Hurricane Season & Grilled Ratatouille

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat the grill to high.

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

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

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

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

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

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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

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

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

How do you keep fit? Feel free to share!

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

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Enough Is Enough & Grilled Swordfish with Corn, Tomato & Avocado Salsa

About a month ago, drought warnings were all over the news. The gardens were looking thirsty and the lawns parched. It seemed like we were only minutes away from an outdoor watering ban. On the other hand, we were happily walking, running, hiking, biking, playing tennis, golfing, swimming, waterskiing, paddling and sailing. Now, we’re stuck in the house and all we hear is one flood warning after another.

As soon as we think the weather is going to change for the better – it doesn’t. For a while there, all the gardeners were giving us glass-half-full platitudes. Mind you, these oh-be-joyfuls were happy to join our rants about the oppressive humidity. Then, they’d shrug and say, “Well, at least the gardens are happy.”

Okay, enough already with the happy gardens. The steamy weather is doing nothing to help me maintain a sunny disposition.

Let’s turn our collective energy towards sunny days and clear nights. Some psychologists call it magical thinking. If you’ve not heard about magical thinking, it’s when the sheer force of thinking or wishing something makes it happen. Some might try to call it karma but it’s more akin to thinking is reality. If you think it; it will happen.

Consider this current situation, back in July every gardener in New England was shaking her fist at the sky and crying out for rain. The town was threatening a water ban. Obviously, someone heard all the wailing and threats, turned on the faucets and, then, forgot to turn them off.

Hello? Are you still there? It’s okay, we’ve had enough for now. Please? If for no other reason than each and every curly headed woman and girl in New England is about to go out of her mind. We can take only so many bad hair days … in a row.

Until these new pleas are heard, how about a little good news to cheer us up:

For sports fans, the football preseason has started but, more important, the Red Sox are on winning streak. With six weeks to go, the Sox might even break the record for the winningest season ever. With a .705 wins percentage, they are now tied with the 1897 Boston Beaneaters for ninth place. The 1906 Chicago Cubs claim the number one spot with a .763.

My nieces are coming for a visit. Not all at once but the four will have breezed in and out of town at least once before Halloween. (Yes, one isn’t coming until October but I’m grabbing at straws here. The humidity has left me with mush for brains.)

Finally, forget sports and my family’s good fortune. Somewhere close by and far away, a bunch of people are doing something nice, not because they have to but because they want to. Somewhere a teenager is running out of gas in the middle of nowhere. He’ll be rescued by some nice lady. Meanwhile, an older gent is helping some mom load groceries in trunk so she can buckle in her two rambunctious children. Later today, once it cools off a bit, someone will mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn. And more, a lot more, because, as we all know, there can never be enough kindness.

Stay cheerful and bon appétit!

Grilled Swordfish with Corn, Tomato & Avocado Salsa
Last week, the woman at the farmstand told me the corn is loving the steamy weather. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Juice of 1 lime
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6-8 ears corn, shucked
Olive oil
2 pints cherry tomatoes in a mix of colors, quartered
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
2-2 1/2 pounds Swordfish steak

Put the juice of 1/2 lime, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon jalapeno, 1 teaspoon cumin and the extra virgin olive oil, in a large bowl, season with salt and whisk to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes to combine the flavors.

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush the corn with a little olive oil. Lay the ears directly on the grill and cook for about 6 minutes, turning to cook evenly. Remove from the grill and when they are cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cobs.

Put the corn, tomatoes, avocados and scallions in the bowl with the lime juice mixture and toss to combine. Add the cilantro and toss again.

Put the remaining lime juice, garlic, jalapeno and cumin in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Coat both sides of the swordfish with the marinade and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Place the swordfish steaks on grill and, depending on thickness, cook for 6-8 minutes, turn and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove the swordfish from the grill and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Cut the swordfish into 1-inch slices.

To serve – place a generous dollop of salsa on each plate and top with swordfish.

