Spring Skiing & Spaghetti with Cauliflower & Olives

skiing_01Less than a month ago, a furry, little fellow popped out of a hole in Pennsylvania and saw his shadow. According to legend, the shadow meant we were in for six more weeks of winter. However, get this! This little pageant has been going on for more than one hundred years. Over all those decades, an early spring has been predicted all of seventeen times. (Nine years of records are missing so it could be a few more.) Now, some curious weather geeks did a few calculations to see how accurate that furry, little fellow is. Their discovery? Well, the groundhog was correct only thirty-nine per cent of the time.

That’s less than a coin toss!

Anyone living in New Hampshire can predict winter’s end with or without a furry friend or coin to toss. Here in the Granite State, winter hangs around until it’s good and ready to quit. Last week’s glorious few days of spring skiing could be the start of warmer things to come … or not. It’s just as likely that the magnificent spring-like weather was nothing more than a blip in northern New England’s decidedly fickle weather patterns.

New Hampshire skiers live for those wonderfully warm, end-of-the season days. We want nothing more than to ski in a t-shirt, even shorts. However, we all know that there are two sides to an early spring. We love the sun and curse the rain. Although we would happily greet one last blizzard, just the threat of a shower sends skiers into a tizzy.

To make matters worse, I was admittedly spoiled during all those years I lived in Switzerland. Spoiled rotten! Even in a mediocre snow year, the season lasted through the first or second weekend of April. In a spectacular year, skiing went on and on until mid-May. Of course, the elevations are a heck of a lot higher in the Alps; way up above the tree line higher.

This extended ski season did lead to a few misadventures. Most were due to the stubborn determination of my friends and I to ski from top to bottom. Just because the ski season lasted until Easter and beyond, did not mean there was snow cover on the bottom third or half of the mountain. By early April, skiers were advised to take the lift down from the mid-station. After a glorious day in the sun and snow, riding a chairlift to the bottom was nothing short of anticlimactic. A gondola was even worse. (The cliché packed in like sardines would be an apt description.)

I’m not one to let a TRAIL CLOSED sign stand in my way. Neither were my ski pals. After a quick peek left and right, we ducked under the rope and headed down. We had the trail to ourselves and it was fabulous. Well, fabulous until we hit a south facing, mud covered slope. Jumping from one small patch of snow to another, we clamored through trees and over a few rocks. Finally and inevitably, we ran out of snow. Off came the skis; we were in for a long slog to the car in our ski boots.

As the weather warms, on the slopes or not, enjoy some time outside! Bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Olives
This recipe has its roots in sunny Spain and Sicily. It is a great dish when you are pining for a little sun and warm weather. Enjoy!cauliflower_05
Serves 4-6

1 head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2-1 onion, cut in thin wedges
1/4 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8-12 ounces spaghetti
About 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped green olives
3 tablespoons capers
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
3-4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Grated pecorino Romano cheese

Toss the cauliflower with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and spread in a single layer in a roasting pan. Tossing once or twice, roast at 375 degrees until browned and tender, about 40 minutes.

(If you roast the cauliflower in advance, a delicious dinner will be ready in minutes.)

While the cauliflower roasts, heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the cauliflower, olives and capers, sprinkle with lemon zest and toss to combine. Cover and keep warm.

spaghetti_cauliflower_olives_03Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water.

Toss the pasta with the vegetables. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta water and cook on low for 1 minute. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with grated pecorino Romano.

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One Year Ago – Flourless Chocolate Cake
Two Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs
Three Years Ago – Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Four Years Ago – Decadent Mac & Cheese
Five Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Six Years Ago – Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Seven Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Eight Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding

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

What about you? Now that the seasons are changing, how will you spend time outside? Feel free to share!

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

Multitasking & Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde

swiss_armyAfter the lazy, hazy days of summer, it’s time to get down to business. With cooler air, we feel the need to move faster and stretch the time further. Although rarely successful, multitasking is one of the ways we try to jam more into every day.

Successful or not, we all brag about our ability to do seven things at once. How long has it been since you gave a phone call your undivided attention? Months? Never? Whether driving or loading the dishwasher, answering emails, coaching little league, folding laundry or running on the treadmill, no one drops what they’re doing to answer the phone. And that’s not all. Knitters binge watch their favorite drama while clacking out miles of scarves and dozens of mittens. Neatniks get their exercise and keep in rhythm by doing a samba with the vacuum cleaner.

