The Sounds of Christmas & Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts

The Christmas season is a beautiful time of year. When we were kids, Mom and Dad piled us into the station wagon for a trip around town to see the holiday lights. Sometime in early December, Nana gave my sister and me sweet little party dresses. From the school assembly to family dinner on the twenty-fifth, we were belles at every festive event. Delicious treats warmed our bellies and the smell of fresh pine boughs fill the air.

Not just sights and smells, there is a whole bunch of wonderful sounds to enjoy throughout the holiday season. Here are a few:

Any day at any time, happy voices fill the air. We’re never too distracted to exchange a friendly greeting with a neighbor or offer a merry thank you to our favorite barista. Perhaps more raucous is the shared goodwill at a holiday party. The season just brings out our cheery best.

Carols and songs fill the air. Let’s start with the radio station that plays only Christmas music. Move on to the musak in a department store elevator. Don’t forget to join a sing-along, impromptu or planned. And finally, I’m sorry but throughout the holidays you can hear me tunelessly humming as I go about your errands. There is something about the holidays that makes me want to sing.

Bells jingle and ring at every turn. They decorate the front door, letting out a cheery jingle with every opening and closing. They jangle at the student assembly. After all, not all of us can play the clarinet. Someone has to clatter the triangle and clang bells. Of course, no one can ignore the bell ringers with the red kettles and big hearts. They stand in front of malls and department stores for hours in every kind of weather collecting money to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and assist those in need.

Then there is the rasping sound of skates on the ice and the swoosh of skis on snow. Okay, skis are just as likely to make a skittering noise as they hurtle over New Hampshire’s icy slopes. Anyway, these sounds reassure us that we do indeed love winter … in spite of the cold and short days.

A crackling fire and whistling teakettle are sounds that will warm you inside and out. After a day shopping or an afternoon on the ice, it is pure pleasure to relax with a cup of tea or cocoa by the fire.

The rattle of cookie sheets is a welcome holiday sound. Whether you bake dozens and dozens or just one batch of an old family favorite, cookies are a delicious Christmas tradition. Be sure to bake a batch or two with your kids or grandkids. If they aren’t around, borrow a child or two from the neighbors. They will be happy to oblige as long as you return them with a couple dozen cookies.

There is nothing like the peace and quiet of gently falling snow. Cars stay home and off the road, the birds find shelter and any remaining sounds are muffled by the snow. It is pure peace and a sharp contrast to …

The happy shouts of children unwrapping their presents! I love all the excitement and noise on Christmas morning. The confusion of everyone talking and laughing at once just adds to the fun.

Enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Romaine , Radicchio and Avocado with Pomegranate & Walnuts
This salad is as beautiful as it is delicious. Serve it at your next holiday party or bring it along to a potluck. Enjoy!
Serves 12

10-12 ounces baby romaine
2 endives, thinly sliced
1/2-1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Citrusy Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1-2 avocados, halved, pitted and cut into thin wedges
About 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
About 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Put the romaine, endives, radicchio and fennel in a bowl, drizzle with enough Citrusy Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine.

Transfer the greens to a deep serving platter or individual plates, top with avocado slices, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped walnuts and serve.

Citrusy Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
3/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic, shallot, mustard and brown sugar in a clean glass jar and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the vinegar, lemon and orange juice and zest and shake vigorously to combine.

Add the olive oil and shake again to combine. Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors. Give one more vigorous shake before serving.

Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Printer-friendly versoin of this post.

One Year Ago – Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
Two Years Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Three Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Four Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Five Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Six Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Seven Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Eight Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Nine Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

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

What are your favorite sounds of the Holidays? Feel free to share!

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

Advertisements

The Truth about Thanksgiving & Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Whether it is your first foray into cooking for the feasts of feasts, you are an old hand or a guest not host this year, there are certain inalienable truths about Thanksgiving. At least, they are true for me.

