End of School Days & Grilled Zucchini Tacos

As we roll into June, the end is in sight. Ah, I remember it well, those last few weeks of hell. Literally and figuratively, that last month of school is a tough one. If you need any proof, check out the local preschools. Most of them closed at the end of last week. They get it.

With each passing day, temperatures steadily climb and those lumbering brick buildings heat up. The windows may be open wide but, by mid-June, the air is nothing short of oppressive. Some teachers close the blinds; then it’s both hot and stuffy. Toss in some of our famous northeast humidity and the entire school feels a gym locker room. By Friday, it smells like a locker room as well. However, since we live in the northern New England, no one but no one would or should even think about investing in air conditioning. As a taxpayer, I stand firmly behind this long omission. Let the kids sweat. We did.

As bad as those hot, dank classrooms and hallways are, the end of the year cram might be even worse. Who doesn’t remember the day your European history teacher suddenly realized there were only three weeks to the final bell? There you were, smack in the middle of the complexities of the Napoleonic Wars. With lightning speed, the class raced through colonialism, Darwinism, the Russian Revolution, World Wars I and II and the rest of the twentieth century. Dashing from one topic to the next, the teacher affirmed time and time again, yes, you will be tested on this stuff.

While the rush was particularly noticeable in history, it was not limited to delving into the past. Up and down the hallways, our teachers were determined to plow through the remaining curriculum. A final whoosh of angles, differentials and integrals as well as molecules, compounds and diffusion sped into one ear and out the other. One last volume of Shakespeare or Hemingway had to be finished and another group of verbs conjugated.

If anything, afterschool was worse. As teenagers, all we wanted to do was ride around in a convertible with Alice Cooper blasting – school’s out. Up to no good or some harmless fun, we wanted to be anywhere but home on those warm, early summer evenings. A double dose of homework was nowhere on the wish list.

I found it particularly frustrating that my family spent these early summer evenings lolling around outside. Mom and Dad sat on the front stoop while my little brother played with the dog. Neighbors strolled by and stopped to chat. It seemed like everyone was relaxing and having fun but me. While they played, I was in my room, sweating through past participles and suffering through Mendel’s peas. Adding insult to injury, my bedroom was in the front of the house. I could hear everyone having fun while I poured over my books.

Anyway, here’s what I got and it ain’t much. To all the kids still lining up for the bus every morning, be brave. The end is almost in sight. Before you know it, it will be summer and you’ll be complaining about how bored you are.

Stay cool and bon appétit!

Grilled Zucchini Tacos
Zucchini will make a great addition to your next mix and match taco party. Can’t wait? They’ll be perfect by themselves on any Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pints cherry tomatoes – in a mix of colors if available
1-2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut in 1/4-inch strips
1 large red onion, cut in half and then in thin wedges
Olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5-6 medium zucchinis, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal 1/4-1/2 inch thick
8 medium or 16 small flour or corn tortillas
Spicy Cilantro-Mint Salsa (recipe follows)
About 4 ounces queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat the grill to high.

Put the tomatoes, peppers and onion in bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and transfer to a grill basket. Grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until just tender, 2-3 minutes per side.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and, turning once, warm on the grill for 2-3 minutes.

To serve: place a tortilla on each plate, top with slices of grilled zucchini and a spoonful or two of grilled tomatoes, drizzle with Spicy Cilantro-Mint Salsa and sprinkle with queso fresco.

Spicy Cilantro-Mint Salsa
Makes about 1 cup

2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3-4 cloves garlic
2-3 scallions, cut in inch long pieces
1/2-1 or to taste jalapeno, trimmed, halved and seeded
About 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
About 1 cup fresh mint leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil

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

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

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One Year Ago – Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint
Two Years Ago – Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Three Years Ago – Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Four Years Ago – Asparagus & Radish Salad
Five Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Six Years Ago – Asian Noodle Salad
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart
Eight Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

How do you beat the heat in the early days of summer? Feel free to share!

