Life in the Time of COVID-19 & Lemony Linguine with Scallops, Olives & Capers

Living in rural New Hampshire, we are far from the COVID-19 hot spots. Distance doesn’t necessarily keep us safe so the governor has order us all to stay at home. We’re following those orders as much as possible. When out and about, we’re keeping our distance. Our knuckles are dry and cracked from hand washing. We’re coughing into our elbows and doing our best to keep our hands off our faces.

Still and all, rural life offers certain benefits. At least for me, the most important is the ability to get outside. I can’t image being cooped up all day. It is a relief to take a walk and spend an hour or two outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Although carefully keeping the proper distance, I’m not alone.

Throughout the day, a constant parade of walkers and a few runners make their way around Pleasant Lake. Most of the runners are on the younger side. I’m guessing they’re college students taking a break from online learning. There’ll be no track and cross-country meets this spring. Rivalries old and new are put on hold. Of the walkers, some are neighbors, others strangers. Parking lots as well as the driveways of my summer neighbors are filled with cars hailing from southern New England and beyond. All are welcome but please – bring your own toilet paper and self-quarantine for fourteen days.#NH

Dad, the dog and I are all doing fine. As a freelance writer, I’m used to working from home. I just finished up a handful of articles covering everything from a seafood feast to renovating a kitchen. There’s always a lull between jobs. Let’s hope this lull doesn’t extend indefinitely as businesses cut back. I’m well aware that not everyone can work from home. Reduced paychecks and unemployment have started to hit New Hampshire and the country. My heart goes out to all who are suffering.

While I am as busy as ever, Dad is bored as could be. The stay-at-home order is pure torture for him. One of those people who never met a stranger he didn’t like; Dad thrives on face-to-face contact. He’d like nothing more than to be in Florida playing golf three or four times a week with his buddies. Except that the situation with this virus is much worse in the sunshine state so he’s actually relieved to be here rather than there. He’s cleaning closets and looking for any excuse to take a break. Dad keeps insisting on running most of the errands. Anything to escape the closets. I insist he wear gloves, keep his distance and wash his hands as soon as he comes back in the door.

The dog is doing her best to provide emotional support. She is putting up with belly rubs and scratches behind the ears, not once or twice but throughout the day. She figures it’s a tough job but someone has to do it. She has also agreed to take Dad along on our afternoon walk. I’m not quite sure who is slower, Dad or dog. The dog has an excuse. Her legs are all of three inches long plus she’s 119 in human years.

Along with writing, I continue to find peace in the Zen of everyday activities. Along with scratching the dog’s ears, rubbing her belly, shoveling snow and walking, I’ve been cooking lots of pasta.

Best wishes to all for good health and a speedy return to a new normalcy. Bon appétit!

Lemony Linguine with Scallops, Olives & Capers
A quick dinner that’s sure to please any New Englander. If you can’t find fresh scallops, try the freezer section in a pinch. Enjoy!
Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch or to taste red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • About 1/2 cup Castelvetrano or your favorite green olives, pitted and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 12 ounces linguine

Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Put about 1/4 cup olive oil, the garlic and pepper flakes in a large skillet and heat on low until the garlic starts to change color. Stir in the anchovy paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice and wine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water.

Toss the pasta, with the garlic-anchovy oil, lemon juice and wine. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water. Add the lemon zest, olives and capers and toss again. Cover and set on low heat while you sear the scallops.

Lightly coat a large skillet with a little olive oil to and heat over medium-high. Add the scallops and cook until opaque in the center, about 1 minute per side.

Toss the scallops with the pasta, transfer to a deep platter or individual shallow bowls and serve.

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February Vacation & Baked Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Now it’s New Hampshire’s turn. Last week, the ski slopes were filled with families from Massachusetts and further south. Finally, local kids and teachers are having a break from the daily grind. However, February vacation can present a bit of conundrum for parents. Do you take the week off and play in the snow … or wait and take the family south in April?

The Nye family always chose the ski slopes. I have, still to this day, never been to Disney World and it doesn’t bother me one little bit. Minutes after the school bell rang on Friday afternoon, we piled into the family station wagon and headed north. Mom spent the week with us in the little red house in the woods and Dad took a long weekend at either end. Mom-time was always a bit more relaxed than when Dad was around. He had this thing about maximizing our season passes. We had to be on the slopes at nine and stay out, no matter how cold it was, until the lift closed at four. Okay, we were allowed a short lunch break at noon.

