Happiness Is … & Cucumber Bites with Goat Cheese, Tapenade & Tomatoes

The other morning, I ended a phone call with a grumpy comment that I was stuck inside waiting for the UPS man. I added that I was feeling pretty cranky about the whole thing. In reply, the person on the other end of the line told me that I didn’t sound the least bit cranky. Let’s chalk that one up to a sunny disposition.

I decided years ago, decades actually, that life is better for happy people. I confess, after a happy-go-lucky, cheerful childhood, I grew into a somewhat moody teenager. It was all part and parcel of trying to figure out the world and how I fit in. About the time I turned eighteen, I realized that it would probably be a while before everything made sense. It dawned on me that, in the meantime, my life would probably improve if I dropped the glum façade.

So, for the most part, I did just that. I practiced cheerful optimism. Over time, I actually became a cheerful optimist. That’s not to say, that I’m never down in the dumps, sad, mad or fed up. I go through funks just like everyone else. However, I refuse to spend too much time wallowing in the doldrums. At a certain point, I realize it’s time to cheer up, smile and be happy.

It’s not always all that easy to cheer up. Sometimes, you have to work at it. However, on many occasions it takes nothing more than opening your eyes and your heart to the simple delights that surround you. Think about it. Above and beyond a warm puppy, there’s a whole pile of things to fill you with joy. For instance, happiness is …

  • Hearing the call of the loons in the early morning.
  • A weekend with no looming deadlines.
  • Watching a baby sleep.
  • Cooking and sharing a meal with friends.
  • Chatting with your sister.
  • Starting a challenging assignment.
  • Finishing a challenging assignment.
  • A new pair of shoes.
  • Helping someone.
  • Finding a dollar in your back pocket.
  • Exploring a favorite spot with a new friend.
  • Nonchalantly complimenting someone and then seeing their face light up.
  • A good hair day.
  • Losing yourself in a good book.
  • Hanging out with people you love.
  • Your favorite song coming on the radio just as you pull out of the driveway.
  • Dancing.
  • Singing, even if off-key, at the top of your lungs.
  • A big, loud, enthusiastic laugh.
  • A sunny day with a light breeze off the lake and sand in my toes.

… and a whole lot more.

Happy day and bon appétit!

Cucumber Bites with Goat Cheese, Tapenade & Tomatoes
Summertime is the perfect time for easy appetizers. As long as you have a jar of tapenade in your refrigerator, this one comes together in minutes. Enjoy!

Makes about 30 canapes

  • 1-1 1/2 European or 3-4 Persian cucumbers
  • About 8 ounces soft goat cheese at room temperature
  • About 3/4 cup homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought tapenade
  • 8-16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters or 1/2-1 tomato cut in small dice

Peel the cucumber and slice 1/4-1/2-inch thick.

Whisk the goat cheese with a fork until smooth. Spread each cucumber slice with 1-2 teaspoons goat cheese, top with a small dollop of tapenade and garnish with a cherry tomato half or quarter or diced tomato.

Homemade Tapenade

  • 8-12 ounces dry pack, oil cured black Greek olives or a mix of oil cured and Kalamata olives, pitted
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • Dash hot pepper sauce or pinch hot pepper flakes

Throw everything into a small food processor. Process until the mixture becomes a nice paste. If necessary, add a little more olive oil. Cover and let sit for up to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator before using to combine the flavors.

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What makes you happy? Feel free to share!

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

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Begin with a Single Step & Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
From Tao Te Ching by Laozi

I need a new word; one that combines sad and angry. Three mass murders in eight days created this mix of emotions. These most recent crimes are on top of the tens of thousands of annual gun deaths and injuries. Foot-dragging politicians talk about mental illness, video games  and the need for more information. Then, if history repeats itself, they will do nothing. No study group will be formed. No funding will be provided. The outrage will subside. The moment for action will pass until the next crisis.

While I am sure that common psychological or sociological threads can be found, let’s face it – each crime is perpetrated by an individual. Some are fueled by hate, some by despair. Some are part of a larger criminal enterprise; others are powered by extremist religious or political fervor. Some are the product of mental illness, drugs or alcohol abuse. Some perpetrators were bullied. Others are bullies. There is no one root cause, no single, elusive answer. Gun violence is complex. There is a long list of explanations for each terrible crime. However, there is one constant, one common denominator. Regardless of the crime – mass murder, drive by shooting, burglary gone bad or family violence turned deadly – easy access to guns makes it possible.

