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.

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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.

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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

Lessons Learned at the Olympics & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta

Olympics_2016_02Every four years we find ourselves indoors and glued to the television. It doesn’t matter that it is a brilliant summer evening. The Olympics are on and we can’t help ourselves. The next day’s highlights are not enough. We have to watch the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat live, as it happens.

On the track, on the mats, on the beach, on and even in the water, these star athletes seem to fly without wings. So how do they do it?

Preparation matters. As innately talented and gifted as these world class athletes are, they couldn’t do it without years of training. Not just any training, their entire lives revolve around the practice of their sport. Preparing for the Olympics is not just hard physical work. It takes brains as well as brawn to reach the top.

Since the Olympics come only once every four years, strategy and timing are critical. Peak too early and the medal you’ve dreamed of may go to someone else. Even worse, an injury can thwart a lifetime of preparation and sacrifice. Whether you are training for a Labor Day fun run or looking for your next promotion, preparation matters for us mere mortals too.

Perseverance matters. Unlike many weekend warriors, Olympic athletes are committed. They don’t take the winter off because it’s too cold to train outdoors. They don’t skip a day or two when a heat wave turns the gym into a sauna. They don’t bail in the middle of race because they have no chance of winning.

Perseverance is about both the big and little things an athlete does every day. Same goes for us and the goals we pursue. Whether you’re fighting for the little league trophy or a science fair medal, a last ditch, Herculean effort is rarely enough. If you’re smart and fast, you might be able to wing it once, even twice. However, day-in and day-out discipline is more likely to take you to and keep you at the top.

Patience matters. The road to Rio was long and winding. These premiere athletes had a dream of what could be. They are stars because they have the courage to make it happen. These exceptional competitors have the confidence to believe in themselves and developed the strength and the stamina to make their goals a reality. You can too.

No matter what path we choose, few of us will have it straight and smooth from start to end. Patience, a willingness to rethink and try again and again, can make all the difference. Olympic athletes fight through pain, make choices and countless sacrifices. It’s unlikely that our picture will end up on a cereal box but we too make choices. To win, you must define your goals and determine the sacrifices you are willing to make.

Sportsmanship matters. Olympic athletes are committed to excellence in their sport. As spectators, we want even more from them. We want to see that decency and kindness has helped shape and define that commitment and excellence. Perhaps this summer, more than ever, for ourselves and for our children, we want our sports heroes to be shining examples of character and grace under pressure. Then, it is our turn to do the same.

Enjoy the games! Bon appétit!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & FetaTomatoes_Grilled_Corn_Cuke_Feta_07
This recipe borrows a little of this and that from a traditional Greek Salad and then takes it south of the border. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 ears corn, husks removed
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 4 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
2-3 small pickling cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 scallions thinly sliced
Spicy Vinaigrette (recipes follows)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
About 4 ounces feta cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Lightly coat the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the corn on the grill and cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and, when the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob.

Arrange the tomatoes on a large platter or individual plates, top with the corn kernels, cucumbers and scallion and drizzle with Spicy Vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, garnish with feta and serve.

Spicy Vinaigrette
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Tiny pinch smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, garlic and jalapeno in a bowl, season with cumin, paprika , salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil and whisk until smooth. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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One Year Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Two Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Three Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Four Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Five Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp
Six Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Eight Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

What lessons have you learned from this summer’s Olympics games? Feel free to share.

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

The Sounds of Summer & Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Throw open the windows and give a listen. The air is alive with distinctive, summer sounds. Some are rarely heard and fill us with nostalgia. Others play day in and day out but are still much-loved symbols of the too-short season. There are sounds unique to early morning while others wait until after dark. Here are a few favorites:Field Day Wheel Barrel 06

  • Light sleepers know that up with the birds is more than a cliché. Our feathered friends begin their chorus at first light.
  • From breakfast until dinnertime, the drone of lawnmowers fills the neighborhood.
  • As the heat builds, so does the hum of insects. So no, you’re not crazy; there is a buzz in the air.
  • Just when you think you can’t take another minute of sweltering humidity, a New England thunderstorm explodes with pelting rain, earsplitting claps and deafening booms.
  • Can’t wait for the inevitable storm? Head for the multiplex and sit back in air-conditioned comfort while the thunderous crescendo of a summer blockbuster surrounds you.
  • If you decide to stay home, you can enjoy the deafening hum of an ancient air conditioner. (Since we rarely use them, some of us New Englanders keep them forever.)
  • There is something timeless and inimitable about the bang of an old screen door when it slams shut. Just as timeless is the shout, “Don’t slam the door!” that inevitably follows.
  • Get ready for a symphony as soon as the sun goes down. Crickets come out to chirp, owls hoot, peepers peep and frogs croak.
  • Speaking of symphonies, at least half a dozen local bandstands fill the air with music every summer weekend. From John Philip Sousa to jazz, doo-wop, rock and country – it’s all good.
  • Rarely heard these days but fondly remembered, with a bit of luck, you might catch the jingling bells of an ice cream truck.
  • The crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd are the telltale sounds of the nation’s pastime.
  • The buzz of a motor boat whipping through the waves and a water-skier’s shouts of glee are sounds of victory.
  • Hide and seek, Red Rover and Capture the Flag – we welcome the shouts and laughter of children playing outside.
  • At the end of every long, sunny day, neighborhoods ring with the calls of moms yelling for their kids to come home for dinner.
  • Not just wonderful smells, summer cooking is filled with delicious sounds. Consider a steak sizzling on the grill, a crackling campfire ready for marshmallows or the crunch of crispy veggies in a salad.

