Back to a New Beginning & Spaghetti with Grilled Eggplant

Well, my goodness, how the heck did that happen? Today, yes today, is the first day of school in the district. Not to mention, the long Labor Day Weekend is coming up. By the way, there is something very wrong, very out of whack with that. School is supposed to start the day after Labor Day not the week before.

It’s been quite a while since I had to worry about finding the perfect back-to-school backpack or notebooks. That said, Labor Day does stir those not quite forgotten memories of a new start. The almanac claims that the new year comes on January 1 but that feels like just another winter day. However, the Tuesday after Labor Day – that’s something else. It’s not just another day on the calendar. It’s for jumping into new adventures. As a student and then a teacher, I spent more than a couple of decades doing just that. It still feels like a good time to start something new.

During the summer, schedules and routines seem to fall apart. One day, it’s too beautiful to stay inside and finish that project. Another is too hot to cook or write or think or do anything but float in the lake. My mother was always so sad on Labor Day. She loved our worry-free summers in New Hampshire. The first Monday in September always heralded the return to suburbia with its schedules and carpools.

If it’s not happened already, we’ll soon be back to our old routines or creating new ones. Long, lazy evenings on the beach will be cut short. Real shoes will replace flip-flops. Shorts will go into plastic bins and get stored in the attic. Book club and any number of other activities and responsibilities that were suspended over the summer will start up again.

Unfortunately, the whole idea, even the word routine sounds sooooo boring and, well, routine. However, there are some benefits. Creating routines that work for you, your priorities and your temperament will make you more efficient. With any luck, they’ll help you break a few bad habits and start a few good ones. Think of a new routine or return to an old one as a framework and a promise to yourself to accomplish a goal.

Now might be a good time to think about any changes you’d like to make. No, you don’t need to move across the country or start training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s okay to keep it simple. Maybe your new fall routine will include a walk every morning or cooking at home three times a week. Perhaps you’ll make room for a daily hour of quiet time to tackle that list of books you’ve been meaning to read. Or, you’ll finally take those Italian lessons, volunteer for a favorite cause or candidate or start tai chi. Whether it’s a skill you promise to learn or five pounds you want to lose, now is a good time to build a new routine to make it happen.

In the spirit of back-to-school, there will be rewards. Instead of a glowing report card, you will be rewarded in lots of small ways. Some will be intangible like the pleasure of getting lost in a wonderful book. Others will be easily discernible like the new found strength and stamina from regular exercise. While not always earth shattering, there’s something quite satisfying about taking on a challenge, large or small, and achieving success.

Carp diem and bon appétit!

Spaghetti and Grilled Eggplant
Farmstands and farmers markets are filled with wonderful local produce. Pasta tossed with fresh vegetables is a quick and easy dinner when the evenings start to cool. Enjoy!
Serves 8

  • 1 smallish red onion, cut in thin wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon or to taste your favorite hot sauce (optional)
  • 4 smallish eggplants, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2-1 cup roughly chopped or cut in julienne basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or a combination of both

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the onion and garlic in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Put the onion and garlic in a grill pan, place on the grill and, stirring from time to time, grill on high until tender crisp. Return the onions to the bowl, fish out the garlic cloves, add the hot sauce and toss to coat. Finely mince the garlic, add it back to the onion and toss again.

Meanwhile, brush the eggplant halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the eggplant on the grill, cut side down, for 3-5 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn the eggplant, reduce the heat to low or place on a cool spot on the grill and continue cooking until the eggplant is tender, an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove from the grill and cut into bite sized pieces. Add the eggplant to the onion and garlic and toss to combine.

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the pasta water, and return the spaghetti to the pan. Add the vegetables, pine nuts and basil, toss to combine, cover and cook on medium for about 1 minute. If the spaghetti seems dry, add a little pasta water.

Transfer the pasta to a deep serving platter or individual shallow bowls, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve with freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano or a combination of both.

