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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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