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

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In Defense of the Closed Kitchen & Fettucine with Mushrooms & Kale

I probably should have written this one last summer. That’s when the walls in my 1970’s closed kitchen did NOT come down. Anyone who watches HGTV (and who doesn’t?) knows that an open floor plan and open kitchen are all the rage. Combining the kitchen, living and dining rooms into one large space brings families together. Starting with the post-war housing boom, open concept design picked up momentum and continues to grow.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been plenty of holdouts. My house near Pleasant Lake is one of them. Built in 1973, it’s was a lot like my mother’s closed kitchen on Trinity Court. Although wider than most, both are essentially galley kitchens with a small eating area. Well, mine was and still is. Mom’s kitchen, along with the rest of house, has been torn down and replaced with a McMansion.

With the old cabinets heading to the dumpster and the walls about to go down to the studs, I received plenty of advice. Much of it entailed taking down the wall between the kitchen and the dining and living room. It was time to break down the barriers and enjoy the free flow of open concept living.

I don’t think so.

I listened and smiled politely. This long and relatively narrow space, takes up about half the front of the house. It was enough of a bowling alley already. I felt no needed to extend it. Besides, call me old-fashioned, a nineteenth century holdout but I like a closed kitchen.

I discovered this personal peculiarity years ago when I rented an apartment on a rose farm. Yes, I lived on a rosary. Anyway, my apartment was a three-story corner of an old barn. It had a wonderful farmhouse kitchen. Okay, it was a little dark but the work area was roomy and there was plenty of space for a large table. Signing the lease, I imagined it would be the perfect backdrop for Thanksgiving dinner.

It was fine for small dinner parties but Thanksgiving – no thanks. Any big, complicated meal generates a lot of mess. From my seat at the table, I could see dirty dishes piled high in the sink. A clutter of pots and pans plus the turkey carcass adorned the kitchen counter. Maybe no one else noticed but I did. How could I relax and enjoy my guests with pandemonium reigning in the background? Once was enough, that was my first and only open kitchen.

Post renovation, my shiny new, red kitchen breaks down into four sections. From either side, you enter through a hallway. At one end, a pantry and a powder/laundry room flank the hall. At the other end, there is another pantry (you can’t have too much storage) and a small mudroom. As long as we all like each other, the work area is big enough to accommodate two sous-chefs and me. Since everyone likes to be in the kitchen, I have a small eating area. A handful of friends can watch the cooks while they sip, nibble and enjoy lively conversation.

However, when everything is going wrong or dinner is taking longer than planned, it’s really nice to know I can steer everyone (except maybe the sous-chefs) into the living room. Like Julia, there are times when I need the comfort of knowing, “You’re alone in the kitchen.” Even better is enjoying dinner without a pile of dirty dishes in the background.

Open or closed, I wish you happy cooking in your kitchen and bon appétit!

Fettucine with Mushrooms & Kale
I’ve been going a little nuts with pasta this winter. As long as you have the space, you can make this quick and easy dish with a handful of people looking on and chatting. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
12-16 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch (or to taste) chili flakes and/or smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 onion, cut in thin wedges
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, trimmed and cut in bitesize pieces
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
16-20 ounces fettucine
1 pound baby kale
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for serving

Put a large pot of salted water on to a boil. Cook the fettucine according to package directions less 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Add the bacon and stirring occasionally, cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the onion, sprinkle with thyme, chili flakes and smoked paprika, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.

Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

Add the chicken broth and wine and cook until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and cognac.

Reserving a little of the pasta water, drain the fettucine. Return the fettucine to the pot, add the mushroom mixture and kale and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add some pasta water. Cover and cook on low for 1-2 minute. Sprinkle with about 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss to combine. Cover and cook 1 more minute.

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve. Pass more grated parm for the cheese lovers.

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

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

Open or closed? What is your idea of the perfect kitchen? Feel free to share!

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

Fourteen Hundred & Ninety-two & Pasta with Pesto, Roasted Grape Tomatoes & Corn

As kids, we learned all about Christopher Columbus and his perilous voyage in 1492. Queen Isabella, along with the Niña, the Pinta and Santa María are entrenched in our psyches. Looking back, I might be tempted to think there was a little hanky-panky going on. The benevolent Izzy got a lot of coverage but there was next to no mention of King Ferdinand. That said; there was no mention of hanky-panky either. Then again, you can only share so much with second graders.