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One Year Ago – Citrus & Spice Grilled Chicken
Two Years Ago – Cheesy Polenta with Fresh Corn
Three Years Ago – Fresh Corn with Sriracha Aioli
Four Years Ago – Romaine with Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado
Five Years Ago – Savory Parmesan Shortbread with Tomato Jam
Six Years Ago – Chocolate-Orange Tart
Seven Years Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Eight Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Nine Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Ten Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Eleven 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!

Are you planning any changes this fall? Feel free to share!

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

 

 

 

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Believe in Magic & Spicy Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Eggplant

There is a special magic to summer. It’s in the air – an indefinable sense that anything is possible. The feeling is strongest at dawn and again at dusk or maybe it just seems that way. I suppose it has something to do with the slight dampness that cools the air. Caught between day and night, the sky turns gold and pink. The atmosphere is almost otherworldly and filled with quiet optimism.

Not a believer? Well – look back and look around. It shouldn’t take much to change your mind. Summers past, present and future are filled with mystical, magical happenings. After all, what else but magic can explain …

The moment you suddenly realized that you weren’t going to sink like a stone. No matter how ugly it may have been, you were swimming.

How, after gazillion tries, you pulled your bat back, (finally kept your eye on the ball instead of your friend at first base) and hit it out the park.

A perfect afternoon building fanciful fairy houses with the children. The next morning, still in their jammies, the children discover evidence of sparkly visitors.

Your all-time favorite ice cream shop has your all-time favorite flavor.

After a thunderstorm roars through, a perfect rainbow forms over the lake.

After that same thunderstorm, the brook isn’t just babbling, it’s singing.

The most beautiful butterfly flutters through your garden.

Each morning, you wake not to an alarm but to the sound of birds signing.

Your very best friend in the whole world calls you out of the blue just when you need a good long chat.

After what seems like hundreds of tries, you drop that ski and do a perfect slalom around the lake.

A tiny child giggles with delight upon finding the most perfect strawberry in the pick-your-own field. And then promptly eats it!

Young players’ faces light up with pure joy and admiration when the women’s soccer team score the final, victorious goal at the World Cup.

Magic happens through acts of nature and acts of kindness. It can be the result of hours, even years, of hard work. A bit of good luck might have something to do with it as well. Sometimes I think that I believe in magic because there is no other choice. The alternative is too bleak, too distressing. Summer is a time to dream – to not only see the magic around us but to see the magic within ourselves.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Spicy Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Eggplant
Warm evenings send us outside for one last swim. Why not bring a picnic along? This delicious salad will make an excellent addition to your outdoor feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8

12-16 ounces pad thai rice noodles
Asian Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
About 2 1/2 pounds eggplant, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Peanut or canola oil
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped red or yellow bell pepper
3-4 scallions thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, toasted

Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain well. Transfer the noodles to a bowl, drizzle with enough Asian Vinaigrette to generously coat and toss.

Can be made ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated for several hours. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn and grill until tender, about 2 minutes more. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Add the eggplant, cucumber, pepper and scallions to the noodles and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette if necessary. Add the herbs and peanuts, toss again and serve.

Asian Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon or to taste Sriracha
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Put all of the ingredients in a glass jar and shake vigorously to combine. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to combine the flavors. Give the vinaigrette a good shake before using.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup
Two Years Ago – Grilled Zucchini & Feta Salad with Lemony Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Four Years Ago – Spicy Cucumber & Radish Salad
Five Years Ago – Watermelon Sorbet
Six Years Ago – Caramel Sundaes with Sweet & Salty Pecans
Seven Years Ago – Gazpacho
Eight Years Ago – Mousse au Citron
Nine Years Ago– Thai Salad
Ten Years Ago – Sweet Dream Bars
Eleven Years Ago – Lobster Salad

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

What are your favorite summer flavors and dishes? Feel free to share!