Enjoy the sounds of summer and bon appétit!

Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce
A great addition to your next picnic or cookout, this salad has a delicious crunch. Enjoy!
Serves 8Asian_Noodle_Salad_Spicy_Peanut_Sauce_01

12-16 ounces rice noodles
Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
3-4 radishes, chopped
1 carrot, cut into curls (use a peeler)
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
About 1/3 cup chopped salted peanuts

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again, shaking off any excess water.

Put the well-drained noodles in a bowl, add enough Spicy Peanut Sauce to coat and toss to combine. Add the vegetables, sprinkle with the herbs and about 2/3 of the peanuts and toss to combine.

Transfer the noodles and veggies to a deep platter or individual plates, sprinkle with the remaining peanuts and serve.

Can be made in advance, covered and refrigerated.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons or to taste soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (if salted, quickly rinse and drain)

Put the garlic, ginger, lime zest and juice, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and sriracha in a mini food processor or blender and process until combined. Add the peanut and sesame oils and process until smooth. Add the peanuts and process until finely chopped and smooth.

Let the sauce sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for several hours to combine the flavors. Bring to room temperature before tossing with the noodles.

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

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

What is your favorite sound of summer? Feel free to share.

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

Ten Things to Do this Summer & Crunchy Quinoa Salad

dive-inNo matter how much we all look forward to summer, there may come a day when you’re ready to throw your hands up in despair. Before you channel your inner teenager and shout, “Mom, I’m bored,” here are ten suggestions for a happier, more interesting summer:

1. Unplug. Somewhere along the way, we started to spend more and more time online. Lift your eyes from the screen, take your fingers off the keys and engage in more face-to-face conversations. Summer is a great time to live real life in real time with real people.

2. Head for the water. Make a date with the ocean, a favorite lake, winding stream or roaring river. Heck, a sprinkler will do if it’s all you can manager. Bring your fishing pole, kayak or paddle board. There is something wonderfully calming about a day by the water.

3. Get some exercise. Four or five months from now, you’ll be complaining that it’s too cold or too dark to go out for a walk. The golf course and tennis court will be covered with snow. Get out and about in the sunshine as much as you possibly can!

4. Try something new. When we were kids, we went to summer camp. There we learned to make a lanyard and paddle a canoe. It’s not too late to take on a new project, try a new hobby or take a course. Let this be the summer you learned to paint en plein air or took up paddle boarding.

5. Plant something. You don’t have to clear forty acres. If you are new to gardening, start with a small backyard plot of tomatoes, cucumbers and nasturtium. Add a few herbs, some mint for your tea and basil for pesto would be nice. If tearing up the lawn seems like a bad idea, plant your garden in oversized pots.

6. Go on a vacation in your own town. Discover all the fun and interesting places that the summer people visit. Take a peek behind the library; there is a magnificent Olmsted garden. Check out the Historical Society’s collection of antique cars and buggies. Head for the hills and enjoy some great hiking or biking. If you aren’t sure how to spend the day, ask a tourist!

7. Volunteer. Warm weather brings out new opportunities to volunteer. Support the arts by helping out at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s fair. Join the cadre of coaches that teach soccer to local kids. With many volunteers off on vacation, some organizations are shorthanded in the summer. Fill those gaps at the food pantry, soup kitchen or library.

8. Have a garage sale. One woman’s (or man’s) trash is another’s treasure. Gather all your gently used goodies, pick up your permit and get ready to negotiate. Haggling not your thing? Consider donating those treasures to a worthy cause. Many nonprofits hold yard sales during the summer. They will be delighted to take your stuff off your hands.

9. Host a cookout. You can go all out with a fabulous gourmet feast or keep it simple, even make it a potluck. Summer is a great time for people to get together. After all, you don’t have to worry about picking an alternative in-case-of-snow date!