When we’re not doing three things at once, we’re flitting back and forth from one task to another and another. Take this article; just as I was getting started, my email pinged. Of course, I checked it out. Next thing you know I’m paying a bill and then emptying the dishwasher. Finally, I get back to the article. Now, what was that terribly clever anecdote I wanted to add?

To distract ourselves further we search far and wide for multifunction gizmos and gadgets. Remember the days when we marveled at a Swiss Army knife. How innocent we were. A knife that whittles, opens bottles (both beer and wine) and tightens screws (both Philips- and flat-head) is an excellent addition to any pocket. But alas, it’s nothing compared to a phone that surfs the net, receives and sends email and text messages, takes pictures, guides you to your destination, sends you moneysaving coupons, tells the time and temperature, takes a message, finds you a date and plays both music and games.

Putting the phone aside … if you can. What are your favorite multitasking machines? I ran into a couple when I lived in Europe. I guess necessity was the mother of many of these clever inventions. For one thing, apartments were generally compact. For another, people did seem at least a bit more concerned about their carbon footprint than the average American.

My favorite multitasker was something called a robot. It was nothing more than a combination food processor, blender, mini food processor and coffee grinder. Any cook would love to have one. I can’t believe they don’t exist on this side of the Atlantic. There was a base with a decent motor and three maybe four processing bowls in different sizes and shapes. The robot came with a bunch of different blades and attachments. It could chop, slice, dice, blend, knead, grind and probably more that I’ve forgotten. When I returned to the US, I had to buy three, make that four, different machines to do the same work.

Although I was forced into buying a closet full of equipment to replace my robot, I have discovered a few hacks to turn some of my favorite kitchen tools into multitasking miracles. You probably already know these tips but here goes nothing. The easiest way to peel ginger is with a regular old spoon. An ice cream scoop is perfect for filling muffin tins. A melon baller can core an apple in a flash. And finally, when in doubt; grab the tongs. They work for just about everything. Flip steaks, stir soup, toss a salad and, my favorite, use them to grab something off the top shelf.

Whether you save time or not, have fun in the kitchen this fall. Bon appétit!

Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verdepork_bean_stew_salsa_verde_01
Although it requires a fair amount of multitasking, this Brazilian-inspired stew is worth every delicious step. Enjoy!
Serves 8-12

1 pound dried black beans
12-16 ounces hot (or sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
Olive oil
About 3 pounds pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons (or more to taste) minced jalapeno
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup rum
2 bay leaves
4-6 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup sour cream
1/3-1/2 cup per person white, basmati or brown rice
Salsa Verde (recipes follows)

Rinse and soak the beans overnight in 10-12 cups water.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the sausage in a large ovenproof skillet, add the sherry and 1/2 cup water and, turning once or twice, roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Cut the sausage into chunks and then, in 2 or 3 batches, transfer to a food processor and pulse to finely chop. Reserve.

While the sausage is cooking, pat the pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat, add the pork and brown well on all sides. Remove the pork from the casserole and reserve.

Put the vegetables, spices and oregano in the casserole, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the sausage and brown sugar, add the orange zest and juice, lime juice, espresso and rum and stir to combine. Add the pork, 1 bay leaf and enough chicken stock to come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pork.

Bring everything to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and turning the pork a few times, cook for about 2 hours.

After the pork has been cooking for about 45 minutes, drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans in a large pot, add water to cover by 3-4 inches and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until almost tender, about 45 minutes.

Drain the beans and add them to the pork. If necessary, add more chicken stock. Return the stew to the oven and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until both the pork and beans are very tender.

Remove the stew from the oven and cool to room temperature. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl and a little at a time, stir 1-2 cups of sauce to the sour cream.

Stir the pork and the sour cream back into the beans. Cover and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Reheat the stew in a 350-degree oven until bubbling, about 45 minutes or 1 hour. While the stew reheats, cook the rice according to package directions. Serve the stew in shallow bowls with rice and a spoonful of Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde
2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 scallions, sliced
About 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar and lime juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add the lime zest, scallions, garlic and herbs, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until finely chopped and well combined.