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

Come Together & Quinoa-Cheddar Cakes

What’s going on? We are plagued by division. Forget dog eat dog; we live in a world of dog people versus cat people. The simplest of nonissues spark controversy with #whiteandgold versus #blueandblack, Facebook versus Twitter and Superman versus Batman. Not to mention, the more significant debates of stay-at-home versus working moms, Coke versus Pepsi, skins versus shirts, this versus that and on and on. It’s exhausting.

Not only exhausting but (and I’m speculating here) it’s hardly worth it. White-gold-blue-black, it’s only a dress. As for the Facebook and Twitter question, well, think for a minute. Whether its 400 or 4,000 or 4,000,000, the vast majority of your contacts are not friends and they are definitely not your followers. Unless of course, you are some kind of cult leader. If that’s the case, I guess you do have followers. Whoa, that’s a bit scary.

Anyway, life is complicated. Issues can rarely be dumbed down to either or. Unless someone’s asking about dinner at a wedding reception, then it works. By the way, take the chicken. The beef is always well done as in overcooked and tough as shoe leather. Okay, lets get back to more complicated choices and debates.

The Man of Steel can fly which is incredibly special and pretty wonderful, especially if you live somewhere with a lot of traffic. On the other hand, Batman has lots of cool toys and is a millionaire. However, he is a brooding type of guy and never seems too happy. You could ask, why have a bunch of cool toys if they don’t make you happy? Wouldn’t it be better to fly around and leap tall buildings? Not to digress but have you ever noticed that invisibility is an exceedingly rare super power? More than complicated, that one is just creepy.

Anyway, I guess if pushed to choose, I’d lean towards Superman. However, in the grand scheme of things – the debate is not worth a big or even a small blowup. Surely, you wouldn’t risk a longtime friend or the close relationship with your sister, brother, uncle or whoever over Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne.

Cuddle your cat or sing with your parakeet. Enjoy that Pepsi, Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper. Play rugby with or without a shirt. Post your photos on Instagram and Tweet to your heart’s content. It’s okay by me. Except for mean Tweets, even if I don’t see them, it would make me sad to think you might be so inclined.

When it gets right down to it; we’re more alike than different. Most of us want the same things out of life. We want to be warm, safe and loved. We’d like to have enough food to keep us going and good health. We’d like to be happy. While we all have different definitions of luxury, I’m betting we’d all like to indulge in an extravagance now and then.

Not convinced? Here’s one undeniable truth that ties us together – we all put our socks on before our shoes. Spike heels, mukluks or sneakers; silky stocking or wooly socks, the order is undeniable. It links us through time and space. Unless you don’t wear socks or shoes or both. If that’s the case, you probably still put your pants on one leg at a time.

A toast to a lot less partisanship and a lot more kindness and understanding. Bon appétit!

Quinoa-Cheddar Cakes
Appetizer, side dish or main, these little cakes are delicious and have a nice crunch. Serve them with a dab of guacamole and salsa or sprinkle with cilantro and finely chopped red bell pepper. Enjoy!
Makes about 16 regular cakes

1 cup quinoa
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4-5 scallions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 large eggs
1-2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
Olive oil
Garnish: your favorite salsa and/or guacamole or cilantro and finely chopped red bell pepper

Cook the quinoa until tender according to package directions.

While the quinoa cooks, put the scallions, garlic, herbs and spices in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Add the hot quinoa to the scallions and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Put the eggs and pepper sauce in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs to the quinoa and stir to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Lightly coat a large, heavy skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Working in batches, add dollops of quinoa to the pan and flatten into pancakes. (A 1/4-1/3 cup ice cream scoop works well. A mini scoop is good for hors d’oeuvres.)

Fry the pancakes for 5-8 minutes per side or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Remove the cakes from the pan and drain on paper towels. Transfer the cakes to an ovenproof platter to keep warm in the oven and continue with the next batch.

Serve immediately with your favorite salsa, guacamole or a sprinkle of cilantro and finely chopped red bell pepper.

