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

Print-friendly version of this post.

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

Advertisements

Stuck in the Middle & Almost Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake

There are all kinds of silly holidays spread throughout the year. Emma M. Nutt Day is coming up on the first of September. Why do we celebrate Emma? Why not – after all, she was the first woman telephone operator in America. Don’t forget Mad Hatter Day on October 6. No, it’s not a day devoted to finding the perfect hat. Forget shopping and enjoy a topsy-turvy day filled with Through the Looking Glass riddles and contradictions.

Anyway, along with the list of excuses to eat pie and fly kites, is one holiday I can get behind. Yes, Middle Child Day and it’s this coming Sunday, August 12. In case you missed it, I am one of those poor, pitiful, stuck in the middle children. (By the way, you don’t need the calendar to tell you to eat pie or fly a kite. You can do either or both on most any day you like.)

So, what’s up with middle children and our ridiculous attachment to Middle Child Syndrome? First of all, let be clear: all sorts of child experts and psychologists confirm that MCS is real. I don’t know if they call it MCS or not but I just did and here’s how it works:

First borns are anxiously awaited and then celebrated with the greatest joy. At least for a year or three, she has her doting parents all to herself. She enjoys the riches of unfettered attention, new toys and never-before-worn onesies. Youngest children aren’t so much celebrated as coddled. Ask any older sibling, the baby of the family is not only spoiled; he gets away with everything. Middle borns are just that – stuck in the middle.

Unlike the first born, a middle child is not heaped with praise at every turn. Take for instance, the first time she ties her shoe or rides a bike. Mom and Dad don’t immediately jump on phone with grandparents, post videos for all the world to see or suggest a parade down Main Street. They’ve seen it all before. Besides, the baby is crying and demanding to be fed or changed. In case you’ve forgotten, that crying baby – he’s the one who stole that poor middle child’s bedroom.

The experts tell us that,although surrounded by siblings, middle children tend to be the most independent. Crowded on all sides, sometimes the best, the only, thing to do is get out. That could mean joining your neighborhood pals at the swings or finding some peace and quiet in the basement. As a child, I did both with regular frequency. When I hit my twenties, I did more than wander out into the neighborhood. I moved half way around the world.

Along with independence, middle children are known for being agreeable and diplomatic. We are the great compromisers. We just want everyone to be happy and get along. That said; I did inherit a bit of a stubborn streak from my mother. She was an only child. Some might disagree but I tend to think that I have an inordinately long fuse. I comply and compromise again and again until, BAM, that’s IT. I’ve had enough. As of right now, I’m no longer listening, no longer negotiating. I want my way … otherwise; I’m taking marbles and going home.

If you are a middle child, be sure to indulge yourself this coming Sunday. If you have a middle sibling or are the parent with a middle child, feel free to shower that her with a little extra attention and unmitigated praise.

Have fun and bon appétit!

Almost Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake
Although I’ve made a few changes (that’s the cook’s prerogative isn’t it?), this cake comes from my grandmother’s recipe box. Since we have many summer birthdays in our family, our blueberry cakes are generally slathered with cream cheese frosting, decorated with blueberries and topped with candles. Enjoy!

2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided plus more for the pan
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature plus more for the pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1 overflowing cup fresh blueberries plus more for garnish

Butter and flour 2 (8-inch) cake pans or a 9×13-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put 2 1/4 cups flour, the baking powder, spices and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and whisk again. Set aside.

Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat again until smooth.

With mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and continue beating until just combined.

Toss the blueberries with the remaining flour and, using a rubber spatula, fold the blueberries into batter. Spread the batter in the prepared pan(s) and bake at 350 degrees until golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.

Cool the cake completely. If you like, slather with Cream Cheese Frosting and decorate with more blueberries.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar

Put the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until well combined. Increase mixer speed and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Printer-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler
Two Years Ago – Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Corncakes
Foure Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Five Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Six Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Seven Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Eight Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Ten Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

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

Are you a first born, middle child or baby of the family? 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.

Printer-Friendly version of this post.

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.

Printer-firendly verson of this post.

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

You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again & Shrimp & Cucumber Bites

The school bell rang for the last time on Friday, not forever but for this school year. By now, many families have packed the car, locked the backdoor and headed off for a favorite place or parts unknown. The rest? Well, they realize they already live in a favorite place so they’re relaxing at the town beach or climbing Mount Kearsarge.

My mother was one of the car packers. With Independence Day approaching, she loaded up the trunk, tossed us in the back with the dog and headed to Cape Cod. Now mind you, as families go, we weren’t very good on long car trips. By long, I mean anything more than a half hour was a problem. When I was very little, our starting point was Connecticut and that trip took forever. I don’t know why. It’s not like we took side trips to see giant balls of twine or stopped for selfies with dinosaurs.

