The Costumes We Keep & Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes

I love a good costume. Maybe that’s why I love Halloween so much. However, you don’t have to wait until Halloween to have fun with dress ups. If you keep your eyes open, there are costumes everywhere. Unfortunately you are most likely to see the under-six set wearing them. Think little girls in fluffy pink, tutus-like skirts and boys in Batman t-shirts.

When he was a little boy, my brother John dressed in costume almost every day. His favorite was Superman. Due to some miscommunication, both grandmothers gave him a Superman suit for his birthday. Not a problem, Johnny was just fine with that. If one was in the wash, he could still suit up.

Along with the man of steel, at least once a week he would appear at breakfast in full Daniel Boone or cowboy regalia. Sporting a coonskin cap or cowboy hat, fringed shirt and jeans, he would swagger into the kitchen. Although it was clearly never first or even second choice, when there were no other options, Batman graced our presence.

Then there was that dreadful day. I’m glad I’d already left for school and didn’t witness the trauma. Whether the story is nothing more than family legend or true, I’ll never know. Anyway, John showed up at his friend Richard’s house in jeans and t-shirt. Since she’d rarely, maybe never, seen him in civilian clothes, Richard’s mom asked him, “Where’s Superman today?” Without missing a beat, Johnny replied, “Both my Superman suits are in the wash. My mother told me I had to be Clark Kent today.”

When he started kindergarten or maybe it was nursery school, John gave up his costumes. There was no particular drama. After hundreds of wearings and washings, I’m guessing they fell apart. Maybe the dog ate his coonskin cap or he lost his cowboy hat at the playground. Then again, he might have simply outgrown them – physically or metaphorically or both. These things happen. While I hope not, it’s possible some school administrator put the kybosh on super heroes in the classroom. Although they later reneged, I can confirm that those very same administrators outlawed miniskirts at the high school.

Maybe we never actually give up costumes. Instead, we change the characters we play. Could it be that a hungry dog or bureaucrat does nothing more than nudge us into the inevitable next rendition of ourselves? Wonder Woman changes into bookish nerd or cool bohemian and then morphs again into corporate lawyer. Batman becomes an athlete and prom king, transforms into a Peace Corp volunteer and changes once more into an engineer.

Whether you’re a teenager in a ratty t-shirt or a Wall Street type in an Armani suit, your clothing sends a message. Admit it; you could just as easily don a pair of jeans as yoga pants, a button-down shirt as a mock turtleneck. Whether it’s true or not, yoga pants tell the world you are sporty and fit – or just so busy you don’t have time to change your clothes after class. The mock turtleneck? It’s your proclamation that you will indeed be the next Steve Jobs.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and my kitchen all but done, it’s time for me to put on my red apron. What does that say about me?

Happy cooking and bon appétit!

Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes
It’s not too early to start thinking about Thanksgiving. I’ve never been a fan of sweet potatoes with marshmallows. If you are of the same mind, add this savory dish to your Thanksgiving menu. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces plus more for the pan
About 3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and cut in small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Generously butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Prick each potato several times with a knife, place them on the baking sheet and in the oven. Reduce the heat and bake at 375 degrees until soft, 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, halve potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons butter, the cream cheese and sour cream, sprinkle with the cheeses and season with salt and pepper. Use a masher to smash the potatoes and combine the ingredients. Spread the sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish and dot with the remaining butter.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated. Bring the potatoes to room temperature before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees until piping hot, about 30 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Creamy Polenta with Mushroom & Kale Ragù
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Four Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Five Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Six Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Seven Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Eight Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Ninet Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

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

My current costume is the monochromatic look, black in cold weather and white/beige/khaki in warm. What about you? Feel free to share!

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

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Stuff Happens & Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Crema

It started about four years ago. I desperately wanted to re-do my kitchen and began saving my pennies. However, since a bathroom renovation had turned into what seemed like an endless saga, I needed reassurance. I needed a timeline. Bruce, my eternally optimistic contractor, provided me, the eternally optimistic client, with the magic number … three weeks.

In case you think these two optimists are crazy, Bruce had a plan and I bought into it 100 percent. Here’s how it worked. Week one Bruce tears everything apart. Week two, he puts it all back together. The cabinets are installed, the appliances arrive and the plumber, electrician and painter make their magic. On Friday of week two, the countertop guy draws up the template. Week three is busy with a long list of odds and ends until the grand finale on Friday. The countertops are installed.

