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

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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

Saint Patrick’s Day & Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary

pint_of_guinnessThursday is Saint Patrick’s Day. From green beer and pub crawls to parades and toe-tapping music, it is a day to celebrate all things Irish. Or at least all the things that we think of as Irish. More than thirty-four million Americans claim ties to the Emerald Isle. That’s a whole lot more than you’ll find in Ireland these days where the population is about four and a half million.

The potato famine drove hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants to the US in the mid 1800’s. With these great numbers, the Irish both changed the country and were changed by it. Poor farmers in Ireland, they came to cities and towns, destitute with little or no education. They took whatever work they could find and became a considerable force in American life.

Conditions in nineteenth century factories and mines were abhorrent. Many Irish immigrants supported and became leaders in the labor movement. Born in Cork, immigrant Mary Harris, later known as Mother Jones, committed more than fifty years of her life to unionizing workers.

Able organizers, the Irish soon conquered politics. In 1893, John Hopkins became the first of nine Irish American mayors to rule Chicago. Jimmy Walker served in the State Assembly and Senate before becoming mayor of New York in 1926. Walker was part of the infamous Tammany Hall. With strong support from Irish immigrants, the powerful society controlled much of the city’s politics from the mid-nineteenth century to the early 1930’s.

Irish politicians didn’t end with Tammany Hall. Countless judges, representatives, senators and governors have ancestral roots in Ireland. James Byrnes from South Carolina enjoyed a political career that spanned more than forty years and all three branches of government. New Englanders know well the powerful impact the Kennedy family has had on American politics. Today, our Vice President, Secretary of State and even the President have roots in Ireland.

Journalists Nellie Bly and Jimmy Breslin followed politics and more. Nellie’s 1887 exposé of the horrible conditions at the Blackwell’s Island insane asylum gained her acclaim and sparked wide-scale reform. A self-described street reporter, Breslin covered crime in scrappy, colloquial style. He became part of the Son of Sam story when David Berkowitz wrote him a taunting letter stating, “I appreciate your interest in those recent and horrendous .44 killings. I also want to tell you that I read your column daily and find it quite informative.”

Along with journalism, Ireland has a rich literary tradition. Irish Americans F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Flannery O’Connor, Frank McCourt and Alice McDermott continued that tradition on this side of the Atlantic. Not just letters, talented Irish Americans have enriched our world in many ways. Famed trombonist and bandleader Tommy Dorsey filled the air with swing and jazz. The innovative work of painter Georgia O’Keefe continues to intrigue and beguile us.

Finally, or finally for now, let’s not forget the Hollywood heartthrobs. Tyrone Power, Gregory Peck and George Clooney are just a few to make grown women sigh. Plus, we don’t want to overlook the gorgeous Grace Kelly, multitalented Judy Garland, or George’s aunt, Rosemary Clooney.

The list goes on. So this Saint Patrick’s Day, raise a glass of fine whisky or a pint of Guinness to the Irish and Irish Americans who have unraveled the truth, governed and enriched our lives. The catalog of Irish toasts is long but I offer this one: May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and bon appétit!

Roasted Parsnips with Rosemary
Look for spring-harvested parsnips in your local farmers market. A winter underground produces a sweeter and somewhat spicier parsnip. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 3 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the parsnips on baking sheets in a single layer. Using a 2-to-1 ratio, drizzle with just enough olive oil and cider vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and toss again. Re-spread the vegetables in a single layer.

Roast uncovered at 375 degrees, stirring once or twice, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are browned and tender. Immediately sprinkle with the rosemary and toss to combine. Let sit for a minute or two, toss again and serve.