Truth Number One: You’re going to be a little nervous, maybe a lot nervous. I don’t want to increase your anxiety but Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal. Whether you’ve been doing it for years or not, cooking Thanksgiving dinner has a fair number of moving parts. There will be last minute cancellations, additions and changes. One year, I had to pack up all the food, pots and pans and move the entire feast to my brother’s house. Why? The dog was sick and couldn’t travel.

Don’t worry; you are not alone in your anxiety and it’s easy to conquer. First, you can dial back the menu. No one will notice if you skip the creamed onions. Another possibility, you can give a shout out for help. You never know; your cousin might be delighted to bring the creamed onions. Finally, you can judiciously buy other people’s cooking. Check your local bakery, the farmstand and your favorite caterer or restaurant to see what’s on offer. Even if the pies at the farmstand weren’t baked in your oven, they are homemade. The same goes for biscuits from the bakery and stuffed mushrooms for the gourmet deli.

Truth Number Two: You can leave that baggage at the door. You think yours is special? Forget about it. All families are complicated. However, when push comes to shove, and please no shoving or wrestling in the house, you can behave. Your brother can promise to stop talking politics for a few hours. For your part, you can hold him to it and refuse to take the bait when he wanders into dangerous territory. Your parents can agree to stay mute on your single status and you can put the complaints about your ex on hold. Remember, it’s only one dinner. Talk about the good times. I’m sure your family and friends have a few good memories.

Offer to bring a dish for your son’s vegetarian girlfriend. Yes, we know you don’t really like her but you love your son. Both quinoa and kale make a great peace offering. Alert your hosts of any new (real or imagined) food intolerance but don’t expect them to design the entire menu around you. Remember, there’s another faction within the family who thinks the menu should come straight off of Nana’s recipe cards. The ones she gave your mom in 1973.

Thanksgiving is a celebration. For goodness sake, just eat around your dietary issue or nostalgic yearnings. The Thanksgiving table is loaded with possibilities so don’t expect a whole lot of sympathy. Incidentally, there is no dairy in turkey and no gluten in mashed potatoes. And another thing, if Nana’s butternut squash is not on the table, enjoy the Brussels Sprouts.

Truth Number Three: Thanksgiving is always wonderful. It doesn’t matter how many little mishaps try to thwart you. Don’t worry. Like loaves and fishes, I once fed nineteen people from a eleven and a half pound turkey. Everyone had a last minute friend from out of town to bring along. I could have bought a larger turkey but it would not have fit in my apartment’s pint size oven.

Remember, everyone loves Thanksgiving. Outside it’s dreary and gray. Inside it’s warm and cheery. Family and friend love getting together. Whatever you cook, it will be delicious. Whatever anyone brings will be delicious. The conversation will flow. If things start to get a little unruly or teeter on the edge of civility, just say, “I’m thankful for _________” and fill in the blank. It works like magic.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
Serves 8

About 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
About 8 ounces baby kale
1/2-1 small head radicchio, cored and cut in thin ribbons
Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Pickled Red Onion (recipe follows)
About 2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese
About 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
About 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet(s). Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper, drizzle with enough vinegar and olive oil lightly coat, toss to combine and spread in a single layer. Roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Let cool for a few minutes.

Can do ahead. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Serve the squash at room temperature or warm. To reheat – spread the squash on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

To serve: Toss the kale and radicchio with enough Dijon Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Put the greens on individual plates or a large platter and top with squash and pickled onion. Using a vegetable peeler or a course grater, make pecorino Romano cheese shavings. Sprinkle the salad with the cheese, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries and serve.

Dijon Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons chopped shallot or red onion
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon or to taste hot pepper sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 1 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, garlic and shallots in a blender, season with salt and pepper and process until the garlic and shallot is finely chopped. Add the mustards, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until thick and creamy. Transfer the vinaigrette to a storage container with a tight fitting lid.

Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes or more to let the flavors combine. Give the vinaigrette a vigorous shake before using. Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in Mason jar, let everything sit for a minute or two to dissolve and give it a good shake. Add 1 cup of water and shake again.

Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. If necessary, add a little more vinegar and water to cover the onion. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks. Drain before using. Cover and store leftover onion in the refrigerator.

Print-friendly version of this post.

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

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

What are you serving this Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

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

What’s Normal? & Grilled Romaine Salad

So, what exactly is normal these days? The early morning pundits and the late night comic warn us that the chaos in the White House is not normal. Perhaps they are afraid that we will somehow or other get used to the chaos, even comfortable with it. It will become our new normal.

I think that we’ve all had times when we were trying to find normalcy. When I moved from Switzerland to California, it was a huge leap. Nothing was normal. Not the weather, not the traffic, heck not even the language. For the first time in a long time, the checkout at the grocery store required English – a cheery hello and thank you. After almost two decades, the more formal “bonjour, Madame” and “merci – bonne journée” had become automatic. These simple words are part of polite, everyday life. And being polite is normal.

By the time I landed in New Hampshire, I’d pretty much mastered greetings and goodbyes in English. However, I did re-discover how cold winter could get. In addition, after a long time away, I was living close to family again. Just like that, boots, shoveling, cold and lots more time with family became part of my normal routine. Managing the ups and downs of self-employment became normal. The flexibility to ski or kayak in the middle of the week became normal. Who knew? Living a balanced life is normal.

Five years ago, my dad became very ill so I moved into my parent’s house to help out. Now believe me when I say, “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout takin’ care of no people.” That said, I could drive Dad to doctors’ appointments and call 911. I also make a mean pot roast. Meanwhile, Mom moved into assisted living. Very little about 2012 and 2013 was normal. I’d say nothing was normal that year, except for helping people I love. That is normal.

By the summer of 2013, Daddy-o was beginning to feel better. I moved back home and he came along with me. Mom stayed in assisted living where she was well cared for and doted on by the staff. We couldn’t see the light but we were pretty confident that we were in the tunnel. We were good; we would find our new normal.

For me, this new version of life required a lot of juggling. I had writing assignments to find and finish as well as a part time job, taking care of one parent and daily visits with another. There were still lots of trips to the doctors and a few to the emergency room. This new life, this new normal was filled with comprises. For instance, I was tempted to insert an adjective above as in … taking care of one aging parent … However, my now nonagenarian father prefers that I don’t harp on his age. Compromise is normal; so are love, laughter and patience.

Well, here it is, it’s summer. It’s hot; it’s humid. It’s New Hampshire; it’s normal. As the day wears on, clouds thicken. Tempers may flare as the humidity gets more oppressive. Then boom! At the end of a steamy summer day, a thunderstorm is normal in New Hampshire. Sometimes a good thundershower clears the air. Sometimes it doesn’t; sometimes it takes another shower or a little more space and time. Either way, it’s normal. The list of normal stuff is long. Along with all of the above and more, there’s integrity, forgiveness and courage. Being normal is not always the same as being easy.

Wishing you a happy summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Romaine Salad
Grilling the lettuce adds a wonderful smoky taste to this salad. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 heads romaine lettuce, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
About 1 cup peeled and chopped cucumber
Thinly sliced red onion (pickled if you have the time)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2-3 ounces feta, crumbled

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Drizzle the romaine wedges with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the romaine pieces, cut side down, on the grill. Grill the wedges for about 2 minutes, turning so that all sides are charred.

Transfer the wedges to a serving platter or individual plates, garnish with avocado slices, cucumber and red onion. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and crumbled feta, drizzle with Creamy Vinaigrette and serve.

For a one dish supper, add grilled shrimp, chicken or steak.

Creamy Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
3 cloves garlic
1 (about 1/8-inch thick) slice red onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) pureed chipotle in adobo sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup (or to taste) extra virgin olive oil

Put the lime juice, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce and chipotle in adobo in a mini food processor or blender and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until thick and creamy.

