A Magical Turn on the Ice & Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci

pl_ice_17Looking back, we can all recall magical times. It could have been a day or a year when by some fantastic good fortune, everything came together. It could be as fleeting as a happy night on the beach, drinking beer with friends while the northern lights danced above. Perhaps a year in Spain or Montana still makes you smile. Maybe it was one unforgettable winter when your love life, job, haircut and the ski conditions were all spectacular.

About this time every year, I remember a few magical weeks on Pleasant Lake. It all started to come together in December. I was a senior in college. After taking my last final, I headed home to our little brown house in the woods near Pleasant Lake. Unlike past Christmas vacations, the week was not filled with glorious snow and fun on the ski slope. Snowmaking was still on the wish list at King Ridge and December reigned cold, calm and dry.

Like many schools, mine had what was called the January Plan. For about three weeks, at school or away, students worked on a special project. Some stayed on campus and watched movies; others went to Florida to count alligators or studied flora and fauna from a chairlift in France. Students loved it; their parents not so much. Dad still rants about the waste of time and money.

Anyway, it took three projects to graduate. Having done my three, I had a few extra weeks of vacation. I picked up a few bucks working the holiday rush and after-Christmas sale at a local clothing store. I slept late. Mom and I took a quick trip to Florida to check on my grandparents. All in all, it should have added up to a rather boring month.

Would have; except for the lake. While the snow drought put the kibosh on skiing, that combination of cold, calm and dry created something wonderful on Pleasant Lake. It was so cold that the lake quickly developed a thick layer of ice. It was so calm that the ice was as shiny and smooth as glass. It was so dry that there wasn’t a flake of snow or drop of rain to mottle the smooth surface. It was perfect.

A day or two after New Year’s, I found my skates and headed down to the beach. Mount Kearsarge loomed majestically over a massive expanse of ice. Almost two miles long and close to a mile wide, it was bigger than any rink and I had it all to myself.

Although cold, the sun was shining when I stepped onto the ice. After a few tentative glides, I found my skating legs and took off. It was exhilarating. Taking a turn around Blueberry Island, I skated from one end of the lake to the other. I explored nooks and crannies along the shore. The ice was so clear, I could almost see, or at least imagined I could see, trout swimming under my feet.

As beautiful as it was, the huge expanse of ice was also a bit terrifying. The ice warbled, creaked and groaned. Was something happening? Something I should know about? As I made my way down the lake, I came across long cracks in the ice. An art major, I knew nothing of the shifts that ice makes with changing temperatures. My active imagination wondered if one of those cracks might expand and swallow me. Active imagination or not, it was too glorious to stop so I continued skating.

The start of the new semester and the inevitable January thaw came much too soon. I headed back to school on a foggy, gray day. But somewhere packed among the clean clothes, Bean boots and ice skates, I brought along the lasting awe and wonder of a few magical weeks on the ice on Pleasant Lake.

Here’s to a magical New Year. Bon appétit!

Tortellini en Brodo con Spinaci
Pasta in a hearty broth is the perfect supper after a day on the ice. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
About 12 cups chicken stock
1 rind from a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano* (optional)
2 pounds tortellini
12-16 ounces baby spinach
Garnish: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat a little olive oil in a soup kettle over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, season with paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Raise the heat to medium-high, stir in the wine and cook, stirring frequently until the wine has reduced by about half. Stir in the stock, add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or longer.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Bring the broth to a rapid boil, add the tortellini and cook according to package directions.

Carefully transfer the tortellini to shallow bowls. Stir the spinach into the broth and cook until it wilts, 1-2 minutes. Ladle the broth and spinach over the tortellini and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* While the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind is optional, it makes a world of difference!

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One Year Ago – Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens
Three Years Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Six Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Seven Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Eight Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

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

What about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

It Takes a Circle & Cheesecake Brownies

John_PLeasant_LakeSharing some of the tales told around my table is a lot of fun; especially some of my childhood adventures. Except for the on-going trauma and drama of being a middle child, mine was pretty much an idyllic childhood. However, I have to admit that, from time to time, my fingers hesitate on the keyboard. Although I never ran with scissors, I worry that some readers might be horrified by the easy-going nature of my childhood.