For my part, I insisted that demolition would absolutely, positively not begin until everything was ready to go. Cabinets, flooring and appliances had to be stacked from floor to ceiling in every available nook or cranny. At bare minimum, materials had to be on a truck and headed my way. There would be no delay because the refrigerator was on back order.

As we neared the start date, there were a few hiccups. Throughout the process, a few more setbacks demanded solutions. In spite of our optimism and mostly careful planning, stuff happens and lessons are learned.

Sorry, those floors are no longer available. In fact, the company has gone out of business. Bruce got on the phone and online. His favorite supplier got on the phone and online. Nothing. I got online and then in the car. Nothing until I fell in love with plan B, a kitchen-friendly cork. That said; the lead-time was three weeks. Anyway, stay flexible.

Speaking of floors, that old linoleum is not coming up without a fight. There were actually two layers of linoleum. The first ripped out easily. The second was put down with super glue or some other miracle adhesive invented by a super-secret government agency. In the end, it was no match to Chuck’s resolve. Tenancy is good.

There is working time and waiting time. You see both during a renovation. As promised, it took less than a week to install the new floors and cabinets. The only problem, it didn’t happen until week three. Blame it on the new laundry/half bath and mudroom. Installation was delayed a week while these two, itty-bitty spaces were framed and drywall was installed, mudded and sanded. Be patient.

Wait a minute, that’s a joist exactly where the flange should go. When the plumber went to install the flange for the toilet in the new half bath, he discovered a floor joist in just the wrong spot. However, within minutes, a return/exchange order was in the works for a new toilet to fit the tight space. Yes, a big box store would have taken the return but I’m very glad I didn’t need to cram a toilet in the back of the Mini. Thank goodness, I bought local.

Now, the confession – in spite of my sunny disposition and optimism, I knew from the start that the kitchen would take more than three weeks. You remember my eighty-twenty rule: just when you think you are eighty percent done; you have eighty percent more to do. Well, I figured the first eighty percent would happen quickly, in about three weeks. I was hoping the second eighty percent wouldn’t take more than a week but realized another two, okay maybe three weeks, was more likely.

I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be cooking again this weekend. Bon appétit!

My temporary kitchen – microwave, hotplate and toaster oven on an old door in the garage.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Crema
With September winding to a close, it’s time for a favorite early fall treat. Fry up some of the green tomatoes that won’t have time to ripen on the vine. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large eggs
Vegetable oil
4-6 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Chipotle Crema (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting.

Put the cornmeal, flour, salt, cumin and pepper in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Put the eggs in a separate bowl and beat well.

Generously coat a heavy skillet with oil and heat over medium-high.

Dip the tomato slices in the egg and then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Working in batches, carefully, place the tomatoes in the skillet and fry until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan and place in a warm oven. Adding more oil to the pan if necessary, continue with the remaining tomato slices. Serve hot with a dollop of Chipotle Aioli.

Chipotle Crema
Makes about 1 cup

2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt to taste
About 1/2 cup or to taste sour cream

Put the mayonnaise, chipotle, garlic, mustard and lime zest and juice in bowl, season with cumin and salt and whisk to combine. Add the sour cream and whisk until smooth. Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors.

Cover and store leftover crema in the refrigerator.

* Toss a can of chipotle peppers along with the adobo in a small food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar, store in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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

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

Do you have any reno advice to add? Feel free to share!

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

A New Kitchen Adventure & Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn

My forty-something year old kitchen is about to be transformed. With any luck, this adventure will take about three, maybe four weeks. I am filled with excitement, enthusiasm, fear and dread. Fear and dread because of my last foray into renovation. It was a simple job – transform two dated bathrooms into timeless classics. However, there were a few ugly diversions. The sills were the biggest calamity. Not the windowsills, I’m talking about the part that joins the house to the foundation.

The sills had rotted. Renovations came to a grinding halt. To make the repair, the siding had to come off the bottom third of the house. Almost forty-years old, the vinyl siding was very brittle. Instead of coming off in neat lengths, it crumbled into a thousand pieces. Except for the few stray odds and ends in the attic, it was no longer available. So, you guessed it, all the siding had to be removed and replaced. Then, to avoid future rot, a new ventilation system was installed in the crawl space under the house. Heck, since you’re down there anyway, let’s add some foam insulation.

Oh well, the bathrooms are beautiful and I never liked that vinyl siding anyway. The house is now clad in cedar and stained a lovely gray-beige.

It took a few years to recover but now I’m ready to tackle the kitchen. To calm my nerves, I’m thinking good thoughts, taking deep breaths and putting my hand on my heart. I might like to sit and watch the sunset but I’m too busy emptying cupboards to take a break.

