A Tale of Discovery & Pesto alla Genovese

What’s the deal with Columbus Day anyway? Perhaps they’ve been rewritten but according to my childhood schoolbooks, Christopher Columbus was trying to find a shortcut to India and China when he discovered America in 1492. Admittedly, we’ve all known for years that these stories romanticized his voyage across the Atlantic. It’s hardly been a secret that he was put on a pedestal and made into a hero.

While I like a good hero story as much as the next guy, at some point somewhere in high school, or maybe it was a little later, two little details struck me.

The first and perhaps inconvenient truth is the fact that there were already people here when he arrived. Well, not really here, Columbus didn’t land in New Hampshire. He landed in the Bahamas. To say he discovered the Bahamas is a little bit like telling your friends you discovered Barcelona. Sure, you spent a great semester there junior year. You probably discovered some interesting things about yourself. But Barcelona, no, you didn’t discover Barcelona.

Anyway, while there aren’t too many today, I’m sure there were some never-before-seen, uninhabited spots around the world in 1492. He could have discovered one of them but, as far as I know, he didn’t. After all, Columbus wasn’t trying to discover a new world. Remember, he was attempting to find a shorter route to Asia but he bumped into the Bahamas instead.

The second little detail is that Columbus never set foot in what was to become the United State or even North America. Not only that, Vikings led by Leif Eriksson built a settlement in Newfoundland several centuries before Columbus was born. They stayed for about ten years. Unfortunately, they were terrible neighbors. After constantly fighting with the locals, they headed back to Greenland.

So, given that he found something that wasn’t lost and isn’t even part of what is now known as United States, why do we celebrate Columbus Day? Why did we make him a hero and close schools, banks and the post office? While I’m happy for a day off, it does seem a bit odd. Doubly so since, by most accounts, Columbus was a pretty nasty guy.

Taking another look, it’s pretty clear that Columbus Day’s roots are in ethnic pride. First commemorated in 1792, the celebrations honored Italian American heritage and culture. While President Benjamin Harrison encouraged a day of patriotic recreation in 1892, FDR made Columbus Day a national holiday. A political move, President Roosevelt’s proclamation came after considerable lobbying by his Italian American and Catholic constituents.

Columbus Day came under a cloud thirty, maybe forty, years ago. Long hidden cracks in Columbus’ heroic façade started to appear. The daring explorer from our elementary school lessons is only a part of the story. Columbus might have been brave but he was also greedy and heartless. His cruelty towards the inhabitants of the islands he claimed for Spain is unfathomable. The atrocities he ordered were so brutal that he spent time in prison for them.

Columbus Day weekend might be a good time to make a few discoveries of your own. Nothing as momentous as a continent or even a small island. Instead, discover, observe and consider some of the contradicting complexities of life. The good, the bad and the ugly mix and mingle in astonishing ways. Open yourself and your mind to understanding some of these conflicting points of view.

What will you discover this fall? A hard truth, a new talent or an old friend? Bon appétit!

Pesto alla Genovese
My version of the Italian classic is both a handy and favorite staple. Perfect for last minute suppers, if you can’t find a jar in my refrigerator, there is always some in the freezer. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 cups

8 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)*
1/2 cup plus more for serving freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup plus more for serving freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Put half of the basil, the pine nuts, garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse to chop and combine. Add the remaining basil, the parsley, olive oil and lemon zest and juice and process until smooth. Add the cheeses and more olive oil if necessary and pulse to combine.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to combine the flavors.

To serve: cook your favorite pasta according to package directions less one minute. Reserving some pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add a dollop or two of pesto – enough to generously coat the pasta, and a little pasta water. Toss to combine, cover and set over low heat for about 1 minute. Serve immediately and pass more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for your cheese loving friends.

* Lemon zest and juice will add a little sparkle and keep the pesto bright green.

You can easily double or triple the recipe and store it in small containers in the freezer.