Compared to today’s moms and dads, mine were the epitome of slap-dash. We now lovingly refer to it as the Joe and Libby Nye School of Negligent Parenting. Yes, they loved my sister, brother and I. They still do; but there was no hovering or helicoptering. They didn’t shuttle us from one play date to the next and then on to a never-ending lineup of practices and lessons. They simply told us, in no uncertain terms, to turn off the television and go out to play. And we did.

That said; we were never far from watchful, caring eyes. The moms in our neighborhood were mostly stay-at-home and all their kitchen windows faced the street. These women knew each other’s children and all our quirks. They knew who took jelly with their peanut butter and who took fluff. They even knew that I was the only kid in the United States who didn’t like peanut butter sandwiches, with or without fluff or jelly. They knew who was having trouble with math and who needed to work on the beanbag toss. They tut-tutted any mishaps and applauded our successes. They still do.

These women were more or less everywhere, or at least it seemed that way. Whenever we tried to make a break from the straight and narrow, one of them would appear to give us (and our conscience) a nudge. It didn’t matter if we were throwing crab apples at the new kid, cutting the lift line at the ski hill or hitchhiking; someone’s mother always turned up. Then, gently but firmly, she would ask, “Does your mother know what you are doing?” Except in the case of hitchhiking – then it was more like, “Get in this car this minute! Does your mother know what you’re doing!?!” When we were teenagers, we were convinced that these women were nosey busybodies, a collective pain in our you know whats. Years later, we figured out that they were just looking out for us.

In the summer on Pleasant Lake, Mom and her friends gathered every afternoon at the beach. Known as The Ladies of the Beach, they pulled their beach chairs into The Circle to chat and share ideas, large and small. Yes, even in the summer, these women followed our progress, our triumphs and mishaps. We could run, but we couldn’t hide.

These Ladies were better than Homeland Security when it came to sharing information. Much better. There were daily updates on who passed their raft test, had a wicked case of poison ivy or a troublesome earache. They knew who fell off their bicycle or into the pond. When we got older, they fretted about who we were dating or if we were dateless. They wondered and worried if we were sneaking a few beers on the beach at night. Instead of sending our dads down to check, they let us experiment and suffer that first hangover.

As time went on, the Ladies of the Beach knew where we went to college and our majors. Later, they followed job changes, moves, marriages and the blessed arrival of each other’s grandchildren. When our lives became more complex, it was harder to keep track but they did their best.

Sadly, many of them are gone but we were more than fortunate to have The Ladies of the Beach in our lives. They encouraged us, cheered us and celebrated with us. An African proverb tells us that it takes a village to raise a child. On Pleasant Lake, it takes a Circle.

I wish you all a wonderful summer surrounded by friends and family. Bon appétit!

Cheesecake Brownies
Brownies are everyone’s favorite portable dessert. Next time, swirl in cheesecake batter for a more than special treat. Enjoy!
Makes 24 brownies

Start by making the brownie layer:
14 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch pan.

Stirring frequently, heat the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over very low heat. Remove the pan from heat when the butter and chocolate are almost melted. Whisk until completely melted and well combined. Cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk the sugar, espresso powder and salt into the chocolate. Whisking constantly, add the eggs one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan.

Now make the cheesecake batter and swirl it into the brownies:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and well combined. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until smooth and well combined.

Drop dollops of cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter and swirl with a knife.

Finally, garnish and bake:
1 cup your favorite chocolate chips, dark, semisweet or milk

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the cheesecake brownies.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick just comes out clean. Do not over bake! Cool and cut into squares.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Two Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Three Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Four Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Six Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

Do you have any special summer memories? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Dog Daze & Grilled Chicken Salad Provencal

If there was ever a summer for dog days, this is it. Yes, it’s been one of those summers. It happens from time to time. The heat waves roll in one after another and another. The air gets thick and heavy and the hot hot sun is merciless. I guess it was to be expected this year. After all, our first day of summer was back in mid-March. In New England we make much of our endless winter. We joke that summer is a warm day in July. But for a balmy ides of March? We got nothing.

