Telling our Stories & Grilled Eggplant Salad

Last week, I went back to my university, Saint Lawrence, for a reunion. The photographs of happy smiles on Facebook are a testament to two things. First, a good time was had by all. Second, if anything, we’re better looking today than we were all those years ago. Women of a certain age, we have earned every wrinkle and every gray and white hair and wear them with pride.

Yes, once upon a time, I spent a handful of years at Saint Lawrence with a bunch of wonderful people. Strangers, we came together in the idyllic north country, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. College is a Neverland of sorts. We were so young, so full of fun but still so serious and, at least in my case, pretending to be brave. Somewhere between orientation and graduation, lifelong bonds were formed. Then and now, we are sisters from other mothers; distance can separate us but it can’t break those ties.

Mostly suburbanites, a few country girls and a couple of city slickers found their way into our mix. After school, we headed back into the real world. There we found love and jobs,  started families or not, and did our best to live good, interesting and meaningful lives. Years later, we are at that age when children are grown. Phones are filled with pictures of adorable grandchildren. Parents are gone or aging and causing frequent worry.

It was a pleasure to reconnect with old friends. All these years later, bonds still hold firm. It was so easy to fall into conversations, silly and serious. It was truly an honor to catch up, listen and learn. An outsider can only guess at the stories behind the many smiling faces in photographs captured throughout the long weekend.

What I learned: more than anything, we are no longer pretending. We are indeed a brave bunch. In spite of distance and years, many of the events that mark our lives are similar. Along with unique experiences, we share a whole bunch of oddly familiar stories. From the happiest of times to the worst of times, we are not alone in our adventures and misadventures. Many of the tales told by these old friends could have been my own.

Maybe it’s the intensity of college days but our bonds are more than a long-ago, short lived common past. Since the day we all drove south after graduation, we have each faced a multitude of successes, trials and tribulations. The years have been filled with love and loss, promotions and layoffs, births and deaths, celebrations and tough times. Both mini and mega, the crises and triumphs we have faced and continue to face are somehow similar. Not down to the nitty-gritty details but there is a familiarity. More than the short time we spent together, we share generational mores and values. We have a natural, you might call it intuitive, empathy for each other’s’ joys, frustrations and sorrows.

Job loss to mental illness, we don’t just murmur a superficial, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Whether we share an identical story or something only sort of similar or even quite different; we get it. Throughout the weekend, we listened intently, hugged generously and shared openly. There is comfort in knowing you are connected to this wonderful network, this wonderful sisterhood. It was only a long weekend but we headed south smiling, bolstered and ready for whatever comes next.

Here’s to more stories, a great summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Eggplant Salad
Summertime is salad time. Since most local produce is still a few weeks away, grilling the vegetables will intensify the flavors. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch slices
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
About 8 ounces arugula (optional)
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn mint leaves
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn parsley leaves
4-8 small pitas

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Brush the eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant for 4-6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender. Remove from the grill and when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, chop into bite-size pieces.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time.

If you like, brush the pita with a little olive oil. Grill the pita until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side or less. Cut each pita into 4 wedges.

Put the arugula in a deep platter or individual shallow bowls, top with eggplant and tomatoes drizzle with Spicy Green Olive Vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta, scallions and herbs and serve with grilled pita wedges.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The vinaigrette can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Store any extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Salad
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Tort
Three Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Ten Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

With whom will share your stories this summer? Feel free to share!

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

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Thinking about Joy & Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad

It seems to me that June is a particularly joyful month. Or at the very least, it is a month filled with joyful celebrations. There are lots of wedding and, of course, anniversaries as well as graduations and all the parties that go along with them. We are thrilled when that beautiful young couple ties the knot. We are delighted to help family and friends celebrate twenty, thirty, fifty or more years together. In some cases, we’re not just happy for a young graduate, we’re relieved and over the moon that he or she will indeed march to the beat of Pomp and Circumstance. However, it’s not always the big events that bring us joy.

If you are open to them, joy and wonder surround us. June is filled with sunny days and starry nights. After a cold, wet spring, there are no better cures for the doldrums. From simple contentment to unmitigated bliss, it’s up to each of us to embrace the new season.