Transfer the vinaigrette to a storage container with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, give the container a good long, vigorous shake to recombine the ingredients.

Print-friendly version of this post.

Two Years Ago – Blueberry Crostata
Three Years Ago – Orzo Salad with Lemony Pesto & Grilled Tomatoes
Four Years Ago – Watermelon & Cucumber Salsa
Five Years Ago – Grilled Chicken Salad Provencal
Six Years Ago – Lobster with Corn, Tomato & Arugula Salad
Seven Years Ago – Greek Green Beans
Eight Years Ago – Blueberry Pie
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Lamb

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

What about you? Do you have a camp story to tell? Feel free to share!

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

One More Camp Story & Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette

Okay, this is it, one last camp story. I promise. At some point, either my sister Brenda or I must have uttered the words that no mother wants to hear, “Camp is boring.” It really wasn’t, but if we had one too many rainy days, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. Camp Four Winds was all about the pond – in it, on it or sunning ourselves by it.

Before we knew it, camp brochures started to slip through the mail slot. Camp Waukeela’s brochure promised a surplus of activities. Next, the husband-wife team of camp directors came to our house armed with a slide show. They were at least ten years older than my parents and had preppy names like Skip and Twig. The slide show was filled to bursting with smiling, happy girls engaged in countless sports and activities. Mom was reassured and ready to sign on the dotted line. She always said the two worst times in a woman’s life was when she was thirteen and then again when her daughter was thirteen. While I was an affable eleven, my sister Brenda was thirteen. With lots to do, we couldn’t possibly get in trouble.

Not long after the last school bell, we were on a bus bound for the wilds of northern New Hampshire. Yes, the camp was so far north, that they sent a fleet of buses down to get us. Mom was delighted to avoid an all-day drive to the White Mountains and back. Warily, we stumbled onto one of the buses with a bunch of other kids. Brenda ditched me but my best friend Joy had my back. The rest of the girls were strangers. Whether it was true or not, we felt like we were the only kids who were new to the camp.

In comparison to Four Winds, Waukeela was plush. There was electricity, hot showers and flush toilets. When it came to staying busy, Skip and Twig had not lied. The good thing about Waukeela was that you didn’t have a minute to be bored. The bad thing about Waukeela was that you didn’t have a minute to yourself. We were shuttled from one activity to the next. There was no time to find a rock to sit on and contemplate life.

Unlike Four Winds, the entire day was not spent at the lake. Sure, we had swimming lessons and free swim. Yes, there were boats to row and canoes to paddle. However, we spent a good part of the day on land. We had tennis lessons, horseback riding and archery classes, volleyball games and badminton as well as dance and arts and crafts. Fancy-schmancy or not, all camps have rope for bracelets and gimp for lanyards. It is probably an accreditation requirement.

As always, Mom sent both Brenda and I off with a collection of pre-addressed, pre-stamped postcards to fill in and send home. Mine offered vague but positive words of cheer. Brenda’s were less vague and anything but cheerful. At one point during our stay, I think she tried to talk me into breaking out of the joint.

We were both saved from a second year at Camp Waukeela. Within days of arriving home from New Hampshire, we were back on the road headed north. This time to a rickety rental near Pleasant Lake. At the end of the two weeks, Mom and Dad bought a piece of land. Our little cottage in the woods was ready in mid-January. That was the end of summer camp for the Nye kids.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Zucchini
I love zucchini. It’s easy, always plentiful and especially good when it is fresh and local. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise or on the diagonal
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until just tender, 2-3 minutes per side.

The zucchini are perfect as is with your favorite grilled meal. Or …. Turn them into a salad!

Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette
Serves 8

Lemony Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 grilled zucchini
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Make the vinaigrette in advance. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Arrange the grilled zucchini on a platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta, parsley, mint and scallions and serve.