On these hot, humid days, most of us want nothing more than to laze around under a tree or float in the lake. As far as I can figure, there is no better place when the temperature skyrockets than Pleasant Lake. As is fitting for the dog days of summer, when we were kids we brought our dogs to the beach. No one wanted to leave their pooch in the house all day, hot or lonely or both. It was their vacation too!

Our four-legged friends happily trotted along to the lake to swim, retrieve sticks and keep us company. The water patrol did not accept dogs as spotters for water skiing but many were invited onto Sunfishes for leisurely afternoon sails. They were generally agreeable as long as they could abandon ship and swim back to shore when the fickle winds on Pleasant Lake inevitably died.

Eventually after one too many territorial disputes, dogs were banned from the beach. Our dog Eeyore was a lot like his namesake, the donkey in the Winnie the Pooh books. A loveable black Labrador retriever, he was born old; a little cantankerous, a little melancholy. As he did with most things, Eeyore accepted his exile to the house with dignity.

Forced indoors, he searched out cool places to snooze away the long afternoons until his family returned. On hot days, Eeyore wrapped his big, old, Labrador body around the toilet to stay cool. On really hot days he climbed into the bathtub. As he got older and more arthritic it became one of life’s unsolved mysteries as to how he got up and into the tub. How he got out was not a mystery. It took at least three of us to wrestle seventy-five pounds of awkward dog out of the bathtub.

While he never managed to turn on the faucet for a cool shower, Eeyore was probably more comfortable lolling in the tub than his humans down on the beach. On sweltering days, the tennis courts were empty by noon and boats stayed on the shore. We kids wanted nothing more than to flop down under the trees. We barely moved; except to complain. When we couldn’t take a minute more, we summoned our courage, dashed across the blistering sand and dove into the water for a leisurely swim to the raft.

That worked for maybe a day. Maybe two. Too hot days always made our mothers nervous. It wasn’t the heat or the humidity. It was the lying around and doing nothing. They lived to see us busy. We were constantly pushed onto the tennis courts, into sailboats or into doing good deeds. But when the mercury hit ninety and then ninety-five or more, we refused to pick up a racket or aimlessly drift off shore in the sweltering sun. Alas our moms were formidable opponents and would not be outdone by the heat and our sloth. They put us to work washing cars to raise money for Hospital Day. Or insisted the life guards organize a swim to Blueberry Island. Anything to keep us busy. None of us were particularly bad kids but our moms were convinced that too much free time would lead to mischief.

They were probably right.

Enjoy all that summer has to offer and bon appétit!

Grilled Chicken Salad Provencal
This colorful salad is as beautiful as it is delicious, perfect for a hot summer night on the deck or on the beach. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

1 – 1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Sun-dried tomato marinade (recipe follows)
1-2 romaine hearts, torn into bite sized pieces
8-12 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
8-12 Greek or Niçoise olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3-4 radishes, chopped
3-4 scallions, white and light green parts only or 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 – 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley
Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Put the chicken in a large, heavy-duty plastic re-sealable bag. Add the marinade and seal the bag, pressing out any excess air. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator, turning every few hours, for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the grill to medium high. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Arrange the chicken on the grill. Reduce the heat to medium and grill, turning once, until cooked through, 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the romaine, tomatoes, olives, radishes, onions, cucumber and pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine. Sprinkle with half the herbs and toss again. Just before serving, add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine.

To serve: arrange the salad on a large platter. Thinly slice the chicken and arrange on top of the salad. Drizzle a little vinaigrette over the chicken, sprinkle with the remaining herbs and serve.

Sun-Dried Tomato Marinade
2 cloves garlic
1/2 shallot
2 halves oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1-2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon or to taste sea salt
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup dry white wine

Put all the ingredients except the wine in a blender and process to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the wine and process until smooth.

Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
2 halves oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil to taste

Put all the ingredients except the olive oil in a blender and pulse a few times to mince and combine. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth and combined.

Makes about 1 cup, store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Lobster with Corn, Tomato & Arugula Salad
Two Years Ago – Greek Green Beans
Three Years Ago – Blueberry Pie
Four Years Ago – Grilled Lamb
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How do you keep cool when temperatures soar? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project
Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2012

No More Pencils. No More Books. No More Teachers’ Dirty Looks. & Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint and Peanuts

There was a wonderful sense of urgency in our house on the last day of school.
The final bell rang at 11:15 and the Nye children had strict instructions to come right home. No dilly-dallying. Within minutes of walking in the door we were out again and in the car headed to Pleasant Lake.