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One Year Ago – Zucchini Muffins
Two Years Ago – Berry Peachy Crisp
Three Years Ago – Spicy Refrigerator Pickles
Four Years Ago – Double Trouble Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes
Five Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad
Six Years Ago – Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone Cream
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa
Eight Years Ago – Crostini with Goat Cheese
Nine Years Ago – Corn & Chicken Chowder
Ten Years Ago – Joe Nye’s Perfect Lobster

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

Were you a free-range kid? Where 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

The Cruelest Month & Pasta Primavera

In northern New England, April is truly the cruelest month. It is not, to steal from T.S. Eliot, because the month breeds lilacs and stirs dull roots with spring rain. It is because it doesn’t. April is cruel because the chairlift grinds to a final halt, dirty snow lines the highways and byways and cold rain stirs up sand and mud.

Throughout the northern hemisphere, spring has sprung but not in New Hampshire. Here mud season has arrived with a resounding splat. I suppose I could, I should, embrace mud season. After all, April is also tax season. With all that muck, there is nothing to distract me from the mire of all those tax forms.

Hopefully, your situation is not so complex that you will have your nose in your taxes for the next two weeks. April and all its muddy grayness, shouts for an audacious revolt. And by the way, if your taxes are really that complex, it’s time to call in a professional.

So, how audacious is audacious and what kind of mutiny? If you have enough pennies in your bank, the easiest answer is to pack your bag and go somewhere warm. A trip to Florida would probably count as mutinous but hardly daring. A trip to Morocco could be both and at the very least, very interesting. On the other hand, a trip to Finland wouldn’t solve anything.

However, if you are stuck in the New Hampshire drizzle, April is not without hope. Forget your inclination to hibernate. Or if you do stay in, invite a crowd to join you. I imagine that back in the eighties, Martha Stewart encouraged her fans to chase away the mud season blues with a spectacular party.

Martha would cook a wonderful three, make that five, course dinner. The care and details of her table setting would rival a Buckingham Palace butler. Flowers would fill every room of her grand Connecticut farmhouse. She would dress herself in a fabulous little black dress and then-husband Andrew in an impeccable tuxedo. Champagne would flow. Serious talk and laughter would find the right balance for a stimulating and fun evening.

So you see, April doesn’t have to be the cruelest month. Sure it can be soggy; it can make you groggy and more than a little bit cranky. It doesn’t have to. Gray days and drizzly nights can turn you into a hermit. Don’t let them. Brightly colored rain boots are all the rage with the shop-til-you-drop crowd. Treat yourself; they’re cheaper than a trip to Cabo San Lucas and you’ll need them to go shopping for that dinner.

Yes, dinner! In the spirit of WWMD (what would Martha do), how about you fight the April blues by hosting a spectacular dinner party? Of course, you’ll want to skip the big hair and black tie. Times have changed and no one wants to worry about fancy shoes during mud season. Think wonderful food in a relaxed atmosphere. Maybe you’ll try one of those more complicated recipes, something awe-inspiring that you’ve been dying to try but avoiding for lack of time and courage. Or maybe not!

Happy mud season and bon appétit!

Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta)
A delightful pasta dish to celebrate spring in relaxed twenty-first century style. Enjoy!
Serves 8 for dinner and twice that as an appetizer

 

1-1 1/2 pounds linguine
Olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2-1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into match sticks
1/4-1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
3 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook the linguine according to package directions, less 1 minute. Prepare the vegetables while the water heats and the pasta cooks.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil and the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and 1/2 of the lemon juice and continue to cook until almost dry.

 

Add the bell pepper and asparagus to the pan, season with salt and pepper and toss and cook for 2 minutes. Return the mushrooms to the pan and toss to combine.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, snow peas, lemon zest, remaining lemon juice and a little pasta water to the skillet and toss to combine. Cover and cook on low for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil, parsley and scallions and toss to combine.

Transfer the pasta to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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One Year Ago – Coq au Vin au Printemps
Two Years Ago – Moroccan Baked Cod
Three Years Ago – Artichoke Pesto
Four Years Ago – Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Five Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Six Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Seven Years Ago – Tapenade
Eight Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Nine Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

Spring in Northern New England & Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts

daffodils_in_the_rain_03We’ve all heard the rhyme, “April showers bring May flowers.” Except in northern New England where “April showers bring May showers.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that spring begins on March 20 and continues until June 20. If you live here, you know that’s nonsense. Warm winter, cold winter, it doesn’t matter. As far as I can tell, spring is either a myth or a scam perpetrated by Madison Avenue to lull us into buying cute shoes and overpriced sunglasses.