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

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

What are your thoughts? Can you suggest one action – large or small – to help bring us together? Feel free to share!

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

 

A Cooking Marathon & Roasted Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup

What a strange winter it has been? Well, strange so far, it ain’t over yet. Yes, we New Englanders like to joke about snowsuits at Halloween. However, what we don’t tell the rest of the world, the snow rarely piles up and it usually melts within a day, maybe two. This year the snow held off until November but it kept coming and coming and coming. Kept coming until December which was unusually warm and rainy instead of snowy.

Now, what will the rest of the winter bring us? Mercifully, January has not given us a whole lot of it’s typical frozen tundra-type temperatures. That said, it could be me but, so far at least, it feels like the month has brought way too many cloudy days. Sure, we’ve had some sun and a couple of real, plowable storms but, mostly, we’ve been plagued with gray skies and what I call nuisance snow.

Since I’m a skier, you might wonder how I could consider any snow a nuisance. Let me explain. Nuisance snow is that inch of fluffy white stuff. It comes with a miserable dampness that makes it feel colder than the actual temperature. Furthermore, that skim of snow is quickly beaten into the pavement and is as slick as ice. In other words, it’s both uncomfortable and an accident waiting to happen.

But when the going gets rough, the tough get cooking! And when it’s really rough, it’s time for a cooking marathon.

Take for instance the other day. I was headed to the supermarket for a gallon of milk. That’s all I really needed. It was snowing so it was slowing going up the hill. As I inched my way to town, a whole bunch of tasty would-be recipes began floating around head. By the time I pulled into the snowy parking lot, I had a list a mile long. In the less than ten minute drive, I developed a hankering for both eggplant and cauliflower. I was betwixt and between curry, an over-indulgent Greek casserole and New England style soup.

Lucky for me, eggplant was on sale and the cauliflower was a beautiful, creamy white. No need to choose, I bought them both plus some greens, a couple of onions and garlic. I remembered the cilantro for curry but forgot the ginger root. And oops, the cheddar for the cauliflower soup. It’s tough to keep track when you shop without a list. A second trip to the supermarket and I was ready to spend a few afternoons in the kitchen.

Here’s how these marathons usually work. First, I get two or three interesting dishes or ideas stuck in my head. Then, I buy too much food. Next, I mull over ingredients and spices and whether to roast, braise, sauté or simmer. More often than not, it’s usually a combination.

At some point, the mulling stops and chopping begins. For the next few days, usually a weekend, I’ll cook enough to feed an army of foodies. As I put things together, I scribble out the list of ingredients and make notes of temperatures and timings. That’s one of the challenges of sharing recipes. You have to write them down.

On the other hand, the best part is inviting guinea pigs over to sample the results. Of course, they generally have to put up with a mini photoshoot. I like to photograph new recipes. Plus, not every dish is a brilliant success. Hopefully, the wine and company make up for any flops.

Wishing you a delicious 2019, stay warm and bon appétit!

Roasted Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup
What could be better than soup on a cold winter evening. Roasting the vegetables gives this soup a rich, deep flavor. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1-2 red potatoes, about 8 ounces, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large onion, cut in eighths
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8-12 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
1 cup half and half (optional)
1 bay leaf
About 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
Garnish: fresh chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the vegetables in a large roasting pan, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and coat.

Stirring and tossing 2-3 times, roast at 375 for about 30 minutes. Add 4 cups of stock, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the vegetables with a little stock in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Put the cauliflower puree into a soup pot, add the remaining stock and bay leaf and place on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the half and half and cheddar and reheat to steaming.

If you have the time, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Reheat on medium low.

To serve: ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, garnish with chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Dandan Noodles
Two Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup
Three Years Ago – Tomato Soup
Four Years Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Five Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Seven Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Eight Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Ten Years Ago – My Favorite Chili

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

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

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

Build a Grain Bowl & Grain Bowls with Quinoa, Black Beans & Sweet Potato

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. If possible the chasm between the tribes of our divided nation seems wider and deeper than ever. So many of us are fraught with anger, disappointment, sadness or some combination of any and all. Long-buried, fright-filled memories have resurfaced for some. While others see threats, real and imagined, and meet them with vicious counter attacks.