For some reason, my grandmother traveled with us. It’s not terribly clear why. We were in Connecticut and my grandparents lived just outside of Boston. As best I can figure, Grandpa drove Nana down, spent the weekend and then went back to work. Nana stayed and hung out with us. I’m sure she applauded my sister’s end of kindergarten extravaganza. She probably babysat while Mom ran last minute errands. However, I believe her key role was to provide moral support on the long drive to the Cape. I can’t be absolutely certain about that; I was only two or three years old at the time.

Finally, the car was packed and a few toys were tossed in the backseat. Everyone made one last trip to the bathroom and we were off. Without air conditioning, we tootled along with the windows open wide. A paper doll or stuffed animal frequently caught the breeze and took flight. Tears and wails ensued but there was no turning back. The Connecticut Turnpike was littered with the flotsam and jetsam of countless children.

Except when it rained, then the windows were rolled up to all but an inch or two. It was miserably muggy. Instead of bereft over a lost toy, we were hot and fussy in the steamy car. Of course, the dog would fart not once but a few times because that’s what dogs do. It was more than enough to make a little girl queasy.

That was just the beginning. It was before the age of enlightenment and Mom smoked cigarette after cigarette. I guess I can’t blame her. Rain was pelting, the dog was smelly and my sister and I were whiny. Nana was not all that good at the moral support thing. (Don’t get me wrong. I loved my grandmother dearly. However, she was not the first person you’d choose in an emergency. Nana was loving and lovely but … resourceful, well, not so much.) Anyway, the cigarettes only made matters worse, sending me into full-blown carsick mode.

Eventually, a combination of cranky kids and hunger compelled Mom to think about stopping for lunch. Ben and Mildred’s Chicken House, a beacon of cheer with greasy food and friendly waitresses was on the way. Alas, Mom could think about it but could not act. Ben and Mildred along with a dozen hot dog stands, burger joints and diners were looking for hungry travelers but not for us. Their culinary delights were all off limits to the Nyes. It seems that a small, curly-headed child had an uncanny habit of throwing up as soon as the family sat down.

Have a happy, healthy summer and bon appétit!

p.s. In case you are worried or wondering, while dogs still fart, Mom eventually quit smoking and, like most kids, the curly-headed child outgrew motion sickness.

Shrimp & Cucumber Bites
Just in time for summer, an easy but elegant hors d’oeuvre to pass at your next cookout. Enjoy!
Makes 40-50 bite sized hors d’oeuvres

Sun-dried Tomato Dip (recipe follows)
1 pound medium (40-50 pieces) shrimp
1-2 English cucumbers

Make the Sun-dried Tomato Dip.

Peel the cucumbers and cut them into about 1/4-inch thick rounds.

Dab a little Sun-dried Tomato Dip on each cucumber slice and top with a shrimp.

Arrange the Shrimp & Cucumber Bites on a platter and pass.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip
Makes about 1 cup

6-8 halves oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch cayenne pepper
About 1/3 cup mayonnaise
About 1/3 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, herbs and cayenne in a small food processor and process until the tomatoes and garlic are chopped fine and well combined.

Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and process until smooth. Let the dip sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors.

Print-Friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
Two Years Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Three Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Four Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Five Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
Six Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Eight Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

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

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

Forget the Necktie & Grilled Vietnamese Beef

You’ve got five days to get it together, so, don’t blow it. And by it, I mean Father’s Day. If you are suddenly caught unawares, don’t worry you are not alone. Father’s Day is probably the most overlooked or just plain forgotten holiday in the whole panoply of fêtes, festivals and celebrations. Mom gets brunch, cards and flowers. If we remember, Dad gets another necktie.

In the era of business casual, most men, spend their days in Dockers and button-down shirts. The pants are always navy blue. Although the shirts are always light blue, they generally come in a variety of strips, checks and plaids. If he’s retired, your dad has probably traded in his navy blue trousers for khaki and button-downs for golf shirts. Working or retired, most dads have not worn a necktie more than a handful of times since 1998. Of course, there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. While politicians, talk show hosts, bankers and Wall Street wonders are the most obvious tie wearers, there could be others.

That’s not to say that a beautiful necktie is not appreciated. In fact, I’m proud to say, I gave my dad his favorite tie, pale yellow with light blue catboats. However, it was ages ago, 1998 or maybe 1997, and it wasn’t for Father’s Day. It was a Christmas gift. I can’t say for certain, but there is a good chance I neglected him that Father’s Day. (In my defense, I was living an ocean away.)

Anyway, about that favorite tie, it may be twenty years old but he still likes it enough to find an excuse to wear it once if not twice a year. I suspect that it would be near impossible to find one to replace it. Any new necktie would just join the pile he never wears but refuses to throw away. Most are boring navy blue with equally boring stripes. One has catboats but they sail across a dark, drab background.