Here is a handful of little things that bring me joy …

The call of the loon in the early morning.

Local asparagus.

The sound of peepers.

Fireflies dancing in the dark.

The smell of lilacs.

Bright red poppies on the side of the road.

Children giggling.

A game of kick the can.

A beautiful sunset.

Complimenting a stranger.

Complimenting a loved one.

A favorite song comes on the car radio.

Inventing a new recipe.

Sharing a new recipe.

Smiling.

Laughing out loud.

A supermarket checkout lane with no line.

My favorite summer rosé is on sale.

A great hair day.

A table surrounded by friends and family.

While happy accidents happen every day, a joy-filled life takes more than chance. To find happiness, open your senses and your heart to the world around you … and the world of possibilities.

Here’s to a joyful summer and bon appétit!

Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad
Warmer temperatures bring salad season. Simple or complex, I love them all. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds European cucumbers
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
Thai Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro or mint or a mix of the two
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and slice into 1/4-inch half-moons. Put the cucumbers in a bowl, add the scallions and toss to combine.

Drizzle with enough Thai vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and sesame seeds and toss again.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

Thai Vinaigrette
Makes about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Put the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, sriracha, salt, garlic and ginger in a bowl or glass jar and whisk or shake to combine. Let everything sit until the sugar and salt dissolve and whisk or shake again.

Add the sesame oil and whisk or shake to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes or more to mix and mingle the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Salad
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Tort
Three Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Ten Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

What brings you joy? Feel free to share!

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

The ABC’s of Resolution & Roasted Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette

It’s been a week since the clock struck twelve and pushed us into 2019. I suppose that means it’s past time to think about resolutions. It’s always a bit of a bother. You promise yourself to take on some herculean task. All the while, you know you probably won’t see it through.

Instead of highfalutin goals, let’s take a run through the alphabet and see what we come up with. It has to be easier than climbing Kilimanjaro or winning a Pulitzer prize.

Appreciate all that’s good in your world. A little gratitude will brighten a dark day.
Be present to those around you. Put the d#$%m phone down.
Celebrate achievements – both yours and others. Sharing success is a great motivator.
Dare to be your best self. You might be surprised at how wonderful you are.
Energize and make things happen. Life will be better for one and all.
Foster courage in yourself and in others. It’s not easy being brave.
Generate enthusiasm for fabulous, new projects and ideas.
Heal the wounds that weigh you down. Forgiveness leads to freedom.
Imagine something wonderful and make it happen.
Jettison deadweight. Whether you empty a closet or ban negativity – it’s all good.
Know your value and make things happen for yourself and those you love.
Live with integrity. Your actions will inspire everyone around you.
Motivate yourself.If you don’t feel it; fake it. Inspiration will soon follow.
Negotiate more. Let diverse options and opinions combine together for the best outcome.
Object vigorously to injustice. Don’t stand silent in the face of deceit and cruelty.
Play more and take the time to enjoy life. You only go around once.
Quarrel less but stand your ground when it really matters. Only you know when it really matters.
Reach out. Whether you’re looking for help or to help, everyone benefits.
Smile more. You and everyone around you will feel better for it.
Try new things. Get out of that rut and enjoy a new friend, game, book or recipe.
Unite because, grade school flashcards aside, one plus one is almost always greater than two.
Visit some of those places you’ve been meaning to see. Expand your horizons for personal growth.
Walk every day. You knew this one was coming.
XeroxTM and multiply good thoughts and deeds.
Yell like hell and howl at the moon. Don’t be afraid to let loose and enjoy.
Zip through the everyday and routine. Leave plenty of time for the more interesting bits.

Wishing you only the best in 2019 and bon appétit!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette
I love salads twelve months of the year. During our long, cold New Hampshire winters, roasted vegetables pair beautifully with greens. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 1/2 cup (14-15 ounce can) chickpeas, rinsed and well drained
Tahini Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
About 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in bite size pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon tahini
About 8 ounces arugula or mixed greens
1/2-1 small head radicchio, cored and cut in thin ribbons
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the chickpeas in a bowl, add enough Tahini Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Set aside. If prepping ahead, cover and store in the refrigerator.

Put the spices in a large bowl and whisk to combine, add the olive oil, vinegar and sriracha and whisk again. Add the squash and toss to coat.

