Thanksgiving – Still a Marathon & Roasted Sweet Dumpling Squash

Before you start reading …
..if you are looking for Thanksgiving menus, click here. On the other hand, if you’d rather build your own menu by picking and choosing from a long list of Thanksgiving-friendly recipes, that list is here.

Recently a friend reminded me of a piece of advice she’d once received from a food writer. She noted that the timing had been uncanny. In the run up to Thanksgiving, her guest list kept growing. From six to nine and then another four and another two. There seemed to be no end to hungry friends and family looking for a spot to land. If you haven’t guessed already, the food writer was me. The advice? Thanksgiving is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

I developed this philosophy ages ago. Over the years, I’ve thrown a bunch of Thanksgiving dinners. At least a handful of times, I was both surprised and pleased that every single invitation was accepted – and then some. No one had a conflict, another commitment or somewhere else to be. Not only that, they all seemed to have a brother or cousin or old family friend in town.

Cooking dinner for twenty in a tiny kitchen, leaves you with two choices. Freak out or pace yourself. I chose to pace myself. Over the years, I moved to bigger digs with better kitchens but I still paced myself. Now, I have my beautiful dream kitchen and, yes, I still pace myself.

It all comes down to a realistic menu and comprehensive shopping and to-do lists. And by comprehensive, I mean absolutely everything. Yes, set aside a time to set the table. Yes, include the obvious on your shopping list. If you’re like me, you can forget to buy milk if it’s not on the list. So, unless you have a crush on the produce guy and want go back time and time again – write it down.

By the way, you’ll need two shopping lists, one for each trip. That’s right, two shopping trips. Make the first one in the next few days. That’s when you buy anything with a long or long-ish sell-by date like flour, hardy vegetables and wine. A day or two before Thanksgiving, do a quick fly-by for the turkey, perishables and whatever you forgot on the first go-round.

As for that to-do list, be sure to be realistic with timing and deadlines. Once you map everything out, the reality of the space-time continuum will be clear. Sorry, no matter how good you are at multi-tasking, you can’t singlehandedly run the local 5K Turkey Trot, set the table, bake three pies, peel the potatoes and make the stuffing between seven and ten on Thanksgiving morning.

Anything you can do ahead – do ahead – way, way, way ahead. If you can freeze it, cook it now. Not to brag but I whipped up my family’s favorite Butternut Squash Soup last weekend. Five quarts are ready to go in the freezer. Set the table on the Sunday. Make the cranberry sauce on Monday. If you are making a veggie casserole or two, get them done on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If your brother loves to smash potatoes, let him have at it. He can peel them too. If your neighbor is famous for her apple pie, invite her to bring one along. She’ll be flattered. Thanksgiving is all about sharing. Sharing a meal and sharing at least some of the joy of cooking it.

Revise your plan if the situation changes. Wait a minute, make that when the situation changes. Have you ever known a Thanksgiving to go without a hitch? The dog will steal the turkey. The supermarket will run out of butternut squash or cranberries or whatever. Your uncle’s car will break down and he’ll need a lift. Out of blue, a long-lost cousin will show up on your doorstep. Meanwhile, your niece’s kids will get the flu and they’ll cancel at the last minute. You’ll break your ankle. (I’ve got that one covered – did it a few weeks ago.) It will snow and the power will go out … or something like that.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Roasted Sweet Dumpling Squash & Onion
A quick and easy squash recipe to add to your Thanksgiving repertoire and beyond. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 3 pounds Sweet Dumpling Squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 medium red onions, halved and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar

Arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.

Put the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and paprika in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the squash in a large bowl, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with half of the herb-spice mix and toss again.

Spread the squash in a single layer onto rimmed baking sheets. Roast the squash for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

While the squash roasts, put the onion in a large bowl, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with the remaining the herb-spice mix and toss again.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven, give the squash a toss and arrange the onion around the squash. Switching pan positions from top to bottom and vice versa, return the vegetables to the oven. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and roast for 15 minutes or until tender and browned.

