Two Kinds of Easter & Roasted Moroccan Carrots

While there could be more, it seems to me that there are two kinds of Easters. The first is the Madison Avenue Easter. To see this one, all you need do is open a glossy magazine. Almost any one will do. If you don’t subscribe or have a dentist appointment in the next week, go to the glossy magazines’ websites. A bevy of beautiful photographs awaits you.

A veritable rainbow of pastels adorns every page. Cherry blossoms and forsythia, tulips and daffodils remind us that Easter is synonymous with spring. Adorable children dressed in pink and yellow, white and pale blue hold hands and search for eggs on smooth green lawns. Turn the page and these same cherubs are petting sweet baby lambs, pink-nosed bunnies and fluffy yellow chicks. There are no tears and not a single grass stain. We can only ask, “Who are these children?”

Turn the page again for the Easter feast. A mile long table is set to welcome a crowd of all ages in a beautiful garden. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozens admire the gorgeous spread. Overflowing platters are strategically placed up and down the table. Beautifully coifed women in sleeveless dresses, pastel of course, make last minute adjustments. Men in bright polo shirts stand around looking handsome. The children never cry and never spill juice on their sparkling outfits.

The second, the one I know very well, is the New Hampshire Easter. It is just as nice but nowhere near as gracious. The forsythia buds are closed up tight. Daffodils and tulips are buried under a foot or more of snow. The calendar may have proclaimed spring but a glance outside confirms that it’s winter in transition to mud season. The skiing has never been better.

Beautifully manicured or not, lawns are still covered with snow. Unless you don’t mind wallowing waist deep in it, you’ll need a pair of snowshoes to hide or find eggs. As for those pretty, pastel dresses and polo shirts, they’ll stay well hidden under parkas and snow pants. There will be no grass stains, but I don’t know about tears. There’s nothing like getting stuck in a snowbank to open the floodgates.

As for a petting zoo, wildlife abounds. There have been several bear sightings in the last few weeks. I saw a fisher-cat the other day. At least, I think it was a fisher-cat and not my neighbor’s barn cat. Raccoons are around but they only come out at night. On the other hand, squirrels are everywhere all the time. However, petting is not advised with any of these animals.

Now, what about a sumptuous picnic brunch or lunch in the garden? A long leisurely midday meal on the deck of a slope side café is a spring skiing classic and wonderful treat. That said; I’m not altogether convinced that lunch in a snowy backyard is a good idea. What with all that stamping down snow and dragging out the tables and chairs … hmmm. Maybe we should leave that photo opportunity to Madison Avenue.

Instead, how about we have dinner inside … after skiing, of course. If it’s not too cold, I have a well-weathered green fleece I can wear on the slopes. It’s faded enough to qualify as pastel.

Happy Easter and bon appétit!

Roasted Moroccan Carrots
Whether you serve your Easter dinner in the backyard or inside, these carrots are a great side dish for grilled or roast lamb. Enjoy!
Serves 8
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
1/2-1 sweet onion, cut in half and then in thin wedges
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the carrots and onion in a large bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the spice mix and toss again. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on baking sheets and roast uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with garlic and toss to combine. Return to the oven for another 3-5 minutes.

While the vegetables roast, combine the lemon zest and fresh herbs.

Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl, drizzle with lemon juice and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the herbs and lemon zest and serve.

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One Year Ago – Maple Crème Brûlée
Two Years Ago – Mini Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Three Years Ago – Tiramisu
Four Years Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Five Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Six Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Seven Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Olives

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

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? 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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Is it spring yet? & Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara

Is it spring yet? As a matter of fact, it is. Don’t believe me? Check your calendar, March 20 is the vernal equinox. I’m sure you figured it out long ago but vernal is just a fancy name for spring; like autumn is for fall. Anyway, the equinox is when the sun is directly over the equator. It happens twice a year, on the first day of spring and the first day of fall. On these two days, daytime and nighttime are each twelve hours long. Well, approximately and somewhere but not here. My sunrise/sunset guide tells me we’ll have twelve hours and eleven minutes of sunshine today. Think of it as a reward for living in northern New England.

Anyway, I’ve started to notice something in recent weeks. While not everyone agrees, there seems to be two types of people who, by chance or design, spend the winter in New Hampshire.

