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

About Columbus & Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil

Landing_of_ColumbusThe long Columbus Day weekend is almost here. As far as I can tell, the celebrations started sometime in late September, maybe sooner, and just keep going and going. At least the furniture stores and automobile dealerships seem to celebrate Columbus Day for weeks on end. Every year, they hold never-ending, mega Columbus Day blowout sales. Or maybe they just seem to last forever. These deals come right on the heels of the back-to-school and Labor Day extravaganzas, immediately morph into Veterans Day discounts and then finally merge with Black Friday and Christmas markdowns.

But anyway, who was this guy who sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two? What’s his story? Back in elementary school, he was the hero who discovered America. All the Italian-American kids in the neighborhood loved it that an Italian had discovered America. With my Danish and Swedish roots, I felt just as proud when archeological remains of Viking settlements were found in Newfoundland. The digs proved that Scandinavians discovered North America four centuries before the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria left Spain. I kept waiting for a Leif the Lucky Day. I’m still waiting.

Columbus’ story is complicated. There is Columbus the hero. He’s the one who convinced the King and Queen of Spain that the earth was round and the shortest route to China was due west. They funded his trip and he discovered America. Ferdinand and Isabella rewarded Columbus with great wealth and made him governor of the new lands.

Then there is the greedy, criminal and cruel Columbus. In this saga, Columbus screws up and dies in debtors’ prison while another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci gets two continents named after him. Amerigo’s maps as well as his letters and journals eternally tie his name to South America. North America was thrown in during the bonus round. Marketing gurus love to applaud Amerigo. They suggest that Columbus, with a bit of effort, could have, should have, would have had the two continents named for him.

Like most gurus, these marketing types are both right and wrong. Yes, Vespucci’s early maps granted him the honor of having two continents as namesakes. And yes, Columbus was a great sailor but he was also a cranky tyrant and ineffective governor. He was such a nasty guy and poor manager that early settlers rebelled and sent him back to Spain in chains.

However, the story of Columbus dying, impoverished, in debtors’ prison; that’s a myth. He did return to Spain in chains and languished in prison for a month, maybe two. Before long, Ferdinand felt sorry for him and released him. After all, he was a national hero. The King restored most of Columbus’ wealth and titles and equipped him for another voyage to the New World. That said, he was still a nasty guy and Ferdinand never, ever let him govern again.

Regardless of what the marketing gurus say, for a vile dude, Chris did remarkably well. Sure, there is no South Columbus or North Columbia but scores of cities, districts, states, universities and even a country are named for him. And let’s not forget there is no Vespucci Day but Columbus Day is celebrated by millions with time off, parades and furniture markdowns.

Anyway, have a great weekend, enjoy the extra day off and bon appétit!

Bruschetta with Fresh Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Pesto Oil
The season for fresh, local tomatoes is almost over. Try this delicious bruschetta before they are all gone. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 loaf ciabatta or baguette bread, sliced about 1/2-inch-thick
Pesto Oil (recipe follows)
8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
About 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange 16 bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the toasts from oven and use a basting brush to brush the warm toasts with Pesto Oil.

Meanwhile, put the tomatoes in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Mound the chopped tomatoes on the toasts and sprinkle with goat cheese, place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until heated through, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the bruschetta to a serving platter, sprinkle with pine nuts, drizzle with a little Pesto Oil and serve.

Pesto Oil Basil
Columbus was from Genoa, a city famous for its basil pesto.

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, gently packed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.

Let the oil sit for an hour at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to mix and meld the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Two Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Three Years Ago – Lobster Mac & Cheese
Four Years Ago – Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup
Five Years Ago – Soupe au Pistou
Six Years Ago – Mulled Cider
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend Columbus Day weekend? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

On the Road – Bumper Stickers & Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts

bumper_sticker_honor_studentSo we’ve made it through the primaries which can only mean there will be fewer names but more signs in front lawns … and on car bumpers. While proclaiming your political preferences may (or may not) help your candidate, it doesn’t do a whole lot to entertain or educate your fellow travelers.