Can be prepared in advance, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until piping hot.

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One Year Ago – Cheesy Pumpkin-Sage Biscuits
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Tartlets
Three Years Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Four Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Five Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Six Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Eight Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Ten Years Ago – Broccoli Puree

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

Are you a host or a guest this Thanksgiving? Either way, do you have a plan? 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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Autumn – A Season of Renewal & Resolutions & Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes & Feta

This past Saturday marked the autumnal equinox. If you’ve forgotten what that means, well, day and night are each about twelve hours long. For the next few months, with each passing day, the sun will be a little slower to rise and quicker to set. Don’t let the end of summer get you all mopey. The fall is beyond beautiful in New Hampshire.

Most mornings, an enigmatic mist shrouds the lake. On their way south for the winter, geese squawk overhead. The highways and byways become increasingly colorful. Most days, you’ll want to grab a sweater before heading out the door but you can usually shed it by lunch. Speaking of lunch (as well as breakfast, dinner, coffee, cocktails and a snack), pumpkin spice is suddenly in everything from coffee to martinis as well as cheerios, muffins and barbecue sauce. I like pumpkin and I like spice but I think the world has gone a little nuts with this pumpkin spice business.

Anyway, it’s autumn in New England and my favorite time of year. With beautiful weather and foliage, you can’t help but feel good about life. Why not funnel that goodwill into taking another crack at some still unmet challenge? After all, bitterly cold January is hardly a good time to resolve anything. Spring might work but it’s not particularly timely in New England. Then, when it finally comes, it only lasts a few days.

But fall, fall is good. It could be years since you went back-to-school but you still know the joy of new shoes and a fresh start.

What will your fresh start look like? What will you do this fall to renew yourself? You don’t need a total reinvention. How about you work on three things? For instance – try something new that will bring you joy. Next, develop a new habit that will give you peace. Finally, do some good.

Find joy. Besides shoes, where will you find joy this fall? It could be as simple as finally painting the living room that new color. I’m a strong believer in the power of small things. I have made more than a couple big, audacious changes in my life. Most of them worked out very well. More often than not, these life changes were preceded by a considerably smaller step or two.

Discover peace. It could be yoga or meditation or weed wacking the garden – find what brings you peace. You’ll know it when you find it. As if by magic, your overactive brain will relax and you’ll gain new perspective. We are so proud of our ability to multitask that our senses are constantly in overdrive and under attack. Whether it is once a day or once a week, give yourself a break. For one hour, do something that puts your mind at rest and revitalizes you.

Do good. The world can be a harsh place. You can make it better by practicing small acts of kindness. Sure, a huge foundation to end illiteracy or world hunger would be wonderful but small is also good. Rake leaves for a neighbor, hold the door for a stranger and smile. Little things will make the day brighter. A few years ago, someone distributed at least a couple dozen mini pumpkins up and down my street. Perched on stone walls and fence posts, they cheerfully decorated the neighborhood. Those little pumpkins didn’t cure cancer but they made a lot of people smile.

Here’s to a joyful, peaceful and kinder fall. Bon appétit!

Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes & Feta
It’s much too early to put the grill away. Pasta with grilled vegetables and fresh herbs from the garden is a wonderful dish to help you transition into fall. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 red onion, cut in thin wedges
Olive oil
About 1 pound cherry tomatoes
4-6 zucchini (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 pound short pasta – try rigatoni, fusilli, cavatappi or fiorelli
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano

Put the garlic and vinegar in a bowl, season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the onion in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the onion in a grill basket and, stirring from time to time, grill until tender-crisp and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Remove the onion from the grill, add it to the garlic and toss to combine.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the tomatoes in a grill basket and, stirring from time to time, grill until lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the onion and garlic and toss to combine.

Brush the zucchini halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender. Remove the zucchinis from the grill, chop into bite-size pieces, add them to the other veggies and toss to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions less one minute. Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the vegetables and 1/4-1/2 cup pasta water and toss to combine. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with feta and herbs, toss to combine and serve.