The first group absolutely, positively loves it here. They live to ski, snowshoe and ice skate. These intrepid chionophiles throw caution to the wind and head to the slopes in the middle of a nor’easter. If there is fresh powdah, they are fearless when it comes to slippery highways and byways.

While some might think them brazen or reckless, they can’t contain themselves. There they go, posting selfies on the first chairlift. Do they realize it’s a Thursday? I guess they must. Otherwise, why shout to the world; make that flout that they are working out of the Danbury (or Sunapee) office. (And by the way boys and girls, the world includes that green-eyed tattletale of a colleague and your boss.) In any case, their joy is infectious and their smiles wonders to behold.

The second group stays away from gleeful selfies in the snow. They post pictures of beaches with blue skies and bluer water. Wistful captions read, “Wish I was here!” Sometimes, in a total funk, they share the view from their kitchen windows – a photograph of the fifteen-foot snow bank at the end of the driveway or a video of Sisyphus shoveling the deck. Oh wait, that’s not Sisyphus. That’s their fourteen year old.

Instead of shouting or flouting, they rail and rant, pout and sulk. One minute they are howling, “ENOUGH” and ordering the snow gods back to Siberia. Then, only minutes later, fearing reprisal, they try a new tact and beseech Mother Nature, Jack Frost and Old Man Winter to have pity. Throughout the winter, they ask time and time again, “Why do I live here?”

A few days ago, I shared my Two Types Theory with a couple of friends. They protested and disagreed. Although neither are skiers, both professed to loving New Hampshire in winter. They have no desire to take flight with the snowbirds. A six-month stint in Florida is not on their winter wish list. However, … there’s always a but in there isn’t there … they suggested that a shorter winter without those awful subzero temperatures in January would be nice.

So, here is where I am betwixt and between. I agree that we could all do without the polar vortex or arctic cyclone or whatever you want to call the beastly cold that comes down from Canada. I’m more than delighted with sunny days that make it feel warmer than the thermometer’s readout. However, … here’s my predictable but … I’d be happy if the ski season went until the first of May. There is nothing better than spring skiing when the days are long and the sun is shining.

See you on the slopes and après ski! Bon appétit!

Cheesy Eggplant Parmigiana with Spaghetti Marinara
The calendar says it’s spring but the thermometer and snow in the yard tell a different story. There is still plenty of time to gather friends and family for cozy comfort food. Enjoy!
Serves 10-12

2-3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
4 medium eggplants (about 4 pounds), trimmed and cut in rounds
Olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
About 4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
About 4 ounces fontina, shredded
About 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
About 1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated
24 ounces spaghetti
Additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the spaghetti 

Make the Marinara Sauce (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant with thyme, season with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant and continue baking until tender and browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the eggplant bakes, put the cheeses in a bowl, toss to combine and set aside.

Top each round of eggplant with a generous tablespoonful or 2 or 3 Marinara Sauce and sprinkle with the cheeses.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake the eggplant at 375 degrees until the cheeses are bubbling and golden, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot with enough Marinara Sauce to coat. Don’t drown the pasta in sauce. Cover the pot and let the spaghetti sit for about 1 minute to absorb some of the sauce.

Divide the spaghetti among shallow bowls, top each with 2-3 slices of eggplant and serve. Pass additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano for the pasta.

Traditional Marinara Sauce
Makes about 3 quarts*

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or to taste dried chili pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
9-10 cups (three 28-ounce cans) crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons each chopped, fresh basil and parsley

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and season with pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the crushed tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and parsley and simmer for a minute or two more.

* You’ll want to make plenty of sauce. It freezes beautifully and can always come in handy.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Saffron Cream, Grilled Asparagus & Mushrooms
Two Years Ago – Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
Three Years Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Four Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Five Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Six Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Seven Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you love the snow or are you so over it? Feel free to share!

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

Saint Patrick’s Day Weekend Celebration Special

Éirinn go Brách – it’s time to celebrate. Saturday is Saint Patrick’s Day. With all this beautiful new snow –  you’ve gotta love it – a parade is not the answer. Throw on a green turtleneck and cap and head to the mountain. After a day on the slopes, relax and enjoy a cozy dinner with friends. 

