Hindsight & Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon

Banal as they may be, we use them all the time. Actions speak louder than words.You can’t judge a book by its cover. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Then there is my mother’s favorite – What goes around comes around. So why do we use these clichés? Is it possible that we’re not clever enough or eloquent enough to share our thoughts in a more original way? Or perhaps we can’t be bothered. Oh no, that can’t be true. Alright, let’s be generous. We all have a lot on our minds. These platitudes are a quick and easy way to send our message.

Now just to be contrarian, I’m going to argue with one of these platitudes. Whoever said hindsight is twenty-twenty didn’t grow up skiing in New Hampshire. The line could be defined as oops-I-got-that-one-wrong or oops-I-guess-I-should-have-done-more-research. It’s what you might say when you discover the property you bought online is not beachfront but – uh oh, is that an alligator? – a swamp. When it comes to childhood memories and February ski vacations, hindsight is definitely not twenty-twenty. In fact, I suspect that hindsight is blind or, at the very least, wears rose-colored glasses.

I don’t know about you but all my childhood winter vacations were good. Once Mom and Dad built the little weekend and vacation house near Pleasant Lake, they were perfect. If anything, February was better than Christmas week. The start of the ski season could be a little iffy but by mid-February, snow was plentiful. The sun shone every day and there were never any lift lines. Okay, maybe that last one is wishful thinking … if not an outright lie.

Anyway, year in and year out, February vacation was nothing short of wonderful. One year, it was even stupendous. Thanks to a couple of well-placed nor’easters, the break expanded. Instead of a much too short one-week vacation, we enjoyed three glorious weeks in the snow.

The trouble (although I’d hardly call it that) began five or six days before winter vacation was due to start. Gentle but persistent snow began falling Saturday night and continued through Sunday. To play it safe, we stayed put in New Hampshire. By Monday morning, more than a foot of snow had fallen. All of New Hampshire’s roads were clear by noon. Across the border, snow and abandoned cars clogged the roads for days. We weren’t snowed in New Hampshire but snowed out of Massachusetts.

Throughout the Commonwealth, schools and businesses were closed. It took at least three, maybe four days to dig out. By the time traffic was flowing, February vacation was more or less upon us. (I think we might have played hooky on the Friday. Hey, there was no need to drive all that way for one measly day of school.)

The vacation week was delightfully snowy but uneventful. There were no major storms or upsets, just sunshine and plenty of skiing. Then as if by a miracle, it started to snow early Sunday afternoon and showed no signs of slowing down. Using the recent debacle on Massachusetts highways as justification, we stayed safe and warm in our little house in the New Hampshire woods … and then spent another week on the slopes.

There is nothing like a Sunday nor’easter to make a skier smile. Bon appétit!

Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon
A cozy après ski dish. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
8 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 large cauliflower, cut in bite-sized florets
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch (or to taste) chili flakes and/or smoked paprika
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
16 ounces Orecchiette
Grated pecorino Romano cheese
Fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a large, heavy skillet with olive oil and heat on medium. Add the bacon and sauté until brown and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve.

Put the cauliflower in a large roasting pan, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and 3/4 of the bacon fat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the cauliflower at 375 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the onion in the remaining bacon fat on medium until translucent. Add the garlic, sprinkle with the chili flakes and/or paprika and remaining thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the broth and wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and bacon to the skillet, toss to combine and set aside.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, less 1 minute. Saving 1 cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, add it to the vegetables and bacon and toss to combine.

If the pasta seems dry, add more or less pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer on low for 1 minute. (If you add too much water and the pasta is soupy, don’t worry. Uncover, raise the heat to high and simmer for 1 minute.)

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with pecorino Romano and chopped parsley. Pass more grated pecorino Romano for the cheese lovers.

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One Year Ago – Romaine & Radicchio Caesar Salad
Two Years Ago – Sausages with White Beans
Three Years Ago – Chocolate Panna Cotta
Four Years Ago – Turkey Scaloppini with Prosciutto & Sage
Five Years Ago – Cheese Fondue
Six Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Seven Years Ago – Tuscan White Bean Soup
Eight Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Risotto
Nine Years Ago – Swimming Pool Jello

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

What is your favorite winter Olympic event? Feel free to share!

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

Merry Christmas Vacation & Sticky Buns

King_RidgeHow could we have been so lucky? I don’t know how it happened (maybe it didn’t). When we were kids, we didn’t have to dream it, EVERY Christmas was white. By mid-December, the snow would start to fly. All rain and even the threat of a thaw were postponed until mid-to-late January.

Our winter wonderland made Santa’s job easy. From one year to the next, there was always some combination of Flexible Flyers, Flying Saucers, ice skates and skis under the tree. Oh and by the way, the Flying Saucers were not filled with little green men and did not whirl high overhead like a drone. They were aluminum disks that were perfect for flying down a hill at top speed. Flexible Flyers were made for hard packed, icy snow. Flying Saucers were made for the fluffy stuff.

