Believe in Magic & Spicy Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Eggplant

There is a special magic to summer. It’s in the air – an indefinable sense that anything is possible. The feeling is strongest at dawn and again at dusk or maybe it just seems that way. I suppose it has something to do with the slight dampness that cools the air. Caught between day and night, the sky turns gold and pink. The atmosphere is almost otherworldly and filled with quiet optimism.

Not a believer? Well – look back and look around. It shouldn’t take much to change your mind. Summers past, present and future are filled with mystical, magical happenings. After all, what else but magic can explain …

The moment you suddenly realized that you weren’t going to sink like a stone. No matter how ugly it may have been, you were swimming.

How, after gazillion tries, you pulled your bat back, (finally kept your eye on the ball instead of your friend at first base) and hit it out the park.

A perfect afternoon building fanciful fairy houses with the children. The next morning, still in their jammies, the children discover evidence of sparkly visitors.

Your all-time favorite ice cream shop has your all-time favorite flavor.

After a thunderstorm roars through, a perfect rainbow forms over the lake.

After that same thunderstorm, the brook isn’t just babbling, it’s singing.

The most beautiful butterfly flutters through your garden.

Each morning, you wake not to an alarm but to the sound of birds signing.

Your very best friend in the whole world calls you out of the blue just when you need a good long chat.

After what seems like hundreds of tries, you drop that ski and do a perfect slalom around the lake.

A tiny child giggles with delight upon finding the most perfect strawberry in the pick-your-own field. And then promptly eats it!

Young players’ faces light up with pure joy and admiration when the women’s soccer team score the final, victorious goal at the World Cup.

Magic happens through acts of nature and acts of kindness. It can be the result of hours, even years, of hard work. A bit of good luck might have something to do with it as well. Sometimes I think that I believe in magic because there is no other choice. The alternative is too bleak, too distressing. Summer is a time to dream – to not only see the magic around us but to see the magic within ourselves.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Spicy Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Eggplant
Warm evenings send us outside for one last swim. Why not bring a picnic along? This delicious salad will make an excellent addition to your outdoor feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8

12-16 ounces pad thai rice noodles
Asian Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
About 2 1/2 pounds eggplant, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Peanut or canola oil
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped red or yellow bell pepper
3-4 scallions thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, toasted

Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain well. Transfer the noodles to a bowl, drizzle with enough Asian Vinaigrette to generously coat and toss.

Can be made ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated for several hours. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn and grill until tender, about 2 minutes more. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Add the eggplant, cucumber, pepper and scallions to the noodles and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette if necessary. Add the herbs and peanuts, toss again and serve.

Asian Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon or to taste Sriracha
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Put all of the ingredients in a glass jar and shake vigorously to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to combine the flavors. Give the vinaigrette a good shake before using.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Printer-friendly version of this post.

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

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

What are your favorite summer flavors and dishes? Feel free to share!

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

Advertisements

Come Together & Quinoa-Cheddar Cakes

What’s going on? We are plagued by division. Forget dog eat dog; we live in a world of dog people versus cat people. The simplest of nonissues spark controversy with #whiteandgold versus #blueandblack, Facebook versus Twitter and Superman versus Batman. Not to mention, the more significant debates of stay-at-home versus working moms, Coke versus Pepsi, skins versus shirts, this versus that and on and on. It’s exhausting.

Not only exhausting but (and I’m speculating here) it’s hardly worth it. White-gold-blue-black, it’s only a dress. As for the Facebook and Twitter question, well, think for a minute. Whether its 400 or 4,000 or 4,000,000, the vast majority of your contacts are not friends and they are definitely not your followers. Unless of course, you are some kind of cult leader. If that’s the case, I guess you do have followers. Whoa, that’s a bit scary.

Anyway, life is complicated. Issues can rarely be dumbed down to either or. Unless someone’s asking about dinner at a wedding reception, then it works. By the way, take the chicken. The beef is always well done as in overcooked and tough as shoe leather. Okay, lets get back to more complicated choices and debates.