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One Year Ago – Pasta with Roasted Grape Tomatoes & Corn
Two Years Ago – Cardamom Plum Tort
Three Years Ago – Easy Microwave Popcorn
Four Years Ago – Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
Five Years Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Six Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Seven Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Eight Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Nine Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Ten Years Ago – Mulled Cider

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

What will you discover this Columbus Day Weekend? Feel free to share!

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

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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

Free-Range Rambling & Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup

Summer is a special time in New England. Long days and warm weather invite children to explore the world or at least the patch outside their backdoor … and out into the neighborhood. Unencumbered by jackets and boots, children are free to ride bikes, climb trees and ramble through the woods.

There’s a good bet that more than one child will bring home a nasty case of poison ivy and another will slip and slide into the frog pond. There will be scraped knees and possibly a broken bone or two. It’s all part of growing up in the country. Now, if you are concerned about these bumps, and scrapes; don’t be. Yes, there will be tears but they never last long. Besides, each scar will be a wonderful reminder of a fabulous adventure. They are badges of fun, bravery and honor. My generation continues to wear those scars with pride; this generation of kids will too.

In today’s lingo, children who wander about, seeking and finding their own entertainment are called free-range kids. It’s how I grew up. You probably grew up the same way. In our day, we were just called kids. Now, perhaps you’ve wondered, where can these free-range kids roam? If they live in my neighborhood, there is plenty to explore. A hike in the woods will lead them to the remnants of old stone walls, massive boulders and ancient orchards. Every child needs a favorite rock or tree to climb, a special perch to contemplate the world and all its ambiguities.

Most children are collectors. If they weren’t, tiny cars, cuddly stuffed animals, dolls and action figures would not fill toy baskets or get lost at the beach. Rambling young collectors will find a multitude of treasures to fill their pockets. Pinecones, sticks, bits of bark, stones, wild flowers, ferns and what not – there are loads of interesting finds.

But don’t worry. All that flotsam and jetsam will not clutter up the house. Those bits and twigs won’t join the already overflowing baskets of toys. They won’t even cross the threshold. Children know better than anyone that nature’s collectibles are exactly what’s needed to build fairy houses.

Least you think otherwise, free-range kids aren’t constantly on the move. Every child seeks a quiet corner from time to time. Everyone is different: some children need a lot of alone space while others are good with just a little. Even the most enthusiastic ramblers want a break now and then – to read, draw or take a nap. One of the many delights of summer is the freedom to enjoy a book that’s not on the reading list or write your own stories. Without a tightly regimented schedule, kids can explore new music, color and line, arts and crafts. Perhaps they’ll invent a new game or create a new dance.

Now, this practice of raising free-range children is not particularly well appreciated in some circles. I find this both astounding and sad. Why would anyone deny their children the fun and freedom they themselves enjoyed as kids?

So … Mommas and Poppas, do let your children go out and play cowboys. Let them be pirates, ballerinas and such. Let them ramble and wander and gaze at the stars. Encourage them to read, sing and draw. Most of all inspire them to dream. Summer may be short but childhood is even shorter; embrace the freedom to make the most of both.

Have fun and bon appétit!

Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup
Summertime is burger time; make yours special with spicy homemade ketchup. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

1 pound cherry tomatoes
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon or to taste brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1/2-1 lime

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chipotle purée in a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and toss to combine. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cumin and paprika, season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Roast for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and caramelized. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a small food processor or blender, add the lime juice and process until very smooth.

* Take a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and toss them, sauce and all, in a small food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a clean glass jar. Store the chipotle purée in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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

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

Were you a free-range kid? What 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

Back on Cook’s Corner – Hint of Asia Barbecue Sauce

If you’ve missed me on television … well, yes, it’s been awhile. I’m back today on local ABC affiliate WMUR.


Just in time for your Fourth of July celebration, I’m stirring up a delicious new barbecue sauce. Give it a try at your holiday cookout!

You can find my recipe for Hint of Asia here or watch the video here!