Anyway, throughout elementary school we cut galleons out of construction paper and studied maps of Columbus’ journey. As interesting as galleons and maps are, the best part was the day off from school. Why, we’d barely been back six weeks and already a mini vacation. A parade wound its way down Washington Street. My sister and her Girl Scout troupe marched in it one year. I must admit, I preferred jumping in a giant pile of leaves to standing in the cold watching Brenda and her friends parade by.

Come to think of it, it was also a good day to eat birthday cake.You see, my sister was born on Columbus Day. No, not the second Monday of October, that’s the let’s-have-a-long-weekend holiday and not the real thing. Brenda’s birthday was on the actual day Chris discovered America. Well, the actual day plus more than a few hundred years. Of course, CC thought he was in Asia. Columbus had the brilliant idea that the quickest route from Europe to Asia was a short sail west across the Atlantic. He didn’t figure on a bunch of islands, a couple of continents and another ocean standing between him and Japan.

Anyway, when I was in kindergarten, maybe first grade, Brenda tried to convince me that the holiday commemorated her birthday. I knew it wasn’t true but that didn’t stop me from having a double twinge of doubt and jealousy. I’ll also admit to feeling more than my fair share of vindication when the parade and the rest of the hoopla was moved to the second Monday of October.

All these years later and living in New Hampshire, the Columbus Day weekend is a reminder that cold weather is coming soon. Forget parades, it’s time to get my act together. Along with a quest for perfect pumpkin, I’d better take a stab at all those summer-is-over chores. (Is it okay if I just kind of start to think about taking a stab at them?)

Unless you are a weed-whacking aficionado, it’s not a fun list. There is a certain sadness to putting the kayak away, especially when I barely had a chance to use it. Perhaps if I wait another week or two, I’ll find the time for one last paddle. The same goes for the Adirondack chairs. Is it possible that a few hours will suddenly free up? It would be nice to sit in the sun with a good book. Thankfully I have (or hope I have) a few more weeks before the snow tires must go on the Mini.

Truth be told, I’d rather take a long walk and check out the foliage than clean out the garage. True or not, I’ve been assured that the brilliant reds and golds are just a few short days away. People come from miles to see our foliage. Shouldn’t we take some time to revel in the glorious color?

Speaking of color, my red kitchen is getting closer and closer to completion. The big stuff is done – floors, cabinets, countertops and appliances. All that’s left is a list of gnarly little odds and ends. Well, except for a second coat of paint for the walls and trim, that one’s neither odd nor little.

Anyone know a good painter? Bon appétit!

Pasta with Pesto, Roasted Grape Tomatoes & Corn
This dish combines pasta and pesto from Columbus’ native Genoa with tomatoes and corn from the new world. If you like, add a few roasted shrimp. After all, Genoa is a seaport. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Pinch or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
16 ounces gemelli, cellentari or your favorite short twisted pasta
About 1 cup (1-2 ears) fresh corn kernels
Pesto alla Genovese
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Coat a large skillet with equal parts olive oil and vinegar, add the tomatoes, season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Roast in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Add the onion, toss to combine and continue roasting for another 10 minutes. Add the garlic, toss and roast for a final 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and begin to brown.

While the tomatoes roasting, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

Reserving a little pasta water, drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the tomatoes, corn and about 1/4 cup pasta water and toss to combine. If the pasta seems dry, add a little more pasta water. Cover and simmer on low for 1 minute.

Add a dollop or two of Pesto alla Genovese to the pasta and toss to combine. Transfer the pasta to a deep platter or individual shallow bowls. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Pesto alla Genovese
Makes about 1 cup

4 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup plus more to cover extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Put half of the basil, the pine nuts, garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse to chop and combine. Add the remaining basil and 1/3 cup olive oil and process until smooth. Add the cheeses and pulse to combine.

Transfer to a small bowl or jar, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to combine the flavors.

Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of leftover pesto, cover and store in the refrigerator.

You might like to make a big batch and store in small containers in the freezer. Making pesto is a lot more fun than weed-whacking.

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One Year Ago – Cardamom Plum Tort
Two Years Ago – Easy Microwave Popcorn
Three Years Ago – Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
Four Years Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Five Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Six Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Eight Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Nine Years Ago – Mulled Cider

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

How will you celebrate the long weekend? Feel free to share!