Put the squash on a sheet pan in a single layer and roast at 425 degrees until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and transfer to a bowl, add the tahini and gently toss to coat.

Put the arugula, radicchio and scallions in a bowl and toss to combine. Add enough Tahini Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss again.

To serve: transfer the leafy salad to a deep serving platter or individual plates, top with squash and sprinkle with chickpeas and sesame seeds.

Tahini Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 cloves garlic
1-inch chunk red onion
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-4 tablespoons water

Put the garlic, onion, spices, lime juice and zest and vinegar in a small food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop. Add the tahini and olive oil and process until smooth. A tablespoon at a time, add the water and process until smooth and creamy.

Let the vinaigrette sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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

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

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

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

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

Staying Busy & Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Well, not necessarily in our house! My mother’s greatest fear was that even a few minutes of free time would lead her kids to some horrible mischief. She was bound and determined to keep us busy.

When we were little, it was swimming lessons, tennis and sailing. When we got older, the lessons ended but we were expected to find a summer job. If we couldn’t find one then a bunch of odd jobs would do. I did a fair amount of babysitting, ran a weekend lunch counter at the beach and sold raffle tickets for Hospital Day.

My last summer before college, I managed to land a full time job. Every day, I donned a bright smile, an ugly white uniform and even uglier white shoes. Sugar & Spice Restaurant was the beginning and end of my mercifully short career as a waitress.

Actually, I was a very good waitress. What I lacked in experience, I made up in enthusiasm. At eighteen, I had boundless energy, a bright smile and a sharp eye and ear for detail. I rarely mixed up orders or checks, filled and refilled water glasses promptly and didn’t keep people waiting for the ketchup and mustard. What more could you ask for?

A diner of sorts, Sugar & Spice opened at dawn, served three greasy meals and closed by eight. If your sweet tooth acted up, the afternoon shift’s lone waitress could help you out. She was more than happy to stop vacuuming or filling saltshakers to scoop you some ice cream, pour you a Coke or whip up a frappe.

Except for those few hours between lunch and dinner, you could get anything you wanted at Sugar & Spice. Okay, make that anything that could be thrown into a fryolator or slung onto a griddle. The kitchen produced a steady stream of burgers, hot dogs and French fries as well as mountains of fried chicken and fish. Except for dessert, the food was ordinary at best. One of the year-round waitresses did the baking and arrived every morning with fresh cakes and pies.

Speaking of staff, the crew at Sugar & Spice would have made a great cast for a sitcom. The tall, skinny boss sported an enormous handlebar mustache and wore coke bottle glasses. The vertically-challenged cook was as laid back as the boss was uptight. Two teenage brothers washed dishes. They were cute and funny as only fourteen and fifteen year old redheaded boys can be. Finally, there were half a dozen waitresses in every size, shape and temperament.

Well, not quite finally, I mustn’t forget the milkman. Not only did he come by most every day but he was my fling that summer. Between his sophomore and junior years at Dartmouth, I’m not sure why Harry decided to spend the summer delivering milk. We thought our nickname for him, Harry from the Dairy, was ever so clever but I don’t think he did. It didn’t really matter because he was feeling bored, perhaps even desperate, when he met our motley crew.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad summer. Mom was happy that I was busy and working. Waiting on table was hardly terrific but the cast of characters was entertaining. I wasn’t in love but dating a smart and funny college boy was certainly a plus. The tips weren’t great but I headed off to my first year of college with enough cash to pay for books, beer and late night pizza.

I hope the summer is keeping you busy and happy! Bon appétit!

Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta
Salad at the Sugar & Spice was tired Boston lettuce with a wedge of pale, hothouse tomato. This green bean salad is fresh, colorful and delicious. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2-1 small red onion, cut in half and then into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 1 pound fresh green beans
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes (in a mix of different shapes and colors if you can find them), halved
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
16-20 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Put the vinegar and mustard in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil and whisk again. Add the onion and garlic and toss to combine. Stirring occasionally, let the onions marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the beans and cook until bright green and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

While the beans cook, fill a large bowl about half way with ice and add cold water to cover. Set aside.

Drain the beans and immediately transfer them to the bowl of ice water to cool. Drain the beans and pat dry.