I generally divide these so-called spring months into four unequal parts. First, there is still winter. The skiing is usually at its best during this period. Next comes mud season followed by black fly season. These two are both pretty ugly. Finally, we will have a glorious week or two when the lilacs are in full bloom. If we are lucky, the lilacs will bloom against a backdrop of bright, blue sky and sunshine.

But there is no need to grumble about mud or flies. There are countless advantages to a cold, rainy spring. For instance:

Where else can you splurge on ridiculously colorful rubber boots and rain slickers? And, even better, actually wear them? Too much? How about some cool leopard-print rain clogs and a trench coat?

So what if you’re stuck with a choice of stir-crazy or a rainy walk. You can wear your dazzling rain gear. Better still, after the walk you can reward your virtue with a luxurious, guilt-free bubble bath.

There’s no rush to pack away your heavy sweaters and fleece. Admit it, hit a warm day, even two and you’re tempted. Don’t fall for it. As soon as you haul those boxes up to the attic, the thermometer will plummet. When in doubt, wait a week. In the meantime, enjoy the free time. Cozy up to the fire with a good book, finish the sweater you started knitting last November or …

Stir up one last batch of your favorite soup. Potato-Cheddar? Beans and Greens? Tired of soup? You can always braise one last pot roast or make a batch of those wonderful short ribs.

A rainy day is perfect for a trip to the museum. Think of it as another good excuse to don your spiffy rain gear. Once summer comes, you won’t want to spend a minute inside. There is a must-see Killer Heels exhibit at the Currier in Manchester.

Afterwards, spend a lazy afternoon in a café, sip espresso and pretend it’s April in Paris instead of May in New Hampshire.

Then again, you can always stay home and binge watch that television show that everyone’s talking about but you somehow missed.

Sound too indulgent? Well then, reorganize your pantry. You never know what delicious goodies you’ll find tucked behind the oatmeal and boxes of pasta.

Reward you hard work by whiling away an evening with friends and a bottle of great wine. Perhaps some of the goodies you found in the back of the pantry will inspire you to try a spectacular, new tapas recipe or two.

Don’t worry summer will come, eventually. Bon appétit!

Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts
Look! You found a jar of Fig Preserves* in the back of the pantry. Put it to good use with quick and tasty crostini. Add a bottle of great wine and a few friends. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen crostini

1 tablespoon buttercrostini_fig_stilton_walnuts_01
About 2 tablespoons minced red onion
3/4-1 cup fig preserves
2 tablespoons dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons or to taste balsamic vinegar
1 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal
About 1/23 cup chopped walnuts
About 6 ounces stilton, crumbled and at room temperature

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, add the onion and, stirring frequently, cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fig preserves and wine, season with thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving dish, stir in the vinegar and cool to room temperature. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to combine the flavors. Can be prepped several hours in advanced, covered and stored at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Can be prepped several hours in advanced, cooled to room temperature, covered and stored at room temperature.

Spread the walnuts onto a baking sheet and bake at 375 until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Can be prepped several hours in advanced, cooled to room temperature, covered and stored at room temperature.

Serve the crostini warm or at room temperature. Spread a small dollop of preserves on each toast, top with stilton, sprinkle with walnuts and serve … or bake the crostini at 375 degrees for 2-3 minutes and then serve. The crostini should be warm not bubbling hot.

* If you found dried figs instead of preserves in your pantry, simmer up a batch of my Savory Fig Jam .

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One Year Ago – Rhubarb Crumb Cake
Two Years Ago – A Duo of Aiolis
Three Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Four Years Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Five Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Six Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Seven Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak

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

Be it spring, summer, fall or winter, how do you survive an ugly season? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Spring Vacation & Homemade Personal Pizzas

dreary_day_Elkins_DamApril vacation is upon us. As a kid, I never quite got the point of a week off in early spring. Yes, in New England mid to late April still qualifies as early spring. In northern New England, it often qualifies as late winter. Anyway, it always rained. Not just for a day or two, it seemed like it rained every day for the entire week.