Christmas vacations were filled with outdoor fun. There were plenty of little hills for sliding on Jackson Road. If we felt more ambitious, the country club was less than a mile away. Longfellow Pond was at the end of the street for skating.

Then, our already more than satisfactory Christmas vacations improved at least tenfold. Mom and Dad built a little brown house in the New Hampshire woods. After that, we spent all of our Christmas vacations whizzing up and down the slopes at King Ridge.

For the sake of our grandparents, we continued to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day in suburbia but we couldn’t get out of town fast enough. In the beginning, we headed north the day after Christmas. Then, we realized that most grandparents, including ours, don’t like to drive after dark. So, we’d have Christmas dinner at noon and they’d be out the door by two, maybe three o’clock. One year, I think they were barely out of the driveway before we were in our big blue station wagon and heading north.

King Ridge was a wonderful place for families. While it admittedly lacked vertical challenge, it made up for it with homey charm. Parents liked it because it was almost impossible to lose your kids. I’m sure a few kids managed to slip away for an hour or two but it took some doing. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into your mom or dad or one of your friends’ parents.

Kids liked King Ridge in spite of the ever-present village of adults. Ever-present, ever-vigilant and ever-ready to keep us from doing anything fun or stupid. Whether our actions were fun or stupid depended entirely on your perspective. If Mom and Dad were within eyeshot, we diplomatically agreed that jump was dangerous and bushwhacking through the woods was a bad idea. But as soon as they turned their backs, well, let’s just say that a kid’s gotta do what a kid’s gotta do.

Besides, you didn’t have to be a kid to do something silly. Take, just for-instance, the time our friends the McCauleys came up from Connecticut. Skip was a teenager and was delighted to have a few ski lessons. Dad was just as delighted to teach him. An athletic kid, Skip made amazing progress, deftly getting from top to bottom in one piece. As for Dad, he was not so deft.

Sometime, around mid-morning on the second or maybe third day of the McCauley’s visit, Skip passed Dad and joined us about three-quarters of the way down the hill. Showing off, Dad swooped down with plans for a dramatic stop and a magnificent rooster tail of light fluffy snow. Rather than dowse his friends and family, he pitched over … and broke his leg.

It looks like we’ll have a beautiful white Christmas this year. Have a safe holiday and bon appétit!

Sticky Buns
A special, old-fashioned treat for Christmas breakfast or any morning during the holiday week. Bakers will want to use their favorite white bread dough. If you’re not a baker, feel free to cheat with frozen dough. Either way, enjoy!
Makes 12-16 bunssticky_buns_02

3-5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup currants
About 1 pound of your favorite homemade white bread dough or frozen, store-bought dough, thawed
Creamy Icing (recipe follows)

Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch or 8×10-inch baking dish.

Put the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the nuts and currants and toss to combine.

If using homemade bread dough, follow your recipe through the first rise.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16×6-inch rectangle. Leaving a 1/2-inch border along one long side, generously butter the dough. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the dough.

Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, forming a 16-inch long log and pinch the seam to seal. Cut the log into 12 or 16 equal pieces. Spacing them evenly, arrange the buns, cut side down, in the baking dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for a slow rise, 8-12 hours or overnight. (If you’re in a hurry, let the buns rise in a warm area until puffed, about 45 minutes.)

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Bake uncovered until the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes and drizzle with Creamy Icing. Serve warm.

Creamy Icing
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
About 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 or more tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy; slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating until well combined. Add the sour cream, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add more sour cream until the icing is perfect for a nice, thick drizzle.

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One Year Ago – Cranberry Coffee Cake
Two Years Ago – Fish Stew Provençal
Three Years Ago – Twice-Baked Potatoes
Four Years Ago – Baked French ToastFive Years Ago – Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Six Years Ago – Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Eight Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

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

What about you? How will you spend the week between Christmas and New Year? Feel free to share!

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

Ten Things to Do this Summer & Crunchy Quinoa Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a wonderful summer and bon appétit!

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

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

Cook the quinoa according to package directions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ski Vacation Special

skiing_headwall_RaggedAre you on vacation this week? With yesterday’s rain, you may have a house full of frustrated skiers. Hopefully, they are just as happy hiking as skiing and you can go out and explore. However you spend the day, your friends and family will be hungry at the end of the day. If you are running out of ideas, here are a few hearty dishes that will help make your vacation fun and delicious!

Chili is a ski house favorite but I have something even better. Try my Sausages with White Beans. My brother calls this dish, “Nice trip down memory lane! A more gourmet spin on Mom’s Friday night hot dogs and baked beans with brown bread!” Unless you have vegetarians at your party. Then you might want to go with my Vegetarian Chili.

