes from warmer climates. Curry is one of my favorites. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

6-8 bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil
6-8 tablespoons Vindaloo Paste*
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups (14-15 ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup or more chicken stock
1 pound baby spinach
1 1/2-2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup chopped cashews, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Starting skin-side down, sear the chicken for about 2 minutes per each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

Put the Vindaloo Paste in the pan and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Add the bay leaf, stir in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pan with any juices and wiggle the pieces down into the vegetables.
Transfer the pan to the oven and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked-through and nicely browned. Check the pan after about 30 minutes and add more chicken stock if necessary.

While the chicken braises, cook the rice according to package directions.

Remove the chicken from the pan, arrange in a deep serving platter and cover to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the stove and place over medium-high heat. Add the spinach in handfuls, toss to coat with sauce and cook, stirring, until all the spinach has wilted, 2-3 minutes.

Spoon the vegetables and sauce around and over the chicken, sprinkle with cashews and serve with basmati rice.

* You can find Vindaloo Paste in specialty stores, online and in some larger supermarkets … or you can make your own.

Vindaloo Paste
Makes about 1 cup

1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cloves
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2-4 or to taste fresh bird’s eye chilies, chopped
1 cup loosely pack fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
About 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Put the spices and seeds in a small food processor and pulse to combine and grind the seeds.

Add the garlic, ginger, chilies and cilantro and pulse to chop and combine. Add the crushed tomatoes and process to combine.

Add the vegetable oil and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

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One Year Ago – I Love Lime Pie
Two Years Ago – Quinoa Salad
Three Years Ago – Latkes
Four Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Five Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Six Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Eight Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Nine Years Ago – Pork Mole
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have a plastic pollution solution? Feel free to share!

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

The Cruelest Month & Pasta Primavera

In northern New England, April is truly the cruelest month. It is not, to steal from T.S. Eliot, because the month breeds lilacs and stirs dull roots with spring rain. It is because it doesn’t. April is cruel because the chairlift grinds to a final halt, dirty snow lines the highways and byways and cold rain stirs up sand and mud.

Throughout the northern hemisphere, spring has sprung but not in New Hampshire. Here mud season has arrived with a resounding splat. I suppose I could, I should, embrace mud season. After all, April is also tax season. With all that muck, there is nothing to distract me from the mire of all those tax forms.

Hopefully, your situation is not so complex that you will have your nose in your taxes for the next two weeks. April and all its muddy grayness, shouts for an audacious revolt. And by the way, if your taxes are really that complex, it’s time to call in a professional.

So, how audacious is audacious and what kind of mutiny? If you have enough pennies in your bank, the easiest answer is to pack your bag and go somewhere warm. A trip to Florida would probably count as mutinous but hardly daring. A trip to Morocco could be both and at the very least, very interesting. On the other hand, a trip to Finland wouldn’t solve anything.

However, if you are stuck in the New Hampshire drizzle, April is not without hope. Forget your inclination to hibernate. Or if you do stay in, invite a crowd to join you. I imagine that back in the eighties, Martha Stewart encouraged her fans to chase away the mud season blues with a spectacular party.

Martha would cook a wonderful three, make that five, course dinner. The care and details of her table setting would rival a Buckingham Palace butler. Flowers would fill every room of her grand Connecticut farmhouse. She would dress herself in a fabulous little black dress and then-husband Andrew in an impeccable tuxedo. Champagne would flow. Serious talk and laughter would find the right balance for a stimulating and fun evening.

So you see, April doesn’t have to be the cruelest month. Sure it can be soggy; it can make you groggy and more than a little bit cranky. It doesn’t have to. Gray days and drizzly nights can turn you into a hermit. Don’t let them. Brightly colored rain boots are all the rage with the shop-til-you-drop crowd. Treat yourself; they’re cheaper than a trip to Cabo San Lucas and you’ll need them to go shopping for that dinner.

Yes, dinner! In the spirit of WWMD (what would Martha do), how about you fight the April blues by hosting a spectacular dinner party? Of course, you’ll want to skip the big hair and black tie. Times have changed and no one wants to worry about fancy shoes during mud season. Think wonderful food in a relaxed atmosphere. Maybe you’ll try one of those more complicated recipes, something awe-inspiring that you’ve been dying to try but avoiding for lack of time and courage. Or maybe not!