As you may know or at least guessed, I have a lot gadgets. I love kitchen gadgets. Some women buy jewelry or shoes; I buy gadgets (and shoes). Between paragraphs, I’m dashing up and down the stairs to the kitchen to empty cupboards. So far, I’ve covered my dining room table with dishes, casseroles and 9”x13” pans. The coffee table too. Next, I’ll be stashing pots and pans under the both tables. At some point soon, I’ll need to branch out and put a bunch of stuff out on the porch.

Oh, that’s right, I forgot to mention. The new cabinets are stacked almost wall to wall and floor to ceiling in the living room. So, that’s not an option. But why so many? I can’t figure it out; the kitchen is not all that big. They are still in giant cardboard cartons. The mystery will remain until the grand opening next week. Perhaps a few stowaways are sitting in my living room.

Anyway, it’s a little like having a corn maze, only made of cardboard. I’d invite your kids or grandkids to come over to play hide and seek but I’m afraid they might get lost in the jumble. Or worst, wedge themselves between two boxes and be stuck for hours.

My trick for keeping track of what’s done and what’s not is simple. As soon as I empty a cupboard, I remove the door. Gaping holes dot my kitchen. Yippee, progress is being made. There are just enough gaps to spur me on. Then I realize; I haven’t touched the pantry, laundry room or front hall closet. In one way or another, big and small, each of these areas is also getting a facelift.

Not surprising, I’ve discovered that the eighty-twenty rule applies to clearing out the kitchen. In case you’re thinking of another version of this rule, let me clarify. Just when you think that you are more or less eighty percent done, you realize you have at least eighty percent more to do.

Back to work … and bon appétit!

Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn
While this dish is great with a delicious ragout or stew, if you are without a kitchen -all you need is a hotplate and grill to whip up this tasty side dish. Try it with grilled shrimp or spicy sausages. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

3-4 ears corn
Olive oil
2 cups whole milk
2 cups or more chicken broth or water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup instant polenta
4-6 ounces grated or crumbled cheese* plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the grill to high.

Lightly oil 1 ear of corn. Place the corn on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook 2-3 minutes more. When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob and reserve.

Cut the kernels from the remaining ears of corn. You’ll need about 2 cups of raw kernels. Reserve.

Bring the milk, broth and salt to a simmer in heavy saucepan. Stirring constantly, slowly add the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the polenta starts to thicken, 2-3 minutes.

Add the raw corn, cheese, herbs and butter and continue to stir until the corn is tender and the cheese and butter have melted, 2-3 minutes more. If the polenta seems too thick, add some more broth.

To serve: spoon the polenta into shallow bowls and sprinkle with grilled corn kernels and grated or crumbled cheese.

* Choose your cheese based on what’s for dinner. A mix of mozzarella and Parmigianino-Reggiano will be delicious with anything Italian. Think of France and add goat cheese for polenta and braised chicken or short ribs. Cheddar or queso fresco works well with a Tex-Mex ragout or spicy grilled sausages.

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Two Years Ago – Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado
Three Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Four Years Ago – Chocolate-Orange Tart
Five Years Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Six Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Seven Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Eight Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Nine Years Ago – Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

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

Help! Do you have any renovation advice to share? Feel free to share!

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

How to Spend Memorial Day Weekend & Lemony Green Rice

It started as a day to honor Civil War soldiers. Memorial Day is now a day of remembrance for all of the men and women who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. There will be parades and memorial services throughout the state. Bearing flowers and flags, many will visit and spruce up the graves of loved ones.

Memorial Day Weekend is also the unofficial start of summer in places warmer than New Hampshire. After a few notable fits and starts, our summer generally waits until Flag Day or the Fourth of July to get going. However, that doesn’t keep the hordes of summer people from coming north for the weekend. They’ll battle the black flies, create long lines at the supermarket and sweep out their cottages. I know because for many years I was one of those flatlanders.

Local or seasonal, not everyone has an enthusiasm for sweeping so here are a few alternatives for the weekend:

Run a race. You can find road races and trail runs throughout the weekend. The 5K over in Wilmot is named for our least favorite spring visitors, the notoriously despicable black flies. If running is too much for your knees, don’t worry, most fun runs welcome walkers.

Climb a mountain. If you’d rather climb a mountain than run up a hill, New Hampshire is full of choices. Stay close to home and enjoy the view of Pleasant Lake from atop Mount Kearsarge or take on the challenge of any one of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers.