Let sit the salsa for at least 30 minutes before serving. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Serve at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Applesauce Scones
Two Years Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Three Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Four Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Five Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Six Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Seven Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Eight Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon

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

Wha’s your favorite multifunction gadget? Feel free to share.

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

Discovering Skiing in the Alps & Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux

Geneva_02I will always think of Geneva as my second home. Oh, that’s Switzerland, not New York or Illinois or a lake in Wisconsin. One of the best things about living in Geneva is the proximity to the mountains. Not any little hills mind you, the Alps.

Even though I’d been on the slopes for years, since I was seven, I didn’t really learn to ski until I moved to Switzerland. There is something both thrilling and terrifying about a really big mountain. And by big, we’re talking above-the-tree-line-and-trails-that-go-on-for-miles-and-miles big. For a girl who learned to ski at King Ridge, it was more than a bit daunting at first.

As a proud New England skier, a few things came as a surprise. First of all, there was a lot of snow; like ten or fifteen feet of snow. While late autumn in Geneva was one wet day after another, rain in town meant snow in the mountains. The season usually started by the first week in December and continued on to May. Unlike the areas I grew up with, alpine resorts didn’t brag about huge investments in snowmaking equipment and awards for grooming. They didn’t have to.

My early ventures onto the slopes are a bit of a blur. However, one December day stands out. It began with me lugging my skis to the train station through the quiet, early morning streets of Geneva. A gentle drizzle did not bode well. Ignoring my friend John’s enthusiast assurances, I caught a snooze on the train to Champéry. Once there, we lugged our skis through the bustling streets of the village to the lift.

Perfectly picturesque, a gentle snow was falling as we began our first descent. Unfortunately, that’s were picturesque ended and I began. To say that my form could easily have been mistaken for a lame rhinoceros is not an exaggeration. To make matters worse, I had yet to adopt the alpine-chic style of a European skier. Even though he’d been in Switzerland for three, maybe four, years John hadn’t adopted alpine-chic either.

John was not from New England but Canada. However, we both sported what I came to think of as northeast scruffy. Perhaps it was a holdover of a more bohemian time. My carefully combined ensemble was designed to project an image of someone too laidback and interesting to worry about anything as silly as clothes. That said, the outfit was just as easily the product of New England frugality or grad school debt. I don’t know John’s excuse.

Still December, the temperature hovered around freezing but the snow never turned to rain. It was a long day. The snow was heavy and the slopes were steep and long. Much steeper and much longer than the Queen’s Run and Knave of Hearts at family-friendly King Ridge. While John was no fashion plate, he was a superb skier. Graceful and strong, he was poetry in motion.

With brute force (picture that poor, lame rhinoceros), I plowed my way through the heavy snow. I don’t know what kept me going; grit, determination or plain, stinking pride. Whatever it was, I was more than a little grateful for my daily running habit. Running didn’t make me a better skier but, thankfully, it made me fit and strong. And yes, skiing the alps did get easier and better with time and practice. Lots of time and lots of practice.

Anyway, enjoy the latest snowfall and a day on the slopes. Bon appétit!

Tartelettes au Fromage avec Saucisse et Poireaux
(Cheese Tartlets with Sausage & Leeks)

These earthy little tartlets are perfect for passing at your next cocktail party or before a cozy après ski dinner. Enjoy!
Tartelettes_au_Fromage_avec_Saucisse_et_Poireaux_06Makes 30 tartlets

Savory Tartlet Pastry (recipe follows)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 ounces Italian or other fresh sausage, sweet or hot or a mix, casings removed
5-6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup half &half

Make the Savory Pastry Dough. Cut the dough into 24 rounds, press the dough into nonstick mini muffin tin cups and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until tender, 5-10 minutes. add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl, cool and reserve.

Raise the heat to medium-high and put the sausage in the skillet. Breaking the meat up into small pieces, sauté until lightly browned. Drain and cool the sausage on paper towels. Add the sausage and cheese to the leeks and toss to combine.

Put the eggs in a bowl, add the mustard and spices and whisk until smooth. Add the half & half and whisk again.

In one bowl or the other, combine the wet ingredients with the leeks, sausage and cheese.

Spoon the filling into the pastry shells and bake until the filling sets and the top and crusts are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and serving. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets.

Can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate in the muffin tins. Reheat, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Savory Tartlet Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
3 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps.

Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a log about 12-inches long and wrap in plastic or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Chicken, Sausage & Bean Ragù
Two Years Ago – Spicy Tequila Chicken Wings
Three Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Four Years Ago – Fettuccine with Escarole, Radicchio & Mushrooms
Five Years Ago – Cassoulet
Six Years Ago – Caribbean Fish Stew

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

Do you have a ski story? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

Rethinking Bacon & White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale

bacon_03What can you say about bacon? Well, how about …

Your grandfather loved it and enjoyed bacon and eggs every morning for, oh let’s say, eighty-something, oops, make that ninety-something years. Not just granddad, you love it and wish you could have it every morning for the rest of your life. Not only that, if there’s bacon for breakfast you fervently hope to live to be one hundred. In fact, you’d be more than happy to find ways to sneak it into lunch and dinner.

You are not alone. Bacon is hot right now and getting hotter. News anchors get positively giddy when visiting chefs fry up a slab. Des Moines, Chicago, Los Angeles and, now, Baltimore have an entire festival dedicated to the salty strips. William and Kate passed out bacon sannies in the wee hours of their wedding reception. Okay, the beaming bride and groom didn’t actually do the passing. They had waiters for that.

So here’s a strange confession. I wouldn’t actually swear to it but I don’t think I’ve eaten a strip of bacon in nearly thirty years. As far as I can figure, I more or less stopped eating bacon for breakfast when I moved to Switzerland. Maybe it’s because the French word for bacon is lard. Or maybe because it didn’t look or taste the same. Oh, I’m sure I might have nibbled a slice or two during visits to the States or indulged at one of those big hotel buffet breakfasts. I traveled a lot on business when I lived in Geneva. I guess I should amend my statement, I don’t remember eating a strip of bacon in nearly thirty years.

Anyway, about the time I moved to Switzerland, I stopped thinking of bacon as breakfast food. That’s also when I discovered lardons. Living en Suisse opened my eyes to a variety of new-to-me ingredients and dishes. Lardons were among those new ingredients. Lardons are less fatty, smaller than bite-sized pieces of bacon. Swiss and French butchers even chop them up for you. They are a key ingredient in many French stews. And let’s face it, lardon sounds a lot more appetizing than lard.

Particularly in cold weather, I have a special affinity for what I like to call peasant food. Think Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon and Cassoulet plus hearty soups like Lentil, Bean or Potato. Some foodies try to dress them up and complicate things but for the most part, peasant food is simple, cheap and made from scratch. Oh, and if it’s French, there is a good chance bacon is involved.

Bacon doesn’t just add flavor to these dishes, the rendered fat comes in handy to sauté the veggies or sear the meat for your wonderful stew or soup. After all, no self-respecting peasant would let anything go to waste; especially if it will enhance the flavor of the dish. It’s best to start with a cold pan and gently cook on medium heat to maximize the release of fat. Remove the lardons and drain on paper towels. Then drain any excess fat from the pan, leaving just enough for your sauté or sear.

If you are worried about cooking with bacon, new research suggests that there is no clear link between heart disease and the so-called bad fats (bacon, cream, butter, etc.). When in doubt, cook and eat like the French – everything in moderation! If you are really concerned, forget about bacon as the king of breakfast food and enjoy it in beautiful French casseroles at dinner. It’s easier than you think and really delicious.

Bon appétit!

White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
A delicious side dish, try it with lamb, pork, poultry or seafood. A great money-saver, you can also serve beans as the main event. Penny-pinching never tasted so good. Enjoy!
Serves about 12 as a side dishwhite_beans_provencal_bacon_kale_02

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
1 1/2 large onion, cut the half onion in half again and finely chop the whole
5 stalks celery, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups crushed tomatoes
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 pound baby kale*

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, half onion, celery and carrot chunks, 1 sprig thyme and 1 bay leaf in a large pot, add cold water to cover plus 2 inches and bring to a boil on medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender 1 – 1 1/4 hours. Remove the onion, carrot, celery, thyme twig and bay leaf, drain the beans and season with salt and pepper. (Can be done ahead or use canned beans, rinsed and drained.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, put the bacon in a large casserole and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot, drain and reserve. Leaving just enough to coat the pot, drain any excess fat.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots to the pot, season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Stir in mustard and wine, add the remaining thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and simmer until the wine has reduced by half.