Life with Mom was more fluid. After all, it was vacation. A ten o’clock start was fine. Make that ten-thirty if it was particularly cold. If it was snowing so hard you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, Mom was happy to head home at lunchtime. If one of us wanted to stay, that was fine too as long as we could find a ride home.

Yes, my mother would leave one or all of her kids at King Ridge for hours at a time. In case you’ve forgotten, our upbringing was based on what we now fondly refer to as The Joe and Libby Nye School of Negligent Parenting. Love meant giving you space to grow, make mistakes and make amends. That said, it was a small mountain and there were lots of friends and neighbors around. The parents in my neighborhood stuck together. They didn’t mind telling any one of us to knock it off if we were skiing out of control or cutting in the lift line.

Back at the little red house in the woods, there was always something to do. If we hadn’t had enough of the ice and snow, there was a suicidal sledding hill across the road and a skating pond about a half mile away. If one or the other of us made the mistake of complaining about boredom, the culprit was handed a shovel and told to clear the deck. It wasn’t all that bad a chore. The distance from the deck to the ground was about eight feet, maybe ten. Jumping and somersaults off the deck was a favorite pastime once a nice pile of snow provided a soft landing.

When we had enough of the cold, there was a fire in the fireplace and as many books as we’d bothered to haul up from the suburbs. I always assumed it would be a two or three book week. The television was only good for one station and, except to check the weather forecast, was rarely on. A jigsaw puzzle was always in progress on an old card table. Mom and I were the puzzle fanatics and assembled at least a couple during February break. In addition, we might offer to bake something. There was usually a brownie mix in the cupboard and, as long as we promised to cleanup, Mom could be persuaded to pick up a bag of chocolate chips for cookies.

All in all, those vacations were just what we needed.

Here’s wishing one and all a wonderful winter break and bon appétit!

Baked Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Who doesn’t likes Mac & Cheese, especially after a day outside in the cold? If your kids are of the age and inclination, maybe they’ll make dinner for you. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • 5-6 tablespoons butter or a mix of olive oil and butter, divided
  • 8 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cups whole milk or half and half
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 pound your favorite short pasta – cavatappi, penne, macaroni …
  • 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

Lightly butter or oil a large casserole dish.

Heat a skillet over medium, add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned. Remove the bacon from the pan, drain and reserve.

Add the onion to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat, add back the bacon and stir in the spinach.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over medium. Add the flour, season with paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook, whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add the milk and heat to steaming. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking, until the sauce thickens.

Put the sour cream and mustard in a bowl and whisk to combine. Gradually whisk in the warm sauce. Add the cheddar and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, less 1 minute. Drain the pasta, saving a little of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot, add the bacon mixture and toss to combine. Add the sauce and toss again. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish.

Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add 1-2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil and toss to combine. Add the remaining the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss again. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the mac & cheese.

You can make ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until piping hot and golden.

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Blahvember & Curried Cauliflower Soup

Oh my, it’s that time of year again. It’s one of my two least favorite months – November. (The other is April by the way.) Also known as Blahvember because, well, look outside. All those brightly colored leaves, the ones that bring fame and tourists to northern New England, they’re lying in soggy piles on the side of the road. Day in and day out, it’s one gray, drizzly day after another. Hmph, I feel like one of those hapless kids stuck in a Dr. Seuss tale.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a lot to do or even look forward to. Halloween is in the rearview mirror and Thanksgiving doesn’t come until the very end of the month. To top it off, if you missed the time change, well, for the past few days, you’ve been early to work or the gym or wherever you spend your mornings. Think of it; just when we need it most, we’re no longer saving daylight. Then again, once bedtime and waketime rearrange themselves, the change doesn’t seem so bad. Afterall, it’s light or almost light when the alarm goes off.

As an early morning walker, I appreciate the earlier sunrise. Then something happens. Once a week, twice a week, I wake to a deluge or have an early morning appointment. No big deal. These little inconveniences can’t keep me from my daily tour of the lake. I simply postpone until afternoon. That’s when, heading into the homestretch, it becomes miserably apparent that it’s dark at 4:30. Yes … dark, as in dark as night … at 4:30 … in the afternoon. Ugh!

So, what can you do about it? There’s always sulking or a Hallmark Channel movie marathon. Then again, how about that list of chores that never seem to get done? If your list is anything like mine, it’s not very motivating.