Go on an adventure. Explore something, anything, as long as it is a bit wild, weird or wacky. If you’ve never tried white water rafting – now is a good time to fix that. Then again, you might be thinking of a road trip. I suggest a pilgrimage to the world’s largest ball of twine or pistachio. Rafting is close at hand but you will have plan ahead for a big adventure. Four different twine balls claim to be the largest and they are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Missouri. Perhaps you’d like to see all four. The giant pistachio has no rivals and is in New Mexico. However, correct me if I’m wrong but New Mexico sounds like a perfect winter road trip!

Visit a museum. Keeping with the theme of wild, weird or wacky, I might suggest the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine. Cryptozoology is the study of hidden animals like Big Foot and mermaids. Once you see the Yeti hair samples and a replica of P.T. Barnum‘s FeeJee Mermaid, you can go get a lobster or head over to L.L. Beans. Alternatively, you might want to skip Maine and head to Massachusetts for the Museum of Bad Art. There are three locations to choose from and each fills its walls with “Art too bad to be ignored.”

Shop ‘til you drop at a sidewalk sale. Like most long weekends, there will be a ton of sales out there. In addition, New Hampshire has more than its fair share of outlet malls making it a shopping paradise. The what-to-buy-when experts are recommending mattresses, refrigerators and kayaks for the Memorial Day Weekend. Since I am in the market for a new refrigerator, I might have to succumb.

Decisions, decisions, decisions – drive thousands of miles to see a giant ball of twine, spend a day looking at refrigerators or …

Have a wonderful weekend and bon appétit!

Lemony Green Rice
Warm or at room temperature, a great side dish for a summery potluck – Lemony Green Rice goes well with grilled chicken, seafood and veggies. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 cups rice, preferably basmati
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated (1/2-3/4 cup each)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Put 5-6 cups of salted water in a large pot and bring to boil. Stir in the rice, cover, reduce the heat and let the rice cook at a low boil until just tender, about 15 minutes.

While the rice bubbles, lightly coat a skillet with olive oil, add 1 tablespoon butter and heat on medium. Add the white parts of the scallions, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Drain the rice, return it to the pot, add the scallions and garlic, lemon zest and juice and a little more butter if you like, stir to combine and cover. Let the rice sit off the heat for about 10 minutes.

Add the herbs and scallion greens and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad
Two Years Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Three Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Four Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Five Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Six Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
Seven Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Eight Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup
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 long holiday weekend? Feel free to share!

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

First Day of School & Dilly Beans

Susie_1st_day_schoolOver the past few weeks, the pages of Facebook and Instagram have been filled with first day of school pictures. It started with the big kids who were off to college. With anxious smiles, freshmen posed in front of their new dorms and bravely waved goodbye to mom, dad and the dog. Next, there came a flood of photographs with everyone else. This jumble included everything from sweet little kindergarteners to confident fifth graders, nervous middle schoolers and bored high school seniors.

Since I didn’t have an innocent, confident, anxious or bored student in my house, I didn’t take any pictures. Rather than mope or feel sorry for myself, I posted my first day of school photograph. At least I’m pretty sure that it was my first day of kindergarten. In the days before cameras-ready cell phones and easily posted digital images, most moms, mine included, didn’t document all of their children’s comings and goings. If for no other reason than they couldn’t find the camera. Or maybe they ran out of film. You remember film don’t you?

Anyway, I’m standing on our front step on Jackson Road looking adorable in a smocked dress and Buster Brown shoes. My smile is sweet and only a tad anxious. Brenda, my older sister, was already in the third grade. Since she seemed to be doing okay, I must have figured there wasn’t too much to worry about.

Nowadays, most schools teach kindergarteners a few reading fundamentals and a little arithmetic. Not my teacher, she focused on the basics. If nothing else, it reinforced much of what Mom and Dad were already trying to teach their two little girls.

So, in the spirit of Robert Fulghum and his legendary book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten here are ten things I learned in kindergarten:

Be nice.
Share.
Play fair.
Tell the truth.
Put things back where you found them.
If it’s not yours, don’t take it.
Don’t hit.
Wash your hands.
Look both ways.
Don’t wander off.

I’m doing pretty well with the majority of these lessons. Okay, I admit it; I’m terrible at putting my things away. And while I generally look both ways when crossing the street, I’ve made several metaphorical leaps without really looking. But no, I don’t regret them. Otherwise, I’d be in an office somewhere right now. Instead, I’m delight to be writing at my messy desk in my messy upstairs hall.

