Silver Lining & Hoisin Roasted or Grilled Salmon

There’s been a lot of grumbling over the past several weeks. That whole April showers thing got old really fast. I think I heard or read somewhere that it was the rainiest or at least one of the rainiest Aprils in history or in the last ten years or something like that. May hasn’t been much better. Then of course, it snowed last week. Not at my house, I’m below the magical 1,000 feet. Still, snow covered every roof, lawn and field up in town.

I can’t help but think that there is something wrong with that picture. There’s got to be. The long Memorial Day weekend is just days away. Memorial Day is when the summer people come up and sweep out their cottages. It’s when everyone puts their boats in the water. It marks the first cookout of the season. It’s when a few crazy kids dare to see who will take the first swim.

With all the clouds overhead, there has got to be a silver lining or two in all this cold and damp. So, as they say in kindergarten, let’s turn those frowns upside down and find that silver lining.

First and foremost, I don’t know if you noticed but the cold has kept those despicable black flies at bay. By now, packs of males are usually in your face and driving you mad. As for the females, they normally would have taken a chunk or two out of arms, legs – any bare bit of skin. So far, I’ve seen the odd fly buzzing about but with no real purpose. One rag-tag bunch was clustered around my car the other day. However, they seemed too cold or despondent to swarm.

Second, fire danger is down. Before new leaves pop, last year’s dead grass and leaves provide great fuel for fire. All this wet and damp is keeping the woods and our houses safe.

Third, I found a wonderful new pair of rain shoes – polka dot. An added bonus, they are very comfortable. I have another pair that are fabulous to look at but not so great for walking around. Who knew that rain shoes were a thing and that you might actually need them? If you prefer, you can go with rubber boots. They are also wonderful and come in a variety of fantastic colors and prints.

Fourth, a rainy day is a great excuse for some downtime. Leave those great looking, new, rain shoes by the door, put your feet up and read a book. If that seems too decadent, maybe you have a bag of yarn that’s begging to be knit into a sweater or a several boxes of old photographs that need to be scanned.

Fifth and final, in spite of the chilly weather, the peepers are out! They bring glorious memories of spring evenings of days gone by. If you haven’t done so already, bundle up some evening soon, make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine and sit on porch and listen to the chorus of tiny frogs. While you are at it, take a moment to reflect on childhood games of kick-the can and hide-and-go-seek played in the waning light of early evening to the song of the peepers.

Enjoy springtime in New Hampshire – or whatever this is and bon appétit!

Hoisin Roasted or Grilled Salmon
Whether you cook in or out, this sweet and savory fish dish will be perfect for the holiday weekend. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 salmon fillet(s) (about 3 pounds)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Toasted sesame seeds
Lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Put the hoisin and soy sauces in a bowl, add the wine, honey, sriracha and garlic and whisk to combine.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper. Spoon about half the hoisin mixture onto the salmon and spread over the fish. Slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 6-8 minutes, spoon and spread the remaining sauce over the fish. Roast until cooked through, an additional 6-8 minutes.

Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind and carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter. Sprinkle the salmon with toasted sesame seeds and serve with lime wedges.

Alternatively,

Preheat the grill to high.

Brush the flesh side of the salmon with the hoisin mixture, season with salt and pepper and place the fish, skin side up, on the grill.

Depending on the thickness of the fish, grill for 5-6 minutes. Carefully turn the salmon with a wide spatula, brush with more of the hoisin mixture and grill for 3-5 minutes more or until cooked through but not dry.

Remove the salmon from the grill and place it on a cutting board. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind and carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter. Drizzle with the remaining hoisin mixture, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with lime wedges.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Asparagus with Lemony Tarragon Butter
Two Years Ago – Lemony Green Rice
Three Years Ago – Crostini with Red Pepper Tzatziki & Greek Salad
Four Years Ago – Ginger Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote
Five Years Ago – Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Seven Years Ago – Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese
Eight Years Ago – Wheat Berry Salad
Nine Years Ago – Not Your Ordinary Burger
Ten Years Ago – Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

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

What’s your silver lining this rainy spring? 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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Shoo Flies & Asparagus with Lemony Aioli

The street sweeper came by in the middle of last week. With all the rain in April, I think it was a bit behind schedule. Anyway, the combination of the sweeper and Mother’s Day signals the end of mud season. Unfortunately, that means black fly season has arrived. In other words, hardly-spring has morphed into sort-of-like-spring or, maybe, spring-bites.