The Man of Steel can fly which is incredibly special and pretty wonderful, especially if you live somewhere with a lot of traffic. On the other hand, Batman has lots of cool toys and is a millionaire. However, he is a brooding type of guy and never seems too happy. You could ask, why have a bunch of cool toys if they don’t make you happy? Wouldn’t it be better to fly around and leap tall buildings? Not to digress but have you ever noticed that invisibility is an exceedingly rare super power? More than complicated, that one is just creepy.

Anyway, I guess if pushed to choose, I’d lean towards Superman. However, in the grand scheme of things – the debate is not worth a big or even a small blowup. Surely, you wouldn’t risk a longtime friend or the close relationship with your sister, brother, uncle or whoever over Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne.

Cuddle your cat or sing with your parakeet. Enjoy that Pepsi, Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper. Play rugby with or without a shirt. Post your photos on Instagram and Tweet to your heart’s content. It’s okay by me. Except for mean Tweets, even if I don’t see them, it would make me sad to think you might be so inclined.

When it gets right down to it; we’re more alike than different. Most of us want the same things out of life. We want to be warm, safe and loved. We’d like to have enough food to keep us going and good health. We’d like to be happy. While we all have different definitions of luxury, I’m betting we’d all like to indulge in an extravagance now and then.

Not convinced? Here’s one undeniable truth that ties us together – we all put our socks on before our shoes. Spike heels, mukluks or sneakers; silky stocking or wooly socks, the order is undeniable. It links us through time and space. Unless you don’t wear socks or shoes or both. If that’s the case, you probably still put your pants on one leg at a time.

A toast to a lot less partisanship and a lot more kindness and understanding. Bon appétit!

Quinoa-Cheddar Cakes
Appetizer, side dish or main, these little cakes are delicious and have a nice crunch. Serve them with a dab of guacamole and salsa or sprinkle with cilantro and finely chopped red bell pepper. Enjoy!
Makes about 16 regular cakes

1 cup quinoa
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4-5 scallions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 large eggs
1-2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
Olive oil
Garnish: your favorite salsa and/or guacamole or cilantro and finely chopped red bell pepper

Cook the quinoa until tender according to package directions.

While the quinoa cooks, put the scallions, garlic, herbs and spices in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the hot quinoa to the scallions and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Put the eggs and pepper sauce in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs to the quinoa and stir to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Lightly coat a large, heavy skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Working in batches, add dollops of quinoa to the pan and flatten into pancakes. (A 1/4-1/3 cup ice cream scoop works well. A mini scoop is good for hors d’oeuvres.)

Fry the pancakes for 5-8 minutes per side or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Remove the cakes from the pan and drain on paper towels. Transfer the cakes to an ovenproof platter to keep warm in the oven and continue with the next batch.

Serve immediately with your favorite salsa, guacamole or a sprinkle of cilantro and finely chopped red bell pepper.

Printer-friendly version  of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Roasted Carrot Salad
Two Years Ago – Irish Lamb Stew
Three Years Ago – Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Four Years Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Five Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Six Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Seven Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Ten Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce

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

What are your thoughts? Can you suggest one action – large or small – to help bring us together? Feel free to share!

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

 

Clocks Forward & Spaghetti with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Don’t forget to nudge your clocks forward an hour this coming Saturday. And by the way, I don’t like it one bit. Daylight is a scarce commodity in my neighborhood during the winter months. December is awful and it doesn’t get a whole lot better in January. Slowly, things improve in February. Finally, by the end of the month, a pale gray dawn peeks through my skylight and gently wakes me. Then BAM, the second Sunday in March plunges early mornings back into darkness.

Let me explain. I was one of those sleepy headed kids. The one that all the mothers in the neighborhood worried about oversleeping and missing kindergarten. That was then. Now, I like mornings and getting up around six. However, perhaps it’s a throwback, but I don’t like getting up in the dark. And by the way, who does? I dare you to name one person who loves their alarm clock.