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

What We Like about Hospital Days & Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus

Hospital_Days_Fair_Rides_04My mother always said it was better than the 4th of July and second only to Christmas. What could it be? Certainly not Presidents’ Day, although it did offer up a long, ski weekend. In spite of the lovely foliage, it wasn’t Columbus Day. And no, it wasn’t Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween or even Thanksgiving. It was Hospital Day!

By some odd coincidence or maybe it was fate, Hospital Day fell in the first week of our first summer vacation on Pleasant Lake. Between the lake, the view of Mount Kearsarge and Hospital Day, my mother thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

While the lake is still crystal clear, the mountain is as majestic as ever, Hospital Day has seen many changes. For instance, Hospital Day was just that one day and it was always on a Tuesday. Now it starts on Thursday and goes clear through Sunday with a triathlon. For our first Hospital Day, there was no midway or triathlon or battle of the bands. However, there was a bride doll raffle, a white elephant table and an auction.

So, while my mom may sorely miss the white elephant table, there is a lot to like about these always new, always changing and improving Hospital Days.

First and foremost, most mothers (and mine would agree) like Hospital Days because that they don’t have to cook. After all, it is summer and vacation time. You can start your day at the Pancake Breakfast, enjoy hot dogs and burgers with the Rotary Club at lunch and supper with the Lions Club at their barbeque. Besides not cooking, moms can shop ‘til they drop at the craft show and jewelry sale. Even better, they can dance ‘til they drop at Band Night and swim, bike and run the triathlon.

On top of pancakes, fair food and barbeque, Dads will like the great cars at the Car Nutz Cruise-In. There will be raffles, giveaways, live music and great company at the Meet the Chamber event. The few that like to dance will go for Band Night; the rest will be dragged along by their wives. Athletic types will participate in the triathlon. Less athletic types will rue the day they signed up for the triathlon.

Kids pretty much like everything about Hospital Days. And what’s not to like? There are rides on the midway and carnival games as well as cotton candy and way too many wonderfully awful treats to mention. Or is that awfully wonderful? I’ll let their mothers decide.

Little littles can bring their Teddies to a clinic. All kids can dance and bigger ones can be embarrassed by their parents at Band Night. There will be alpacas to pet and Humane Society animals to meet and greet. Speaking of meet and greet, kids can tour the firehouse, climb on the engines and visit with the firefighters.

Everyone loves the parade. I may be prejudice but the Hospital Days parade is definitely better than most. It is everything a small town parade should be. With a marching band, a team of unicyclists, homemade floats galore and lots of antique cars, fire engines and a motorcycle or two, it is the definition of old fashioned fun and schmaltz. It’s my favorite part of Hospital Days.

Enjoy all the great fun summer has to offer. Bon appétit!

Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus
Delicious with fresh veggies or pita chips, this hummus might just become your new favorite hors d’oeuvre. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 cups

beets2 medium, about 8 ounces, beets, peeled and roughly chopped
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon each finely chopped thyme and rosemary
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 drops or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1 can (about 2 cups) white beans
Extra virgin olive oil

.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beet_White_Bean_Hummus_04Put the beets on a sheet pan in a single layer, drizzle with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the beets for about 10 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic and more olive oil and balsamic vinegar if necessary. Toss to coat and, stirring once or twice, continue to roast for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly caramelized and tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a mini food processor, add the herbs and let the veggies cool for about 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and the lemon juice and pulse to chop and combine.

Add the beans and pulse to combine. 1-2 tablespoons at a time, add extra virgin olive oil and process until more or less smooth and well combined. Check for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Let the hummus sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to combine the flavors. Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Cucumber-Mint Agua Fresca
Two Years Ago – Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins
Three Years Ago – Blueberry Clafouti
Four Years Ago – Blackberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
Five Years Ago – Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato
Six Years Ago – Red Pepper Dip
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Chicken, Shallots & New Potatoes
Eight Years Ago – Barbecue Chicken

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

What is your favorite sound of summer? Feel free to share.

