Back to Basics & Traditional Marinara Sauce

A friend recently confessed that she doesn’t make her own tomato sauce. She buys it at the supermarket, all made and packed in a jar. Before I go any further, I guess I should add that this particular woman is Italian-American. While I can’t verify, I’ve got to assume that her nonna is turning in her grave.

I did my best version of tough love by simultaneously expressing outrage and sympathy. Although, I’m not quite sure why I should be sympathetic. Tomato sauce, marinara in Italy, is both easy to make and takes almost no time at all. Besides, there is just enough chopping in a single batch to calm you down at the end of a tough day. (If it’s been a really, really tough day, better keep the knife in the block and order take-out.)

An added bonus, marinara freezes beautifully. So, go ahead and stir up several quarts to enjoy throughout the fall and winter. It is the perfect way to spend a rainy fall afternoon. Turn on some music, sing along and dance around the kitchen surrounded by the warm and wonderful aroma of garlic, onion and herbs simmering in tomatoes and wine.

Now, if your roots are not in Italy, there are loads of variations on this theme. Tomato sauces are found around the world. Perhaps, you’ve heard of the five mother sauces of French cuisine. Yes, tomato is one of them. Where ever you may travel, if locals can grow them, you’ll probably find tomato sauce in one form or another. Or to-mah-to sauce, if you prefer.

Just as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are the building blocks of mathematics, a handful of recipes are culinary basics. These basics are at the heart of many meals and the foundation for new invention. What are they? Well, you can find them on dozens of lists. You know what I’m talking about; these lists have names like Five (or Ten or Twenty or More) Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know. There are a bunch of them. I think maybe I should put a list together. Anyway, in case you haven’t noticed, tomato sauce is on all or at least most of them.

Tomato sauce is definitely one of the basics in Mediterranean cuisine. A quart of marinara is good for more than a quick and easy meatless Monday spaghetti supper. A lot more. It is perfect for braising chicken, beef or lamb. It is just as good in a fish soup. Add ground beef or turkey or pork or veal or some combination to your marinara and it becomes Bolognese, a hearty sauce for fettucine. Play around with the spices and that Bolognese is perfect for moussaka or pastitsio.

Some might ask, “Why bother?” Simple, your homecooked sauce will be better than anything you’ll find in a jar. It won’t be filled with preservatives and weird ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce. In addition, you’ll be rewarded with almost instant gratification. From start to finish, it takes about a half hour to make a quart of marinara for a delicious dinner to share with those you love. And by the way, for about twenty of those minutes the sauce is simmering. Except for an occasional stir, you are freed up to make a salad or do whatever needs doing – including relaxing with a glass of wine. With a little more time, you can use it as the base for a fabulous chicken cacciatore, an Italian beef stew, lasagna or whatever suits you tonight.

Happy cooking and bon appétit!

Traditional Marinara Sauce

If it’s been a while or never since you made homemade marinara, there is no time like the present. Enjoy!

Makes about 1 quart

  • Olive oil
  • About 1/3 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2-1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs
  • Pinch or to taste dried chili pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh basil

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and season with the herbs, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and simmer for a minute or two more.

Use about 1/2 cup of sauce for each serving of pasta or include it in your favorite tomatoey casseroles, braises and soups.

Feel free to make a big batch; I usually make about 6 quarts at a time. The only things you don’t need to multiply by six are the carrot and bay leaf – 1-2 carrots and 1-2 bay leaves should do it.

Printer-friendly version of this recipe.

Want more?

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

What are your favorite culinary basics and classics? Feel free to share!

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

Advertisements

Fireflies & Other Fragments & Sriracha Aioli

Summers past and present are a kaleidoscope of this and that. Snapshots of ordinary life and historic events fill both real and imaginary scrapbooks. Or in the case of my family, instead of scrapbooks, we have decades of photographs jumbled together in an old pine chest. On top the pictures, each of us has hundreds, maybe thousands, of mental images of summer days and nights. From the July night when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon to an afternoon catching tadpoles, we each have a vast collection of stories. Some are filled with intricate details; others are mere fragments.

When you are little, there is something inexplicable thrilling about being outside after dark on a warm summer night. I suppose it’s the natural byproduct of living under the cardinal rules of suburban life. Close to the top, if not the top, was – drop whatever you’re doing and go home as soon as the streetlights come on.

On weekends and during vacations on the Cape, that rule was suspended. We did our best to spend every waking minute outside. Forget the kitchen. Still in our jammies, we ate our morning cereal on the backsteps. Lunch was a picnic on the beach. Every night was a cookout with dinners hot off the grill. Soon after the s’mores or blueberry pie were finished, the grownups were driven inside by the mosquitos. No, not to the living room, it was too hot and stuffy. Instead, they settled onto the screen porch to catch a breeze and wait, in vain hope, for the house to cool down.

Meanwhile, we kids were told to stay outside and play. Yes, during the school year, the exact same parents threaten to ground us for life if we didn’t report home the minute the streetlights came on. There is something quite magical about summer. Normal rules are suspended and everyone relaxes. Anyway, before you go thinking that we were somehow imperiled or neglected, forget about it. We were within easy earshot of the porch. Malaria does not creep that far north and, if they existed in New England at the time, no one had ever heard of West Nile virus or zika. For our part, mosquitos or not, we were more than delighted to be out under a starry sky.

Besides Nana always gave us each a punk. No, I’m not talking about some yahoo hoodlum or one of those wild bands from the seventies. This is my Nana, we’re talking about. No, she gave each of us one of those incense sticks that are supposed to keep the mosquitos away. We would run around, waving them in the air. If luck was with us, no one got burned and mosquito bites were few.