Serve as a main course or side dish with grilled chicken or fish.

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One Year Ago – Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Crema
Two Years Ago – Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Four Years Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Seven Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Nine Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Ten Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

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

Do you have any fall fresh start resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

Hurricane Season & Grilled Ratatouille

It’s been all over the news. Hurricane season is up and running fast in the Atlantic. From the Caribbean over to Texas and up to Maine, we are all ears when it comes to storm warnings. Last week, Florence unleashed her fury on the southern Atlantic coast. One of the early forecast models suggested she might hug the coast and head north. Lucky for us, she decided to go inland. I’m sure Ohio is lovely this time of year.

Spared for now, let’s not forget that somewhere out there in the Atlantic, Helene (not Helen), Isaac and Joyce are swirling around. In spite of our northern location, New England is not immune to hurricanes. Although, they are admittedly few and far between. Most blow themselves out before they can reach us.

Not so the Great New England Hurricane of 1938; my dad still talks about that one. He even has a book about it somewhere. With 140 mile per hour wind gusts, it unleashed its wrath on every state in New England. Hundreds died, thousands were injured and damages were in the hundreds of millions. More recently, Irene wreaked havoc in New England, most particularly Vermont. Sandy did a number on New York and gave us a bit of rain and wind as well. Lucky for us, last year’s deadly trio of Harvey, Irma and Maria stayed to the south.

I admit as a small child, hurricanes seemed terribly exciting. In those days, we spent August on Cape Cod. While I can’t verify, I suspect that my sister Brenda and I labeled any downpour with the least bit of wind a hurricane. After all, rain is boring but a hurricane – that’s something to talk about.

One rainy August afternoon, Brenda and I were encamped on the porch with paper dolls and sticker books. It didn’t take long for boredom to set in. The air was hot and muggy so we talked Mom into letting go outside. It wasn’t that difficult a negotiation. Stuck in a ramshackle cottage with two bored little girls – of course, she said yes. I suppose she would have turned us down if we’d tried to go out in the Great New England Hurricane. However, we hadn’t been born yet. Heck, my parents hadn’t even met, let alone finished elementary school in 1938.

Anyway, Brenda and I gleefully threw on our swimsuits, ran outside and danced around. I believe loud and joyous singing was involved but I don’t remember the tune. I cannot speak for Brenda but I, for one, felt wonderfully adventurous. While the street was more or less empty, most of the porches were filled with bored vacationers.

They sat and watched two silly little girls giggle, dance and sing. I’m sure they were jealous. While they huddled with their paperbacks and puzzles, we were the only ones brave enough to defy the hurricane. It didn’t matter that, at most, it was the last vestiges of some minor tropical storm. It didn’t matter then and it still doesn’t. As far as I’m concerned, my sister and I splashed, danced and sang in the street during a hurricane. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here’s a toast to sunny days and clear nights. Bon appétit!

Grilled Ratatouille
A delicious end of summer dish. You can even make it if the power goes out. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1-2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cherry tomatoes
2 eggplants (about 2 pounds), sliced about 3/4-inch thick
3-4 zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the peppers and onion in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the vegetables in a grill basket and grill for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Remove the vegetables from the grill basket and return them to the bowl. Add the garlic to the warm vegetables and toss to combine.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the tomatoes to the peppers and onion.

Brush the eggplant and zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant and zucchini for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender.

Remove the vegetables from the grill. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, chop the veggies in bite-size pieces. Add them to the tomatoes, peppers and onion. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and toss to combine.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Can be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving

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One Year Ago – Cod, Corn & White Bean Soup
Two Years Ago – Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Three Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Four Years Ago – Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Eight Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Nine Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Ten Years Ago – Brie & Sundried Tomato Omelette

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

How do you keep fit? Feel free to share!

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

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
Two Years Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Three Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Four Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Five Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Six Years Ago – Gazpacho
Seven Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Eight Years Ago– Thai Salad
Nine Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Ten 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

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