Or take an old fashioned beef stew up a notch with my Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions or Braised Short Ribs. Enjoy these delicious braises with a dollop of Smashed Potatoes. Then again, seafood lovers will go crazy for my
Caribbean Seafood Stew. Serve the stew with a spoonful of rice or my Israeli Couscous .

For a bit of a change, everyone will love my Moussaka. You can’t go wrong with a cozy pasta dish. Try my Poverty Casserole or Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon.

How about a salad to go with that cozy comfort food? Kids love my Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes and Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons. If you’ve got a taste for pungent, you can’t beat my Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnuts. Since kale is all the rage, you’ll want to try my Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad. My Greek Salad is a must have for Moussaka.

Now for a sweet. My mom always baked a batch of brownies for February vacation. My Black & White Brownies and/or Espresso Brownies are delicious. If you want to get a little fancy, try my Double Trouble Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes or Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart.

Have a great rest of week and bon appétit!

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

What are your favorite winter vacation recipes? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

February Vacation Weekend Special

skiing_w_best_friendIt’s the overlap weekend. This past week, New Hampshire’s slopes have been filled with Massachusetts skiers. They’ll be back to school on Monday but local kids will be off and  living it up on the slopes and on the rink. All that fun and exercise will lead to big appetites. It’s a great time for a cozy family dinner. Or invite a few of the neighbors and their kids over for a fun and festive families dinner.

Start the evening with a few kid-friendly treats. Put out a bowl of Rosemary Cashews. Add a bowl of fresh veggies with White Bean Humus or Baba Ganoush. Or put together a lovely Grilled or Roasted Antipasti platter.

For dinner, think comfy and cozy with delicious Coq au Vin with a spoonful of Smashed Potatoes.

And for a kid-friendly dessert, you can’t beat Peanut Butter Brownies or oh so chocolaty Triple Threat Brownies.

Have a delicious vacation and a great weekend. Bon appétit!

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

What about you? What are cooking this weekend? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

February Vacation! & Coq Au Vin

skiing_at_RaggedFor young skiers, nothing beats February vacation. As kids, some of our friends went to Florida for the sunshine or New York for the arts. The Nyes were more than happy to head to New Hampshire. By mid-February, the brutally cold winds of January had blown back to the North Pole. Even if the longest day was still months away, the sun waited until at least five to set. Every year the Nye kids looked forward to the break and a wonderful week in New Hampshire.

As soon as school got out on Friday afternoon, we headed home to grab duffels and cram bags of groceries into the station wagon. Dad was expected to leave the office early. If he wasn’t home by four, his phone would start to ring. Instead of potential customers looking for quotes, it was his children demanding he head home. Since he was as excited as we were, Dad didn’t argue. Dogs, turtles and kids piled into the car and we headed north.

With an entire week to explore every slope and hidden glade, the pace was a little more relaxed. Especially if Dad headed back to the office for a day or two! If Mom was in charge, it was okay to hit the slopes at the crack of ten, even ten-thirty. Without Dad, there was less pressure to get in our daily quota of twenty-five (or was it more?) runs. Mom didn’t mind if we left before the last chair dropped its final load of skiers on top of the mountain. Heck, when Mom was in charge, we could leave at lunchtime if a nor’easter was blowing. We just couldn’t tell Dad that we spent the afternoon putting jigsaw puzzles together or baking brownies.

In any case, sitting around the house didn’t last long. As soon as we got a second wind, it was back outside for sledding or deck jumping. There was a fairly steep hill across the street from our house and most of the trees had been cleared for sledding. In a very snowy year, the stumps and boulders were not a problem. What you can’t see; can’t hurt you. Can it? Although no limbs were lost or broken, at some point, someone’s parents, not mine, must have taken a second look at those rocks. That was that and we were banished from the hill. The trees and scrub soon grew back. Today, you’d never know that a death-defying run was hidden among the rocks and under the trees. To make up for the loss, we tried a little cross-country skiing. While fun, cross-country couldn’t quite match the dangerous thrill of careening through the dark on the sledding hill.

With a ten or fifteen foot drop, deck jumping also required a fair amount of snow. Mother Nature usually complied by mid-February. Every weekend throughout December and January, we shoveled the deck, slowly but surely adding to the pile below. That first jump provided a wonderful combination of sheer terror and utter exhilaration. As teenagers, my sister and I discovered that it was a great opportunity for sixteen year old boys to show off. It still is.

I hope that you are enjoying the thrills, spills and fun of winter. Or at least sitting back and enjoying fond memories of winter wonderland vacations.

Bon appétit!

Coq Au Vin
Warm and cozy, coq au vin is the perfect dinner after a day on the slopes. Add a salad and serve the stew with warm crusty bread or smashed potatoes. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6coq_au_vin_02

2-3 ounces bacon, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 chicken thighs or a combination of thighs and legs
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 bay leaf
16 ounces mushrooms
8 ounces frozen pearl onions
Garnish: fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and reserve.