Mud and flies are fundamental to our two-part spring. Sounds awful but it’s not too bad. With longer and warmer days, it’s a happy time. Or at least mostly happy. Okay, make that happy when/if it doesn’t rain every day for a month. Anyway, moving on. With mud season in the review mirror, trees are budding, daffodils and tulips are bobbing in the breeze and people are sneezing.

The second phase of spring in New Hampshire raises a big question – how to cope with those d#$%m black flies? There are two parts to the issue. The first is the females. These vampires really know how to take a bite out of life. Bloodthirsty dames, they will attack any exposed skin. Depending on your luck or lack of, you are left with itchy bumps or oversized welts.

Now, stop for a minute and think of the tragedy here. After months wrapped in layers of fleece and down, it’s finally warm enough, or almost, for T-shirts and shorts. We are soooo ready to soak up a little natural vitamin D. Sorry, the black flies have a different idea. Instead of the cold, we need to cover up against these beasts. By the way, pants and a long sleeve shirt aren’t enough. Covering up includes your ankles, wrists, hands, face, neck and scalp. If you don’t have one, be sure to get one of those nets that goes over your head. Believe me, it’s a wonderful look.

Now for the male black flies. Happily, they don’t bite. Instead, they flit from flower to flower, sipping nectar. Unfortunately, they do not have an insatiable appetite. Once they’ve had enough, they look around for someone to pester. Like silly boys in middle school, they buzz around and get in your face. Annoyance, sometimes to the point of insanity, rather than pain is the operative word here.

So, here’s the scenario, it’s finally warmed up. If you’re lucky, the sun is out. All you want to do is spend the day outside – hiking, gardening, paddling your kayak, sitting in a café – the list goes on and on. Stepping outside, you are met by a swarm of biting and buzzing flies. What to do? Here are a few hints –

  • Go out in the middle of the day. The flies are apt to be napping or whatever they do when they aren’t pestering you.
  • Black flies congregate in and around running streams. Unlike mosquitos, they like moving water so take your paddling to a quiet pond or lake.
  • They’re not that fast, so trade in your hiking boots for a bicycle and out run them.
  • Wind is your friend. Flies have trouble tracking you down on a breezy day. If you are planning a few hours outdoors and have some flexibility, check the weather report.
  • Stick with light colored clothing. Not only is it more spring-like but dark colors attack flies.
  • Try a natural repellant and reapply frequently. I like lavender but some people swear by vanilla. About lavender, it’s not infallible. At some point, the flies will figure out that you’re a person and come back to bite, buzz and annoy.

Happy spring and bon appétit!

Asparagus with Lemony Aioli
One of the first vegetables of the season, who doesn’t love asparagus? Steamed, roasted or grilled, add a quick and easy aioli for a delicious first course or side dish. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds (more for fanatics) asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Forget the pencil thin asparagus. Sure, they look elegant but the nice, fat spears have the best flavor and texture. Steamed, roasted or grilled, asparagus are best cooked until tender-crisp. Cooking time will vary depending on thickness.

To steam: put about 2-inches of salted water in a large skillet or sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes.

To roast: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 8-12 minutes.

To grill: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. Put the asparagus in a large dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the asparagus on the grill, cook for 1-3 minutes.

To Serve: Arrange the asparagus on a platter or individual plates. Serve warm or at room temperature with Lemony Aioli.

Lemony Aioli
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in small bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to combine the flavors. Whisk again and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Moroccan Chicken with Chickpea Salsa
Two Years Ago – Pissaladière
Three Years Ago – Tabbouleh
Four Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado
Five Years Ago – Grilled Balsamic Vegetables
Six Years Ago – New Potato Salad Dijon
Seven Years Ago – Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
Eight Years Ago – Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Nine Years Ago – Feta Walnut Spread
Ten Years Ago – Bruschetta with Grilled Vegetables & Gorgonzola

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

How do you deal with black flies? Feel free to share!