My mother was a master of organization and efficiency. She deftly orchestrated the last minute frenzy. Bathing suits, t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops were thrown into duffel bags along with a pile of books. Except for the books, we packed light. There was no need for fancy clothes or shoes at the lake. In no time at all, our bags were lined up by the back door.

Our dogs, Eeyore and Penny, danced nervously around the kitchen. Most mornings, the dogs roamed the neighborhood. They had a regular route with little old ladies to visit and cats to chase. But never on the last day of school. Fearful they would miss out on something or be left behind, they spent the morning close to home. The dogs always knew when something was up.

Finally the duffels along with a few bags of groceries, three kids, two dogs and three turtles were crammed into our big, blue station wagon. After one last check, Mom locked the door and we hit the road, leaving the manicured lawns of suburbia in our wake. If it wasn’t packed, we didn’t need it. If it wasn’t done, it had to wait until September.

In spite of our rush to get to Pleasant Lake, Mom always took us to Ricky’s in Nashua to celebrate the end of school and start of summer. Ricky’s was one of those funky, family-owned roadside drive-ins. At one time prolific throughout New England, most of them, including Ricky’s, have long since disappeared. They were squeezed out by clowns and kings or maybe their owners got tired of the cold and retired to Florida. Instead of golden arches, Ricky’s was decorated with two giant, smiling dachshunds. It wasn’t high art but the hot dogs and onion rings were terrific.

Ricky’s was open year round but we rarely stopped during the ski season. During the winter you had to eat in your car. Mom and Dad didn’t want to mess up the Country Squire Lounge (the inside of our Ford station wagon) with mustard spills or greasy stains. But there were picnic tables for warm weather feasting, perfect for our first day of freedom lunch. Eeyore and Penny snoozed under the picnic table. The turtles, Touché, Daniel Boone and Mingo, hung out in their plastic pool and gave us beseeching looks, hoping for a French fry to nibble.

Satiated and well satisfied we jumped back in the car. Alas, the Nye kids were never great travelers. The station wagon was huge but both dogs and kids managed to stretch and sprawl and get in each other’s way. Eventually Mom would shout above the fray, “Do I need to stop this car? You don’t want me to stop this car!” Except for a few pitiful sniffles, that quieted us down for a good three, maybe five minutes.

Much to Mom’s relief, somehow or other, we always made it to our little house in the woods in one piece. Not wanting to delay another minute, we unloaded the car in a flash, threw on bathing suits and waved good bye to the turtles. Dogs in tow, we were off to the beach for another great start to another great summer in paradise.

Have a wonderful summer and bon appétit!

Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint and Peanuts

Celebrate the end of school with an easy, breezy cookout. Throw some burgers and dogs on the grill and dish up some slaw. Try my crispy, crunchy version of this old favorite. Enjoy!

Serves 12


8 ounces coleslaw mix or cabbage, cut in thin ribbons
8 ounces broccoli slaw
3 carrots, grated
1/2 – 1 cucumber, chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper or a mix, chopped
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup roughly chopped mint
About 3/4 cup roughly chopped salted, roasted peanuts

Make the vinaigrette (recipe follows) and let sit for at least 30 minutes to combine the flavors.

Combine the vegetables and herbs and toss to combine. Drizzle with enough spicy vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss. Let the slaw sit in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours to combine the flavors.

To serve: add half of the peanuts to the slaw and toss. Transfer the slaw to a platter and sprinkle with the remaining peanuts.

If you like a sweeter slaw, chop an crisp apple and add it to the veggies.

Spicy Vinaigrette
3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil or peanut oil

Put all the ingredients except the oil in a blender, process to combine. Slowly add the oil and process until well combined.

Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola
Two Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
Three Years Ago – Grilled Steak & Potato Salad Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite last day of school memories? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2012

Memorial Day on Pleasant Lake & Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Memorial Day is just around the corner.
In New Hampshire where winter comes early and stays late, the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, marks the beginning of summer. Kids are happy to get a day off from school. Many, but not all, businesses close. The notable exceptions are any and all retailers. From Main Street to the mall, they’ll fly balloons and banners and run three-day sales extravaganzas. The highways and by-ways will be bumper-to-bumper as Americans flock to the mountains or beach or attempt to shop-‘til-they-drop.