10. Watch a movie in your backyard. It’s easier than you think and lots of fun. Borrow or rent a projector and tack a sheet on the side of house (white please, leave Spider Man in the linen closet). Invite the neighbors, throw some blankets and pillows on the lawn, pop some popcorn and enjoy!

Have a wonderful summer and bon appétit!

Crunchy Quinoa Salad
High in protein and fiber, quinoa is as versatile as it is healthy. The sugar snap peas, cucumbers and pistachios give this salad a delightful crunch. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Juice and grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 teaspoon or to taste sweet chili sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3-4 tablespoons or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
6-8 ounces sugar snap peas
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
6-8 radishes, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup pea shoots (optional)

Cook the quinoa according to package directions.

While the quinoa cooks, put the lime juice and zest, garlic, onion and chili sauce in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Whisking with a fork, slowly add the olive oil.

If necessary, drain any excess water from the quinoa and add it to the bowl with the lime juice and olive oil. Tossing frequently, cool to room temperature. Add the herbs and scallions to the quinoa and toss to combine.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil, add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Drain the peas and immediately rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain the peas, pat dry and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces.

Add the peas, cucumber, radishes and pistachios to the quinoa, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Sprinkle with pea shoots and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

The salad can be prepared up to several hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator. If it’s a hot night, keep the salad in the refrigerator or a cooler until you are just about ready to serve. Otherwise, remove it from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving to take some of the chill off.

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

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

What’s on your list of things to do this summer? Feel free to share.

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

Romance & a Bench Seat & Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad

What’s happened to romance? Well, for starters, we text instead of talk. Forget “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Today’s lovers share emoji and shorthand. Call me boring or old fashioned but ?♥U 123 lacks the intimacy of Mrs. Browning’s verse.

Next, when things get serious, we go overboard, often in very public ways. Hopeful husbands-to-be enlist all of their friends and family, hire the local high school band and a film crew to help them pop the question. Sure, these flash mob proposals are fun to watch. However, no matter how clever, the resulting video doesn’t have Lizzie BB’s soulful passion. Even if it does go viral.

If you want something or someone to blame for the sad state of romance, blame Detroit. That’s what I’m doing, Sure, the automobile industry has had and continues to have its troubles. Between the dull designs, gas guzzling engines and the faulty ignition switches, it’s not been easy. In time, the American public will probably forgive all. However, my sympathetic nature can only be stretched so far. There are some things beyond acceptance and killing off romance is one of them.

So how did Motor City start the death knell for romance?1962_land_rover

It all comes down to bucket seats. Yes, bucket seats. It dawned on me the other day while I was idling at a stoplight. In the old days, cars had bench seats. They were perfect for holding hands and watching the moon rise over the mountain. They were also perfect for smooching. Sure, bucket seats are comfy but between the gearshift, emergency brake and cup holders, you can’t even play footsie with your passenger. Attempting a hug could turn you into a pretzel or pull your back out.

If you are too young to remember kissing in the front seat of your father’s sedan or mother’s station wagon then it’s possible you were conceived on it. Those big benches weren’t just good for transporting a pile of kids; they helped make a few as well.

Although bucket seats originated in Europe, the last car I remember driving with a bench seat was a 1962 Land Rover. Although not an antique, it was close to ancient when it showed up in our driveway. Its top speed hovered around 40 mph, the brakes failed regularly and the heater barely worked. All those things were secondary. The Land Rover took me to work and everywhere else the summer between high school and college. Although noisy and a bumpy ride, it was a bit of a man magnet. I was never very sure if that summer’s love interest was more intrigued with the car or me.

Since the boyfriend’s vintage MG was in a thousand pieces on the floor of a nearby barn, the Land Rover was our ride for the summer. The bench seat was perfect for goodnight kisses. At least a couple of times, the evening farewell lasted long enough to arouse the suspicions of a patrolling police officer. No arrests were made so don’t go looking through old police reports.

As often happens, the romance cooled by Labor Day. The boyfriend and I headed off to our respective schools. Dad got tired of repairing the Land Rover’s brakes and sold it. As for the police patrols, I’m guessing they found plenty of other steamy windows to knock on.

Here’s to summer romance, bench seats and bon appétit!

Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad with Salsa Verde
So what if you don’t have a nice, big bench seat in your car. You can always find a quiet spot for a romantic picnic and stargazing. Enjoy!
Serves 2 with leftover veggies and Salsa Verde

3 cloves garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Sriracha to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons dry white wine
Olive oil
8-12 ounces extra-jumbo (16-20 per pound) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
1-2 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise about 1/2 inch thick
1 small eggplant, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1-2 thick slices red onion
1 red bell pepper
2 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 15 minutes
4-5 Kalamata olives, quartered
1 tablespoon capers, drained

Make the Salsa Verde: Put 2 cloves minced garlic, the juice of 1/2 lemon, vinegar and 1-2 drops sriracha in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the lemon zest, scallions and herbs and whisk again. Set aside.