We will never make any progress, if we don’t take a first step. The vast majority of Americans want sensible gun control. And yes, my definition of sensible may be different from yours. But again, we will never get anywhere if we don’t take a first step. We need to make the effort. We need to try. The step can be small. It can be a compromise. We just need to take the first step … and then another and one more after that. Eventually, what is now very imperfect will become a little less so.

This morning I made muffins. I find peace in the Zen of everyday activities. Simple tasks, done one after another, are grounding. Recipes, no matter how complex, are nothing more than taking one step and then another and another to make something. Something you can share. Something that makes the day a little better or brighter or at least keeps you from going hungry.

I measured flour, baking powder and spices. I preheated the oven. I chopped rhubarb and nuts. I whipped butter and sugar, added eggs, vanilla and sour cream. The dry ingredients gradually joined the wet, followed by the rhubarb. Not done yet, I scooped the batter into muffin tins and then slid them into the oven. All told, I guess it took about a dozen steps.

Fifteen minutes later, they were golden and delicious. However, if you arrived at my door hoping to find a big breakfast, an all-encompassing solution to your morning hunger, it wasn’t there. Only muffins, one piece of what could become a more comprehensive feast.

A friend did come over. I took two more steps; brewed coffee and heated milk. We sipped lattes and ate a few of the muffins. We had a lovely chat about writing and freelancing and making a living as well as life and a few other things. Progress of a different sort was made.

Although some may lead you astray, most steps take you at least a little closer to where you need to be; closer to a more perfect imperfection. If the life of one child, one teenager, one man, one woman can be saved by taking the first step, isn’t it worth the effort? Isn’t it worth a try?

Here’s to a safer tomorrow and bon appétit!

Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins
A neighbor gave me an armful of rhubarb the other day so I made muffins. They are delicious as a little something to nibble with coffee or tea. Or include them in your next brunch – maybe you refer to it as a comprehensive solution to morning hunger. Enjoy!
Makes 36 muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
12 ounces fresh rhubarb, cut into small dice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the walnuts and whisk again.

Put the sugars and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat until well combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Gradually add the rhubarb and continue beating until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full with batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool the muffins on a rack for a few minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Year Ago – Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta
Two Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn, Tomatoes & Salsa Verde
Three Years Ago – Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta
Four Years Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Five Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Six Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Seven Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Eight Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp 
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Ten Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Eleven Years Ago – Summer Rolls

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

How do find peace during chaos? Feel free to share!

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

Summer’s Second Act & Blueberry-Lemon Shortcakes

Summer in New Hampshire is a special time. Perhaps because it is so brief. Oh sure, we get a little peevish when July turns hot and humid. Luckily, those heatwaves only last a few days. And by the way, for all of you who mutter, “it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity” – it’s both and more. Let’s not forget the insidious rattle and hum of those noisy old air conditioners we strategically place around the house. When the heat breaks, it’s a relief to turn them off and throw open the windows. It’s a joy to hear to birds instead of the air conditioners’ loud drone.

Anyway, imagine my surprise last week when I spotted the first signs of Hospital Days. My goodness, how did we reach midsummer so quickly? Before you get all cranky about what has passed or what you might have missed, now would be a good time to look forward. Just think of all the good stuff that is still to come before Labor Day. Think of it as summer’s second act.

First and foremost on the list, no doubt about it, it has got to be fresh local corn and lots of it. I’ve already had a few ears but they were from Massachusetts. If it isn’t picked in town or close by, it’s just not the same.

Of course, my favorite way to cook corn is also the easiest. Throw the ears into boiling water for four minutes (three if you are impatient), pull them out, slather on a little butter or your favorite spicy aioli, season with salt and enjoy. As for second best, that’s a tie between any and everything else you can and should make with fresh corn. Grill it, throw it into cornbread, stir it into soup or chowder, add it to risotto, polenta or salsa or toss it with pasta. The options are many; try them all.

While we’re on the subject of food, August is prime time for blueberries. Blueberries always make me think of my Nana Nye. She baked a lot of blueberry pies in her day. I don’t think a week went by in late July or August that she didn’t pull at least one blueberry pie from the oven.

A favorite tradition in our house is pie for breakfast. When I was kid, by some good luck, more often than not, there would be an extra piece of blueberry pie at the end of the evening. Whether we were six or a dozen or more, whether Nana baked three pies, two or one, there always seemed to be just one piece left over. If you wanted pie for breakfast, you had to be the first up in the morning.