As for wandering off, all I can do is shrug and admit to being guilty. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on a lot of fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful times. Just think; I never would have wandered over to Switzerland. I can’t imagine my life without that fun, frustrating, interesting, challenging and wonderful chapter.

Here’s to the first day of whatever is next for you and bon appétit!

Dilly Beans
A little spicy and a little tart, these beans are a great addition to a late summer cookout … or anytime. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 quarts

About 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 red onion, cut in half length-wise and then in thin wedges
1 clove garlic for each mason jar, smashed and peeled
1-2 bunches dill
1 bay leaf for each mason jar
2 sprigs thyme for each mason jar
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Standing them up, pack the beans into pint or quart mason jars, adding the onion, garlic and herbs as you go.

Put the salt, sugar, mustard seeds, dill seeds and peppercorns in saucepan. Add the vinegar and water and, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Ladle the pickling liquid and spices into the jars and cool to room temperature. Cover the jars tightly and refrigerate for one week before serving.

The beans can keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.

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One Year Ago – All Grown Up Grilled Cheese
One Year Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Two Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Three Years Ago – Curried Green Bean Pickles
Four Years Ago – Grilled Ratatouille Stacks
Five Years Ago – Apple Crisp
Six Years Ago – Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Seven Years Ago – Brie & Sun-dried Tomato Omelet

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

What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share.

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

Labor Day Weekend & Fresh Corn with Sriracha Aioli

Fall_Early_Morning_Pleasant_Lake_03If you live here, the dawning of September is nothing to fear. Labor Day will come and go but the suns will still shine and Pleasant Lake will stay put. The Summer People are not so lucky. If they haven’t already, they will soon be fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic on the drive south to cities and suburbia.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was one of those Summer People. Late on Labor Day afternoon, kids, dogs and turtles crammed into the station wagon with a small mountain of duffle bags. Reluctantly, we headed back to suburbia. I think my mother hated the end of summer migration even more than we three kids did. If it weren’t for Dad’s business, she would have moved to New Hampshire in a heartbeat. Instead, she bravely made sure that everything was packed, closed down the house and herded us into the car. Heaving a dramatic sigh, she proclaimed to any and all, “I am bereft,” and backed out the driveway.

So what’s in store for the Summer People this Labor Day Weekend?

If there is no justice, and there isn’t, they will be busy washing one last load of sheet and towels, storing beach toys and stowing paddleboards and kayaks under the deck. Business at the supermarket and farm stand will be brisk. Townies and Summer People alike will be stocking up for holiday cookouts. Activity at the boat launch will be nonstop. Fancy speedboats, fine looking sailboats and humble dinghies will be strapped onto trailers and hoisted out of the water. Rafts and docks will be dragged onto beaches.

However, Labor Day Weekend is not just about cleaning up and buttoning down. It is also the weekend for a last hurrah. It could be one last sail or one last waterski before hauling the boat out of the water. Maybe it’s a final hike (or finally a hike) up Kearsarge, a run around the lake or a bike ride to nowhere and back.

All of it, both the chores and the fun, is topped off with a festive cookout or two. That’s the thing about Labor Day Weekend. It’s both bitter and sweet. While there are tons of end-of-summer tasks to do, Summer People always do their best to balance the drudgery with fun and games.

However, if live here like me, you can focus on fun all weekend. There will be plenty of time to wash, fluff and fold that last load of beach towels. It will eventually turn cold or rainy or both. It always does. But, if we’re lucky, we can count on at least a month of warmish weather and sunshine.

September is a lovely in-between month; not really summer and not quite fall. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts above average temperatures and below average rainfall this year. While we’d like this drought to end, it is good news for outdoor activities. Only the bravest will continue their early morning swim. The rest of us are content to row or kayak, hike or bike and enjoy the golden sunshine. While it may be a bit chilly for dinner al fresco, we can still enjoy a lunchtime picnic or an evening cocktail on the deck.

Here’s to the magic of September and bon appétit!

Corn with Sriracha Aioli
Corn_w_Sriracha_Aioli_01When it comes to corn, I’ve always been a purist – butter and a little salt. Then I tried it with spicy aioli. Now, I’m hooked. Whether the corn is steamed or grilled, it is a delicious combination. Enjoy!

1 ear corn per person
Sriracha Aioli
Sea salt (optional)

To steam the corn: fill a large pot with a few inches of water, add a steam basket and the corn, cover and bring the water to a boil. Steam the corn for 4-6 minutes or until tender crisp.