Although, I didn’t complain about the extra hour or so of sleep in the morning, the week was filled with a fair amount of grumbling. The weekend-to-weekend, nine day stretch could best be described as boring. It’s a pretty sure bet that I complained about being cooped up inside. I would have much preferred two weeks in February for skiing. Alternatively, it would have been nice to leave our stuffy classrooms a week early in June.

Of course, lots of kids embraced April vacation. They’re the ones who hopped on a plane and spent the week in the pool at their grandparents’ condo in Boca or West Palm Beach. My grandparents were smart enough to live in a one-bedroom apartment and so avoided the onslaught of three boisterous children.

Mom countered any attempt at a pity party with a reminder of our wonderful February ski vacation in New Hampshire. No, we were not exactly deprived. And yes, at least deep down inside, we knew how lucky we were. Still and all, it was hard to feel your good fortune when each day dawned rainy and you’d already seen “It’s a Mad, Mad World” and “Sword in the Stone” … twice. By Wednesday, Mom was probably more than ready to throw the three of us into a packing crate and ship us to her mother in Florida but she refrained.

If you’re stuck at home with kids or grandkids on a rainy day or, heaven forbid, week, here are a few ideas to keep them happy and you sane:

Bake cookies. Sure, it’s the go-to standby for rainy day entertainment but baking never gets old. Everyone but everyone loves cookies, especially if they are loaded up with chocolate chips.

Host a tea party. You don’t want to eat all those delicious cookies by yourself – do you? Share them with family, friends and neighbors.

Organize a film festival. Forget going out in the cold and wet; cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite on-demand provider or a stack of DVDs. Don’t forget the popcorn.

Get moving. After all those cookies and popcorn, you’ll want to get some exercise. Turn on your favorite tunes and dance or crank up the karaoke machine to sing and dance. Next, play charades, Mother May I or Pictionary, extra points for exaggerated gestures and enthusiasm!

Tackle that craft project. Turn a color copy of a favorite photo into a jigsaw puzzle, make a video or build fairy houses. When in doubt, Google rainy day crafts with kids!

Make your own pizza. Get everyone involved. Cut the dough for individual sized pizzas, offer a variety of toppings and let everyone assemble their own delicious pie.

Stay dry, have fun and bon appétit!

Homemade Personal Pizzas
More than dinner, homemade pizza is a great project to share with kids. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

personal_pizza16-20 ounces pizza dough (your favorite recipe, store-bought or from your favorite pizzeria)
Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)

Your favorite cheese(s)

Mozzarella
Fontina
Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino Romano
Feta
Goat cheese
Gorgonzola

Your favorite toppings

Caramelized onions or onions and peppers
Sautéed mushrooms, zucchini and/or eggplant
Sliced artichokes, sundried tomatoes, jalapenos, olives or capers
Pesto (spoon over a freshly baked pizza)
Fresh spinach tossed with a dash of olive oil and hint of balsamic vinegar
Crumbled sausage, pepperoni and/or chopped and cooked bacon
Sliced or cubed cooked chicken
Shrimp (to avoid over cooking, add after 3-4 minutes)
Thinly sliced prosciutto (drape over a freshly baked pizza)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you’re using one, place your pizza stone in the oven before turning on the heat. A pizza stone will cook your pizza evenly and give you a nice crispy crust.

Cut the pizza dough into 4-6 pieces. Let everyone stretch a piece of dough, give it a spin or roll out into rounds. Place the rounds on parchment paper.

Invite everyone to spread a little sauce to their pizza and then sprinkle with their favorite cheese(s) and toppings. Transfer the pizzas, parchment and all, to the baking stone or to baking sheets and slide the pizzas into the oven.

Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes with a baking sheet and about 8 minutes with a pizza stone. The crust’s thickness and the toppings determine how long it takes.

Marinara Sauce
Makes about 4 cups of sauce – you’ll need 3-4 tablespoons for each individual-sized pizzaSausage_Pizza_01

Olive Oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 small carrot, finely shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the herbs, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Optional – cool the sauce for about 20 minutes and put it in the blender and process until smooth.