Add the cooked white beans, crushed tomatoes and 1-2 cups chicken stock. Bring the beans to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 45 minutes, adding more chicken stock if the beans seem dry. For a thicker dish, mash about 1 cup of the beans with a fork.

If you have the time, cool the beans to room temperature and refrigerate for several hours. Remove the beans from the refrigerator and return to a simmer on medium-low heat.

Stir the kale into the beans, return the pot to the oven and continue cooking until the kale is tender, about 10 minutes, and serve.

* If you can’t find baby kale, you can use regular kale. Remove the tough ribs, cut in julienne and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Two Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Three Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Four Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What ‘s your favorite way to prepare/eat bacon? Covered in chocolate or sizzling with a side of sunny-side up? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

No One’s an Orphan on Thanksgiving Day & Smashed or Mashed Potatoes

Yes, yes, I know, we’re barely done with Halloween and already I’m talking about Thanksgiving. In my defense, Thanksgiving has got to be the greatest foodie event of the year. Of course there are lots of other holidays with fabulous meals but none are devoted to feasting. Christmas dinner is great but still secondary to Santa. While Independence Day cookouts are delicious, they are just the lead-in to the fabulous fireworks. Easter has the bunny, Halloween has witches, ghouls and ghosts and both have enough candy to render dinner superfluous. Thanksgiving is all about the feast, the loved ones around the table and, okay, maybe a little football.

So while it may be a little early to work on your shopping list, it is not too early to think about the guest list. Thanksgiving_GVAEspecially if you are alone this Thanksgiving or know someone who might be looking for a little company on Turkey Day.

When I first moved to Switzerland, I couldn’t help but feel a little homesick as Thanksgiving approached. It would be my first Turkey Day away from home. Lucky for me, a colleague decided to throw a party. Better yet, she drafted me as her co-host and sous-chef.

Since Thursday was not a holiday in Switzerland, we celebrated on Saturday. By mid-morning, I was in Linda’s kitchen, sporting an apron and brandishing a potato peeler. We peeled pounds of potatoes, baked pies, simmered cranberry sauce, steamed beans and stuffed and roasted a fat turkey. Tasty aromas began to fill the apartment as we shared stories of home and Thanksgivings’ past. At seven, the doorbell started to ring and we shared our delicious labors with a dozen or so expatriates from the US and around the world.

Linda left Switzerland the next summer but I stuck around to throw many more Thanksgiving dinners. It was always a fun and lively affair. Then and now, the most important tradition, more important than the turkey or cranberry sauce, is that no one should be alone on Thanksgiving. Admittedly, only my American friends truly appreciated this sentiment. So while my guest list was a veritable United Nations of nationalities, a few extra Americans always seemed to find my Thanksgiving table.

It would start with a phone call (make that two or three) to add a holiday orphan (make that two or three). “My brother (sister, cousins, best friend from kindergarten) is visiting, can he/she/they come to Thanksgiving?” Or “My office mate (neighbors, new sweetheart, running buddy) is American and has no plans for Thanksgiving. Can I bring him/her/them along?” As my friend Kevin wisely noted, “There is always room for one more at Thanksgiving.”

As the tally grew, I put out an SOS for extra chairs and devised a makeshift extension to my table for eight with sawhorses and an old plank. One year, nineteen people squeezed into around the table. Somewhat miraculously, everyone managed to get enough to eat. My apartment’s tiny oven could barely hold a twelve-pound turkey. Luckily, one of the extras was a chef and he carved the bird with both biblical and surgical skill.

If it looks like you’ll be alone this Thanksgiving, take it as a sign and create a festive gathering of holiday orphans. And for anyone with lots of family and old friends gathering for turkey, why not add that colleague or neighbor who is far from home? Either way, the more the merrier!

Have a wonderful gathering of family, old friends, new friends and soon-to-be friends. Bon appétit!

Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Thanksgiving is filled with family food traditions. My mother always mashed her potatoes with sour cream and they were delicious. Mom’s spuds were smooth but I prefer chunky so I give them a rough smash. Take your pick and enjoy!
Serves 12 or moresmashed_potatoes_02

About 5 pounds red skinned or Yukon gold potatoes
About 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) or to taste butter, cut into small pieces
1/2-1 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Scrub and peel (or not) the potatoes and cut into 1-2 inch cubes. Alhough my mother always peeled the potatoes, I like to leave the skins on.