To grill the corn: preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Lightly coat the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the corn on the grill and cook on high heat for about 3 minutes per side.

To serve: invite everyone to grab an ear and pass the Sriracha Aioli and sea salt.

Sriracha Aioli
Not just for corn, this aioli is wonderful on a burger. It makes a delicious dip for French fries, fresh veggies or shrimp.
Makes about 2 cups

2-3 cloves garlic, choppedCorn_w_Sriracha_Aioli_08
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot chili sauce
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt to taste
1 cup or to taste mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped mint

Put the garlic, olive oil, ketchup, lime juice and sriracha in a small food processor, season with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and process until well combined and smooth.

Add the mayonnaise and process until well combined. Add the lime zest and herbs and pulse a few times to combine. Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado
Two Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Orange Tart
Four Years Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Six Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Eight Years Ago – Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

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

What do you love about late summer? Feel free to share.

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

How to Be a Great Cook without Really Trying & Grilled Potato Salad

beach chairs on pleasant lake_ACGotcha! You thought I’d be giving you a bunch of hacks to whip up a chef-worthy meal in thirty minutes. Nope, I’m just reeling you in with a bait and switch. Truth is, like most skills, cooking takes at least a modicum of time and effort. Yes, you can buy a rotisserie chicken in the supermarket or sauce in a jar and whip either or both into any number of concoctions. However, they will still taste like supermarket chicken and jar sauce.

That said, summer is coming and the beach is calling. Most people, including me, are looking for shortcuts to get them in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. Our northern New England summers are short, we don’t want to waste a minute of it indoors. Complicated cooking is fine when it’s cold and dark at three o’clock in the afternoon but not when temperatures soar and the days are long.

So, how can you enjoy a delicious summer with only sort of trying?

Whether you’re getting together for a special celebration or just another Saturday night, your quick and easy dinner demands a grill. Buy a great steak or piece of fish, drizzle it with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and throw it on the grill. And for those more casual occasions? Heck, everybody looks forward to a good hot dog or hamburger now and then.

But that’s just the start to a terrific summer meal. One or two fabulous side dishes can make all the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. Yes, you heard me; sides can make all the difference. Sure, it’s tempting to stop by the deli counter and pick up a pound of potato salad. Only trouble is – knows when and where that potato salad was made. It’s not so much a safety issue. The store is bound to have plenty of safeguards in place. No, it’s a matter of taste. I bet that your homemade spuds are tastier by a factor of ten. No, wait; make that one hundred or a thousand!

Same goes for pasta salads, coleslaw and anything else you want to throw in a bowl. Fresh ingredients tossed with your delicious vinaigrettes or drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a little vinegar are bound to taste better. An added plus, hearty potato and pasta salads and slaws can be thrown together in the morning, leaving you the rest of the day to play.

Anything last minute must be quick as well as delicious. To accomplish both, use great ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Slice heirloom tomatoes and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar for a superb last minute dish. Want something green? Arugula tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of parmesan is wonderfully easy. If you want to get a little fancy, grill asparagus and scallions and serve them warm on a bed of greens.

Now, what about dessert? You can follow my mother’s lead and bake brownies first thing in the morning. Or, just as delicious and better for you, pile perfectly ripe fruit in a bowl and let everyone help themselves. For particularly hot nights, there is nothing like ice cream. Make sure you have a jar of your favorite chocolate sauce on hand.

Have a simply delicious summer. Bon appétit!

Grilled Potato Salad
Make this potato salad in the morning and it will have plenty of time to mix and meld in the refrigerator while you play in the sunshine. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-3 cloves garlic
1-inch chunk red onion, chopped
1/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
About 2 pounds medium potatoes, red or Yukon gold, halved
Olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers

Make the vinaigrette: put the mustard, garlic and onion in a small food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop. Add the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, add extra virgin olive oil to taste and process until smooth.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium high. Brush or toss the potatoes with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper.

Put the potatoes cut side down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes have nice grill marks. Turn the potatoes and, either turn down the grill to low or transfer the spuds to a cooler part of the grill. Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Transfer the potatoes to a cutting board and cut into 1-2 bite pieces. Workingrilled_potato_salad_01g quickly, put the still-warm potatoes in a bowl, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, drizzle with vinaigrette to lightly coat and gently toss. Tossing from time to time, cool to room temperature.

When the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, sprinkle with scallions and capers, add more vinaigrette if necessary and toss again.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Cover and store any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator as well.

Serve the potato salad at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Three Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Four Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Five Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Six Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

What’s your best advice for the class of 2016? Feel free to share.

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