I grew up in the suburbs west of Boston. Unless a three-day downpour was not in the forecast, my family always headed north for the long Memorial Day Weekend. Any weekend was a good weekend if it was spent on Pleasant Lake. Saturday morning was for chores. We ran the vacuum cleaner upstairs and down, checked the ceilings for cobwebs and leaks and the cupboards, nooks and crannies for trespassers. One year my sister Brenda discovered a pile of seeds and nuts in her bed. We figured that mice had taken our absence during Mud Season as an invitation to move in.

We three kids always whipped through whatever boring tasks our parents assigned. What we lacked in care we made up in speed and escaped to the beach as quickly as possible. Brenda and I would get the jump on our summer tans while John went in search of frogs and tadpoles. Before too long, a toe was tentatively put in the lake. Dares and double dares soon followed. Then, as often as not, one or all of us plunged, shrieking, into the still freezing water.

In the coming days, all along the shores of Pleasant Lake, and lakes everywhere, empty cottages will fill up. The summer people will be back, if only for the weekend. Windows will be thrown open to clear the stale and musty air. The water will be turned back on. Floors and decks will be swept clean. Stray squirrels and mice will be chased out the door. Beaches and yards will be raked free of winter’s debris. Dusty lawn chairs will get hosed off. Barbeque grills will be found and put to work. Before you know it, everything will be shipshape and ready for summer.

With a little luck, a couple of hours will be found for some fun. Favorite hiking trails will be rediscovered. Games of golf and tennis matches will be played. Boats, large and small, will be launched. Kayaks and canoes will tour the shore. Sailors will hope for breeze and settle for a snooze on the calm lake. Fishermen will pray that dinner will bite their hooks and settle for burgers on the grill. I’m sure that at least a few kids will plunge, shrieking, into the ice cold lake.

My part-time neighbors won’t stay long. Late Monday afternoon they will put away their brooms and rakes. They will stow their toys, close up their cottages and head back to the city. They’ll return to work and school on Tuesday with sore muscles, a few black fly bites and a sunburn or two.

Except for the loons’ call, the lake will again be still.

If only for a weekend, enjoy the first delightful days of summer. However you spend the holiday, take a moment to relive a few fond memories with family and friends. And maybe, just maybe, take a mad dash in and out of a still frigid lake.

Have fun and bon appétit!

Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables 


Versatile and full of flavor, serve this salad at your holiday cookout. Enjoy!

Serves 8



Juice of 1/2-1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise about 1/2 inch thick
1 small eggplant, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 red onion, cut in 1/2 inch rounds
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
2 cups Israeli couscous
2-3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Combine the juice of 1/2 lemon and the garlic in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let the vinaigrette sit for 10-15 minutes to combine the flavors.

While the vinaigrette mixes and mingles, prepare the couscous according to package directions.

Drain the couscous and transfer to the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Cool the couscous to almost room temperature, add the herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss again.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium-high. Brush or toss the vegetables in a little olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables until tender or tender-crisp, 2-3 minutes per side for the eggplant and 1-2 minutes per side for everything else. You might like to cook the onions in a grill pan as the small rings are apt to fall through the grate.

When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, roughly chop and add the vegetables and pine nuts to the couscous and toss to combine. If the couscous seems dry, add more lemon juice and/or olive oil to taste.

Serve immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator. The salad is best at room temperature so remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
 Two Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Three 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 will you spend the long Memorial Day weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2012

Indian Summer & Grilled Ratatouille Stacks

I love September. Unfortunately this year, the month has had a rainy start but happily that has changed! The days are warm and sunny. Summer’s too often oppressive humidity has been wrung from the air. I almost feel sorry for the summer people who loaded up their SUV’s and minivans and headed back to the suburbs on Labor Day. They are missing a very special time of year in New Hampshire.