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

A Memorial Day Cookout & Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad

grilled_pork_chopOfficial or not, New England kicks off summer on Memorial Day weekend. The sky can be gray, rain may fall and the black flies can be vicious. It doesn’t matter. We New Englanders are a tough breed. If it’s wet, we’ll throw on a raincoat. If it’s dry, we’ll roll down our sleeves and slather on the bug repellent. Summer is short so please excuse us if we want to get an early jump on the season.

The best way to take a flying leap into summer is a cookout. So what if gale winds are whipping across the lake, it’s time to get your grill on. Call your friends, your family and neighbors and have a ball. Now, it’s been awhile so before you pick up the phone, here are a few essentials to help make your Memorial Day cookout memorable … in a good way.

Check the propane tank or buy a new bag of charcoal. Nothing puts the damper on a cookout faster than charcoal that refuses to light after sitting in a puddle in the garage all winter. Same goes for an empty propane tank. Gas grillers, if you don’t have a spare tank – think about investing in one. It’s a trick that I learned from my dad. That spare has saved the party more than once.

While you are routing around in the garage for the grill, find your cooler and give it a good scrub. Ditto for the outdoor furniture. How’s that for an added bonus? A Memorial Day cookout is a great motivator for getting the porch ready for summer.

Devise your menu. It’s a patriotic holiday so you may opt for traditional burgers and dogs. Even if you do, you can push the envelope with some interesting appetizers, sides and sweets. Sure, you can pick up a container of humus, a quart of potato salad and a sheet cake at the supermarket but it will taste like supermarket humus, potato salad and sheet cake. Perhaps I’m prejudice but I can’t help but believe that homemade not only tastes better; it’s better for you. When you make it yourself, you control the fat, sugar and salt. In addition, your dinner won’t be loaded down with preservatives or artificial ingredients.

While everyone likes them, as far as I know, there is no rule that says burgers and dogs are de rigeur for Memorial Day weekend. Show off your cosmopolitan flair and culinary prowess with dishes from around the world. Perhaps you’d like to try a Provençal picnic, Korean barbecue or even pizza on the grill. After all, we are a melting pot nation.

Take it up a notch. You may be tempted to load a case of America into the cooler. (In case you missed it, America is the temporary new name for Budweiser.) The timing is right; Bud’s newly rebranded cans hit the shelves yesterday. But, c’mon, you know you can do better. New England is the center of the universe when it comes to microbreweries. Okay, maybe not the center of the universe but we have more than our fair share of local, artisanal brews. Splurge a little and serve some of the best beer New England has to offer.

beach_binGo casual, pretty and green. It’s a cookout. There’s no need to break out the good china. Or any china or glassware for that matter. You can find colorful, reusable plastic dishes at your favorite department, discount or craft store. Okay, so maybe it’s not as easy as throwaway plates and glasses. But think of the trees you’ll save not to mention the landfill. Complete your table with a pretty tablecloth and pots of geraniums. You know you are going to buy geraniums anyway. Use them for your picnic table this weekend and plant them by the front door on Tuesday morning.

Enjoy the long weekend and bon appétit!

Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatzik & Greek SaladCrostini_w_Red_Pepper_Tzatzik_Greek_Salad_03
A delicious small bite, these crostini will be even better when local tomatoes are available. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 dozen crostini

1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
1 pint cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1-2 cups arugula, roughly chopped
16 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
Red wine vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal and toasted or 6 small pita, quartered and toasted
About 6 ounces feta, crumbled

Make the tzatziki: put the cucumber in a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle liberally with salt and let drain for about 30 minutes. Rinse the cucumber, drain well and pat dry with a clean dishtowel or paper towels.

Put the yogurt, roasted pepper, garlic, herbs and sriracha in a food processor and process until smooth.

Put the cucumber and yogurt mixture into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Make the salad: put the tomatoes, arugula, olives and scallion in a bowl, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons each vinegar and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Assemble the crostini: spread a dollop of tzatziki onto each slice of toasted baguette, top with a generous spoonful of salad and sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately.

You can assemble the crostini and pass or set everything out let your guests assemble.

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One Year Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Two Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Two Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Four Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Five Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
Six Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Seven Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

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, 2016

Resolved & Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower

veggies_03Alright then, here we are in 2016. The last twelve months just flew by. The dawning of the new year means it is time to come up with some resolutions. Decisions, decisions, to resolve or not resolve. Such dilemmas! Okay, let’s take a stab at it. Here goes:

Thankfully, there’s a whole slew of bad or silly habits that I’ve managed to avoid. That means I don’t need to give up twerking, fast food or smoking.