Some nights we skipped the punks and hunted fireflies instead. Fireflies don’t like punks. However, they did like to flit and flirt in the seagrasses down the road. Nana gave us mason jars and Pop used an old awl to punch holes in the lids. In our excitement, someone was sure to trip over a piece of drift wood or something or other and end up sprawling. Even so, a summer didn’t go by that we didn’t catch a few fireflies

The thrill was in the catch so we set them free before gathering up our stuff and trudging home. Grateful for their freedom, some of our fireflies showed their appreciation by tagging along. Just as my eyes were about close for the night, a little green light would blink and bring me back from the edge of slumber. If I was lucky, two or three would wink back and forth until I finally fell asleep.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Sriracha Aioli
Aioli is the perfect condiment or dip for summer cookouts. Skip the ketchup and try aioli on your next burger or slather it on grilled corn. Use it instead of tartar sauce with seafood or as a dip for fresh veggies. The list goes on and on. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-3 tablespoons Sriracha
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the garlic, sriracha, lime zest and juice in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the mayonnaise and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and whisk again.

Let the aioli sit for 30 minutes at room temperature to combine the flavors. If it’s a hot day or you’re making ahead, let the flavors mix and mingle in the refrigerator.

Cover and store left over aioli in the refrigerator.

Printer-friendly version  of this post.

One Year Ago – Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
Two Years Ago – Blueberry Bread Pudding
Three Years Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Four Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Five Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Six Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Eight Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Nine Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Ten Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What do you put on your burger? Ketchup? or something else? Feel free to share!

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

Shoo Flies & Asparagus with Lemony Aioli

The street sweeper came by in the middle of last week. With all the rain in April, I think it was a bit behind schedule. Anyway, the combination of the sweeper and Mother’s Day signals the end of mud season. Unfortunately, that means black fly season has arrived. In other words, hardly-spring has morphed into sort-of-like-spring or, maybe, spring-bites.

Mud and flies are fundamental to our two-part spring. Sounds awful but it’s not too bad. With longer and warmer days, it’s a happy time. Or at least mostly happy. Okay, make that happy when/if it doesn’t rain every day for a month. Anyway, moving on. With mud season in the review mirror, trees are budding, daffodils and tulips are bobbing in the breeze and people are sneezing.

The second phase of spring in New Hampshire raises a big question – how to cope with those d#$%m black flies? There are two parts to the issue. The first is the females. These vampires really know how to take a bite out of life. Bloodthirsty dames, they will attack any exposed skin. Depending on your luck or lack of, you are left with itchy bumps or oversized welts.

Now, stop for a minute and think of the tragedy here. After months wrapped in layers of fleece and down, it’s finally warm enough, or almost, for T-shirts and shorts. We are soooo ready to soak up a little natural vitamin D. Sorry, the black flies have a different idea. Instead of the cold, we need to cover up against these beasts. By the way, pants and a long sleeve shirt aren’t enough. Covering up includes your ankles, wrists, hands, face, neck and scalp. If you don’t have one, be sure to get one of those nets that goes over your head. Believe me, it’s a wonderful look.

Now for the male black flies. Happily, they don’t bite. Instead, they flit from flower to flower, sipping nectar. Unfortunately, they do not have an insatiable appetite. Once they’ve had enough, they look around for someone to pester. Like silly boys in middle school, they buzz around and get in your face. Annoyance, sometimes to the point of insanity, rather than pain is the operative word here.

So, here’s the scenario, it’s finally warmed up. If you’re lucky, the sun is out. All you want to do is spend the day outside – hiking, gardening, paddling your kayak, sitting in a café – the list goes on and on. Stepping outside, you are met by a swarm of biting and buzzing flies. What to do? Here are a few hints –

  • Go out in the middle of the day. The flies are apt to be napping or whatever they do when they aren’t pestering you.
  • Black flies congregate in and around running streams. Unlike mosquitos, they like moving water so take your paddling to a quiet pond or lake.
  • They’re not that fast, so trade in your hiking boots for a bicycle and out run them.
  • Wind is your friend. Flies have trouble tracking you down on a breezy day. If you are planning a few hours outdoors and have some flexibility, check the weather report.
  • Stick with light colored clothing. Not only is it more spring-like but dark colors attack flies.
  • Try a natural repellant and reapply frequently. I like lavender but some people swear by vanilla. About lavender, it’s not infallible. At some point, the flies will figure out that you’re a person and come back to bite, buzz and annoy.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Asparagus with Lemony Aioli
One of the first vegetables of the season, who doesn’t love asparagus? Steamed, roasted or grilled, add a quick and easy aioli for a delicious first course or side dish. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds (more for fanatics) asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Forget the pencil thin asparagus. Sure, they look elegant but the nice, fat spears have the best flavor and texture. Steamed, roasted or grilled, asparagus are best cooked until tender-crisp. Cooking time will vary depending on thickness.

To steam: put about 2-inches of salted water in a large skillet or sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes.

To roast: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 8-12 minutes.

To grill: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Put the asparagus in a large dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the asparagus on the grill, cook for 1-3 minutes.

To Serve: Arrange the asparagus on a platter or individual plates. Serve warm or at room temperature with Lemony Aioli.

Lemony Aioli
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in small bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to combine the flavors. Whisk again and serve.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Chickpea Salsa
Two Years Ago – Pissaladière
Three Years Ago – Tabbouleh
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Five Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Seven Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Eight Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Nine Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Ten Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola

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

How do you deal with black flies? Feel free to share!

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

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.

Print-friendly version of this post.

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

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.

Printer-friendly version of this post.

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.

Printer-Friendly version of this post.

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!