Anyway, I like having the sun give me a poke and gently prod me out of the Land of Nod. I can stretch, turn on the news and luxuriate for ten minutes or so before bounding out of bed. Alright, okay, some mornings it is more of a shuffle than a bound. But either or, it’s hard to do when it’s still night outside. And yes, I know it stays light later and I should be grateful but it’s no help at six in the morning.

Some blame Benjamin Franklin for daylight saving time but they would be wrong. While living in Paris, Ben wrote a satirical essay entitled “An Economical Project.” After being rudely awakened at six o’clock one morning, he realized that Paris was in full sunshine. The early-to-bed/early-to-rise founding father’s essay promoted the thrifty advantages of working and playing in daylight. However, he never actually recommended a time change, His mocking prose indicates that, while not at all anxious to do so himself, Ben thought the rest of the world should get up with the sun.

Over decades and centuries, various proponents of daylight saving time have lobbied for the cause. It found temporary traction during World War I. It was once again implemented in World War II but discontinued with the armistice. However, this time, there were more than a few holdouts. A number of cities and towns across the country implemented their own daylight saving time, all with different start and end dates. At one point there were twenty-three different daylight saving time schedules … in Iowa alone.

The chaos ended with the Uniform Time Act. While giving states the option to implement or not, the Act standardized start and end dates. After moving around a bit, daylight saving time now runs from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

And by the way, farmers have never lobbied for daylight saving time. The time change upsets the cows. They don’t care if it’s five, six or seven; both farmers and their cows like to wake up with the sun. (Perhaps I was a farmer in a past life.) On the other hand, urban and suburban businesses love it. It seems people shop more when it’s still light after work.

Anyway, there’s always the upside – enjoy the afternoon sunshine and bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Bacon
It’s not quite spring yet! There’s still plenty of time for cozy comfort food. Brussels sprout tossed with bacon and spaghetti is a cozy but easy weeknight meal. Enjoy!
Serves 4

Olive oil
About 4 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
About 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth
About 1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8-12 ounces spaghetti
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
About 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a large oven-proof skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel and reserve.

Add the Brussels sprouts to the skillet and toss to coat. Add the chicken broth and roast the Brussels sprouts at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Stirring a few times, continue roasting the vegetables until tender and lightly browned, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions less 1 minute. Reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta.

Add the spaghetti and bacon to the Brussels sprouts plus some pasta water, drizzle with vinegar and toss to combine. Cover and simmer on medium for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a large platter or individual shallow bowls, sprinkle with walnuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and serve.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Pork Stew with Beans & Greens
Two Years Ago – Shrimp Curry with Spinach
Three Years Ago – Mini Tarte Tatin
Four Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken
Five Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Six Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Eight Years Ago –
Creole Shrimp with Creamy Grits
Nine Years Ago –
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Ten Years Ago –
Swimming Pool Jello

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

Are you for or against or … the time change? Feel free to share!

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

Selective Memory & Alpine Mac & Cheese

The local schools are closed for winter break. It’s time to ski! When it comes to family ski vacations, I admit it – I have selective memory. The snow was always perfect. In fact, it snowed every night. Come morning, the sun always shone and the slopes were perfectly groomed. The dog, who loved to roll in the snow, had a brilliant shiny coat. At the end of a long ski day, we were too tired to squabble and the house was a model of peace and harmony.

Except for the part about the dog, none of the above is actually true. Or at least, they are only partially true. While February is a very good month for all those S-sports – skiing, sledding, skating and snowshoeing – I’m sure we had a few rocky vacations. And by rocky, I mean it literally – as in not enough snow to cover the rocks on the ski hill. I’m just as certain that my sister and I never went a full week without a spat; particularly when we were teenagers. (Of course, it was never my fault.)