Freeze leftover sauce for the next rainy day pizza party.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Two Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Three Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Five Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Six Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Seven Years Ago – Dandelion Salad with Grilled Steak, Potatoes & Asparagus

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

What’s your favorite combinations of cheese and toppings on a pizza? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

New Ride & Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

I’m celebrating spring with a sweet, new ride. That said, since I brought my little car home, the weather has not been particularly spring-like. After an unseasonably warm winter, we’ve been plagued with repeated doses of what weather.com calls a wintery mix. Anyway, a few gray skies and icy drizzle can’t dampen my exuberance for my shiny new Mini Cooper. After all, this boxy two-door in British Racing Green (of course) is all about fun. With its moon roof for summer and heated seats for winter, it is nothing short of perfection.

Although it is not my first small car, it’s my first cool little car. I have always admired cool little cars. In fact, coveted might not be too strong a word. When I was a tween and teen, about half the college kids drove Volkswagen Beetles. I just knew that would-could-should be the car for me. The other half drove their grandmother’s old Chevy Novas.

Since I went to college about 100 miles north of the middle of nowhere, my dad agreed I needed a car to get back and forth. Nana Nye drove a Chevy Nova but, thankfully, was in perfectly good health. I suggested that I take Dad’s weekend car, a twenty-something year old Land Rover. In those days, men coming up from the suburbs to New Hampshire bought old Land Rovers or Jeeps with canvas tops. Now they buy pickup trucks. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the Land Rover would have been a man magnet and made me ever so popular with the rock climbers and skiers at school. Unfortunately, it couldn’t go much faster than thirty-five and spent more time in Kidder’s garage than it did on the road.

In the interest of safety or to avoid a rescue mission on the frozen tundra (I’m not sure which), Dad found an almost new, bright yellow Ford Pinto station wagon. The Pinto cost $1,500. Thanks to my summer waitressing job, that was every penny that I owned. Dad and I struck a deal. First, since the Land Rover had made one too many trips to Mr. Kidder’s, Dad agreed to sell it. The money would go towards the Pinto. It took all of ten minutes to find a buyer, probably another suburbanite. Dad had paid $500 for the blue beast and got the same back. I turned over $500 from my hard-earned tips and Dad chipped in the rest. It wasn’t a Beatle but it was bright yellow and not a Chevy Nova.

A few years later, I had my first gander at the Mini. Prince Charles had just announced that Lady Diana Spencer was not the love of his life but an appropriate choice for a wife. The press was all over her, trailing her comings and goings. Although it could be false, I have a distinct memory of the long legged, soon-to-be princess climbing in and out of a dark blue Mini. Move over VW Bug, I’d found a new car to covet.

By that time, the Pinto had gained fame for its deadly fuel system and was long gone. It was replaced by Mom’s old Firebird. Although decidedly more flashy, the Firebird had definitely seen better days. It was a simple question of sooner or later. When exhaust started streaming into the car through the air conditioning vents, sooner or later became NOW.

So, you wonder, did I buy a Mini? I might have but they weren’t available in the US. It had something to do with emission standards or some pesky nonsense that had nothing to do with being cool. Instead, I bought a boxy little Honda. It was the antithesis of flashy and never claimed to be cool. Best described as trustworthy, the Honda could haul a passenger or three plus skis, bikes and bags from here to there and back again.

Well enough practicality, finally, all these years and four Hondas later, I have my Mini.

Happy trails and bon appétit!

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Whether you have a new car this spring or not, with warmer weather and sunshine (let’s hope!), it’s time to make whoopie! Enjoy!
Makes 20-30 whoopie pies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Filling (recipe follows)

Arrange the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Put the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda and powder and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg, sour cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well combined.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Using a 2-teaspoon or 1-tablespoon scoop or spoon, drop dollops of batter onto each baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between cakes. Bake the cakes for about 6 minutes or until springy to touch. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely. Repeat using the remaining batter.

Using a spoon or pastry bag, drop a generous dollop of Peanut Butter Filling on half of the cakes and top with the remaining cakes.

Peanut Butter Filling
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup smooth peanut butter
About 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Put the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the powdered sugar. Increase the mixer speed and beat until smooth.