Lemony Vinaigrette
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Put the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, mustard and anchovy paste in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Cover and store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Two Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Three Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Four Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Five Years Ago – Gazpacho
Six Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Seven Years Ago– Thai Salad
Eight Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Nine Years Ago – Lobster Salad

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

What about you? Do you have a camp story to tell? Feel free to share!

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

Summer Camp & Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread

I met up with a friend a day or so ago. She was taking a deep breath after a crazy busy weekend. Her grandchildren breezed through town and stayed the night on their way to camp. It got me to thinking of my days at Camp Four Winds. For most people, summer camp was one of those things you either loved or hated. Just to be a contrarian, I was neither obsessed nor filled with fear and loathing.

I like to think that I was really very teeny tiny when I went off to camp. As a child, I was always following in my sister’s footsteps. A few years older, as soon as Brenda went to camp, I wanted in. So, while my sister was probably eight or nine when she headed off to camp for the first time, I was ready at six. Okay, maybe seven, but I know I was still a Brownie.

Of course, we went to Girl Scout Camp. It was more or less a given. A proud Camp Fire Girl, Mom went to one of their camps. Dad went to Y camp (as in YMCA). Regardless of generation or affiliation, the critical criteria were two weeks on a pond in the woods and dirt cheap. Given the givens, Camp Four Winds fit the bill but was nothing fancy.

There is a reason that I always think of myself as ever so young when I went off to camp. One of a couple of things happened and I don’t know which. It could be I forgot to tell Mom that I wanted to go to camp until the last minute. Alternatively, I told her at a time when she was busy doing a thousand motherly things all at once and she didn’t hear me. Or finally, I told her but she didn’t believe me and it took some time to convince her. Regardless of why, I must have signed up late. In spite of being one of the youngest campers at Four Winds, all the girls in my unit were at a couple of years older than me. Then again, maybe Mom got my date of birth wrong on the application.

Anyway, Brenda spent her first year at Four Winds in the cushy little girls unit. It could be my vivid imagination but I think they had flush toilets. Not only was I younger but I roughed it with the big girls. We had cold showers and latrines. We also had to walk five miles in a snowstorm to get to the dining hall for breakfast. Oops – no, wait a minute, that’s another story!

Being the youngest and smallest girl in my group did have its advantages. The other kids took me for some sort of mascot or woe-be-gone in need of a helping hand. From morning chores to an extra marshmallow on s’mores night, I suspect I got away with quite a lot during those two weeks.

It didn’t hurt that I showed up with a plethora of pink clothing. Most of the time, we wore camp uniforms. An army of girls from seven to seventeen, we were all identically clad. There were dark green shorts and shirts for everyday and whites for Sunday. However, we could declare our own true selves with our bathing suits and pajamas. It must have been some strange coincidence. Both new and hand-me-downs, from my bathrobe and fluffy slippers to my bathing suit, everything in my camp trunk, except the uniforms, was pink.

The big girls were delighted. In less than twenty-four hours, I’d earned the nickname Pinky. I was well taken care of and coddled but it didn’t last long. As soon as I hopped in the station wagon for the trip home, I was back to being Susie … and all that went with it.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread
Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. It is delicious with fresh local tomatoes and warm bread. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 tablespoon or to taste red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil to taste
2 garlic cloves
1/4-1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 1/2-3 pounds very ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 slices ciabatta
2-4 balls fresh Burrata
1/2-3/4 cup torn basil leaves

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the vinegar in a large bowl, add olive oil to taste and whisk to combine. Mince one of the garlic gloves, add it and the onion to the oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Arrange the bread on the grill and cook, turning once, for about 30 seconds per side or until nicely toasted. Remove from the grill, rub each piece of bread with the remaining garlic clove, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Place the still warm bread on individual plates, top with tomatoes and Burrata, garnish with torn basil and serve.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad
Two Years Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Three Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Four Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Five Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Six Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Seven Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

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

Taking a Tax Holiday & Asparagus Salad with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette

You’ve probably figured it out by now. The harrowing reckoning of April 15th, tax day, has been postponed. Well, postponed until today. So, if you’re reading this and haven’t filed, stop immediately and get to work. The time is now if you are a last minute filer.