For that, we turn to the bumper stickers of proud parents. Well, maybe not; we’re all getting a little tired of the moms and pops who brag about their honor students. Especially, if we know for a fact that their sixteen-year-old kid still can’t ride a two-wheeler or eats paste when the art teacher’s back is turned.

While it was funny the first or second time, the defiant parent rant is not much better. They’re the ones that proclaim: My kid skateboards better than your honor student or My kid can hack into your honor student’s computer.

Then again, all these parents may be on to something. Especially if you believe the bumper sticker that urges you to Be nice to your kids. They’ll choose your nursing home. I’ve still got one question. Which is it – the honor roll kids or the skate boarders and hackers – who follow the BS (that’s bumper sticker) wisdom: To err is human, to blame it on somebody else shows management potential.

There was a time when many thought that riding in the car was calming. The invention of the bumper sticker killed that illusion. I’m not a fan of some of those disconcerting, even threatening signs on the back ends of cars and trucks. They start with the silly – I am not infantile, you stinky poopy head.Then, move on to the (hopefully) tongue in cheek with The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list. The worst have escalated to pure road rage with the likes of This vehicle insured by Smith and Wesson.

Cynical witticisms remind travelers that life is filled to overflowing with strains and tensions. For example, Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you weren’t asleep. Or If you are feeling good, don’t worry. You’ll get over it. Then the sad truth hits, forcing you to admit, I used to have a handle on life, but it broke. Perhaps you will feel better if you repeat three times – Without ME, it’s just AWESO.

Look around during a traffic jam and you may see a deep philosophical question, possibly two. Get caught at the tollbooth on 93 in Hooksett on a holiday weekend and you too may ask, What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about? Or you could definitely start to wonder, What would Scooby do? Some drivers choose their BS (again that’s bumper sticker) to share their skepticism. Their rear bumper offers up warnings like, Don’t believe everything you think. Hours or minutes, whatever the delay, the cars will eventually start to move. So please stay positive and Take it easy. Life is short.

At journeys end, it’s nice to bring at least one lesson home. How about – Wag more. Bark less. Oh, and maybe just one more, something like … Make dinner not war.

Bon appétit!

Roasted Beet Tatin with Goat Cheese & Walnuts beets
Usually a sweet dessert made with apples, a French tatin is an upside down tart. These mini tatins with roasted beets and goat cheese are a delicious start to any dinner party. Enjoy!
Serves 6

3-4 beets, peeled and cut into wedges
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, cut in half lengthwise and into thin wedges
6 tablespoons dry white wine
About 1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed *
About 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
About 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
About 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the beets on a baking sheet, drizzle with just enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, sprinkle with thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread the beets in a single layer and, turning once or twice, roast at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Add the onion to the beets with a little more olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Continue roasting until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Lightly butter 6 (4-ounce) ramekins. When cool enough to handle, arrange the beets and onion in the ramekins, packing tightly. Drizzle each ramekin with 1 tablespoon white wine.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the puff pastry about 1/8 inch thick. Use a large biscuit or cookie cutter to cut circles of pastry about an inch larger than the tops of the ramekins. Lay the pastry rounds on top of the ramekins. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and bake until the pastry is nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Let the tarts cool for about 5 minutes.

To serve: one at a time, invert a plate on top of each ramekin and, using a pot holder to hold the ramekin and plate together, invert the tart onto plate. Replace any beets or onions that stick to ramekin. Sprinkle the vegetables with goat cheese, chopped walnuts and parsley and serve immediately.

* If you prefer, use my Savory Flaky Pastry instead of the puff pastry.

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One Year Ago – Fettuccine with Fresh Corn & Tomatoes
Two Years Ago – Chicken Parmagiana with Spaghetti Marinara
Three Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Four Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Five Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Six Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut

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

What’s your favorite bumper sticker? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014