Put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot. Add enough salted water to cover and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until just tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander and return them to the pot.

Add the sour cream and remaining butter to the potatoes and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir/smash with a large spoon or potato masher until everything is well combined but the potatoes are still chunky.

smashed_potatoes_04

Alternatively, follow my mother’s lead and, using an electric mixer, whip until smooth. (Don’t overbeat or the spuds will turn to glue. Unlike my mother, I use a potato ricer instead of an electric mixer when I want very smooth mashed potatoes.)

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One Year Ago – Apple Muffins
Two Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Three Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Four Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Five Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How are your Thanksgiving plans shaping up? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

Weber Knock-Off & Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa

grillSummer solstice, the longest day has come and gone. Fourth of July has been and done. We’ve suffered through the year’s first heat waves and survived more than our fair share of rain, rain and more rain. With temperatures in the eighties and nineties, sticky humidity and dramatic thundershowers, it is well and truly summer.

After a cold winter and a hectic spring, summer is a wonderful time to kick-back and relax. Dig out those flip flops or splurge on a fancy new pair, get some sunscreen and head to the beach. Perhaps you’ll test yourself. Are you still fit enough to swim to the Island or at least the raft? For a more leisurely lake tour, break out your kayak and drift by the loons. On those hot and hazy days, it’s best to fill a tote bag with books and enjoy a lazy afternoon snoozing and reading in the shade. Busy or relaxed, at the end of the day, it’s a time for stress free, no fuss picnic or cookout.

When I set up my first apartment it didn’t take long for me to assemble my list of culinary must-haves. A grill (along with a blender and fondue pot) was high on my list. My first grill was a hand-me-down hibachi. The good thing about a hibachi is it is indestructible. You can leave it out in the rain or kick it off a balcony or both. Heck, you can probably run it over with a steam roller. On the downside, the grill surface is so small it can barely handle a couple of burgers let alone a cookout for a crowd. For anyone who likes to entertain, it is no surprise that these tiny grills disappeared along with disco balls and fondue pots. But who knows, fondue keeps bouncing back, maybe the hibachi will make a comeback as well.

My second grill was a Weber knock-off. The grill was still pretty small and a bit rickety. However, the price was right so who was I to complain. I was living in Switzerland and that grill brought a little slice of Americana to Avenue de l’Ermitage. The knock-off played a starring role in many wonderful summer evenings. It was called into action for parties large and small; feeding as many as fifty people in a single night.

Tragedy struck when my father, visiting from the States, backed into the little grill with his rental car. We picked it up and wrestled it back into shape. Well, at least sort of. Good old Dad promised a replacement but got on a plane before making good on his pledge. Thrifty New Englander, I continued to use the injured grill for a couple more years. In spite of its wobbles, many splendid meals and evenings were enjoyed.

Eventually the rickety faux-Weber’s legs gave out. No amount of coaxing could convince it to straighten up and cook right. Sadly, the grill was retired to the curb on recycling day. A larger, shiny, new knock-off soon took its place. Not much sturdier than the first, I eventually switched to a gas grill. When I moved back to the States, the gas grill refused to emigrate. Luckily, some friends agreed to adopt it.

Once I made it back to Pleasant Lake, Dad ran out of excuses and had to make good on his promise. His housewarming gift was, you guessed it, a new grill. Although I’m busier than ever, I still try to find time for cookouts with family and friends.

I wish you a wonderful summer and lots of good grilling. Bon appétit!

Susan Nye writes, cooks and lives in New London. Visit her website at http://www.susannye.com to learn about her Eat Well – Do Good project. For cooking tips and more, you can check Susan out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/swnye or watch her cook at http://www.youtube.com/susannye. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
swordfish_olive_caper_salsa_01Delicious addition to your summer grilling repertoire. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped olives – black oil-cured or a mix of your favorites
2 cloves garlic, minced
1scallion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Dash or to taste hot pepper sauce
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 pounds swordfish

Put the olives, garlic, scallion, capers, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, juice of 1/2 lemon, the pepper sauce and about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside.olive_caper_salsa_02

Preheat the grill to high heat.

Drizzle the swordfish with a little olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lemon and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the fish for about 5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from the grill and set on a large serving platter. Let the fish rest for about 5 minutes.