Almost sorry, because with the summer people gone, I now have a bit of time to stretch and relax. Throughout the summer I am the chef at a private club. While I love to cook and enjoy the club members, this close-to-fulltime gig is stacked on top of my already busy writing schedule. Phew! I’m ready for a break!

After a too busy summer I suddenly have a bit of free time on my hands. So, how to spend it? I think I’d like to take it slow and sort of amble through Indian summer.

Instead of cooking for thirty, forty, sixty or one hundred, I’m looking forward to intimate dinners with family and friends. Instead of piling three shopping carts as high as the sky, I’ll hobnob with local farmers. A leisurely stroll through the Farmer’s Market in search of fresh ingredients will be a nice change of pace. I’ll let the local harvest and my whim and fancy dictate tonight’s menu.

I’ve got several deadlines looming but I’m also looking forward to some uninterrupted time to work on my growing collection of short stories. This project was just one of the many which was unceremoniously dumped last spring. Temporarily shelved but not forgotten, it’s time to get back to Lizzie Grant’s* stories and adventures. It’s great fun to let my mind to wander in, out and around new characters and their exploits. Incidentally, there is a silver lining to shelving the project for a few months. A couple of weeks ago while taking a walk, the proverbial light bulb clicked on and bunch of new storylines tumbled into my brain. Wow! Sometimes a break is good.

Since exercise clears my head and helps sort through the flotsam and jetsam, I’ll be stretching my limbs and wandering through the countryside. With any luck a few more good ideas will pop into my head. I have a tendency to carry on internal debates and discussions when I walk and think. So if you happen to drive or walk by a woman mumbling to herself, don’t be alarmed. It’s just me and my imagination out for a walk.

Then again you might spot the two of us out on the water in the kayak. Pleasant Lake is wonderful on Indian summer mornings. The cool early morning air hits the water which is still warm from the summer sun and creates a fine mist. Patches of fog float on the lake and rise up into the surrounding hills. When the early morning sun hits the water and mist, it is pure magic.

I guess that’s as close as I’m going to get to a plan for the next few weeks. How will you spend Indian summer?

Bon appétit!

* Lizzie will make her publishing debut in October in an anthology of short stories by New Hampshire writers.

Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
The trick to making good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately and combine at the end. Sure you can toss everything together but why not create elegant stacks for a beautiful side dish for grilled lamb or roast chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 6

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1 small onion, cut into large chunks
1 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into ½” slices
1-2 small eggplants (about 1 pound), cut crosswise into ½” slices
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley

Put the vinegar, and garlic in a blender and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process to combine. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes to mix and meld the flavors. (You will probably have leftover vinaigrette. Store it in a clean container in the refrigerator.)

Preheat the grill to medium high. If you have a huge grill you can cook everything at once. Otherwise, you’ll have to cook in batches like I do.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl, drizzle with a little vinaigrette; sprinkle with 1/4 of the herbs de Provence and salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Stirring once or twice, cook the tomatoes in a grill basket for about 5 minutes or until they are lightly caramelized.

Put the peppers and onions in the bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette; sprinkle with 1/4 of the herbs de Provence and salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Tossing a few times, cook the vegetables in a grill basket for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly caramelized but still tender crisp.

Put the zucchini slices in the bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette; sprinkle with 1/4 of the herbs de Provence and salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer on the grill and cook 2-3 minutes per side.

Brush the eggplant slices with vinaigrette and sprinkle with the remaining herbs and salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the grill and cook 2-3 minutes per side.

To make a stack: start with a slice of eggplant, add zucchini, artfully top with a couple of tomatoes and chopped peppers and onions and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with a little chopped parsley or basil or a drizzle of basil oil.

If it’s cold and rainy you can make this dish inside. Use a grill pan or roast the veggies in the oven at 425 degrees.

You can also grill the vegetables in advance, cool and store in the refrigerator. To reheat: put the stacks on the grill or in a 350 degree oven until the vegetables are warmed through and the cheese melts.

Cooking up Grilled Ratatouille Stacks on Cook’s Corner – ABC Affiliate WMUR/Channel 9
Visit my YouTube Channel for more cooking videos.