There is still plenty of time to take in a summer bandstand concert. The first bandstands were built in urban parks. After a seventy- to eighty-hour work week, weary factory workers were grateful for an afternoon of sunshine and music. Today, bandstands can be found throughout New Hampshire from old mill towns to rural communities. Throughout the summer, both locals and vacationers gather to enjoy an evening of fun and music. At least three, maybe four, days a week, you can find a free concert playing somewhere within thirty miles or less.

The full moon will rise on August 15. A full moon is great anytime but it is especially wonderful in the summer. Perhaps it reminds me of playing hide and seek in the dark or catching fireflies as a child. It’s wonderful to be out on a warm summer night. There something special about watching the moon rise over the water or a mountain. For that matter, watching the moon rise over the trees in your own backyard isn’t so bad either.

If you are still pouting, just remember, it’s summer until the autumnal equinox at the end of September. Enjoy act two and bon appétit!

Blueberry-Lemon Shortcakes
Be sure to make enough to have one leftover for breakfast. (if you are hankering for pie, you can find my blueberry pie recipe here.) Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface
About 1/4 cup sugar plus more for the berries
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2-2 quarts blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

Put the flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter, pulse until it is fully incorporated and the dry ingredients resemble fine meal. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Put the sour cream, 1/2 cup heavy cream and vanilla in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, pat into a ball and knead a few times.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions, pat into rounds, place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream.

Turning the sheet pan at the mid-point, bake the shortcakes in the center of the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. While the cakes bake and cool, make the Mascarpone-Lemon Cream.

To assemble: toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon sugar. (If the berries are very fresh and local, you may not need sugar.) Slice each shortcake in half horizontally. Top the bottom halves with blueberries and dollops of Mascarpone-Lemon Cream. Add the top halves, more blueberries and cream. Serve immediately.

The cakes, cream and blueberries can be prepared in advance and assemble right before serving.

Mascarpone-Lemon Cream
6 ounces mascarpone
2-4 tablespoons Lemon Syrup (recipe follows)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups very cold heavy cream

Put the mascarpone, Lemon Syrup and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly add the heavy cream and beat until smooth. Continue beating until soft peaks form.

Lemon Syrup
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup sugar

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Stirring frequently, cook on medium until the sugar melts. Increase the temperature to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Store extra Lemon Syrup in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake
Two Years Ago – Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler
Three Years Ago – Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde
Four Years Ago – Corncakes
Five Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Six Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Eight Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Nine Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Ten Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Eleven Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

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

Do you have a favorite blueberry recipe? Feel free to share!

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

The Summer of ’69 – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly & Greek Salad

So, I was a kid, hanging out on the beach with my friends. Life was simple. We swam, sailed, water-skied and played tennis. I’m sure we washed a few cars to raise money for Hospital Day. We probably went to a dance or two or maybe a movie on a rainy afternoon. On a scale of one to ten, it was a perfect life. Out in the real world, far from the idyllic hills and lakes of New Hampshire, a whole lot of everything was happening in the summer of 1969.

It was a turbulent time. Nixon was president and the Vietnamese War was raging. The evening news was filled with stories of war as well as protests, demonstrations and lots more. We didn’t watch a lot of news during the summer or any television for that matter. Our old black and white television had rabbit ears and a snow-filled screen. It played two stations, both ABC – one out of Portland and the other out of Manchester. While some memories are more vivid then others, here are some of the stories I recall from the summer of ’69 – the good, the bad and the ugly …

Enough was enough. A Saturday night police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York on June 28 sparked the gay liberation movement. Long hassled by the police and homophobes, it was one raid too many. The gay community fought back and the Stonewall Uprising continued for several days.

Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island on July 18. Mary Jo Kopechne, one of his brother’s campaign aides, died in the accident. Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident. He continued to serve in the Senate until his death in 2009. His long tenure and influence earned him the title – Lion of the Senate.

Two days later on July 20, Neil Armstrong took, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He fulfilled the ambitious goal set by the late President John F. Kennedy to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. We never looked at space or the moon the same again.

A few weeks later, a group of love-struck, teenage followers of cult leader Charles Manson went on a violent, drug-fueled murder spree. On the night of August 8 and 9, they killed five people, including the very pregnant, actress Sharon Tate. Not finished, they killed two more on August 10.