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta)
A delightful pasta dish to celebrate spring in relaxed twenty-first century style. Enjoy!
Serves 8 for dinner and twice that as an appetizer

 

1-1 1/2 pounds linguine
Olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2-1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into match sticks
1/4-1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook the linguine according to package directions, less 1 minute. Prepare the vegetables while the water heats and the pasta cooks.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil and the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and 1/2 of the lemon juice and continue to cook until almost dry.

 

Add the bell pepper and asparagus to the pan, season with salt and pepper and toss and cook for 2 minutes. Return the mushrooms to the pan and toss to combine.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, snow peas, lemon zest, remaining lemon juice and a little pasta water to the skillet and toss to combine. Cover and cook on low for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil, parsley and scallions and toss to combine.

Transfer the pasta to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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

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

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

Is it spring yet? & Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara

Is it spring yet? As a matter of fact, it is. Don’t believe me? Check your calendar, March 20 is the vernal equinox. I’m sure you figured it out long ago but vernal is just a fancy name for spring; like autumn is for fall. Anyway, the equinox is when the sun is directly over the equator. It happens twice a year, on the first day of spring and the first day of fall. On these two days, daytime and nighttime are each twelve hours long. Well, approximately and somewhere but not here. My sunrise/sunset guide tells me we’ll have twelve hours and eleven minutes of sunshine today. Think of it as a reward for living in northern New England.

Anyway, I’ve started to notice something in recent weeks. While not everyone agrees, there seems to be two types of people who, by chance or design, spend the winter in New Hampshire.

The first group absolutely, positively loves it here. They live to ski, snowshoe and ice skate. These intrepid chionophiles throw caution to the wind and head to the slopes in the middle of a nor’easter. If there is fresh powdah, they are fearless when it comes to slippery highways and byways.

While some might think them brazen or reckless, they can’t contain themselves. There they go, posting selfies on the first chairlift. Do they realize it’s a Thursday? I guess they must. Otherwise, why shout to the world; make that flout that they are working out of the Danbury (or Sunapee) office. (And by the way boys and girls, the world includes that green-eyed tattletale of a colleague and your boss.) In any case, their joy is infectious and their smiles wonders to behold.

The second group stays away from gleeful selfies in the snow. They post pictures of beaches with blue skies and bluer water. Wistful captions read, “Wish I was here!” Sometimes, in a total funk, they share the view from their kitchen windows – a photograph of the fifteen-foot snow bank at the end of the driveway or a video of Sisyphus shoveling the deck. Oh wait, that’s not Sisyphus. That’s their fourteen year old.

Instead of shouting or flouting, they rail and rant, pout and sulk. One minute they are howling, “ENOUGH” and ordering the snow gods back to Siberia. Then, only minutes later, fearing reprisal, they try a new tact and beseech Mother Nature, Jack Frost and Old Man Winter to have pity. Throughout the winter, they ask time and time again, “Why do I live here?”

A few days ago, I shared my Two Types Theory with a couple of friends. They protested and disagreed. Although neither are skiers, both professed to loving New Hampshire in winter. They have no desire to take flight with the snowbirds. A six-month stint in Florida is not on their winter wish list. However, … there’s always a but in there isn’t there … they suggested that a shorter winter without those awful subzero temperatures in January would be nice.

So, here is where I am betwixt and between. I agree that we could all do without the polar vortex or arctic cyclone or whatever you want to call the beastly cold that comes down from Canada. I’m more than delighted with sunny days that make it feel warmer than the thermometer’s readout. However, … here’s my predictable but … I’d be happy if the ski season went until the first of May. There is nothing better than spring skiing when the days are long and the sun is shining.

See you on the slopes and après ski! Bon appétit!

Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara
The calendar says it’s spring but the thermometer and snow in the yard tell a different story. There is still plenty of time to gather friends and family for cozy comfort food. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12

2-3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
4 medium eggplants (about 4 pounds), trimmed and cut in rounds
Olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
About 4 ounces fontina, shredded
About 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
About 1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated
24 ounces spaghetti
Additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the spaghetti 

Make the Marinara Sauce (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant with thyme, season with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant and continue baking until tender and browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the eggplant bakes, put the cheeses in a bowl, toss to combine and set aside.

Top each round of eggplant with a generous tablespoonful or 2 or 3 Marinara Sauce and sprinkle with the cheeses.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake the eggplant at 375 degrees until the cheeses are bubbling and golden, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot with enough Marinara Sauce to coat. Don’t drown the pasta in sauce. Cover the pot and let the spaghetti sit for about 1 minute to absorb some of the sauce.