Sure, from time to time, faint signs give us cause for optimism. We feel a glimmer of relief for a minute or a day, sometimes even two. Until those hopes are dashed and, once again, cooperation seems impossible. With a seemingly endless supply of acrimony, I can’t help but wonder – is it even possible to find peaceful compromise?

How about instead of arguing, we reach out and share something? Nothing political mind you, instead share something personal – a favorite song, a recipe or a hug. Or do something together. Go see a movie, have dinner afterwards and talk about it. Take a hike and enjoy the foliage. Sit and knit for an hour. Brew up a pot of tea while you’re at it.

If you’re like me, you’ll be tempted to cook together. Think of it as kitchen detente. Cooler weather builds up an appetite for comfort food. What could be more soothing to a strained relationship than the delicious smells of roasting vegetables or simmering soup.

I’d like to suggest you declare peace over a grain bowl. Packed with your favorite vegetables and grains, these bowls are deliciously healthy. There is no right or wrong (or left) and the combinations are endless. In addition, they are a very good for using up leftovers.

So, how do you build a grain bowl. That’s easy – start with a layer of grain, add vegetables, a little protein and a garnish or two. A little too vague. Okay, here’s more:

1. Pick a theme. Perhaps it’s a good night for Asian bowls, Tex-Mex or Mediterranean.

2. Pick a grain. The possibilities are endless. Fragrant basmati rice will be delicious with an Asian-inspired dinner. Quinoa is perfect for strong flavors from the Caribbean or Middle East. Try polenta for a Mediterranean feast.

3. Pick your toppings. This can be as easy as what leftovers are in the refrigerator or what’s on special at the supermarket. Grain bowls are a tasty alternative for meatless Mondays and are just as good with meat, fish and poultry. Either way, be sure to go heavy on the vegetables.

4. Finish with a flavorful garnish or two. This is your chance to add fresh herbs and a little crunch.

Gather friends in the kitchen, split the tasks and build the bowls. Before you know it, dinner will be ready. We’re not talking miracles here. A grain bowl won’t deliver world peace but it might patch up a frayed friendship.

Here’s to peace and kindness. Bon appétit!

Grain Bowls with Quinoa, Black Beans & Sweet Potato
With ingredients from South and Central America, these bowls are packed with flavor. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 1/2-2 pounds sweet potato, peeled and cut in bite-sized pieces
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Pureed chipotle in adobo*
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups quinoa
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 onion, finely chopped
1 yellow or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2-4 cups cooked black beans*, rinsed and drained
Crumbled queso or feta
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Fresh chopped cilantro
Lime wedges

Prepare the sweet potato: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put 1-2 tablespoons each olive oil and vinegar in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon or to taste chipotle puree and whisk to combine. Add the sweet potato, toss to coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Spread the sweet potato on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 375 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

Prepare the quinoa: Put the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse well with cold water. Put the quinoa, bay leaf and thyme in a saucepan, add 3 cups broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and, adding more broth if necessary, cook for about 20 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.

Prepare the black beans: Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, cumin and 1 teaspoon (or taste) chipotle puree, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the black beans and 1 cup broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the quinoa and sweet potato are ready.

Put it all together and serve: Spoon the quinoa into individual bowls, add a layer of beans, top with sweet potato, sprinkle with crumbled queso, pumpkin seeds and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

* About 12 ounces dried blacks cooked according to package directions or 2-3 (14-15 ounce) cans of black beans.

* Take a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and toss them, sauce and all, in a small food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a clean glass jar. Store the chipotle purée in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Mediterranean Meatballs with Couscous
Two Years Ago – Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Three Years Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Four Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Five Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Six Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Seven Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Eight Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Nine Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Ten Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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

With whom would you like to cook? My nieces – yes, that’s them in the photo with me and my dad – are my favorite sous chefs. Feel free to share!