You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again & Shrimp & Cucumber Bites

The school bell rang for the last time on Friday, not forever but for this school year. By now, many families have packed the car, locked the backdoor and headed off for a favorite place or parts unknown. The rest? Well, they realize they already live in a favorite place so they’re relaxing at the town beach or climbing Mount Kearsarge.

My mother was one of the car packers. With Independence Day approaching, she loaded up the trunk, tossed us in the back with the dog and headed to Cape Cod. Now mind you, as families go, we weren’t very good on long car trips. By long, I mean anything more than a half hour was a problem. When I was very little, our starting point was Connecticut and that trip took forever. I don’t know why. It’s not like we took side trips to see giant balls of twine or stopped for selfies with dinosaurs.

For some reason, my grandmother traveled with us. It’s not terribly clear why. We were in Connecticut and my grandparents lived just outside of Boston. As best I can figure, Grandpa drove Nana down, spent the weekend and then went back to work. Nana stayed and hung out with us. I’m sure she applauded my sister’s end of kindergarten extravaganza. She probably babysat while Mom ran last minute errands. However, I believe her key role was to provide moral support on the long drive to the Cape. I can’t be absolutely certain about that; I was only two or three years old at the time.

Finally, the car was packed and a few toys were tossed in the backseat. Everyone made one last trip to the bathroom and we were off. Without air conditioning, we tootled along with the windows open wide. A paper doll or stuffed animal frequently caught the breeze and took flight. Tears and wails ensued but there was no turning back. The Connecticut Turnpike was littered with the flotsam and jetsam of countless children.

Except when it rained, then the windows were rolled up to all but an inch or two. It was miserably muggy. Instead of bereft over a lost toy, we were hot and fussy in the steamy car. Of course, the dog would fart not once but a few times because that’s what dogs do. It was more than enough to make a little girl queasy.

That was just the beginning. It was before the age of enlightenment and Mom smoked cigarette after cigarette. I guess I can’t blame her. Rain was pelting, the dog was smelly and my sister and I were whiny. Nana was not all that good at the moral support thing. (Don’t get me wrong. I loved my grandmother dearly. However, she was not the first person you’d choose in an emergency. Nana was loving and lovely but … resourceful, well, not so much.) Anyway, the cigarettes only made matters worse, sending me into full-blown carsick mode.

Eventually, a combination of cranky kids and hunger compelled Mom to think about stopping for lunch. Ben and Mildred’s Chicken House, a beacon of cheer with greasy food and friendly waitresses was on the way. Alas, Mom could think about it but could not act. Ben and Mildred along with a dozen hot dog stands, burger joints and diners were looking for hungry travelers but not for us. Their culinary delights were all off limits to the Nyes. It seems that a small, curly-headed child had an uncanny habit of throwing up as soon as the family sat down.

Have a happy, healthy summer and bon appétit!

p.s. In case you are worried or wondering, while dogs still fart, Mom eventually quit smoking and, like most kids, the curly-headed child outgrew motion sickness.

Shrimp & Cucumber Bites
Just in time for summer, an easy but elegant hors d’oeuvre to pass at your next cookout. Enjoy!
Makes 40-50 bite sized hors d’oeuvres

Sun-dried Tomato Dip (recipe follows)
1 pound medium (40-50 pieces) shrimp
1-2 English cucumbers

Make the Sun-dried Tomato Dip.

Peel the cucumbers and cut them into about 1/4-inch thick rounds.

Dab a little Sun-dried Tomato Dip on each cucumber slice and top with a shrimp.

Arrange the Shrimp & Cucumber Bites on a platter and pass.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip
Makes about 1 cup

6-8 halves oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch cayenne pepper
About 1/3 cup mayonnaise
About 1/3 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, herbs and cayenne in a small food processor and process until the tomatoes and garlic are chopped fine and well combined.

Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and process until smooth. Let the dip sit for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
Two Years Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Three Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Four Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Five Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
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

Plastic Pollution Solution & Lemony Tarragon Pistou

The snow is receding. The lumps of dirty snow that line my driveway are no longer ten feet tall. Cheery crocuses (or is it croci, I can never remember) are doing their best to pop up and greet the spring. They are not alone. Plastic bottles, cups and whatnots are popping up everywhere. Each layer of melting snow reveals more plastic.

Invented in 1907, plastic was a major modern breakthrough. Plastic is strong. It weighs almost nothing. It’s cheap. It comes in an endless rainbow of colors. If it slips your hands, it won’t land on the kitchen floor in a million pieces. A myriad of uses have been developed for this miracle product.

Unfortunately, this miracle has a decided downside. It is the gift that never goes away. Since its invention, the world has produced more than 9 billion tons of plastic. That’s the virgin, not the recycled, stuff. About 80 percent of it is in the landfill. That’s 5.5 billion, yes billion, tons of plastic. It can take decades, even centuries for plastic to decompose. That mountain of plastic will be sitting around for a long, long time.

Sunday is Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 motivated millions of Americans to think and act differently. The passage of the Clean Air Act was an early victory. The work continued with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Superfunds to clean up hazardous waste sites. This year, the Earth Day Network is asking all of us to think and do something about plastic. They are asking us to be part of the plastic pollution solution.

We’re all guilty so let’s start with an inventory. To find out how plastic gets into the house, we need to check our pantries, cupboards, counters and garage. When and how do we use this not so miraculous product? At my house, it comes in with my groceries, especially in the winter. It holds fresh produce and milk, it is wrapped around meats and poultry and it holds nuts and grains. All that packaging adds up. The average American throws out about 185 pounds of plastic every year.

It doesn’t end there. My dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, lotion, shampoo and deodorant are packed in plastic bottles and jars. I have plastic storage containers. I love my lightweight prep and mixing bowls. Should I mention the half dozen pairs of cheap reading glasses with plastic frames and lens scattered around the house?

In the garage, the blade and handle of my snow shovel are plastic. Looking further, there are several buckets, the dishes I take to the beach in the summer and some adorable but very uncomfortable rain clogs. For heaven sake, even the fenders on the cars are plastic. Most of these things aren’t going anywhere soon. They will remain in the garage until they wear out or break.

For the earth’s sake, let’s all take one small step, maybe two. If you don’t already recycle, start. If you do just a little, do a lot. Even better, stop bringing plastic home. Think about shopping for need and not for entertainment. Image the free time you will have, the savings and the reduction in clutter. When you must shop, bring your own bags. Many, maybe most, of us bring bags to the supermarket. What about the hardware store, pharmacy and everywhere else? I’m also thinking it’s past time I bring re-usable bags to the produce aisle. One small step … maybe two, if we all do it, it adds up. And who knows? Maybe next year we can commit to a zero waste household.

Happy Earth Day and bon appétit!

Lemony Tarragon Pistou
Pistou, pesto and salsa verte – they are all variations of delicious herbs and olive oil. Pesto Genovese is the classic basil sauce, pistou is the French cousin. Fabulously French, tarragon is perfect for an Earth Day sauce. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch or to taste chili pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups loosely packed tarragon leaves
1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Put the lemon juice, garlic and mustard in the bowl of a small food processor, season with the chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper and pulse to combine and finely chopped.

Working in batches, add the tarragon, parsley, chives and thyme and pulse to roughly chop. Add the olive oil, walnuts and lemon zest and pulse to combine. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to combine the flavors.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Freeze leftover pistou for future meals.

Serving Suggestions:

Drizzle Lemony Tarragon Pistou on any of the following:

Grilled, steamed or roasted asparagus, carrots, green beans, potatoes or zucchini
Grilled swordfish, salmon or shrimp
Roasted salmon, cod or shrimp
Steamed lobster
Grilled or roasted chicken or lamb

Add a spoonful or two of mayonnaise to 1/4 cup Lemony Tarragon Pistou for a creamy sauce for chicken, lobster or potato salad.