For years, I was among the legions of last minuters. I don’t know about you but I find it difficult to get motivated. First, it takes a bit of effort to pull everything together. Locating old check stubs. Combing through credit card bills. Searching for thank you letters from charitable organizations. None of it is difficult work; it’s just boring and time consuming.

It doesn’t get any better once you find everything. Mind you, I’m not one of those people who find pleasure in filling out forms. In case you are wondering, yes, I use one of those software packages that guides me through it. It doesn’t matter, I always worry that I will sneeze, inadvertently click continue and miss an important question. If not that, then I’m sure I’ll somehow misinterpret something. Every year, after countless reviews, I take a deep breath and hit send. Luckily, it’s been so far so good.

Now, I admit it, I was tempted by the extended deadline. I could have, would have gladly left it for the final weekend. Heck, I’ve been known to take tax day off. No, not because I wanted to but because I had to! Before I filed electronically, I knew which post offices closed at six and which ones stayed open until midnight. That said; I hit send surprisingly early this year. In fact, my return jumped on the cyber highway and winged its way to Washington two whole weeks ago. I’m not sure but I think that may be a record for me.

Record or no, there is a payoff. Thanks to direct deposit, my refund is already in the bank. How about that for motivation? So, if you are frantically filling out forms today, or did so over the weekend, consider this … twelve months from now, instead of pulling your hair out, shuffling through a bunch of papers and filling in forms, you could be celebrating with your refund.

Now I know that each and every financial advisor out there is going to yell and shout and tell you the last thing you should do is blow your refund on a vacation or a party. They will offer much more practical advice. They will suggest you invest in a 529 college fund for your kids or grandkids, put it in your IRA or start an emergency fund. Responsible people don’t think you should fly to Bermuda or buy diamond earrings, especially if the cost of the trip or jewelry is more than your refund.

Alright then, how about a compromise? Forget Bermuda, drive to the coast for a walk on a sunny beach and have lunch at a favorite clam shack. I spent my first ten summers on the Cape and I make a habit of having fried clams once a year. Instead of diamonds, visit a craft shop, the one with the amazing local artists. Treat yourself to a truly special pair of earrings, a gorgeous ceramic bowl or a fabulous scarf. Indulge in the kind of treasure that you will be proud to own not for a day or two but a lifetime.

As for me? What did I do with my refund? Okay, I confess. I went to Florida. But heck, I’m not a financial advisor. I don’t even play one on television.

Bon appétit!

Asparagus Salad with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette
If the calendar says spring, then it’s time for asparagus, lots of asparagus. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2-3 pounds asparagus, trimmed
6-8 ounces arugula
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until tender crisp and bright green, 2-3 minutes. Drain and immediately drop the asparagus into the ice water to cool. Drain again and pat dry.

Put the arugula and scallions in a large bowl, drizzle sparingly with vinaigrette and toss to lightly coat.

To serve: arrange the arugula on a large serving platter or individual plates and top with asparagus. Drizzle the asparagus with a little vinaigrette, garnish with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon or to taste honey
1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the vinegar in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil the over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the shallot, garlic and thyme, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Using a rubber spatula to press on the solids, strain the vinegar through a sieve into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the mustard and honey. Slowly add and the olive oil and continue whisking until thick and well combined.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Homemade Personal Pizzas
Two Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Three Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Four Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Six Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Seven Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Eight 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 about you? How will you spend your tax refund this year? Feel free to share!

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

February Vacation & Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad

ski_patrol_01Oh my goodness, when we were kids, did we ever love February vacation. Then again, what’s not to love about a week away from school on New Hampshire’s sunny slopes? Although our ski weekends were wonderful, they were much too short. During vacation, we had a whole week to slow down. We could step off the treadmill, breathe a little deeper, sleep a little later (although not much!) and, best of all, ski.