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

You Gotta Love a Nurse & Artichoke, Spinach & Goat Cheese Tart

I think I’m one of thousands, probably millions, who was incensed and disgusted a week or two ago. A thoughtless politician on the other coast suggested that nurses in rural hospitals sit around most of the day playing cards. After cooling down a bit (it took a while), I put on my be-nice-cap. Although still sort of fuming, the trying-to-be-nice Susan decided that the thoughtless critic has never spent any time in a hospital with a sick friend or family member. For the last seven or so years, first with two, now with one elderly parent, I have lots of experience with hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In fact, I’m so good at it that a friend brings me along to her appointments when she feels the need for a second pair of ears.

Television has given us a look, real or imagined, into the workings of big city hospitals. The emergency room is a favorite stage. Beds line the hallways and waiting rooms are filled to the brim. There is drama behind every curtain and romance in the stockroom. Now, I can’t attest to any storage closet shenanigans. However, there is usually at least a little drama around every bed in every hospital, urban, suburban and rural, across America. Yes, that’s right – every bed; tears, fears and joy are not confined to the ER or large population centers.

Small as they may be, these heartfelt dramas play out around the clock, week in and week out. They include the personal worries of knowing that someone you love is in pain, ill or in some kind of trouble – again. There are staff concerns when yet another patient arrives in pain, ill or in some kind of trouble – and alone.

Beautiful sunny, Saturday afternoons or snowy Thursday nights, illnesses and accidents happen twenty-four by seven, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. There are no commercial breaks. Every day and night, rural hospitals feature scenes of love and loss, of hope and joy, of deep sadness and pure exhaustion. For each and every one of these mini dramas, nurses and nursing assistants are there … and they’re not playing cards. They know that, when it’s your loved one, the drama is hardly mini.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think of all the wonderful nurses and nursing assistants who helped my mother They embraced her with all her frailties and all her quirks. They treated her with kindness and dignity. The nurses I know have an uncanny ability to see beyond illness, beyond disabilities into the heart, mind and soul of the people they are helping.

Doctors come and go, checking in on patients once or twice, maybe three times a day. Nurses are one-on-one with them throughout their long shift. Day and night, from seven to seven, nurses are on duty, caring and watching out for your loved one. Not just for my mom or yours, they are there for the entire family. When they ask, “How are you?” It’s not a polite platitude, they want to know if you are taking care of yourself. When they tell you to get some rest, they aren’t kidding. A nurse may be taking care of your mom or dad or child or spouse but they are looking out for you too.

This year, Mother’s Day falls at the end of National Nurses Week. Honor your mom by hugging a nurse. Thank a nurse. Thank your lucky stars there are nurses on this planet. And by the way, rural hospitals are not perfect but if you’re looking for a card game, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Happy Mother’s Day and bon appétit!

Artichoke, Spinach & Goat Cheese Tart
What would Mother’s Day be without brunch and a quiche? Try my latest and enjoy!
Serves 6-8

Savory Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 package (8-10 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, well drained and coarsely chopped
8 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
About 8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 cups half & half or whole milk or a mix

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place the rack in the middle of the oven.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Line a 10-inch tart pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with the pastry and crimp the edges. Store in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, add the artichokes and spinach and toss to combine. Cool to room temperature.

Put the eggs and mustard in a bowl, sprinkle with nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Add the half & half and whisk until well combined.

Put the vegetables in the tart shell. Sprinkle with the cheeses. Leaving at least 1/4-inch at the top of the shell, add the egg mixture.

Transfer the tart to the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until the custard is set and tart is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

 Savory Flaky Pastry 
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Lettuce Cups with Stir-fried Chicken & Vegetables
Two Years Ago – Crostini with Cucumber, Radish & Feta
Three Years Ago – Crostini with Fig, Stilton and Walnuts
Four Years Ago – Rhubarb Crumb Cake
Five Years Ago – A Duo of Aiolis
Six Years Ago – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Mushrooms & Mustard Sauce
Seven Years Ago – Crunch Salad with Apples & Grapes
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Mustard Pork Chops
Nine Years Ago – Rhubarb Crisp
Ten Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Steak

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

Do you have a special nurse to hug this week? Feel free to share!

