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

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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

It’s a Partly Rainy Summer Weekend Special

rainy_day_pleasant_lakeIs the heat and humidity over? We’ve just enjoyed (!?) a string of hot, steamy days. Early this morning, the weather took a turn. A gentle but insistent rain began to fall around six o’clock. Saturday promises to clear. However, throughout the weekend expect to be mired and muddled in some combination of gently rains, thundershowers, cloudy skies and a few hints of sun. Sounds like a perfect time to stake out a spot on a covered porch and relax with a book, a little music and a nap. Sounds pretty good after a hectic week!

Whether you invite friends over or keep it in the family, what will you have for dinner this partly rainy weekend? Here are a few ideas:

After a relaxing snooze, what’s for dinner? How about some pasta? It’s a bit cooler so why not. Keep it fresh and light with my delicious Grilled Shrimp with Pasta & Fresh Tomato Sauce. Alternatively, you could toss your pasta with my Lemony Basil Pesto. Yum! Or try a different kind of pesto with my Ravioli & Sage Pesto.

How about dessert? The local blueberry season won’t last forever. Get a few pints and whip up an old-fashioned Bluebree Grunt a go

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

What are you planning for the weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2015

All Downhill from Here & Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup

rain_on_the_windowFor the next few, make that several, weeks; it’s all downhill from here. More often than not, Columbus Day marks the beginning of the end of leaf peeping. This year is no exception. While the roads are still filled with busloads of dead leaf watchers, the maples have peeked. No longer brilliant red; the tree in my yard is a skeleton with a few wispy leaves. For those that gush in wonder over the golden beeches and nutty brown oaks, there is still time for you. Truth be told, I’m a red girl. It’s more or less over for me when the maples fade, especially if the sky fades right along with them.

I’m not immune to bright yellow leaves against a brilliant blue sky but, unfortunately, mid-October can only mean one thing. We are entering the gray zone. Sure, we brag about our glorious fall to our friends who have the misfortune to live somewhere other than New England. We crow about our foliage, the mist on the lake in the early morning and the golden sunlight that filters through the golden leaves. The mornings and evenings are cool but my sunny (newly completed – yay!) terrace invites me outside for a break at midday.

That changes after Columbus Day.

It seems like overnight, glorious fall becomes a dreary twilight zone. It’s too miserable for autumn and not cold or clear enough for winter. Instead, it rains and rains some more. Followed by days of intermittent clouds, rain and, before you know it, snow. Not the nice fluffy stuff, the kind that is perfect for skiing or at least decent for snowshoeing. No, it is the wet, icy, sleety Halloween snow. The good stuff doesn’t come until late November or early December. Plus, it’s dark most of the time or maybe it just feels that way. The sun rises late and sets early, particularly for those of us that live at the bottom of the hill.

stirring_the_potSo, enough complaining! These dark, drab weeks are a perfect time to putter around the kitchen. The really well organized will cook up batches and batches of soup and marinara or Bolognese sauce. Not a bad idea if you’re a skier because, once the snow flies, you won’t have time to cook. If you’re not all that well organized or one of those I-hate-to-cook types, feel free to skip the puttering. Just flutter around the kitchen for a while, wave your arms a few times and then read a book or go for a walk. When you get back, make reservations.

Anyway, this too shall pass. The holidays are coming with lots of hoopla, fun and frivolity to keep us busy and happy. Before you know it, there’ll be enough snow for downhill and cross-country skiing. Whether you ski or not.

In the meantime, enjoy some time in the kitchen and bon appétit!

Hearty White Bean & Tomato SoupWhite_Bean__Tomato_Soup_06
It’s time to rattle the pots and cook up some rich and flavorful soup. Make a big batch of this delicious White Bean Soup; it freezes beautifully. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried small white beans, rinsed and picked over or 6 cups cooked, rinsed and drained
4 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped*
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon or to taste hot sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped rosemary
About 4 cups or more (less if you are using canned beans) chicken stock*
About 3 cups (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)†
1 bay leaf
2 ounces (about 1 cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more to serve
1/2-1 cup half-and-half (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sage Oil

Put the beans in a large bowl, add enough water to cover the beans by 2-4 inches, cover and soak in the refrigerator overnight.

Put the bacon in a soup kettle and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Leaving a coating in the bottom of the pot, drain some of the bacon fat, add the onion, leeks, carrots, and celery, season with hot sauce and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion is almost translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans. Tie the thyme and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine.

Add the beans, stock, crushed tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and herbs to the vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the beans seem dry, until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour. If using canned beans, simmer for about 20 minutes.

Cool the soup for 20-30 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf and, working in batches, puree the soup. Use a blender for very smooth soup or a food processor for a more rustic version. Return the soup to the pot.

If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Stirring frequently, reheat the soup on medium heat. Stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, half-and-half and more stock if needed and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Reheat the bacon in a 350-degree oven for about 2 minutes. Serve the soup in bowls or mugs with a drizzle of Sage Oil and a sprinkle of bacon.

* For a vegetarian soup, substitute the bacon fat with a little olive oil and skip the bacon garnish. Use vegetable instead of chicken stock.

A piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add wonderful richness to your soups. If you have one handy, add it to the soup pot. If not, when you reach the end of your next wedge of parm; cover and store the rind in the freezer for the next time.

Sage Oil
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, gently packed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.

Let the oil sit for an hour at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to mix and meld the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Two Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Three Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Four Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Five Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Six Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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

How will you spend Columbus Day weekend? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

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© Susan W. Nye, 2014

It’s a Rainy Weekend Special

rainy_day_pleasant_lakeAlthough they have been more wrong then right in the last few weeks, the weather heads are predicting rain in New Hampshire this weekend. So how will you spend it? Monopoly? A Scrabble marathon? Unless the weather guys are wrong again, beach volleyball is probably out of the question.

When in doubt, invite friends over for a poker tournament and, if the weather clears, throw together a quick and raucous game of kick-the-can. Follow up with a delicious dinner.

Here are a few ideas!

To nibble while you sip a glass of wine … how about Zucchini Pancakes? Or maybe some Blinis with Smoked Salmon & Caviar.

And move on to salad … For a bit of crunch, give my Fennel & Feta Salad or my Crispy Romaine with Apples & Grapes.

On to the main event! No one wants to stand around grilling in the rain so move it indoors with Tacchino con Proscuito e Salvia (Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage) or Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc.And for a side dish? There is fresh, local asparagus at the farm stand. Enjoy it before it’s gone with Asparagus Risotto.

Finish the evening with a sweet and tart treat. I’ve got a beautiful, big rhubarb plant in my backyard. What about you? Use some of it up with a delicious Rhubarb Upside Down Cake, Rhubarb Crisp or Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup.

Enjoy the long weekend and bon appétit!

What’s up with you this 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.

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© Susan W. Nye, 2014