Cut the swordfish into thick slices and serve with olive and caper salsa.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Two Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Three Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Four Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend the Fourth of July? Filled with activities or lolling about? Maybe a bit of both! Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

Fun with Fondue & Traditional Cheese Fondue

I’m not sure what the food fashion police have to say about fondue this winter. Is it reborn and hip again? Fondue is one of those dishes which always seems to be in the midst of a comeback. Of course it was all the rage back in the ‘70’s. From New England’s snowy peaks to Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers, a party was not a party without a gently bubbling pot of cheese and/or chocolate fondue.fondue_pot

When my sister tied the knot, she received four, maybe five fondue pots. Or at least a few more than she thought she needed or would ever need. The extra pots were consigned to the purgatory of my parents’ attic. Years later when I set up my first apartment, fondue was already passé but I magnanimously adopted one. I was moving to Vermont and fondue seemed like a natural. I think I might have served it on one or two cold winter nights but I can’t swear to it.

But fondue is not a fad in Switzerland. It doesn’t come and go on the whim of some fancy food fashionista. It’s been a favorite on Swiss tables since the late 1600’s. That’s when a hungry alpine cow-herder made supper of some stale bread and a bit of melted cheese on a cold and blustery winter night.

One of the first things l learned when I moved to Switzerland was that the Swiss take their fondue very seriously. As you would expect in a country where “everything which is not required, is forbidden,” certain rules apply when eating fondue.

1. Never eat fondue in the summer. Relaxing around a pot of piping hot cheese is a lovely way to spend a winter evening but steamy business in the middle of summer. Every year the Swiss celebrate the first cold, rainy days of autumn with a fondue.

2. Only drink white wine, preferably Fendant from the Valais region of Switzerland. For children or anyone who does not drink wine, hot tea is okay but never beer, water, juice or heaven forbid Coca-Cola. The practical explanation or urban myth for this rule is that these drinks will cause the cheese to come together into a hard, cold ball in the pit of your stomach. Every Swiss person knows someone who knows someone who knows someone whose uncle died from drinking a cold beer after a fondue.

3. It’s okay to skip dessert, but if you do indulge, fruit with a splash of kirsch is the traditional after-fondue sweet. While the idea of an all-fondue evening might sound intriguing, chocolate fondue is decidedly un-Swiss. Chocolate fondue was invented in New York about fifty years ago, albeit by a Swiss-born chef. Obviously, too much time in Manhattan led him astray. Ice cream is strictly frowned upon; see rule number 2.

Tourists, especially American tourists, are notorious for breaking these rules. Not many cafés serve fondue during the summer. If by chance, you venture by one that does; you’re sure to find a jolly group of tourists enjoying a fondue in the hot sunshine. More likely than not, they’ll be washing it down with a beer or icy cold Coke. Strangely enough, in spite of this terrible lapse, the sidewalks in front of these establishments are not littered with tourists writhing in pain and near death.

Now is the perfect time to venture into the attic and retrieve that old fondue pot. A lazy evening with friends around a pot of bubbling cheese and a bottle of wine is an excellent way to end a long day on the slopes.

Bon appétit!

Traditional Cheese Fondue
Fondue is the perfect après-ski meal. A mix of cheeses is best; Gruyere and Emmental are most common and easiest to find. If you can track some down, try adding Fribourg Vacherine or a combination of Tilsit and Appenzell. Enjoy!
Serves 6

1 clove garlic, halved
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds cheese
Try: 1/2 Gruyere and 1/2 Emmental,
1/2 Gruyere and 1/2 Fribourg Vacherin or
1/2 Gruyere, 1/4 Tilsit and 1/4 Appenzell
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 ounce Kirsch
Freshly ground pepper
Crusty country bread cut or torn into bite sized pieces

Special equipment: a fondue pot, stand for the pot, alcohol burner and long handled fondue forks

Grate the cheeses, sprinkle with cornstarch and toss to combine.
fondue_01
Rub the fondue pot with the garlic. Drop both halves in the bottom of the pot, add the wine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cheese in handfuls and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Stir in the kirsch and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Set the fondue pot on its stand over a low flame. Pierce a piece of bread with a fondue fork and swirl it through the cheese.

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One Year Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Two Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Three Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Four Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

When was the last time you had a fondue? Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013