It might be more productive, make that more fun, to get a jump on holidays. You know, get out the knitting needles or your favorite crafty supplies and make stuff. An afternoon in the kitchen is always a pleasure or at least it is for me. Stir up a pot of soup or marinara sauce. Speaking of holidays, my butternut squash soup is perfect for Thanksgiving and freezes beautifully. Or you could bake some Christmas cookies and tuck them into the freezer. Cooking is a lot more fun than cleaning the garage; warmer too.

Skiers, snowshoers and other outdoor types can bring it in and out of the rain. Think about signing up for one of those super-duper fitness classes. It will help you get your abs, gluts and quads in shape. (If that sounds like I know what I’m talking about, don’t be fooled.) Oh, and by the way, signing up is fine but to make it work; you actually have to go to the class and participate.

Alternatively, November might be a good time to take up tai chi or yoga. While not as hardcore as boot camp or whatever those high-powered conditioning classes are called, both will build flexibility, strength and balance. Keeping your balance on an icy sidewalk is always a good thing. An added bonus, meditative exercise is a great stress reliever.

Wishing you a happy and boredom-free November. Bon appétit!

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Cold, gray, drizzly November, is the perfect time to stir up a kettle of soup – or two. Get an early start on Thanksgiving preparations with my Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and/or try something new with a little spice. Either way or both – enjoy!

Makes about 4 quarts

  • 1/2 cup or to taste curry paste (recipe follows or use your favorite store bought)
  • 2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2-3 pounds cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
  • 1-2 Yukon gold potatoes, about 8 ounces, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large onion, cut in eighths
  • About 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • About 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Cilantro-Lime Chutney (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the curry paste in a small bowl, add the vinegar and oil and whisk with a fork to combine. Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, add with the curry paste mixture and toss to coat.

Stirring and tossing once or twice, roast the vegetables at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Add 4 cups of stock, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little stock and/or coconut milk in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the cauliflower puree into a soup pot, add the remaining stock and coconut milk and the bay leaf and place on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Reheat on medium low.

To serve: ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, swirl a dollop of Cilantro-Lime Chutney into the soup and serve.

Curry Paste

Makes about 1 cup

  • 4 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil

Put the spices in a small food processor and pulse to combine. Add the garlic and ginger and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Cover and store leftover curry paste in the refrigerator.

Cilantro-Lime Chutney

Makes about 1 cup

  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1/2 or to taste jalapeno pepper
  • 2-3 cups roughly chopped cilantro – leaves and tender stems
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar and lime zest and juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add the scallions, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Let the chutney sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Cover and store leftover chutney in the refrigerator or in the freezer.

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Life in a Small New England Town & Pumpkin-Sausage Ragù

A bunch of years ago, some friends were visiting from Switzerland. It was the Summer of the Gnus. I did what everyone else in town did with guests that summer. I took them on a walking tour of Main Street to see the colorful cows. It was a lovely day, warm and sunny. We parked at the top of the town green, stopped for coffee along the way and turned around at the farm. We chatted and admired and chatted some more.

About the time we turned around to head back to the car, Bob remarked, “At least a dozen people have greeted you by name.” I’m pretty sure he was exaggerating but he continued, “I could walk up and down the Rue du Rhone all day and not see anyone I knew.” Or maybe he mentioned the Rue de l’Hotel-de-Ville, it was a while ago. Anyway, there is nothing anonymous about living in a small town. No, not everyone knows your name but a good many do. And for those that don’t, there’s a pretty good chance they know someone in your family.

With or without houseguests, October is a wonderful time to meander up and down Main Street. Just about now, the foliage is at its peak. It’s cool enough to wear a sweater but you don’t need to pile on a parka and heavy boots. If you grew up in New England, a sweater has got to be your favorite piece of clothing. Southern girls can have their fluffy, flowery dresses, Californians – their bikinis and let those Midwest farm girls wear their jeans or overalls or whatever. Gimme a cozy sweater any day. Cotton, wool or cashmere, they’re all good.

Today, only a handful of gnus continue to strut their stuff on Main Street. The majority were adopted and are now hidden away in backyards. Luckily, October brings a brand new diversion – the invasion of the Pumpkin People. So please, you must take an hour to wander up and down Main Street. If you want; you can make a few stops along the way and support the local economy. Buy yet another sweater or sip a coffee in the sunshine. It’s all good.

If you’re feeling particularly energized, you can take it around the bend. There are a few more Pumpkin People on Newport Road. While nothing was up as I rushed to meet my deadline, the hospital can usually be counted on for a nice display. For anyone counting steps, the round trip from the top of the Town Green to the hospital and back is about three miles.