The truth of the matter, hard as I try, I can’t remember a single February vacation without snow. Instead I remember happy days clambering around on skis. The late afternoons and evenings were just as happy. These hours were spent twirling on skates, jumping off the deck and flying down the hill across the road on our sleds.

Speaking of skates, there was that one time when my brother fell through the ice on the frog pond. He was maybe six. It was probably during February vacation. Although scary, it’s not a terribly traumatic story. As far as I know, John hasn’t suffered any lasting physical or psychic damage. Even for a little boy, the pond is probably only about chest deep. No, the story made a lasting impression because it was so well told.

A neighbor passed by at just the right moment and threw John in the back of her station wagon and hurried him home. With wide eyes and more than an ounce of gratitude, John shared the tale of his rescue. One of the neighborhood teenagers had raced across the little pond with his hockey stick and pulled him out of the icy water. From the telling, you’d have guessed that the skater was about to join the Boston Bruins or the Olympic speed skating team.

A few years later, that same brother (I have only one) broke his leg during winter vacation. It was in Colorado – our first family trip outside of the northeast. The snow really was magnificent and it really did snow every night. Thank goodness John waited until the very end of the week.

On the last run of a wonderful day on the slopes, John caught an edge and took a tumble. He was carted down the mountain on a sled and the rest of the family followed. At the bottom, Mom and Dad hopped into the ambulance with him … leaving me with four pairs of skis to lug back to the condo. If it wasn’t for lugging, I suppose I might have forgotten the whole thing.

So yes, when it comes to family ski vacations, I have selective memory. The snow was always perfect. Any injuries were minor. The one or two that required hospitalization left no scar. Instead, they added another interesting chapter to family lore.

Local kids are off from school this week. Have a blast and bon appétit!

Alpine Mac & Cheese
This recipe shows you what happens when America’s favorite comfort food spends winter break in the Swiss Alps. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

Butter for the pan
8 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons kirsch* (optional)
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk or half and half
1 pound your favorite short pasta – penne, rigatoni, bowties …
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
8 ounces Emmental cheese, shredded
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a large casserole.

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

Drain the excess fat from the pan, add the onion, sprinkle with thyme, paprika and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until almost dry. Remove from the heat and stir in the kirsch.

Put the cream cheese in a large bowl, add the sour cream and mustard and stir or beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, season with salt and pepper and cook, whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Whisking constantly, add the milk and heat to steaming over medium. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking, until the sauce thickens. A little at a time, stir the warm sauce into the cream cheese mixture. Add the bacon and onion 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.

Combine the pasta and sauce and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water. Sprinkle the pasta with the Gruyere, Emmental and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss again. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish.

Put the breadcrumbs and herbs in a bowl, add the melted butter 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. Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking.

Bake the mac & cheese at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until piping hot and golden.

* About Kirsch – A spirit made from cherries, traditional cheese fondue recipes add a shot of kirsch just before serving.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Fettucine with Mushrooms & Kale
Two Years Ago – Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives
Three Years Ago – Flourless Chocolate Cake
Four Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Five Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Six Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Eight Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Nine Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Ten Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

What are your favorite winter vacation memories? Feel free to share!

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

’Tis the Season for … Pasta & Gnocchi with Mushroom & Bacon Ragù

Winter is a great time for pasta. So much so that I seem to find a lovely bowl of warm and wonderful spaghetti, gnocchi or tortellini on my table at least a few times a week. I know the anti-carb lobby does not approve but there is something ever-so-cozy about pasta. Admit it, there’s nothing better on a cold winter night. Damp and rainy cold or polar vortex cold, it doesn’t matter – pasta is the answer.

Of course, you’ll never get bored because the variety of shapes and sizes is endless. It’s not just the hundreds of possible choices to throw in the boiling pot. The list of sauces goes on forever as well. Why – I bet you could enjoy a different dish every night for year without a single repeat.

