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

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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

Shoes & Grilled Eggplant Caponata

I have this thing about shoes. I like them … a lot. It’s possible I like them as much as Imelda. However, since I don’t have her resources; my collection is both smaller and considerably more modest. Besides, unlike the Philippines’ former first lady, I’m a sneakers and flats kind of girl.

In my defense, my addiction to shoes has improved. Why, it’s been at least a year, since I bought a new pair. Okay, maybe six months and it was three pairs, I guess I should avoid alternative facts. In my defense, they were all on sale and a step above the definitely adorable but oh so casual flats I generally wear. What’s a girl to do?

Confession time – I do need to be careful with this buying on sale business. I love a bargain but it often means buying out of season. I have been known to purchase sandals in October and forget about them by the time summer rolls around. Same goes for buying boots in May. Oh, my goodness, the trials and tribulations of a first world woman.

Growing up, back-to-school shopping always included a trip to Bob Dexter’s Shoes on Central Street. To avoid a return visit in the busy weeks to come, Mom really took care of business. That’s when I learned an important lesson – never settle for one pair, when you can buy three.

First, foremost and absolutely mandatory – new school shoes were on the list. Mom always insisted we start there. If a fire broke out and cut our shopping short, we were not leaving that store without a sturdy pair of Buster Browns. I guess the doctor told her that young feet need lots of support. Until I was nine or ten, I was stuck with those dreadful brown brogues. In third or fourth grade, Mom finally relented and I was able to move on to penny loafers.

Now, Mom was hardly heartless. To make up for the brogues and salve my wounded feminine pride, she would let me pick out a new pair of patent leather Mary Janes. They were for Sunday school and birthday parties. Finally, after a summer playing outside, my sneakers were worn and torn – just the way I liked them. Mom didn’t agree and a new pair of Keds went into the bag.

Although, it has its roots in elementary school, this love affair with shoes began in earnest once I hit adolescence. That’s when things got both interesting and complicated. A woman in search of an identity, from one day to the next, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a perky preppy or a cool hippie.

The perky preppy in me coveted shiny flats and Pappagallo was the brand of choice. These sweet little emblems of conservative style came in a rainbow of colors and were decorated with flowers, buckles and cutouts. The bohemian wanted no name ballet flats or funky black cotton slippers. The slippers had orange rubber soles, straps like Mary Janes and were made in China. The hippie shoes were considerably cheaper than the colorful flats. However, they didn’t last more than a month or so.

For now, I’ll stay out of the shops. Better to stick with the trio of flats I bought last winter and then forgot in the back of the closet. Black leather, the faux snakeskin and shiny pink – what could be better – a different pair for every mood. Just like Mom, I like a bargain and buy in threes.

Happy Almost Fall and bon appétit!

Grilled Eggplant Caponata
The local harvest is at its peak. It’s time to fire up the grill and make delicious magic with some of my favorite vegetables. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons or to taste red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons or to taste extra virgin olive oil
2 medium eggplants, cut into thick slices
1 large red onion, cut in thick rings
1 pint grape tomatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2-3 tablespoons capers, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Make the vinaigrette: put the garlic, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and continue whisking until well combined. Set aside.

Preheat grill to high. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the onion and tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Put the onion and tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time. Grill the eggplant for 4 to 6 minutes per side until nicely browned and tender. Remove the vegetables from the grill. When they are cool enough to handle, finely chop the veggies.

Give the vinaigrette another whisk, add the vegetables, olives, pine nuts and capers and toss to combine. Add the parsley and mint and toss again. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with pita chips for an appetizer or use as a salsa with grilled chicken, lamb or fish.

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

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

What’s your not-so-secret indulgence? Feel free to share!

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

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

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 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