Put the beans and tomatoes in a bowl, add the onions and toss to combine. Sprinkle with about 2/3 of the herbs and toss again.

To serve: transfer the salad to a large, deep serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with olives, feta and the remaining herbs.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta
Three Years Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Four Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Five Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Six Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Seven Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Ninet Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Ten Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

Do you have a summer job story? Feel free to share!

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

Celebrate Democracy & Vietnamese Salad

This Fourth of July, let’s embrace and celebrate our democratic republic – the Great American Experiment. Back on July the 4th 1776, the founding fathers declared independence from a tyrannical, and some say mad, King George. At the time, they could only hope that the experiment would last. From day one, it’s been far from perfect and always evolving. Sometimes the nation takes a step forward. Take for instance, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Sometimes, it takes a step backwards. Consider McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the 1950s.

In spite of the ups and downs, our democracy has held. Our deep belief in equality, that all people are created equal has been central to our success. We cherish the fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These beliefs are at the very core of our national identity. It is what continues to make us patriots 242 years after the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

The United States was founded by immigrants. From the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, to the laborers who built the railroads and programmers who created Silicon Valley, the United States has always been a proud melting pot of diversity. Eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not born in the United States. They were farmers, lawyers and doctors who crossed an ocean in search of a new life. We are a nation that has grown and prospered with each new generation of immigrants. Some came for adventure but most were in pursuit of a better, safer life.

I lived in Switzerland for seventeen years. It was an interesting experience for many reasons. For one, I was an immigrant, a foreigner, a legal alien coming from a nation of immigrants. With dozens of United Nations agencies and just as many multinational companies, Geneva is a wonderfully diverse city. At work and at play, people from vastly different cultures come together. On street corners, in restaurants, in the supermarket, people of every nationality and race speak a multitude of languages. Like communities across the U.S., this cultural melting pot made the town all the richer.

One summer, I was the assistant coach for a tee-ball team of five-year-olds. A few were Swiss but the vast majority were immigrants, just like their coaches. Many, but not all, were Americans. I’m guessing their parents signed them up to maintain a link back to their homeland. For the others, it was a chance to try something new. Overall, they were just a jumble of kids who wanted to have fun. While I have no proof or statistics, I’d hazard to guess that their talent was as varied as any tee-ball team you’d find in the U.S. Given the superb (?!?) coaching they received, I’m sure they had more fun than the average U.S. tee-ball team.

I joke about superb coaching because I was one of the worst softball players to darken the doors of my middle and high schools. However, I figured out one thing and passed it on to my five-year-old charges. Keep your eye on the ball, hold the bat tight and swing. Ignore the noise from the crowd. Don’t worry if that cute little Belgian girl likes you. Stop thinking about ice cream after the game. Keep your eye on the ball and you will hit it every time. Like magic, they did.

This 4th of July and every day, keep your eye on our shared American values. Hold tight to the belief in equality for all people. Don’t allow the country’s high standards for liberty, justice and opportunity falter. These beliefs are at the very core of our national identity.

Have a wonderful Independence Day and summer. Bon appétit!

Vietnamese Salad
A refreshing salad is perfect on a hot summer night. Serve this one with your favorite grilled fish or chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 heads baby bok choy, sliced thin on the diagonal
1 head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
About 5 ounces arugula
3-6 radishes, finely chopped
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 carrot, cut into curls (use a vegetable peeler)
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, cut in julienne
Garnish: 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Put the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl and toss to combine.

To serve: toss the salad with just enough Vietnamese Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Transfer the salad to a large, deep serving platter or individual plates and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Vietnamese Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
2 cloves garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger
1-inch chunk red onion
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon or to taste chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Put the lime zest and juice in a blender or small food processor, add the garlic, ginger, onion, honey and chili sauce, season with salt and pepper and process to chop the vegetables and combine. Add the vinegar, fish sauce and soy sauce and process until smooth.

Add the olive and sesame oils and process until well-combined. Transfer to a clean, glass jar. Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors. Give the vinaigrette a good shake before using.

Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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

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

What’s your summer travel story? Feel free to share!