When it comes to homemade pasta, I find that one thing leads to another. A batch of ravioli inspires a nest of tagliatelle. The same goes for gnocchi. I’ve no sooner served up a hearty platter of potato gnocchi that my brain starts to spin with new recipes. Spinach, butternut squash or what about roasted beet gnocchi? When was the last time you had a purple dinner?

Anyway, pillowy-soft gnocchi, tantalizing tortellini or a simply delicious fettucine, they all need a fabulous sauce. As kids, the only one to grace our table was a hearty Bolognese. However, we were in no way fancy enough to call it that. To us, it was simply Spaghetti Sauce. And by the way, my mother, who really never liked to cook, simmered up a mean Bolognese.

Eventually, I learned there was more to Italian cooking then a great red sauce. Given my penchant for pasta during the winter months, that’s a good thing, a very good thing. After a long day, if you have an urgent need for a cozy meal, consider pasta and any of the following for a quick and easy sauce:

  • Leftover roasted vegetables topped with browned butter and toasted hazelnuts are a wonderful combination – try butternut squash or cauliflower
  • For an early taste of spring, sauté asparagus, snow peas and spinach and drizzle with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil
  • Cacio e Pepe – made with butter, cracked pepper and cheese – it’s the minimalist’s answer to Mac & Cheese
  • Sauté your favorite spicy sausage with broccoli rabe and garlic and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Simmer garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in olive oil, wine and lemon and add clams
  • Sauté some onion with lots of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, add crushed tomatoes and simmer before adding shrimp, olives and a few capers
  • Whirl up a batch of bright green pesto with basil or your favorite herbs plus a sprinkle of cheese and nuts
  • Chop up a green sauce of spinach, herbs, olives and capers – finish with a touch of lemon and garlic
  • Anything with cream including just cream and cheese
  • Anything with bacon

The possibilities are endless. Bon appétit!

Gnocchi with Mushroom & Bacon Ragù
Last week’s column featured homemade Cheesy Potato Gnocchi. For a cozy supper, toss the gnocchi in an easy sauce of bacon and mushrooms. Enjoy!
Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds gnocchi,* homemade or store bought
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 pounds whole mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cognac
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4-1/2 cup half & half (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If making homemade gnocchi, prepare the gnocchi.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the bacon and, stirring occasionally, cook until the bacon just starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and onion, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 5-8 minutes. When the mushrooms start to brown, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine, stir in the mustard and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cognac. Return the skillet to the stove, stir and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until reduced by half. Reduce the heat to very low to keep warm.

Cook the gnocchi according to directions.

Use a spider or slotted spoon to add the gnocchi to the mushrooms and gently toss to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add the half & half or a little pasta water and toss again. Cover and cook on medium heat for 1 minute.

Transfer the gnocchi to shallow bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* if you don’t have homemade gnocchi in the house, the ragù will be just as delicious with tortellini or fettuccine.

Print-friendly version  of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Pa Jun – Savory Korean Pancakes
Two Years Ago – Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Bacon
Three Years Ago – Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
Four Years Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Five Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Six Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Seven Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Eight Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Nine Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Ten Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

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

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

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

Winter in New England & Cheesy Potato Gnocchi

Oh yes, we think we are soooo clever when we quote Mark Twain and tell visitors, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” Among ourselves, we don’t find anything funny about below freezing temperatures, fifty mile an hour wind gusts or torrential rain in January. As for those January monsoons, they are particularly unfunny when followed by plummeting temperatures. While many of us like to ice skate, we prefer to do it on a lake or pond; not the post office parking lot.

Now let’s be clear, when it comes to New England weather, you can rant and rave as much as you want. You can complain; you can pout but throwing a tantrum will not change a darn thing. Your childish outburst will have zero influence on Mother Nature. Take note, that’s MOTHER Nature. Mothers have been there and done that. From a meltdown in Macy’s to a tantrum over a Tyrannosaurus Rex t-shirt, mothers have seen it all and are rarely daunted. Save your strength for battling the elements. Your fit of temper won’t phase her.