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One Year Ago – Tiramisu
Two Years Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Three Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Four Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Five Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Six Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Seven Years Ago – Spicy Olives

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

What your good news this spring? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Summer Rain & Spicy Refrigerator Pickles

rainy_dayAfter a string of oppressively hot and humid days, we’re almost happy for summer showers. The garden needs a long, cool drink. And let’s not mention the tempers that started to fray during the steamy heatwave. That said, within a few hours we start to feel housebound and, invariable ask, “Okay, what now?”

When we were kids, a rainy summer day on the Cape meant a trip to the Five and Dime for new paper dolls or sticker books. If the timing was right, we had lunch at the drugstore soda fountain as well. Who wouldn’t want a chocolate milkshake after a morning spent in a damp beach house?

Anyway, I don’t know who invented sticker books. As far as I can figure, they have gone the way of the dinosaur, corded telephone and VCR. Wait a minute; let me amend that to the original sticker books. Unlike today’s stickers that peel off a nice, clean waxy backing, the original stickers came printed on sheets of gluey paper. You cut the stickers out, licked the back and stuck them on paper, the refrigerator or your little sister. Except for the little sister part (since I was she), the result were beee-oooo-teeee-ful pictures. At least my mother always told us they were beautiful.

The only trouble was, within an hour of leaving the store, sometimes sooner, the gluey pages were stuck one onto the other. Humidity will do that. It took what seemed like hours to painstakingly separate the pages. Even worse, more than one favorite sticker was torn in the process.

I suppose Mom was happy because it took us at least twice as long to create half as many beee-oooo-teeee-ful pictures. Well, I suppose she was happy until the tears started to flow because the sticky pages refused to separate. That’s aside from the awful smell, not to mention taste, of stinker glue. Perhaps that’s why they have gone the way of the dinosaur. A couple of nauseous children in a damp beach house on a rainy summer day is definitely not a good thing.

It was enough to send us outside. Barefoot and in bathing suits, out we’d go to splash in the puddles, squeal at yucky worms and dance in the rain. Nothing says happiness like a four year old freed from the confines of a damp beach house and a gluey wad of stickers.

If you find yourself at loose ends on a rainy summer day and are not in the mood for a sticker party, here are a few ideas:

First and foremost, relax. If you are starting to wonder, why you built the screened porch; now you know. Take the weather as a hint to spend the day doing little if anything. You bought that wicker furniture for sprawling, so sprawl and read a book, work a jigsaw puzzle or decorate some flip-flops.

Next, make pickles. Yes, there is such a thing as too much sitting. You’ll know it when your bum starts to go numb. Get off that cute little sofa, grab your umbrella and cruise around town for spices, cucumbers, herbs and Mason jars. While you’re at it, show off your new flip-flops. Once you have everything together, it won’t take long to put up a batch of pickles. Then you can get back to your puzzle … unless …

… Unless, you decide to put on your bathing suit, your beee-oooo-teeee-ful new flip-flops and go out and dance in the rain. Sounds like a great idea to me. Feel free to jump in a few puddles while you are at it.

No matter what the weather, enjoy the summer while you can. Bon appétit!

Spicy_Refrigerator_Pickles_04Spicy Refrigerator Pickles
Make up a batch today in time for your Labor Day Weekend cookouts! Feel free to throw a few radishes or carrot sticks in with the cukes. Enjoy!
Makes 2 quarts

2 pounds small pickling cucumbers
1 medium red onion, cut in half length-wise and then in thin wedges
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 bunch dill, stems included
1-2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Pack the cucumbers, onion, garlic and herbs in a 2-quart or two 1-quart mason jars.

Put the salt, sugar, mustard seeds, dill seeds and peppercorns in saucepan. Add the vinegar and water and, stirring until the sugar dissolves, bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Ladle the pickling liquid and spices into the jar(s) with the vegetables and herbs and cool to room temperature. Cover the jar(s) tightly and refrigerate for one week before serving.

The pickles should keep in the refrigerator for about 3 months.

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One Year Ago – Double Trouble Chocolate-Oragne Cupcakes
Two Years Ago – Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad
Three Years Ago – Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone Cream
Four Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa
Five Years Ago – Crostini with Goat Cheese
Six Years Ago – Corn & Chicken Chowder
Seven Years Ago – Joe Nye’s Perfect Lobster

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

What is your favorite way to spend a rainy summer day? 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