Let’s start with a tasty appetizer. The Irish are justifiably proud of their smoked salmon. I can’t think of a better start to your dinner. Enjoy thinly sliced smoked salmon or Smoked Salmon Mousse on Irish Soda Bread.

Gather at the table for a lovely salad. Can I suggest – Roasted Carrot Salad. While not particularly Irish, it is delicious and sports the colors of the Irish flag.

Now, for the main course. Forget corned beef and cabbage. For a truly delicious Saint Paddy’s Day try my Guinness Lamb Shanks with a hunk of Irish Soda Bread or my Not-Really-Irish and Not-Really-French Potato Gratin. Unless you have a large crowd coming … then a big pot of stew might make more sense. If that’s the case, my Irish Lamb Stew is the answer.

Unless you’d prefer a simpler après ski supper. If that’s the case, stir up a pot of potato soup. (After all, the potato famine  sent our Irish ancestors to America in the first place.) Try my Potato & Cheddar Soup, Sausage, Kale & Potato Soup or Cheddar Ale Soup.

Ready for dessert? Dig into my warm and homey Apple Bread Pudding with Bourbon-Caramel Crème Anglaise – please feel free to switch out the Bourbon for Irish Whiskey. And finally, top off the evening with an Irish Coffee.

Have a great weekend and sláinte!

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

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Saints, Sinners, Songsters & Scholars & Roasted Carrot Salad

Ireland has a long history of saints and sinners, songsters and scholars. Hundreds of impressive artistic, scientific, political and religious figures hail from the Emerald Isle. And yes, there have been a few scamps and scalawags. The roll call of luminaries is all the more impressive when you consider Ireland’s tiny population. Although it has had its ups and downs, less than five million people call Ireland home. By the way, close to thirty-five million Americans claim Irish roots.

Saint Patrick’s Day is this coming Saturday. In celebration, let’s name a few of the Ireland’s notable sons and daughters:

Established in 1662, students still memorize Robert Boyle’s Law (PV=K). In simple terms, Boyles’ Law shows that the relationship between volume and pressure is inversely proportionate. In other words, increase pressure and volume will shrink.

William Butler Yeats is remembered as one of the 20th century’s leading poets and playwrights. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. I think my dad in particular would appreciate a favorite Yeats’ quote … There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.

Add James Joyce to that list of influential authors. His masterpiece Ulysses is almost always on the list of top ten English language novels and frequently steals the number one slot. It may also have the dubious honor of being the most unread book of all time. Countless confessions suggest that while it can be found on millions of bookshelves, it is on almost as many to-read lists.

The Most Dangerous Woman in America, Mother Jones, was born in Ireland. After her husband and children died from yellow fever, she joined the labor movement. The passionate revolutionary coordinated strikes and helped found the Social Democratic Party and Industrial Workers of the World.

The original Typhoid Mary, Mary Mallon was fifteen years old when she left Ireland to cook for wealthy families in and around Manhattan. An asymptomatic carrier, Mary was the picture of health but infected scores of New Yorkers, a few of whom died. With no cure for typhoid, the health department quarantined Mary for more than twenty years. She died alone on North Brother Island.

In the tradition epic poets, Bono writes and sings tales of social injustice, poverty and politics. His band U2 has sold close to 160 million albums and won twenty-two Grammys plus a bunch of other awards. A noted humanitarian, he has met with princes and presidents and uses his celebrity to fight extreme poverty and disease.

And finally, the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick was not actually Irish. A devote missionary from Britain, he traveled all over Ireland doing good works. Throughout his journey, he talked countless Irish into converting to Christianity. One other detail, he might not actually be a saint. Then again, maybe someone lost his paperwork. After all, it was a long time ago, the fifth century.

Now, to close – a toast for Saint Patrick and all the Irish –

To all the days here and after,
May they be filled with fond memories, happiness, and laughter.

Roasted Carrot Salad
Inspired by the colors of the Irish flag, sweet roasted carrots, peppery arugula and creamy goat cheese are a delicious combination. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
1 sweet onion, cut in half and then in thin wedges
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
2-3 teaspoons sherry vinegar
12 ounces arugula
4-6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the carrots and onion on a baking sheet, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread the vegetables in a single layer. Roast uncovered at 400 degrees, stirring once or twice, for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp and lightly caramelized.