It’s more than worth the trip. The creativity of our merchants is impressive and you will be absolutely charmed by the Cub Scouts’ delightful display. From Dorothy and her three friends sashaying down the yellow brook road to Cookie Monster and Elmo, there something for everyone.

As important, you’ll see lots of smiling people. Real people that is, not the pumpkin head kind. There’s a very good chance that at least one real person will compliment your sweater. The combination of wonderful foliage, pumpkins and smiles will remind you of why small New England towns are so special.

Happy fall and bon appétit!

Pumpkin-Sausage Ragù

This cozy, country-style ragù is great with pasta on a chilly night. Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • 2 pounds eating pumpkin* or winter squash, seeded, peeled and cut in small dice (3-4 cups)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, cut in small dice
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds Italian sausage – sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed and cut into small pieces
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups or more chicken broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons cognac
  • 1 cup or more half and half
  • 1 pound hearty short or long pasta, try rigatoni, fettucine or tortellini
  • Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the pumpkin in a large skillet, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes.

Add the onion and sausage to pumpkin and toss to combine. Return to the oven for 15 minutes.

Add the garlic, herbs and nutmeg to the pan and toss to combine. Stir in the white wine, 1 cup chicken broth and the cognac and return to the oven.

After 15 minutes, give the ragù a stir, add more chicken broth if necessary and return to the oven. After another 15 minutes, stir in the half and half and return to the oven for a final 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package directions.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the ragù and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add a little of the pasta water or more chicken broth or cream. Cover and cook on low for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a deep platter or individual shallow bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano.

* The pumpkins you carve for Halloween are stringy and tasteless, not good for eating. Try a sugar, cheese or peek-a-boo pumpkin. Then again, you can’t go wrong with butternut squash.

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Turn on the Heat & Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

The autumnal equinox assured one and all that fall was here. It’s only been a few weeks, but the weather has not been particularly fall-ish. Although there’s been a couple of frosty mornings and a few cool days, for the most part, it feels a lot like August. I tend to let my early walks gage the change of season. It is an annual cycle of shorts to leggings to double leggings then back to a single pair and shorts again. Except for a one-day blip, I’m still in shorts.

The shift to leggings is only one of a good many sign of the changing seasons. A few fall indicators, maybe more than a few, kick off before the equinox. I’m not sure if that’s quite right but who am I to judge. Anyway, there is a long list of clues to let you know it’s fall. For some, it’s the first flash of foliage. For others; it’s when Halloween candy hits supermarket shelves. Football fanatics loudly applaud the first game and, yes, preseason counts – ask any fan.

Then again, perhaps the first pumpkin spice drink is your harbinger of autumn. In case you are wondering, no, I don’t imbibe in pumpkin spice lattes or pumpkin spice martinis. Yes, I know they are wildly popular. But don’t look to me to embrace all things fall with a frou-frou drink in one hand and a pumpkin in the other. I need both hands for the pumpkin.

That’s not to say that I am without wicked indulgences. I bake a fabulous (if I do say so myself) pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving. And yes, it’s packed with traditional pumpkin pie spices plus a tablespoon of cognac. If you don’t have cognac you can substitute rum.

Anyway, after a summer in shorts and T-shirts, most fall firsts are about cooler temperatures and getting cozy. While I stick to my basic skim-milk-no-foam latte, I do look forward to the first fire in the fireplace. I’m also happy to slide the first plump chicken into the oven to roast. Of course, I’m delighted to bring home the first local apples and bake up something wonderful. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include stirring up the first pots of soup and chili as well as marinara and/or Bolognese.

As much as I love cozy, there is one first I do my best to avoid for as long as possible. That’s the first time I put on socks. As for chilly evenings by the lake, well, I’ve been known to sport naked ankles while wearing a down parka.

Perhaps the toughest fall first decision is WHEN TO TURN ON THE HEAT. I avoid the inevitable acceptance that it is no longer summer or Indian summer or early fall for as long as possible. It was easier when I lived abroad in rented apartments. True or not, the rumor among expatriates was that the Swiss powers-that-be had decreed a standing date. Every October, it might have been the third Monday or the twentieth or sometime around then, the heat came on.

September could be record breaking cold or October unseasonably warm; it didn’t matter. The radiator began to clang right on schedule, never a day early and never a day late. Make the mistake of timidly asking for heat before the designated day and the landlord would simply tell you to put on a sweater. Too hot? Well, open the window.