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

Autumn – A Season of Renewal & Resolutions & Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes & Feta

This past Saturday marked the autumnal equinox. If you’ve forgotten what that means, well, day and night are each about twelve hours long. For the next few months, with each passing day, the sun will be a little slower to rise and quicker to set. Don’t let the end of summer get you all mopey. The fall is beyond beautiful in New Hampshire.

Most mornings, an enigmatic mist shrouds the lake. On their way south for the winter, geese squawk overhead. The highways and byways become increasingly colorful. Most days, you’ll want to grab a sweater before heading out the door but you can usually shed it by lunch. Speaking of lunch (as well as breakfast, dinner, coffee, cocktails and a snack), pumpkin spice is suddenly in everything from coffee to martinis as well as cheerios, muffins and barbecue sauce. I like pumpkin and I like spice but I think the world has gone a little nuts with this pumpkin spice business.

Anyway, it’s autumn in New England and my favorite time of year. With beautiful weather and foliage, you can’t help but feel good about life. Why not funnel that goodwill into taking another crack at some still unmet challenge? After all, bitterly cold January is hardly a good time to resolve anything. Spring might work but it’s not particularly timely in New England. Then, when it finally comes, it only lasts a few days.

But fall, fall is good. It could be years since you went back-to-school but you still know the joy of new shoes and a fresh start.

What will your fresh start look like? What will you do this fall to renew yourself? You don’t need a total reinvention. How about you work on three things? For instance – try something new that will bring you joy. Next, develop a new habit that will give you peace. Finally, do some good.

Find joy. Besides shoes, where will you find joy this fall? It could be as simple as finally painting the living room that new color. I’m a strong believer in the power of small things. I have made more than a couple big, audacious changes in my life. Most of them worked out very well. More often than not, these life changes were preceded by a considerably smaller step or two.

Discover peace. It could be yoga or meditation or weed wacking the garden – find what brings you peace. You’ll know it when you find it. As if by magic, your overactive brain will relax and you’ll gain new perspective. We are so proud of our ability to multitask that our senses are constantly in overdrive and under attack. Whether it is once a day or once a week, give yourself a break. For one hour, do something that puts your mind at rest and revitalizes you.

Do good. The world can be a harsh place. You can make it better by practicing small acts of kindness. Sure, a huge foundation to end illiteracy or world hunger would be wonderful but small is also good. Rake leaves for a neighbor, hold the door for a stranger and smile. Little things will make the day brighter. A few years ago, someone distributed at least a couple dozen mini pumpkins up and down my street. Perched on stone walls and fence posts, they cheerfully decorated the neighborhood. Those little pumpkins didn’t cure cancer but they made a lot of people smile.

Here’s to a joyful, peaceful and kinder fall. Bon appétit!

Pasta with Grilled Zucchini, Tomatoes & Feta
It’s much too early to put the grill away. Pasta with grilled vegetables and fresh herbs from the garden is a wonderful dish to help you transition into fall. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 red onion, cut in thin wedges
Olive oil
About 1 pound cherry tomatoes
4-6 zucchini (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 pound short pasta – try rigatoni, fusilli, cavatappi or fiorelli
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano

Put the garlic and vinegar in a bowl, season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the onion in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the onion in a grill basket and, stirring from time to time, grill until tender-crisp and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Remove the onion from the grill, add it to the garlic and toss to combine.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the tomatoes in a grill basket and, stirring from time to time, grill until lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the onion and garlic and toss to combine.

Brush the zucchini halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender. Remove the zucchinis from the grill, chop into bite-size pieces, add them to the other veggies and toss to combine.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions less one minute. Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the vegetables and 1/4-1/2 cup pasta water and toss to combine. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with feta and herbs, toss to combine and serve.

Serve as a main course or side dish with grilled chicken or fish.