Transfer the vegetables to a bowl, sprinkle with garlic and rosemary, drizzle with sherry vinegar and toss to combine. Tossing a few times, let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Can be prepared ahead. The carrots and onion should be served warm or at room temperature.

To serve toss the arugula with enough Sherry Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Arrange the greens on a platter or individual plates, top with carrots and onion and sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts.

Sherry Vinaigrette 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic
1 chunk (about 1×1 inch) red onion
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Dash hot sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, garlic, onion, mustard, anchovy paste and hot sauce in a blender or small food processor, season with salt and pepper and process until very smooth.

With the motor running, slowly add olive oil to taste and continue processing until well combined.

Transfer the vinaigrette to a clean glass jar and let sit for 30 minutes. Give the vinaigrette a good shake before serving.

 

Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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

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

How will you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day? Feel free to share!

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

Persisting Women Pork Stew with Beans & Greens

It began with a simple grassroots effort. A school district in California realized that their kids had little if any knowledge of women’s contributions to the state, to the country and to the world. So, they dedicated a week to women’s history. There were special programs and curriculum. The grand finale was a parade and celebration. It was 1978.

In 1979, educators and activists got together at The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. A teacher from Sonoma shared her district’s success and it lit a fire. Spreading to schools and colleges across the country, Women’s History Week took off. Unable to contain the enthusiasm to just seven days, there were soon calls for a month of education and celebration. National Women’s History Month was declared in 1987.

This year’s theme is Nevertheless, She Persisted. The goal is to honor women who persist in fighting all forms of discrimination against women. Persistence, it is an amazing word. Could it be the secret to women’s success?

Take for instance, the right to vote. Today, most of us take that right for granted. Not my grandmother. In her time, the voting age was twenty-one. However, she could not go down to town hall and register to vote on her birthday. Women did not have that right. She was twenty-five when the Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified into law. The fight for suffrage began as one of twelve resolutions at the Seneca Falls Convention in the summer of 1848. Success took seventy-two years of persistence.

I remember when one of the credit card companies turned my mother down. Whether it was a holdover from laws limiting women’s property rights or misguided custom, it doesn’t matter. Mom was incensed. The person at the other end of the phone told her they would be more than happy to grant a joint card with my dad. She just couldn’t have one in her own name. Mrs. Nye was fine; Elizabeth was not. She finally got her card a few years later. I’m guessing it was after the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974.

At about the same time, I was appalled to learn that wage disparity of women to men was fifty-nine cents to the dollar. It didn’t matter that I was a teenager earning minimum wage at my summer job. Or that the busboys were also earning minimum wage. It was the principle. Since then, the wage gap has narrowed to seventy-nine cents. Persistence continues.

Throughout the month, let’s celebrate the women who came before us. Let’s honor the women in both our personal and collective histories. We’ll thank our mothers and grandmothers, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Amelia Earhart. We shouldn’t forget our favorite aunts, cousins and neighbors along with Shirley Chisolm, Ella Fitzgerald, Margaret Sanger, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Julia Child, Billy Jean King, the 1996 Women’s Soccer Team and the 2018 Women’s Hockey Team. Because of them, we stand stronger, we are better educated and our lives are freer, richer and safer.

Armed with persistence and patience, women have fought and won the right to vote, to education, to work and to own property. The path has rarely been easy and the journey continues. In spite of a rapidly changing world, we still measure the timeline to equal rights for women not in days or even years but in decades.

With a toast of gratitude to brave and persistent women, I wish you bon appétit!

Pork Stew with Beans & Greens
Invite friends over for a cozy dinner and celebration of women. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
2 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cooked white beans, drained and rinsed (about 12 ounces dried beans)
4-6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 bay leaf
1 pound pre-cooked kielbasa sausage, cut into 2-inch slices
16 ounces baby kale or spinach

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a heavy casserole over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the pork and cook for a minute or two per side. Remove from the casserole and reserve.

Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, carrot and celery, sprinkle with thyme, allspice and chili flakes, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Return the pork and bacon to the pot and add the beans, 4 cups stock, vermouth, mustard and bay leaf. Gently toss and stir to combine, bring to a simmer and transfer to the oven.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Add the sausage and, if necessary, more stock to the pot, return to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Add the kale in handfuls and stir or toss until it wilts. Return the pot to the oven for 5 minutes.