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One Year Ago – Apple Crisp … Two Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Three Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet  

I’ll be writing, reading and relaxing this September. What about you? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or photoblog Susan Nye 365. You can find more than 250 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more on my website. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Sail of the Century & Baba Ganoush

Summer comes late and leaves early in New Hampshire. Mornings have already turned chilly, the kids are back at school and Labor Day has come and gone. It seems like just last week my summer neighbors were throwing open the windows to air out musty cottages and dragging their docks and boats into the water. Over the weekend, Pleasant Lake was buzzing with activity; but sadly the key tasks were packing up and putting summer toys away.

For many years, a small fleet of boats sailed and raced on Pleasant Lake. Regattas were held to help celebrate the 4th of July and Labor Day Weekend. In between there were races every Saturday afternoon. Not the swish regattas and races of Newport or Long Island with yachts, white flannels and navy blue blazers. This group sailed Sunfishes and for the most part it was made up of guys in baggy, madras swimming trunks. These weekend Skippers were accountants, salesmen, realtors and small businesses owners. They loved to sail and race their little boats and were constantly frustrated by the fickle winds of Pleasant Lake. Most Saturdays the Sunfish flopped around in the middle of the lake while everyone prayed for even the smallest puff of wind. They were mostly disappointed until the Sail of the Century.

Late August and September fall in the thick of hurricane season. Every year or so, a tropical storm or hurricane makes its way up the eastern seaboard to New England. By the time they reach us, they have lost their category 5 or 4 or whatever status. But, as Irene showed us last week, they still can pack a lot of wind and water. I remember one particular Labor Day weekend. Much to the delight of Pleasant Lake sailors, New Hampshire was hit with the remnants of a big, bad storm.

It was a nasty weekend to close up cottages. The wind blew a gale, it rained and hail was reported. Tennis tournaments and cookouts were cancelled. The uninitiated assumed that the Labor Day Weekend Sunfish Regatta was also cancelled. Unperturbed, in fact excited, the Skippers met at the beach for the race. They were surprised to discover that the Race Officials were missing. Not particularly official, the Race Committee included my Mom and a couple of her friends. They were home keeping dry and packing up for the return to suburbia.

Calls were made and before long, a crowd gathered on the wet and windy beach to debate the sanity of sailing in a gale. The Skippers won the debate. As a concession, they agreed to sail with a crew for some added weight and stability. Choosing a crew was a new phenomenon on placid Pleasant Lake. The average Skipper had 2.3 children, so they started their search at home. Their enthusiasm was catching and most kids were happy to jump on board. My dad set his sights on my little brother. The smaller the crew, the faster the boat would fly. No surprise, my mom declared that her five year old God-loved-angel would not be sailing in gale force winds.

My little brother was left on the beach, my sister decided the whole thing was nuts so I won the draw and crewed for Dad. It was a wild ride. The Sunfish flew around the course. A few boats flipped but happily everyone got home safely and in one piece. Who won the race? I don’t think that anyone remembers or really cares. As for us, Dad and I just know that it was 2 great days; wildly exhilarating, a bit frightening and loads of fun. It was the perfect end to a perfect summer!

Bon appétit!

Baba Ganoush

I always feel sorry for the summer people who pack up and leave on Labor Day. I love September on Pleasant Lake … particularly evenings on the beach with a glass of wine and something to nibble. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8
1-2 eggplants (about 2 pounds)
Olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, cut in slivers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt and freshly pepper to taste
Pita bread, cut in triangles
Fresh vegetables

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the eggplants in half. Brush with olive oil. Cut slits into the eggplants, insert the garlic slivers and bake cut side up at 350 degrees until eggplant is soft, about 40 minutes. Scoop the eggplant and garlic out of the skin and put in the bowl of a food processor.

While the eggplants are baking, sauté the onion in a little olive oil for 5-10 minutes or until translucent.

Add the onion, tahini, lemon juice, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper to the eggplant. Pulse to mash and combine.

Bake the pita triangles at 350 degrees until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Serve the Baba Ganoush with warm and crispy pita triangles and/or fresh veggies.

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One Year Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Mushrooms
wo Years Ago – Keftedes with Tzatziki
Three Years Ago – Sort’a Like Jambalaya  

I’ll be writing, reading and relaxing this September. What about you? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or photoblog Susan Nye 365. You can find more than 250 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more on my website. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010