While the bacon browns, season the flour with salt and pepper and lightly coat the chicken. Raise the heat to medium-high and brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side. Reserve.

Put the onion, celery and carrots in the pot, sprinkle with herbs, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from heat, add the cognac and mustard and stir to combine.

Return the pot to the heat and gradually stir in the wine and stock. Add back the bacon and chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer the casserole to the oven. Cook at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, heat a little olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden.

Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the chicken, return the casserole to the oven and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken and vegetables from the pot and arrange on a large serving platter. Cover and keep warm.

Return the pot to the stovetop and reduce the cooking liquid by about half over high heat. Ladle some sauce over the chicken and vegetables, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. Pass any extra sauce.

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One Year Ago – Crostini with Beef Tenderloin & Stilton
Two Years Ago – Flatbread with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Spinach
Three Years Ago – Lemon Cheesecake
Four Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Five Years Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

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

What are your favorite winter vacation memories – ski, food or otherwise? 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, 2014

Road Trip & Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce

Mom_Dad_StrasbourgThe snow birds are back. No, I’m not talking about the swallows and Capistrano or even the loons and Pleasant Lake. I’m talking about our esteemed senior citizens who spend the winter in Florida or Arizona. They are just now finding their way back to New England. Many are devoted golfers who head south for an endless summer on the links. Others have just decided that, after years of cold winters, enough is enough.

For many years my parents were part of the flock of snow birds that heads south every winter for golf and warm sunshine. More often than not, when they returned north, instead of sunshine, they brought the rain. I first noticed this phenomenon when they visited me in Europe. I lived in Switzerland for almost two decades and my parents flew over for a visit every three, maybe four years. They always came in May and their timing was always impeccable. Within twenty-four hours often less, the weather changed for the worse.

The good daughter, I played tour guide and translator and shared many of my favorite places with them. Under cloudy or rainy skies, we hit the road. Not just in Switzerland, we drove through France and Italy and rendezvoused in Austria and Sweden. Umbrellas in hand, we toured the countryside. We wandered through churches, chateaus, museums and farmers’ markets. Rarely in a hurry, we made frequent stops to enjoy the local cuisine and wine.

American tourists have a reputation in Europe, not all positive and not all negative. Many jaded Europeans find our energy, enthusiasm and brilliantly colored golf trousers amusing. They are mystified by our addiction to ice and preference for weak coffee.

Not wanting to appear the yokel, I adopted and adapted many local habits. I more or less gave up ice, started drinking very strong coffee and developed a fondness for black in the winter and beige in the summer. My goal was to develop an air of expatriate sophistication. Did I succeed? Who knows! If it all seems a little foolish; blame it on youth and culture shock.

The bossy daughter, I instructed my parents on packing for their European vacations. No madras, nothing with little embroidered lobsters or palm trees and no shocking, bright colors. They more of less ignored me. On a positive note, I never lost them in a crowd.

You may have heard the Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times. Traveling with Mom and Dad was often interesting and frequently entertaining. Dad is a friendly guy and chats with everyone and anyone; whether they speak English or not. Italians pride themselves on their excellent coffee which my parents promptly and proudly diluted with hot water. Whether it was for a coke or evening cocktails, they pestered waiters for ice again and again and again.

But despite bad weather, their very American habits and my silly attempt at Euro-chic, we always had a great time. Luckily a little wisdom was not beyond my reach and I soon figured out that my parents were just fine as is. By any measure, their preference for bright colors, weak coffee and lots of ice is not really very important. Plus I realized they were incorrigible and not about change. Not once or even twice but with every visit, Dad brought the same house gift – ice cube trays.

Rain or sun, in brilliant colors or beige, at home or abroad, I wish you good fun, good food and good conversation around the table this spring. Bon appétit!

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Bring the flavors of France to your table – pork tenderloin and wild mushrooms with pungent mustard from Dijon and fresh rosemary and thyme from Provence. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Olive oil
1 pound morels or Portobello mushrooms or a mix*, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 6 thick rounds
1 cup dry white winepork_tenderloin_medallions_01
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup half & half
2 tablespoons Cognac (optional)

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Remove the vegetables from the pan and reserve.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Add a little more olive oil to the skillet. Brown the pork until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the pork from the pan and reserve.

Add the wine to the pan and cook until reduced by about one-third. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cognac, half & half, mustard, rosemary and thyme. Return the pan to the heat, reduce to low and simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes.

Return the pork to the skillet, top with the mushrooms and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

* If you can’t find wild mushrooms (or like mine – your dad is allergic to wild mushrooms), white or brown button mushrooms will be fine.

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One Year Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Two Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Three Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Four Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak
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