Thirty-two acts played between August 15 and 18 at the Woodstock Music Festival on Max Yasgur’s farm. They expected 50,000 but a half million kids made it to the rain drenched celebration of music, peace and love. Max proudly told crowd, “…you’ve proven something to the world … A half a million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music, and I – God bless you for it!”

On August 18, as concert goers sat for hours in traffic trying to get out of Woodstock, Hurricane Camille came ashore in Mississippi. She brought widespread damage from the Gulf Coast to Virginia and 259 people died. Although the infamous Hurricane Party at the Richelieu Apartments never actually happened, the myth lives on pop culture.

And finally, Labor Day afternoon, September 1, the Nye kids piled into their mom’s station wagon along with the dog and two or three turtles and returned to suburbia. The kids grumpily nudged each other and bickered in the backseat while their mother silently wept and said goodbye to summer.

Fifty years later, I hope your summer is more good than bad or ugly.  Bon appétit!

Greek Salad
A classic summer salad, you can toss it together or dress it up by arranging everything into a lovely salade composée. (That’s French for composed salad – beautifully arranged ingredients provide a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.) Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small red onion, cut in half horizontally and then into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes – a mix of large, small and cherry tomatoes in different shapes and colors if you can find them
1-1 1/2 European cucumbers
8 ounces feta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
16-20 Kalamata or a mix of your favorite Greek olives, pitted and halved

Put the oil and vinegar in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the onion and minced garlic, sprinkle with oregano and toss to combine. Tossing occasionally, let the onions marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, cut the larger tomatoes in wedges. Peel and seed the cucumbers and cut into chunks.

To serve – put everything into a large bowl and gently toss …

… or create a beautiful salade composée. Start by artfully arranging the tomatoes and cucumbers on a large platter or individual plates. Reserving the olive oil and vinegar, drain the onions. Drizzle the tomatoes and cucumbers with the oil and vinegar and sprinkle with onions, feta and olives.

Serve at room temperature. Cover and store extra sauce in the refrigerator.


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One Year Ago – Moroccan Grilled Chicken & Carrots with Chickpea-Quinoa Salad
Two Years Ago – Szechuan Noodle Salad
Three Years Ago – Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus
Four Years Ago – Cucumber-Mint Agua Fresca
Five Years Ago – Double Corn & Cheddar Muffins
Six Years Ago – Blueberry Clafouti
Seven Years Ago – Blackberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
Eight Years Ago – Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato 
Nine Years Ago – Red Pepper Dip
Ten Years Ago – Grilled Chicken, Shallots & New Potatoes
Eleven Years Ago – Barbecue Chicken

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

What salads are you arranging or tossing up this summer Feel free to share!

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

Ways to Show – I Love You & Grilled Carrots with Green Tahini Sauce

Love isn’t easy. Romantic love, familial love, dear friendships – they all take effort and time. Love of a spouse or a sibling, love of a parent, cousin or friend, it doesn’t matter. Things can get messy, and sometimes, even ugly. Yes, indeed, like it or not relationships are not effortless hugs and kisses, long chats and giggles. A good relationship takes work, sometimes a lot of work, sometimes one-sided work – but it can be absolutely, positively worth it.

Great as love is, it won’t mend all that’s wrong with the world. It won’t erase the niggling insecurities we all have. Love won’t miraculously give you or anyone else world class soccer skills. Love isn’t the key to winning a Pulitzer. Love can’t guarantee a better job or a raise. It can’t straighten hair or get rid of pimples. However, it can help everyone feel better, stronger and … well … loved.

Perhaps you’re not good with words or not particularly demonstrative. If you have trouble expressing your feelings …

… here are a few things you can SAY to show your love –

Did you eat?
What can I do for you?
Come sit; tell me what you’ve been up to.
What would you like to do today?
I love the new haircut.
Let me get that for you.
It’s supposed to rain today, don’t forget your umbrella.
Please, wear bright/florescent/reflective clothing when you go out on your walk.
Be safe.
You are smart.
You are beautiful.
You are amazing
Thank you.
I love you.

… and a few things you can DO to show your love –

Smile when they walk in the room.
Laugh at their jokes.
Ask their advice.
Cook them a special meal. Invite them to cook with you and share a favorite recipe.
Put your dishes in the dishwasher. Put their dishes in the dishwasher.
Get over it. Whatever pissed you off; it’s not worth it.
Call for no reason except to say hello.
Spend time with them.
Join them at their favorite game or activity.
Give a book you know they’ll love.
Give flowers.
Give a heartfelt hug.
Give your undivided attention.
Listen, really listen.