Unfortunately, calm negotiations won’t either. Mother Nature is a stubborn sort when it comes to winter in the northeast. So, what to do? How about …

Live in layers. Make every day Throwback Thursday and channel Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Hey, it was a look and I for one was a big fan. I think I may still have a bowler hat somewhere. Anyway, start with a turtleneck, layer on flannel shirt, top with a sweater of some sort and finish it off with a big, wooly cardigan. Add a pair of long johns, sometimes two, underneath your trousers to keep your legs warm. For those feet, leave the city boots in the closet. You’ll want heavy snow boots and wool socks. Don’t forget your hat and gloves.

Latch on to a winter hobby. Indoors or out, find something that is best done in winter. Something like, setting a goal to become the world’s greatest baker. Winter is the perfect time. Who wants to turn on the oven in the middle of summer? No one. Or take up snowshoeing and enjoy the peace and quiet of the woods after a storm. Start a movie club and vow to see all the nominees before Oscar night. Then, host an Oscar party.

Stay in shape. Who knows, maybe an old friend will surprise you with a free trip to Hawaii. You’ll want to be ready to don a swimsuit at a moments notice. Besides, you’ll feel much better, mentally and physically, if you get some exercise. If you hate the cold, switch it up and try an aerobics class or climb a rock wall. Your mood and your thighs will thank you.

Beware of ruts and doldrums. A change of scenery will do you a world of good. Get out of town and visit an ice castle, see a show or spend an afternoon wandering through a museum. You don’t need to travel far. Up to Hanover or down to Concord should do it. Before or after your adventure, treat yourself to a lovely lunch or dinner.

Make something warm and wonderful. If you are yarn person, knit a magnificent hat. A foodie? Try something new in the kitchen. Want a cozy spot to relax and read? Make your living room more inviting by rearranging the furniture and adding a few homey accessories.

And remember, spring will come eventually. Stay warm and dry. Bon appétit!

Cheesy Potato Gnocchi
There is nothing better than delicious comfort food at the end of a dreary winter day. Serve the gnocchi with your favorite sauce or roasted vegetables and browned butter. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 1/2 pounds (5-6 servings)

1 large (about 12 ounces) baking potato
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 large egg
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4-1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prick the potato 3-4 times and bake at 375 degrees until tender, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, put the ricotta and egg in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Let the potato cool for about 10 minutes. Cut the potato in half and scoop out the flesh. Run the potato through a ricer. If you don’t have a ricer, mash with a fork.

Put the riced potato in bowl and fold in the cheeses and egg mixture. Add the flour and stir until a soft dough forms. Gently knead the dough on a floured surface.

Divide the dough into 4 balls. Working on a floured surface, roll the dough balls into ropes about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the ropes into pieces 3/4-1-inch long. Place the gnocchi on baking sheets lined with parchment or wax paper.

Can be made a few hours ahead, covered and refrigerated until ready to cook. Or freeze on the baking sheet, transfer to a container or resealable plastic bag and store in the freezer. Do not defrost before cooking.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, simmer until they rise to the surface and then continue simmering for 2 minutes.

Serve the gnocchi with your favorite sauce and a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano cheese.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Penne alla Vodka
Two Years Ago – Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore
Three Years Ago – Poverty Casserole
Four Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower
Five Years Ago – Savory Blinis
Six Years Ago – Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
Seven Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Eight Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
Nine Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
Ten Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta

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

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

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

Being Thankful & Spaghetti con Tacchino e Broccoli (Spaghetti with Turkey & Broccoli)

Still not sure about one or more dishes for your Thanksgiving feast? Okay then, 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.

November is a dreary month. Most days dawn cold and rainy – or snowy. However, all is not lost; the month is saved by Thanksgiving. We can take comfort in the knowledge that family and friends will gather together at the end of the month. With a fabulous, harvest feast a few short days away, I can’t help but be a bit reflective. Alright, I admit it; my head is filled with thoughts and images of Thanksgivings past.