Divide the spaghetti among shallow bowls, top each with 2-3 slices of eggplant and serve. Pass additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the pasta.

Traditional Marinara Sauce
Makes about 3 quarts*

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or to taste dried chili pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
9-10 cups (three 28-ounce cans) crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons each chopped, fresh basil and parsley

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and parsley and simmer for a minute or two more.

* You’ll want to make plenty of sauce. It freezes beautifully and can always come in handy.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Three Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Four Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Five Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Six Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Seven Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

Snow Day & Applesauce Muffins

Who doesn’t love a good snow day? As kids, just the hint of a storm was enough to glue us to the local evening news. We were desperate to hear Don Kent proclaim a Snowmageddon. Back in the day, Don Kent was something of a local hero in the suburbs around Boston. It wasn’t so much his accuracy. I’m sure he got it right (or wrong) as often as anyone else did. It was his enthusiasm. Weather guys love weather, the bigger the better, and Don Kent loved it more than anyone.

Of course, Don Kent didn’t use the term Snowmageddon. He talked about nor’easters and snow showers. The more theatrical terms – Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse and Snowzilla – have only finagled their way into our vocabulary in the past decade. I don’t know about Don Kent but I must say, I kind of like them. And what about the recent bomb cyclone? Certainly, the magnitude of the storm would have been excited Don Kent. I wonder if he would have embraced the colorful, new moniker or stuck with the proper term – explosive cyclogenesis.

Depending on Don Kent’s prognosis, we spent the evening peeking out the windows looking for flakes. My bedroom was well located for storm watching. My window looked out onto the streetlight on the corner. It was perfect for illuminating the falling snow or lack thereof. Throughout the evening, I bounced from homework to window. Little was accomplished and, eventually, it was time for bed. I tried to sleep but the smallest noise had me bolt upright. Was that a plow?

In the morning, Don Kent was back, this time on the radio. We figured he hadn’t slept a wink, but then, neither had I. He’d report snowfall amounts, offer the day’s forecast and finally announce the school closings. Or maybe it was his cohort Arch MacDonald who plowed through all those towns, private schools and daycare closings. Andover, Boston, Cambridge, Framingham, Humpty Dumpty Daycare, Lexington, Our Lady of the Saints, Peabody, Somerville, Watertown, Weston … wait a minute! Did he say Wellesley? He must have! I didn’t hear it.

And so, we were forced to listen to the litany all over again. Only this time a dozen or more cancellations had been added. The list went on forever, a Montessori school in Haverhill, Mother Goose Nursery School, Natick, Wayland and, finally, Wellesley. Phew!

Armed with a PC and linked to the world by the internet, snow days aren’t quite what they used to be. It doesn’t matter; I still love a snow day. It’s still dark outside when I slip into what I like to call my daytime pajamas – leggings, an old turtleneck and an even older sweater. After shoveling snow away from the garage doors and making coffee, I spend the morning doing all those things I would have done at the office. Doing it from home doesn’t change the work just the mood.

Just like a kid, I sneak constant peeks out the window at the falling snow. As the fluffy white stuff piles up outside, the world seems to slow down. Snow muffles the tread of the few cars out on the road. A sporadic plow rumbles by. It passes the house heading west. Minutes later is comes by again, this time going east. A peaceful quiet settles over the neighborhood. It will be a few hours before the plow comes by again.

Whatever needs doing gets done – lots of email, website and social media updates, a few phone calls – they know where I live, a press release and more. While still good, thanks to the internet, snow days aren’t what they used to be.

Have fun in the snow and bon appétit!

Applesauce Muffins
Baking is a great activity on a snowy day. Warm up the kitchen with the delicious aroma of apples and spice. Enjoy!
Makes about 20 muffins

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, preferably homemade but store-bought is okay
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Set the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and brown sugar in large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the applesauce and sour cream and beat until smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and raisins.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full with batter. A 2-ounce ice cream scoop is perfect for standard size muffins.

Slide the muffin tins into the oven, bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate-Hazelnut Bars
Two Years Ago – Whole Grain Pilaf
Three Years Ago – Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux (Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)
Four Years Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Fove Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Six Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Seven Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Eight Years Ago – Cassoulet
Nine Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

What do while away the hours on a snow day? Feel free to share!

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