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One Year Ago – Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Crema
Two Years Ago – Pork & Black Bean Stew with Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Four Years Ago – Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Lemon Rice Cakes with Spinach & Manchego
Seven Years Ago – Apple Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Ginger Scones
Nine Years Ago – Curried Eggplant Soup
Ten 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 fall fresh start resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

Hurricane Season & Grilled Ratatouille

It’s been all over the news. Hurricane season is up and running fast in the Atlantic. From the Caribbean over to Texas and up to Maine, we are all ears when it comes to storm warnings. Last week, Florence unleashed her fury on the southern Atlantic coast. One of the early forecast models suggested she might hug the coast and head north. Lucky for us, she decided to go inland. I’m sure Ohio is lovely this time of year.

Spared for now, let’s not forget that somewhere out there in the Atlantic, Helene (not Helen), Isaac and Joyce are swirling around. In spite of our northern location, New England is not immune to hurricanes. Although, they are admittedly few and far between. Most blow themselves out before they can reach us.

Not so the Great New England Hurricane of 1938; my dad still talks about that one. He even has a book about it somewhere. With 140 mile per hour wind gusts, it unleashed its wrath on every state in New England. Hundreds died, thousands were injured and damages were in the hundreds of millions. More recently, Irene wreaked havoc in New England, most particularly Vermont. Sandy did a number on New York and gave us a bit of rain and wind as well. Lucky for us, last year’s deadly trio of Harvey, Irma and Maria stayed to the south.

I admit as a small child, hurricanes seemed terribly exciting. In those days, we spent August on Cape Cod. While I can’t verify, I suspect that my sister Brenda and I labeled any downpour with the least bit of wind a hurricane. After all, rain is boring but a hurricane – that’s something to talk about.

One rainy August afternoon, Brenda and I were encamped on the porch with paper dolls and sticker books. It didn’t take long for boredom to set in. The air was hot and muggy so we talked Mom into letting go outside. It wasn’t that difficult a negotiation. Stuck in a ramshackle cottage with two bored little girls – of course, she said yes. I suppose she would have turned us down if we’d tried to go out in the Great New England Hurricane. However, we hadn’t been born yet. Heck, my parents hadn’t even met, let alone finished elementary school in 1938.

Anyway, Brenda and I gleefully threw on our swimsuits, ran outside and danced around. I believe loud and joyous singing was involved but I don’t remember the tune. I cannot speak for Brenda but I, for one, felt wonderfully adventurous. While the street was more or less empty, most of the porches were filled with bored vacationers.

They sat and watched two silly little girls giggle, dance and sing. I’m sure they were jealous. While they huddled with their paperbacks and puzzles, we were the only ones brave enough to defy the hurricane. It didn’t matter that, at most, it was the last vestiges of some minor tropical storm. It didn’t matter then and it still doesn’t. As far as I’m concerned, my sister and I splashed, danced and sang in the street during a hurricane. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here’s a toast to sunny days and clear nights. Bon appétit!

Grilled Ratatouille
A delicious end of summer dish. You can even make it if the power goes out. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1-2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cherry tomatoes
2 eggplants (about 2 pounds), sliced about 3/4-inch thick
3-4 zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the peppers and onion in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the vegetables in a grill basket and grill for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Remove the vegetables from the grill basket and return them to the bowl. Add the garlic to the warm vegetables and toss to combine.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Working in batches if necessary, put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the tomatoes to the peppers and onion.

Brush the eggplant and zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant and zucchini for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender.

Remove the vegetables from the grill. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, chop the veggies in bite-size pieces. Add them to the tomatoes, peppers and onion. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and toss to combine.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Can be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving

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One Year Ago – Cod, Corn & White Bean Soup
Two Years Ago – Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing
Three Years Ago – Applesauce Scones
Four Years Ago – Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts
Five Years Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Seven Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Eight Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Nine Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Ten Years Ago – Brie & Sundried Tomato Omelette

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

How do you keep fit? Feel free to share!

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