Plus, I already live a pretty healthy life. I could pledge to eat my vegetables, walk every day, drink more water and practice yoga. But I already do those things, so I don’t think they’d count as 2016 resolutions.

Lucky for me, the medical community goes back and forth on coffee and wine. I won’t give up either but continue to drink the two in moderation. What’s moderation? Well, I’m decidedly independent, so I guess that’s for me to decide.

As a decidedly independent type, I can’t promise to become more fashionable. Although I’m not exactly stuck in a time warp, I discovered my own personal style several years ago. While, they may move at glacial speed, my fashion preferences have evolved. My jeans have gotten skinnier but I don’t think I will ever give up turtlenecks, Bermuda shorts or the little black dress. You might find my look dull, even boring. I think of it as classic and it suits me.

The latest and greatest new phone is not on my list of must-haves so I can cross – stop texting while driving – off the list of potential resolutions. Okay, I admit my friends’ shiny gadgets generate sporadic twinges of phone envy. It’s not that I’m a Luddite. Truly, I’m not. Of course, I own a cell phone and, yes, it works. I even remember to charge it a few times a year. But hey, I work from home. I’m nothing if not easy to find.

While I have little interest in a new phone, I am intrigued to meet new people, learn new things and acquire new skills. That said, unless someone sends me a fact-a-day calendar as a belated Christmas gift, I can’t promise to learn something new every day. Nor can I promise to meet 366 (it’s a leap year) people in 2016. Remember, I work from home and live in a small town. My little life is not teaming with strangers. Then again, I could always introduce myself to random tourists in the supermarket. Somehow, I don’t think I will.

Many might be shocked to learn that I don’t keep a journal. Don’t all writers keep journals or morning papers? Perhaps that one should go on my list of resolutions. Well, I tried it once. I had just moved to Switzerland and figured it would be a good idea to chronicle my adventures. I even had a clever name for the journal – Notes from a-Broad. I kept it up for two maybe three months. Even with a new country, new job, new friends and a fair amount of travel my day-to-day musings were not that interesting. I prefer to let my thoughts and memories steep and age a bit before putting them to paper.

So, don’t expect me to get a tattoo, take up the saxophone or switch to green tea. Instead, I’ll side with the popular choice for once and take up the number one resolution for 2016. What is it? Enjoy life to the fullest. After all, 45.7 per cent of Americans can’t be wrong; can they?

Happy New Year and bon appétit!

Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
Along with greens and grapes, lentils are one of the lucky foods popular at New Year. Main event or side dish, lentils are a delicious and healthy way to start 2016. Enjoy!
Serves 6

veggies_032 cups red or brown lentils
Vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard seed
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Roasted Cauliflower (recipe follows)
Garnish: roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Pick through the lentils and remove any stones. Rinse well with cold water and drain.

Heat a little oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and carrot and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno and spices and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Add the lentils and enough stock or water to cover by 1-2 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. You may need to add more stock or water. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the lentils, toss to combine and serve immediately garnished with chopped cilantro.

Enjoy lentils as a main dish on Meatless Mondays with basmati rice and sautéed greens or as a side dish at your next Indian inspired dinner.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with just enough oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with turmeric, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer and roast, stirring once or twice, until browned and tender, 20-25 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Spiced Chai
Two Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Three Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Fourhree Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Fiveour Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Seven Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

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

What about you? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

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

Thanksgiving Tips, Tricks & Hacks & Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction

Thanksgiving is the foodiest holiday of the year. Did you invite the whole famdamily and half the neighborhood to feast at your house this year? Moreover, are you cursing that moment of weakness? Blame it on the euphoria of another Patriots’ victory or the extra glass of wine but you invited everyone, yes EVERYONE, for Thanksgiving. In the cold light of a rainy day, it now seems a bit daunting. Don’t despair it’s all in the planning plus a few tricks and a hack or two.