All right then, if ties are out, what’s in?

How about socks? Think ridiculously bright colors, stars, stripes or polka dots. A beautiful pair of socks will add a little life to dad’s wardrobe. If he’s the conservative type, you might point to Bush 41. The former president has a spectacular collection of socks. My oldest niece gave Dad a couple of fun pairs for Christmas a few years ago. They are his party socks and he loves them.

Something to eat or drink? Here you have an endless list of possibilities from a bottle of dad’s favorite bourbon to a trio of intriguing hot sauces or mustards. If he can’t start the day without a great cup of Joe, then a pound of really good coffee sounds like a plan. Then again, you can help him get his grill on by signing him up for the steak of the month club.

Maybe you should give him the gift of time together? Instead of a book he’s already read or a shirt that doesn’t fit, plan an experience you can share together. Think about what your dad might like to do or see and make it happen. If he loves baseball, take him to Fenway. Fine wines – find a tasting and spend an evening sipping and spitting together. Wannabe chef – sign the two of you up for a cooking class. History buff – walk the Freedom Trail with him. You see, it’s not so hard.

Happy Father’s Day and bon appétit!

Grilled Vietnamese Beef
Give your favorite steak-and-potatoes man a taste of Asia this Father’s Day. Trying new things will keep dad young. Serve the beef with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

Serves 8
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5-6 limes
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 pounds tenderloin filets or sirloin steaks, trimmed
1-2 red onions, cut in half and then in 1/4-inch wedges
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces arugula
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves, cut in julienne

Make the marinade: put the garlic, juice and zest of 2 limes, soy sauce, fish sauce, olive oil and brown sugar in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Put the beef in a large flat dish and the onion in a bowl. Add about 3/4 of the marinade to the beef and the remainder to the onions. Flip the beef to coat and toss the onions. Flipping and tossing once or twice, cover and refrigerate both for up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be medium hot.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and shake off any excess. Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side for rare and 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board, let the beef rest for 5-10 minutes and then cut across the grain in thin slices.

While the beef rests, drain and transfer the onions to a grill basket. Grill, stirring from time to time, until tender-crisp, 4-6 minutes.

Put the juice of 1 lime and the extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the arugula, cilantro and mint and toss to combine.

Cut the remaining limes into wedges.

Transfer the greens to a large platter or individual plates, top with beef and onions, garnish with lime wedges and serve.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Grilled Steak with Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic & Rosemary-Balsamic Glaze
Two Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Three Years Ago – Maple-Bourbon Pork Ribs
Four Years Ago – Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Five Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Six Years Ago – Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint & Peanuts
Seven Years Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Steak & Potato Salad

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

How will you celebrate Father’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

Mother’s Day Weekend Special

Inviting my mother over for dinner was always joy. She had little – probably no – interest in cooking but she appreciated a good meal. Not just the food, she appreciated the company, the conversation, the laughter, the give, the take and all the frivolity.

Mom was an easy guest. If I cooked it; she liked it – or at least it seemed that way. That said, she did have some favorites. Here are a few ideas to share with your mom this Mother’s Day weekend.

Let’s start with a great appetizer. My parents visited me at least a handful of times when I lived in Switzerland. Mom loved it all – the scenery, the food and the adventures. She may or may not have tried Pissaladière. It will be a good start to your Mother’s Day dinner. Alternatively, you might like to go with a tasty dip. How about my Artichoke Pesto? I know Mom liked artichokes. Serve the pesto with a few raw veggies, your favorite crackers and a wedge of fabulous cheese.

Now, to the table and a lovely salad. You will love my Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette.

For the main course, how about shrimp? It was one of Mom’s favorites. I’d consider Roasted Shrimp & Andouille Sausage – but it might be a little spicy for her … but maybe not. Serve the shrimp and andouille with rice or Sweet Potato Polenta. Another delicious possibility is Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde. You can rev up the heat in the salsa or tone it down. In case of clouds or rain, a cozy Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers sounds good. Mom loved lemon and pasta.

Mom did have a sweet tooth. Her two favorite flavors were chocolate and, you guessed it, lemon. Here are a few possibilities … for chocolatey delicious try my Flourless Chocolate Cake or Chocolate Pana Cotta. Lemon lovers will love my Lemon Cheesecake or Lemon Tart.

This will be the second Mother’s Day without my mom. Like all mothers, she continues to keep an eye on me – last night in a dream. She was as beautiful and generous as always. My mother didn’t have a mean bone in her body. In spite of my sadness that she is gone and for all she suffered with Alzheimer’s disease, I will be happy to remember and celebrate her kindest this weekend.

In spirit or in person, have a lovely weekend with your mom and bon appétit!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

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