Can be made ahead. Cool to room temperature, cover and store in the refrigerator. Transfer to a baking dish and reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin
Two Years Ago – Zucchini Pancakes
Three Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Four Three Years Ago – Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
Five Years Ago – Grilled Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Six Years Ago – Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant
Seven Years Ago – Fettuccine with Classic Bolognese Sauce

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

Do you have any special plans for a Saint Patrick’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

Resolute or Not? & Whole Grain Pilaf

Can you believe it? It’s been almost a month since you vowed to exercise more, drink more water, drink less wine or coffee or both, call your mom every Sunday or eat more vegetables. Sound familiar. No? Maybe you wanted to start a journal, practice yoga, get out of debt or a myriad of other self-improvements.

Unfortunately, if you’re like most people with good intentions to improve, your resolve has already started to crumble. Let me guess, your running shoes have been sitting in the closet since the second or third week in January. The last time you called your mom was New Year’s weekend. Your journal has four entries and your eating habits, well, they’re more or less unchanged.

Is it time to feel like a failure? Absolutely NOT! Depending on what study you read, as few as eight percent of us actually keep our resolutions. If you’ve slipped, you aren’t alone. And, if that resolution is really important to you, you’ll get back on track.

A lot of people don’t bother make resolutions. Some, definitely not me, don’t need to. They are perfect. Or at least they think they are. I’d guess another group is tired of making the same-old, same-old promises that they can’t/won’t/don’t keep. They’ve given up. As for the rest? Since I’m often among them, I’d like to think that we have become more or less comfortable with our imperfections. Isn’t there some line about being perfectly imperfect. Or is it imperfectly perfect?

Why am I so haphazard when it comes to resolutions? It’s not that I don’t want to improve; I do. If pressed, I’ll even come up with an answer. Take this year. A deadline was looming and I felt the need to write something (anything) down. I did a little research and joined the popular table. I claimed I would enjoy life to the fullest in 2016. Hardly original, enjoying life was this year’s number one resolution.

I should have gone with sit-ups, push-ups and weight training three times a week but I wasn’t ready to commit; at least not in public. Instead I took on this big idea which means lots of different things to as many people. If I’m serious, and I’m not sure that I am, I’ve got some thinking to do.

For starters, what does living life to the fullest even mean; or at least what does it mean for me. Do I join a motorcycle gang, skydive or take an exotic trip? Should I gather up a bunch of lists of must-read books, tackle any I’ve missed and reread my favorites? Do I look inward and meditate twice a day or surround myself with vibrant, interesting people or both? Maybe it’s as simple as eat, drink and be merry. Nah, it must more than that.

My life is good now but, heck, it could be better. Coming clean, I confess my resolution was both expedient and glib. To make it more, to make it real, I’ll need some time to figure it out. That said, I’m not starting from scratch. There are a couple of things that I’ve determined already. First, full is not busy; I’ve got plenty of busy. Next and in the same vein, a huge bucket list is not the answer. At least not for me. Finally, one thing is more or less certain in my full life. With apologies to Harley fans, there is very little chance that motorcycles will be involved.

Here’s to a full life and bon appétit!

Whole Grain Pilaf
Rich in protein and fiber, whole grains and nuts make a hearty and healthy pilaf. If one of your resolutions was to eat healthy, try this delicious side dish. If not, try it anyway! It’s that good. Enjoy.
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
1/4 cup red quinoa
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley

Put the wheat berries in a jar, add 3/4 cup water, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Put the wheat berries, brown rice and wild rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water.

Put 4 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the wheat berries, brown rice and wild rice, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 30 minutes.

Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water. Add the quinoa to the wheat berries and rice and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

Strain the grains through a fine mesh sieve and drain well. Depending on how well you rinsed them to begin with, the grains could be sticky. If you like, rinse them under cold water and drain well. Reserve.

While the grains cook, lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Can be made ahead to this point, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate separately for up to a day. If prepping ahead, reheat the vegetables in a large skillet before continuing.

Add 1-2 tablespoons butter to the vegetables, melt and stir to combine.

Add the grains and hazelnuts to the skillet, toss to combine and sauté until piping hot. Transfer to a serving dish or individual plates, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

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

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you resolute or not? Feel free to share!

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