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

Forget the Necktie & Grilled Vietnamese Beef

You’ve got five days to get it together, so, don’t blow it. And by it, I mean Father’s Day. If you are suddenly caught unawares, don’t worry you are not alone. Father’s Day is probably the most overlooked or just plain forgotten holiday in the whole panoply of fêtes, festivals and celebrations. Mom gets brunch, cards and flowers. If we remember, Dad gets another necktie.

In the era of business casual, most men, spend their days in Dockers and button-down shirts. The pants are always navy blue. Although the shirts are always light blue, they generally come in a variety of strips, checks and plaids. If he’s retired, your dad has probably traded in his navy blue trousers for khaki and button-downs for golf shirts. Working or retired, most dads have not worn a necktie more than a handful of times since 1998. Of course, there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. While politicians, talk show hosts, bankers and Wall Street wonders are the most obvious tie wearers, there could be others.

That’s not to say that a beautiful necktie is not appreciated. In fact, I’m proud to say, I gave my dad his favorite tie, pale yellow with light blue catboats. However, it was ages ago, 1998 or maybe 1997, and it wasn’t for Father’s Day. It was a Christmas gift. I can’t say for certain, but there is a good chance I neglected him that Father’s Day. (In my defense, I was living an ocean away.)

Anyway, about that favorite tie, it may be twenty years old but he still likes it enough to find an excuse to wear it once if not twice a year. I suspect that it would be near impossible to find one to replace it. Any new necktie would just join the pile he never wears but refuses to throw away. Most are boring navy blue with equally boring stripes. One has catboats but they sail across a dark, drab background.

All right then, if ties are out, what’s in?

How about socks? Think ridiculously bright colors, stars, stripes or polka dots. A beautiful pair of socks will add a little life to dad’s wardrobe. If he’s the conservative type, you might point to Bush 41. The former president has a spectacular collection of socks. My oldest niece gave Dad a couple of fun pairs for Christmas a few years ago. They are his party socks and he loves them.

Something to eat or drink? Here you have an endless list of possibilities from a bottle of dad’s favorite bourbon to a trio of intriguing hot sauces or mustards. If he can’t start the day without a great cup of Joe, then a pound of really good coffee sounds like a plan. Then again, you can help him get his grill on by signing him up for the steak of the month club.

Maybe you should give him the gift of time together? Instead of a book he’s already read or a shirt that doesn’t fit, plan an experience you can share together. Think about what your dad might like to do or see and make it happen. If he loves baseball, take him to Fenway. Fine wines – find a tasting and spend an evening sipping and spitting together. Wannabe chef – sign the two of you up for a cooking class. History buff – walk the Freedom Trail with him. You see, it’s not so hard.

Happy Father’s Day and bon appétit!

Grilled Vietnamese Beef
Give your favorite steak-and-potatoes man a taste of Asia this Father’s Day. Trying new things will keep dad young. Serve the beef with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

Serves 8
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5-6 limes
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 pounds tenderloin filets or sirloin steaks, trimmed
1-2 red onions, cut in half and then in 1/4-inch wedges
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces arugula
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves, cut in julienne

Make the marinade: put the garlic, juice and zest of 2 limes, soy sauce, fish sauce, olive oil and brown sugar in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Put the beef in a large flat dish and the onion in a bowl. Add about 3/4 of the marinade to the beef and the remainder to the onions. Flip the beef to coat and toss the onions. Flipping and tossing once or twice, cover and refrigerate both for up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be medium hot.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and shake off any excess. Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side for rare and 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board, let the beef rest for 5-10 minutes and then cut across the grain in thin slices.

While the beef rests, drain and transfer the onions to a grill basket. Grill, stirring from time to time, until tender-crisp, 4-6 minutes.

Put the juice of 1 lime and the extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the arugula, cilantro and mint and toss to combine.

Cut the remaining limes into wedges.

Transfer the greens to a large platter or individual plates, top with beef and onions, garnish with lime wedges and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Steak with Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic & Rosemary-Balsamic Glaze
Two Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Three Years Ago – Maple-Bourbon Pork Ribs
Four Years Ago – Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Five Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Six Years Ago – Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint & Peanuts
Seven Years Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola
Eight Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Steak & Potato Salad

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

How will you celebrate Father’s Day? Feel free to share!

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