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the remaining lemon juice, garlic, 1-2 drops sriracha, the white wine and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, sprinkle with herbs de Provence, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Tossing 2-3 times, marinate the shrimp for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush the vegetables with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables until tender or tender-crisp, about 3 minutes per side for the eggplant and pepper and about 2 minutes per side for the zucchini and onion.

Thread the shrimp on to the skewers and grill, turning once, until just opaque, 1-2 minutes per side.

To serve: roughly chop the vegetables and spoon onto individual plates, top with shrimp, sprinkle with olives and capers and drizzle with a little salsa verde. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Everything can be made ahead, covered and stored separately in the in the refrigerator.
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One Year Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Two Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Three Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Four Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Five Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Six Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

How will you celebrate the long holiday weekendt? Feel free to share.

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

How to Be a Great Cook without Really Trying & Grilled Potato Salad

beach chairs on pleasant lake_ACGotcha! You thought I’d be giving you a bunch of hacks to whip up a chef-worthy meal in thirty minutes. Nope, I’m just reeling you in with a bait and switch. Truth is, like most skills, cooking takes at least a modicum of time and effort. Yes, you can buy a rotisserie chicken in the supermarket or sauce in a jar and whip either or both into any number of concoctions. However, they will still taste like supermarket chicken and jar sauce.

That said, summer is coming and the beach is calling. Most people, including me, are looking for shortcuts to get them in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. Our northern New England summers are short, we don’t want to waste a minute of it indoors. Complicated cooking is fine when it’s cold and dark at three o’clock in the afternoon but not when temperatures soar and the days are long.

So, how can you enjoy a delicious summer with only sort of trying?

Whether you’re getting together for a special celebration or just another Saturday night, your quick and easy dinner demands a grill. Buy a great steak or piece of fish, drizzle it with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and throw it on the grill. And for those more casual occasions? Heck, everybody looks forward to a good hot dog or hamburger now and then.

But that’s just the start to a terrific summer meal. One or two fabulous side dishes can make all the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. Yes, you heard me; sides can make all the difference. Sure, it’s tempting to stop by the deli counter and pick up a pound of potato salad. Only trouble is – knows when and where that potato salad was made. It’s not so much a safety issue. The store is bound to have plenty of safeguards in place. No, it’s a matter of taste. I bet that your homemade spuds are tastier by a factor of ten. No, wait; make that one hundred or a thousand!

Same goes for pasta salads, coleslaw and anything else you want to throw in a bowl. Fresh ingredients tossed with your delicious vinaigrettes or drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a little vinegar are bound to taste better. An added plus, hearty potato and pasta salads and slaws can be thrown together in the morning, leaving you the rest of the day to play.

Anything last minute must be quick as well as delicious. To accomplish both, use great ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Slice heirloom tomatoes and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar for a superb last minute dish. Want something green? Arugula tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of parmesan is wonderfully easy. If you want to get a little fancy, grill asparagus and scallions and serve them warm on a bed of greens.

Now, what about dessert? You can follow my mother’s lead and bake brownies first thing in the morning. Or, just as delicious and better for you, pile perfectly ripe fruit in a bowl and let everyone help themselves. For particularly hot nights, there is nothing like ice cream. Make sure you have a jar of your favorite chocolate sauce on hand.

Have a simply delicious summer. Bon appétit!

Grilled Potato Salad
Make this potato salad in the morning and it will have plenty of time to mix and meld in the refrigerator while you play in the sunshine. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-3 cloves garlic
1-inch chunk red onion, chopped
1/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
About 2 pounds medium potatoes, red or Yukon gold, halved
Olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers

Make the vinaigrette: put the mustard, garlic and onion in a small food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop. Add the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, add extra virgin olive oil to taste and process until smooth.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium high. Brush or toss the potatoes with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper.

Put the potatoes cut side down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes have nice grill marks. Turn the potatoes and, either turn down the grill to low or transfer the spuds to a cooler part of the grill. Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Transfer the potatoes to a cutting board and cut into 1-2 bite pieces. Workingrilled_potato_salad_01g quickly, put the still-warm potatoes in a bowl, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, drizzle with vinaigrette to lightly coat and gently toss. Tossing from time to time, cool to room temperature.

When the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, sprinkle with scallions and capers, add more vinaigrette if necessary and toss again.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Cover and store any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator as well.

Serve the potato salad at room temperature.

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

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

What’s your best advice for the class of 2016? Feel free to share.

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