Back in New Hampshire, I have no landlord to regulate the thermostat. My bank balance determines when I finally click the heat on. For now, I’m putting on a sweater.

Have a cozy fall and bon appétit!

Maple-Ginger Apple Crisp

Everyone loves apple crisp and (pardon me while I pat myself on the back) my latest version is incredible! Enjoy!

Serves 8

  • Crumble Topping, recipe follows
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5-6arge, firm-tart apples – I like Granny Smith, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2-3/4 cup (more or less depending on your sweet tooth) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons calvados or apple jack or rum

Make the Crumble Topping. Refrigerate the topping while you prepare the fruit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 2 quart baking dish.

Put the apples, raisins and ginger in a large bowl, sprinkle with the spices and toss to combine. Drizzle with maple syrup and calvados and toss again until well combined.

Transfer the apples to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with Crumble Topping. Put the dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 1 hour or until the top is brown and the apples are tender and bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or ginger ice cream.

Crumble Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Put the flour, brown sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and continue pulsing until the topping comes together in little lumps.

I like to make a triple or quadruple batch of Crumble Topping and freeze the extra. For a last minute dessert, I prep fruit and sprinkle with topping. It’s in the oven in minutes.

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Silver Lining & Hoisin Roasted or Grilled Salmon

There’s been a lot of grumbling over the past several weeks. That whole April showers thing got old really fast. I think I heard or read somewhere that it was the rainiest or at least one of the rainiest Aprils in history or in the last ten years or something like that. May hasn’t been much better. Then of course, it snowed last week. Not at my house, I’m below the magical 1,000 feet. Still, snow covered every roof, lawn and field up in town.

I can’t help but think that there is something wrong with that picture. There’s got to be. The long Memorial Day weekend is just days away. Memorial Day is when the summer people come up and sweep out their cottages. It’s when everyone puts their boats in the water. It marks the first cookout of the season. It’s when a few crazy kids dare to see who will take the first swim.

With all the clouds overhead, there has got to be a silver lining or two in all this cold and damp. So, as they say in kindergarten, let’s turn those frowns upside down and find that silver lining.

First and foremost, I don’t know if you noticed but the cold has kept those despicable black flies at bay. By now, packs of males are usually in your face and driving you mad. As for the females, they normally would have taken a chunk or two out of arms, legs – any bare bit of skin. So far, I’ve seen the odd fly buzzing about but with no real purpose. One rag-tag bunch was clustered around my car the other day. However, they seemed too cold or despondent to swarm.

Second, fire danger is down. Before new leaves pop, last year’s dead grass and leaves provide great fuel for fire. All this wet and damp is keeping the woods and our houses safe.

Third, I found a wonderful new pair of rain shoes – polka dot. An added bonus, they are very comfortable. I have another pair that are fabulous to look at but not so great for walking around. Who knew that rain shoes were a thing and that you might actually need them? If you prefer, you can go with rubber boots. They are also wonderful and come in a variety of fantastic colors and prints.

Fourth, a rainy day is a great excuse for some downtime. Leave those great looking, new, rain shoes by the door, put your feet up and read a book. If that seems too decadent, maybe you have a bag of yarn that’s begging to be knit into a sweater or a several boxes of old photographs that need to be scanned.

Fifth and final, in spite of the chilly weather, the peepers are out! They bring glorious memories of spring evenings of days gone by. If you haven’t done so already, bundle up some evening soon, make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine and sit on porch and listen to the chorus of tiny frogs. While you are at it, take a moment to reflect on childhood games of kick-the can and hide-and-go-seek played in the waning light of early evening to the song of the peepers.

Enjoy springtime in New Hampshire – or whatever this is and bon appétit!

Hoisin Roasted or Grilled Salmon
Whether you cook in or out, this sweet and savory fish dish will be perfect for the holiday weekend. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 salmon fillet(s) (about 3 pounds)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Toasted sesame seeds
Lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Put the hoisin and soy sauces in a bowl, add the wine, honey, sriracha and garlic and whisk to combine.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper. Spoon about half the hoisin mixture onto the salmon and spread over the fish. Slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 6-8 minutes, spoon and spread the remaining sauce over the fish. Roast until cooked through, an additional 6-8 minutes.

Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind and carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter. Sprinkle the salmon with toasted sesame seeds and serve with lime wedges.

Alternatively,

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush the flesh side of the salmon with the hoisin mixture, season with salt and pepper and place the fish, skin side up, on the grill.