Here goes:

Make your lists early, like now. Check them twice. You need two lists. The first is the all-important shopping list of what to buy, when and where. The second is the just as important To Do list. Follow both as if your life depended on it. Your life doesn’t but your sanity might.

Start early, now would be good. You have your lists, so, anything that can be done in advance; do it. I like to begin my Thanksgiving feast with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. If you do too, make it this weekend and freeze it. Same goes for the lovely pie dough we all like so much. Make and roll out the pastry and freeze it in the pie plate or flat on a cookie sheet.

If someone offers to bring a dish, say yes. But remember, as chief cook and bottle washer, you call the shots. Be polite but firm. If you have enough sweet potato casserole to mortar a large chimney but need another pie, say so. Stay strong. If no one offers, the bakery is there for a reason.

In addition, as dinner comes down to the wire, a handful of helpful Hannahs will flock to your kitchen. Have a list of simple tasks, things like opening wine, pouring water and tossing salad, and be ready to delegate. It will help get dinner on the table faster and the Hannahs out of your hair.

It’s the chopping-ist time of the year. What with onions and celery for stuffing, squash for roasting and potatoes for mashing, it seems endless. Begin early and store chopped veggies in the refrigerator. If a recipes calls for a boatload of finely chopped or diced veggies, your food processor can be your best friend. Cut the vegetables in chunks, throw them in the food processor and pulse to chop. Don’t overdo it, you want finely chopped not purée.

Speaking of recipes, don’t clutter the counters with cookbooks, laptops and tablets. Photocopy your favorite recipes or print from the web. Then, use painter’s tape to stick them onto the kitchen cabinets. It’s a win-win; more counter space and your recipes are at eye level.

Speaking of clutter, unless you have an extra refrigerator in the garage, chances are good that you’ll run out of cold storage. If the weather cooperates, store goodies on the screened porch. But watch out! If temperatures plummet into the teens overnight, well, iceberg lettuce anyone? To keep food from freezing, store it in a cooler. If it’s really cold, wrap the cooler in an old blanket or quilt. On Thanksgiving Day, use those same coolers for ice and drinks.

If you don’t have an instant-read food thermometer, now is the time to buy one. For less than $10, you can finally, once and for all, end the “is it done yet?” debate. Just stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the bird and get a reading of 165 degrees before pulling it out of the oven.

And to keep everything warm? As long as you don’t carve it immediately (and please don’t, it should rest for thirty minutes), that big old turkey will stay warm for at least an hour. Loosely cover with foil and set it out of the dog’s reach. Use the time to heat up the Broccoli Purée, bake the Decadent Cheesy Potatoes (my niece Emily’s favorite) and make the gravy. By the way, a thermos is perfect for keeping the gravy nice and hot.

Here’s to a happy and sane Thanksgiving! Bon appétit!

Butternut Squash Crostini with Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
You can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without at least a little butternut squash and/or pumpkin. Enjoy!
Serves 12

About 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon cognac
1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal about 1/2-inch-thick and toasted
10-12 ounces goat cheese
Garnish: Balsamic Reduction (recipe follows), toasted hazelnuts and chopped chives

Butternut_Squash _Crostini_w_Goat_Cheese_Balsamic_Reduction_01Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Divide the squash onto 2 rimmed baking sheets, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the squash in a single layer. Roast at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Add the shallot, toss to combine and roast 15-20 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender.

Combine the squash on 1 pan, sprinkle with sage and thyme, drizzle with cognac and toss to combine.

The squash can be prepared in advance, cooled, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

To assemble and serve: spread a layer of goat cheese on the toasted baguette slices and top with butternut squash. If you like, you can warm the crostini in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Drizzle sparingly with Balsamic Reduction and sprinkle with hazelnuts and chives.

Balsamic Reduction
Makes about 3/4 cup

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon or to taste honey
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the vinegar in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil the over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the shallot, garlic and herbs. Cool to room temperature.

Remove the bay leaf and, using a rubber spatula to press on the remaining solids, strain the vinegar through a sieve into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the mustard and honey. Continue whisking and slowly add the olive oil until thick and well combined. Serve at room temperature.

Coverr and store extra Balsamic Reduction in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous
Two Years Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Three Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Five Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Six Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Seven Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart

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

What about you? What your favorite kitchen tip, trick or hack for Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

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