Spoon the stew into shallow bowls and serve with a chunk of crusty bread.

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One Year Ago – Shrimp Curry with Spinach
Two Years Ago – Mini Tarte Tatin
Three Years Ago – Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Four Years Ago – Potato & Cheddar Soup
Five Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Six Years Ago – Guinness Lamb Shanks
Seven Years Ago – Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
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!

During National Women’s History Month, who are the heroes you most want to celebrate? 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

Hindsight & Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon

Banal as they may be, we use them all the time. Actions speak louder than words.You can’t judge a book by its cover. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Then there is my mother’s favorite – What goes around comes around. So why do we use these clichés? Is it possible that we’re not clever enough or eloquent enough to share our thoughts in a more original way? Or perhaps we can’t be bothered. Oh no, that can’t be true. Alright, let’s be generous. We all have a lot on our minds. These platitudes are a quick and easy way to send our message.

Now just to be contrarian, I’m going to argue with one of these platitudes. Whoever said hindsight is twenty-twenty didn’t grow up skiing in New Hampshire. The line could be defined as oops-I-got-that-one-wrong or oops-I-guess-I-should-have-done-more-research. It’s what you might say when you discover the property you bought online is not beachfront but – uh oh, is that an alligator? – a swamp. When it comes to childhood memories and February ski vacations, hindsight is definitely not twenty-twenty. In fact, I suspect that hindsight is blind or, at the very least, wears rose-colored glasses.

I don’t know about you but all my childhood winter vacations were good. Once Mom and Dad built the little weekend and vacation house near Pleasant Lake, they were perfect. If anything, February was better than Christmas week. The start of the ski season could be a little iffy but by mid-February, snow was plentiful. The sun shone every day and there were never any lift lines. Okay, maybe that last one is wishful thinking … if not an outright lie.

Anyway, year in and year out, February vacation was nothing short of wonderful. One year, it was even stupendous. Thanks to a couple of well-placed nor’easters, the break expanded. Instead of a much too short one-week vacation, we enjoyed three glorious weeks in the snow.

The trouble (although I’d hardly call it that) began five or six days before winter vacation was due to start. Gentle but persistent snow began falling Saturday night and continued through Sunday. To play it safe, we stayed put in New Hampshire. By Monday morning, more than a foot of snow had fallen. All of New Hampshire’s roads were clear by noon. Across the border, snow and abandoned cars clogged the roads for days. We weren’t snowed in New Hampshire but snowed out of Massachusetts.

Throughout the Commonwealth, schools and businesses were closed. It took at least three, maybe four days to dig out. By the time traffic was flowing, February vacation was more or less upon us. (I think we might have played hooky on the Friday. Hey, there was no need to drive all that way for one measly day of school.)

The vacation week was delightfully snowy but uneventful. There were no major storms or upsets, just sunshine and plenty of skiing. Then as if by a miracle, it started to snow early Sunday afternoon and showed no signs of slowing down. Using the recent debacle on Massachusetts highways as justification, we stayed safe and warm in our little house in the New Hampshire woods … and then spent another week on the slopes.

There is nothing like a Sunday nor’easter to make a skier smile. Bon appétit!

Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Bacon
A cozy après ski dish. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Olive oil
8 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 large cauliflower, cut in bite-sized florets
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch (or to taste) chili flakes and/or smoked paprika
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
16 ounces Orecchiette
Grated pecorino Romano cheese
Fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly coat a large, heavy skillet with olive oil and heat on medium. Add the bacon and sauté until brown and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve.

Put the cauliflower in a large roasting pan, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and 3/4 of the bacon fat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon thyme, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast the cauliflower at 375 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the onion in the remaining bacon fat on medium until translucent. Add the garlic, sprinkle with the chili flakes and/or paprika and remaining thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the broth and wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and bacon to the skillet, toss to combine and set aside.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, less 1 minute. Saving 1 cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, add it to the vegetables and bacon and toss to combine.

If the pasta seems dry, add more or less pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer on low for 1 minute. (If you add too much water and the pasta is soupy, don’t worry. Uncover, raise the heat to high and simmer for 1 minute.)

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with pecorino Romano and chopped parsley. Pass more grated pecorino Romano for the cheese lovers.

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

What is your favorite winter Olympic event? Feel free to share!

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