Depending on the thickness of the fish, grill for 5-6 minutes. Carefully turn the salmon with a wide spatula, brush with more of the hoisin mixture and grill for 3-5 minutes more or until cooked through but not dry.

Remove the salmon from the grill and place it on a cutting board. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind and carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter. Drizzle with the remaining hoisin mixture, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with lime wedges.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Asparagus with Lemony Tarragon Butter
Two Years Ago – Lemony Green Rice
Three Years Ago – Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad
Four Years Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Five Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Eight Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
Nine Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Ten Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

What’s your silver lining this rainy spring? Feel free to share!

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

Shoo Flies & Asparagus with Lemony Aioli

The street sweeper came by in the middle of last week. With all the rain in April, I think it was a bit behind schedule. Anyway, the combination of the sweeper and Mother’s Day signals the end of mud season. Unfortunately, that means black fly season has arrived. In other words, hardly-spring has morphed into sort-of-like-spring or, maybe, spring-bites.

Mud and flies are fundamental to our two-part spring. Sounds awful but it’s not too bad. With longer and warmer days, it’s a happy time. Or at least mostly happy. Okay, make that happy when/if it doesn’t rain every day for a month. Anyway, moving on. With mud season in the review mirror, trees are budding, daffodils and tulips are bobbing in the breeze and people are sneezing.

The second phase of spring in New Hampshire raises a big question – how to cope with those d#$%m black flies? There are two parts to the issue. The first is the females. These vampires really know how to take a bite out of life. Bloodthirsty dames, they will attack any exposed skin. Depending on your luck or lack of, you are left with itchy bumps or oversized welts.

Now, stop for a minute and think of the tragedy here. After months wrapped in layers of fleece and down, it’s finally warm enough, or almost, for T-shirts and shorts. We are soooo ready to soak up a little natural vitamin D. Sorry, the black flies have a different idea. Instead of the cold, we need to cover up against these beasts. By the way, pants and a long sleeve shirt aren’t enough. Covering up includes your ankles, wrists, hands, face, neck and scalp. If you don’t have one, be sure to get one of those nets that goes over your head. Believe me, it’s a wonderful look.

Now for the male black flies. Happily, they don’t bite. Instead, they flit from flower to flower, sipping nectar. Unfortunately, they do not have an insatiable appetite. Once they’ve had enough, they look around for someone to pester. Like silly boys in middle school, they buzz around and get in your face. Annoyance, sometimes to the point of insanity, rather than pain is the operative word here.

So, here’s the scenario, it’s finally warmed up. If you’re lucky, the sun is out. All you want to do is spend the day outside – hiking, gardening, paddling your kayak, sitting in a café – the list goes on and on. Stepping outside, you are met by a swarm of biting and buzzing flies. What to do? Here are a few hints –

  • Go out in the middle of the day. The flies are apt to be napping or whatever they do when they aren’t pestering you.
  • Black flies congregate in and around running streams. Unlike mosquitos, they like moving water so take your paddling to a quiet pond or lake.
  • They’re not that fast, so trade in your hiking boots for a bicycle and out run them.
  • Wind is your friend. Flies have trouble tracking you down on a breezy day. If you are planning a few hours outdoors and have some flexibility, check the weather report.
  • Stick with light colored clothing. Not only is it more spring-like but dark colors attack flies.
  • Try a natural repellant and reapply frequently. I like lavender but some people swear by vanilla. About lavender, it’s not infallible. At some point, the flies will figure out that you’re a person and come back to bite, buzz and annoy.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Asparagus with Lemony Aioli
One of the first vegetables of the season, who doesn’t love asparagus? Steamed, roasted or grilled, add a quick and easy aioli for a delicious first course or side dish. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds (more for fanatics) asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Forget the pencil thin asparagus. Sure, they look elegant but the nice, fat spears have the best flavor and texture. Steamed, roasted or grilled, asparagus are best cooked until tender-crisp. Cooking time will vary depending on thickness.

To steam: put about 2-inches of salted water in a large skillet or sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes.

To roast: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 8-12 minutes.

To grill: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Put the asparagus in a large dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the asparagus on the grill, cook for 1-3 minutes.

To Serve: Arrange the asparagus on a platter or individual plates. Serve warm or at room temperature with Lemony Aioli.

Lemony Aioli
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in small bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to combine the flavors. Whisk again and serve.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Chickpea Salsa
Two Years Ago – Pissaladière
Three Years Ago – Tabbouleh
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Five Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Seven Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Eight Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Nine Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Ten Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola

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

How do you deal with black flies? Feel free to share!

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