The weather always cooperated. It only snowed at night and the days were always sunny. Of course, that’s not true but it feels like it almost could have been true. I think it did actually happen once, maybe even twice!

Dad usually took at least part of the school vacation week off. When he was around, mornings started early. It wasn’t dark outside but it was hardly the crack of noon when he rousted us out of bed. He tried to soften the blow by making pancakes. There’s nothing like a sugar rush to get you moving in the morning.

Then we were off to ski. A proud New Englander, Dad demanded that we get the biggest bang for our buck. Well, not really our buck, it was his buck. Every November, he bought us each a ski pass. If you can imagine, all he actually needed was one hundred and eight bucks. That was the price for a season ticket for a family of five. Today that might get you a day of skiing, a greasy burger and some fries. If you’re lucky, you might have enough left over for a beer at the end of the day.

Anyway, the bang for Dad’s buck was measured by the number of runs we took. Even on the coldest of days, he would chase us out of the lodge. He hadn’t spent his hard-earned money for us to sit around all day. Luckily, the weather was already starting to change by the time February vacation rolled around. The days were a little longer, the sun was a little higher in the sky and temperatures were not so brutally cold. We were only too happy to be out on the slopes.

We never left the mountain before the last T-bar had come to a stop at four o’clock. Exhausted, we tumbled into the car. However, kids being kids, more often than not, by the time our big blue station wagon had pulled into the driveway, we had a second wind.

At the time, we didn’t have snowshoes but we did have ice skates, sleds and cross country skis. A dry pair of mittens and we were back outside. Some days we trudged up the hill across the street with our sleds. Sledding down that hill was something akin to a kamikaze mission. It wasn’t just steep; from top to bottom, it was strewn with rocks and boulders. Other times, we headed out to cross-country ski across the lake or to the neighborhood pond to skate.

As the sun set and darkness fell, we finally headed home for the night. Starving and really, truly exhausted, we gathered around the table for a family dinner. More often than not, my brother fell asleep and slowly slid under the table. Although a few years older, my sister and I were not far behind.

Have a wonderful winter vacation! Bon appétit!

Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
romaine_radicchio_caesar_03When local farms are under two feet of snow and produce comes from thousands of miles away, this is one of my easy, go-to winter salads. Enjoy!
Serves 6

About 1 heart romaine lettuce, chopped, washed and dried
About 1/2 head radicchio, chopped, washed and dried
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
Caesar Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Garlic Croutons (recipe follows)

Put the chopped romaine and radicchio in a bowl, add the scallion and cucumber and toss to combine. Add enough Caesar Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss again.

Use a vegetable peeler or grater to create thin shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Add the cheese and croutons to the salad, toss and serve.

Garlic Croutons
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
About 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread or baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the garlic and oil in a mini food processor and process until smooth.

Put the bread cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with garlic oil and toss to evenly coat. Spread the bread cubes in an even layer and sprinkle with salt. Bake the bread, stirring once or twice for about 10 minutes or until golden.

If not using immediately, cool the croutons to room temperature and store in an airtight container. Extra croutons will be a delicious garnish on tomorrow night’s soup or salad.

Caesar Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise *
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic
1 (about 1/8-inch thick) slice red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) hot pepper sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup (or to taste) extra virgin olive oil

Put the lemon juice, vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste, garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a mini food processor or blender and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth and the garlic and onion are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until thick and creamy. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pulse to combine.

Transfer the vinaigrette to a storage container with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, give the container a good long, vigorous shake to recombine the ingredients.

* A classic Caesar Vinaigrette calls for raw eggs. I’m not comfortable using raw eggs these days so (even though Julia and Martha would be horrified) I substitute the raw egg with a little mayonnaise.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Two Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Three Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Four Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Five Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Six Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Seven Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Eight Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

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

What about you? Do you have a winter vacation coming up? Feel free to share!

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