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One Year Ago – Asparagus Salad with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette
Two Years Ago – Homemade Personal Pizzas
Three Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Chimichurri
Four Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Grilled Ham & Swiss Cheese Sandwiches
Five Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Six Years Ago – Thai Curried Shrimp and Green Beans
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Risotto
Eight Years Ago – Fennel & Feta Salad
Nine 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!

Do you have a plastic pollution solution? Feel free to share!

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

Cinco de Mayo & Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol

May 5th, better known as Cinco de Mayo, is this coming Friday. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Celebrated from coast to coast with tequila shots and tacos, it is an excellent excuse for a party. Perhaps you’ve been thinking that it would fun to have a totally authentic Cinco de Mayo celebration. You know, skip the queso dip and Macarena in favor of real Mexican flavors and dance steps. I get it. You want to a party like they do down in sunny Mexico.

Alright then, here’s what you do … nothing. Yup, that’s right. Absolutely nothing.

Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated in Mexico. Widely mistaken for Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo commemorates an early victory in the Franco-Mexican War. The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862. The resulting victory was more than fifty years after Mexico declared its independence from Spain. In case you’ve forgotten, Mexico was a colony of Spain not France.

So indeed, our enthusiastic celebrations of Cinco de Mayo are somewhat akin to the Swiss celebrating the American victory against the British in the 1814 Battle of Plattsburgh. In case you’re wondering, they don’t. I know where Plattsburgh is but I doubt that too many of my Swiss friends do. I also know where Puebla is. Not because I’m a geography or history whizz but because I looked it up on a map a few minutes ago.

Regardless of whatever convoluted calculations or interpretations you might try to make, Cinco de Mayo adds up to being a mostly American holiday. I suppose that’s makes sense. After all, we are a nation of immigrants and many of our holidays reflect that. The Chinese New Year celebrates our ties with China. Everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. Oktoberfest has found its way from Munich to Muncie and several other U.S. cities.

Now the question arises – how to celebrate? Well, you could find one of those 100-foot margarita bars, the kind that serves fruity cocktails in glasses the size of fish bowls. Alternatively, you could expand your horizons and spend the day learning something about Mexico. Listen to Mexican music, study Mexican artists, investigate true Mexican cuisine or get a better understanding of how our two economies can and do work together.

Complete your day with a Mexican-inspired celebration. Skip the taco chain restaurants for a more authentic experience. I’m not sure if you can find real Mexican food this far north but you can always try. Many of us dream that one of those absolutely wonderful Mom and Pop-type Mexican restaurant will miraculously appear close to home. So far, it hasn’t happened but one can always hope.

For now, invite a few friends over and try your hand at some Mexican-inspired dishes. Dinner outside in early May in New Hampshire is probably pushing it but cocktails on the porch might work. Set your table with a brightly colored cloth and flowers and think warm and sunny thoughts.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo y ¡buen apetito!

Oh, and by the way, Mexican Independence Day – it’s on September 16.

Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Appetizer or main course, shrimp with spicy peanut sauce will make a delicious addition to your Cinco de Mayo feast. This smooth peanut sauce is also good with chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Olive oil
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 onion, chopped
4 or more (to taste) dried arbol (also called bird’s beak) chiles, stemmed
1/2 teaspoon allspice
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2-3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime or to taste

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, peanuts and chiles, season with allspice, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant, 2-3 minutes more.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Let the salsa cool for about 15 minutes, transfer to a blender and process until very smooth. Cool to room temperature, stir in the lime juice and serve.

The salsa can be prepared in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Grilled Shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
About 2 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes (optional)

Put the olive oil in a bowl, add the garlic, lime zest and juice and whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.

Heat the grill to medium-high. Place the shrimp directly on the grill or thread them onto the soaked skewers. Grill the shrimp, turning once, until just opaque, 2-4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol.

The shrimp can be grilled in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake
Two Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Three Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Four Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Five Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Six Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Seven Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Eight Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

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

What about you? How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo and our southern neighbor on Friday? Feel free to share!

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