This summer, this year, this millennium, let the people you love know it.

Love is too good to keep it a secret. Bon appétit!

Grilled Carrots with Green Tahini Sauce
Tender, new carrots fresh from local farms are incredible when grilled. Perfect as an appetizer or side dish, serve them plain or with my Moroccan tahini inspired sauce. Enjoy them with people you love!
Serve 8

Green Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)
1 1/2 – 2 pounds carrots
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Make the Green Tahini Sauce. Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Toss the carrots with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the carrots on the grill and cook for 5 minutes. If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to low and turn the carrots. If using a charcoal grill, turn and move the carrots to the cool side of the grill. Grill for an additional 5 minutes or until tender.

Transfer the carrots to a serving platter or individual plates and serve warm or at room temperature with Green Tahini Sauce.

Green Tahini Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

3-4 cloves garlic
2-3 scallions, chopped, white and light green parts separated from the dark green
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed parsley leaves

Put the garlic, white and light green scallion and spices in a small food processor, add the lime juice and zest and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine and finely chop.

Add the tahini, olive oil, herbs and remaining scallion and process until smooth. If necessary, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, and process until smooth and creamy. Let the sauce sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Serve at room temperature. Cover and store extra sauce in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes & Basil
Two Years Ago – Grilled Romaine Salad
Three Years Ago – Fresh Tomato Crostini
Four Years Ago – Blueberry Crostata
Five Years Ago – Orzo Salad with Lemony Pesto & Grilled Tomatoes
Six Years Ago – Watermelon & Cucumber Salsa
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Chicken Salad Provencal
Eight Years Ago – Lobster with Corn, Tomato & Arugula Salad
Nine Years Ago – Greek Green Beans
Ten Years Ago – Blueberry Pie
Eleven Years Ago – Grilled Lamb

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

What are you grilling this week? Feel free to share!

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

Fireflies & Other Fragments & Sriracha Aioli

Summers past and present are a kaleidoscope of this and that. Snapshots of ordinary life and historic events fill both real and imaginary scrapbooks. Or in the case of my family, instead of scrapbooks, we have decades of photographs jumbled together in an old pine chest. On top the pictures, each of us has hundreds, maybe thousands, of mental images of summer days and nights. From the July night when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon to an afternoon catching tadpoles, we each have a vast collection of stories. Some are filled with intricate details; others are mere fragments.

When you are little, there is something inexplicable thrilling about being outside after dark on a warm summer night. I suppose it’s the natural byproduct of living under the cardinal rules of suburban life. Close to the top, if not the top, was – drop whatever you’re doing and go home as soon as the streetlights come on.

On weekends and during vacations on the Cape, that rule was suspended. We did our best to spend every waking minute outside. Forget the kitchen. Still in our jammies, we ate our morning cereal on the backsteps. Lunch was a picnic on the beach. Every night was a cookout with dinners hot off the grill. Soon after the s’mores or blueberry pie were finished, the grownups were driven inside by the mosquitos. No, not to the living room, it was too hot and stuffy. Instead, they settled onto the screen porch to catch a breeze and wait, in vain hope, for the house to cool down.

Meanwhile, we kids were told to stay outside and play. Yes, during the school year, the exact same parents threaten to ground us for life if we didn’t report home the minute the streetlights came on. There is something quite magical about summer. Normal rules are suspended and everyone relaxes. Anyway, before you go thinking that we were somehow imperiled or neglected, forget about it. We were within easy earshot of the porch. Malaria does not creep that far north and, if they existed in New England at the time, no one had ever heard of West Nile virus or zika. For our part, mosquitos or not, we were more than delighted to be out under a starry sky.

Besides Nana always gave us each a punk. No, I’m not talking about some yahoo hoodlum or one of those wild bands from the seventies. This is my Nana, we’re talking about. No, she gave each of us one of those incense sticks that are supposed to keep the mosquitos away. We would run around, waving them in the air. If luck was with us, no one got burned and mosquito bites were few.