Early Thanksgiving dinners were at my grandmothers’ houses. Dressed in our Sunday best, we’d arrive around noontime. As cooks go, Nana Nye was the better of the two but it was hardly a contest. Nana Westland didn’t care one wit. She was more than happy to have Grandpa take us all out for Thanksgiving dinner.

I am thankful for my memories of these two very different women. I count myself lucky and grateful that all four of my grandparents were around throughout my childhood and well into my twenties.

After a couple of disastrous Thanksgivings in noisy, overcrowded restaurants, Mom put her foot down. She announced that she was cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Her mother and mother-in-law could bring a dish if they liked. It would be welcomed but wasn’t necessary. Now, Nana Nye was a staunch supporter of Cape Cod turnip. Unable to imagine a Thanksgiving dinner without it, she always mashed up a batch and brought it along. Since Nana Westland spent as little time as possible in the kitchen, she sent Grandpa to Captain Marden’s to pick up a couple of pounds of shrimp for the cocktail hour.

I am thankful that every year, without fail, Dad will ask if Cape Cod turnip is on the menu. It always makes me laugh. He also brings shrimp. Both are lovely reminders of my two grandmothers.

Like her mother, Mom didn’t really like to cook but she embraced Thanksgiving dinner with enthusiasm. No, she didn’t get all fancy and gourmet. We didn’t have tamarind glazed turkey or roasted carrots drizzled with tahini sauce. Her menu was the epitome of New England cooking.

I am thankful that I grew up with a mother full of good cheer, life and energy. Her exuberance made every holiday special.

Mom’s first Thanksgiving culinary coup left an indelible reminder of her spirited approach to the family feast. Mom chopped up an apple and threw it in the stuffing. As far as she was concerned, it was a culinary miracle and she was absolutely delighted with herself.

I am thankful for all the little things that tie us together as a family – like Mom’s Stuffing with the Apple. Yes, that is what we call it.

As popular as her stuffing was, Mom decided it wasn’t enough. Perhaps she was worried that we’d run out of food because she kept adding dishes. Oyster dressing, creamed onions and pecan pie joined the already groaning table.

I am thankful for Mom’s example of updating and evolving our New England traditions. I am even more thankful that Campbell’s green bean casserole never found its way onto our Thanksgiving table.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Spaghetti con Tacchino e Broccoli (Spaghetti with Turkey & Broccoli)
When you can’t eat another turkey sandwich, it’s time for a change of taste. Reinvent your leftover turkey with broccoli and spaghetti tossed with a generous hint of lemon, garlic and red pepper. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut in bite-sized florets and pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon or to taste crushed red pepper
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups bite-size pieces leftover turkey
1 ounce plus more to pass Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 ounce plus more to pass Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions less about 1 minute. About 5 minutes before the pasta is due to be done, add the broccoli.

While the pasta and broccoli cook, put the wine, olive oil, butter, garlic, anchovy paste, herbs and pepper flakes in a large skillet and, whisking frequently, cook on low. Remove from the heat when the garlic is fragrant and pale brown. Do not overcook. Sprinkle with lemon zest, drizzle with lemon juice and whisk again.

Reserving a little pasta water, drain the spaghetti and broccoli.

Add the pasta, broccoli and turkey to the garlic and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the grated cheeses, stir in a little pasta water and toss again. Cover and cook on medium for 1-2 minutes to combine the flavors.

Transfer to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls and serve with more grated cheeses.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter
Three Years Ago – Thanksgiving Leftovers
Four Years Ago – Cranberry Clafoutis
Five Years Ago – Black Friday Enchiladas (Enchiladas with Turkey & Black Beans)
Six Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Eight Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Ten Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

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

How do you use up those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers? Feel free to share!

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