Some nights we skipped the punks and hunted fireflies instead. Fireflies don’t like punks. However, they did like to flit and flirt in the seagrasses down the road. Nana gave us mason jars and Pop used an old awl to punch holes in the lids. In our excitement, someone was sure to trip over a piece of drift wood or something or other and end up sprawling. Even so, a summer didn’t go by that we didn’t catch a few fireflies

The thrill was in the catch so we set them free before gathering up our stuff and trudging home. Grateful for their freedom, some of our fireflies showed their appreciation by tagging along. Just as my eyes were about close for the night, a little green light would blink and bring me back from the edge of slumber. If I was lucky, two or three would wink back and forth until I finally fell asleep.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Sriracha Aioli
Aioli is the perfect condiment or dip for summer cookouts. Skip the ketchup and try aioli on your next burger or slather it on grilled corn. Use it instead of tartar sauce with seafood or as a dip for fresh veggies. The list goes on and on. Enjoy!
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-3 tablespoons Sriracha
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the garlic, sriracha, lime zest and juice in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the mayonnaise and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and whisk again.

Let the aioli sit for 30 minutes at room temperature to combine the flavors. If it’s a hot day or you’re making ahead, let the flavors mix and mingle in the refrigerator.

Cover and store left over aioli in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli
Two Years Ago – Blueberry Bread Pudding
Three Years Ago – Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Four Years Ago – Cheesecake Brownies
Five Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Six Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Eight Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Nine Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Ten Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies

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

What do you put on your burger? Ketchup? or something else? Feel free to share!

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

Thoughts on Independence Day & Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Alright now, we know that the 4th of July is a day of parades, cookouts and fireworks. But what about the real story? What’s behind all the hoopla? In case you’ve forgotten your history lessons, the then-colonists, subjects of the King of England declared independence on the 4th of July, 1776. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that’s what July 4th, Independence Day, is all about.

This declaration did not happen overnight or without warning. Tension over a laundry list of issues had been brewing for years. Taxes were a particularly hot dispute. From documents to tea, the cash strapped British King tried to impose one tax after another on the colonists. Heated protests turned to rebellion before the all-out demand for independence.

Each and every one of the original thirteen colonies were represented when the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and approved the Declaration of Independence. Hardly wild-eyed rabble-rousers, these congressmen were men of means, educated landowners and professionals. In defiance of the King, Congress pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in pursuit of freedom and independence. Enough was enough, it was finally time to end the crushing tyranny of British rule.

The Colonists’ political and economic complaints were numerous and grave. Not only were they forced to pay taxes without representation, the courts were hopelessly biased and an army of red coats and mercenaries had invaded their shores. The colonists complained that the King had not only cut off trade with the rest of the world, he had, “plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.” In addition, they raised an oddly contemporary issue – immigration, stating “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither …”

And so, the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence renounced any last shreds of allegiance to King and crown. The colonies united into free and independent states. Today, we see it as a heroic declaration of freedom. However, at the time, it was treason. Or, at least, treasonous in the eyes of the British government. It was no small thing when the signers closed with a mutual pledge to stake their lives, fortunes and sacred honor on freedom and independence.

This holiday week, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the freedom fighters who helped create our great American story. Not just the revolutionaries of 1776 but the heroes of the Civil War, World Wars I and II and every conflict in our long history. While you’re at it, don’t forget the champions of the women’s, civil and LGBT rights movements.

A constant work in progress, our American story is far from perfect. Democracy is hard and our great experiment has been known to wobble and waiver occasionally. It will probably continue to do so. Am I alone in thinking that things are particularly wobble-y and waiver-y right now?

So, yes, thank the revolutionaries who laid the foundations for our democracy. Then, let’s ask more of ourselves to help safeguard life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for future generations. Together we can smooth out some of those wobbles and straighten a few more waivers.

Thank you, Happy Independence Day and bon appétit!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
A perfect dessert to help celebrate an old fashioned, red hot 4th of July or any early summer party. Enjoy!
8-12 servings

Butter for the pan(s)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 – 2 pounds rhubarb, washed trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 – 2 pounds strawberries, washed trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 3 quart baking dish or individual ramekins.

Put the sugar, cornstarch and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest and Grand Marnier and gently toss to combine. Pour the fruit into the baking dish or ramekins and sprinkle with the crumble topping.

Put the pan(s) on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly, 45-60 minutes for a large baking dish and 20-30 minutes for ramekins. Serve warm or at room temperate with vanilla ice cream.

Pistachio Crumble Topping
1 cup pistachios
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Combine the pistachios, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine and roughly chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse until the topping comes together in little lumps.

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One Year Ago – Vietnamese Salad
Two Years Ago – Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread
Three Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad
Four Years Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Five Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Six Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Seven Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Nine Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Ten Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

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

What is (are) your favorite summer fruit(s)/dessert(s)? Feel free to share!

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