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

Life Is Like a Horse Race & Parmesan Popovers

The wisdom of Forrest Gump’s mama tells us that, “Life is like box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” That might be more or less true but not the whole truth. It’s not just possible but highly likely that there is more to life than sampling the mysteries of a box of sweets. Along with chocolates, maybe life is like a parachute, a bowl of cherries, monkey bars, a rat race or …. or a horse race.

With the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the Triple Crown is about to play out. Now is as good a time as any to explore why life might be like a horse race. Last year, Justify was the thirteenth horse to win all three jewels in the Triple Crown. At this point, it’s anyone and everyone’s horse race. Who will make it to the winner’s circle this year – once, twice or three times?

Running a race takes training and a lot of hard work. When it comes to sports, the arts, all sorts of things, it’s easy to sit back claim it’s all about talent. You got it or don’t. As important as natural talent is, training and hard work are what get you over the finish line first.

It takes teamwork. The jockey and horse need to operate as one. However, the trainer and owner, plus the breeder are all part of the team. Looking at our own victories, we may proudly declare we did it on our own. Sometimes that’s true but not always and probably not often.

You have to pace yourself. Thoroughbred horses can only run about a quarter mile at top speed. Setting a good pace out of the gate and then unleashing the final burst of speed at just the right moment are critical to winning. Throughout life, we find ourselves in situations where we need to decide when to cruise and when to go full out.

There are uniforms. Every jockey wears brightly colored racing silks. In the days before public address systems, those flashes of yellow, green and blue helped fans find their horse in the pack. But not just the jockey, the fans wear uniforms too. For women, showy hats are de rigueur. The most conservative of men will sport navy blue blazers and white flannels. For everyone else, it’s a pastel paradise. Women flounce in flowery dresses. Brave or colorblind men wear jackets in colors most often found in Easter baskets.

Most days most of us wear a uniform of some sort or another. For the executive, it’s a $3,000 suit. The middle schooler must have perfectly torn jeans. Some choose a uniform to stand out while others just want to blend in.

It’s a gamble. From the owner who literally bets the farm to buy, train and run a horse to the little old lady who places her $2 wager, horseracing is a gamble. So is life; who to marry or whether to put pineapple on your pizza, it’s all a bit of a gamble. Betting the farm on a new job or trying a new pub, sometimes we do our research and (maybe) all goes well. Other times, we trust our gut and hope for the best.

There’s one thing for sure, unlike a racehorse, we don’t peak early. While thoroughbreds can run for about five years, most retire after three. Not humans, we don’t get older; we get better. Fifty is the new thirty and eighty is the new sixty. At any age, it’s great to look forward to the next fabulous chapter.

Step into the winner’s circle, you belong there. Bon appétit!

Parmesan Popovers
Derby or Belmont, popovers will make an excellent addition to your watch party. Enjoy!
Makes 12 popovers

2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon or to taste freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a muffin tin or popover pan in the oven while you make the popover batter.

Put the eggs, salt and pepper in a blender and process on low until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the milk and process until well combined. A little at a time, add the flour and process until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and chives and pulse until well combined.

Remove the pan from the oven, place a teaspoon of melted butter in each cup and return the pan to the oven for 1-2 minutes more.

Remove the pan from oven and fill each cup about halfway with popover batter.

Return the pan to the oven and bake the popovers for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until the popovers are puffed and browned, about 10 minutes more.

Remove the popovers from pan immediately and serve hot.

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One Year Ago – Mexican Chocolate Pot de Crème
Two Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Three Years Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake
Four Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Five Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Six Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Seven Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Eight Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Nine Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Ten Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

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

Is your life like a box of chocolates or a horse race … or something else? Feel free to share!

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

Race track photo courtesy of Noah Salzman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Une Grande Dame & Goat Cheese Souffle

Notre Dame de Paris DSC 0846wIt was a jaw dropping moment, not in awe but in sorrow. Turning on the evening news last Monday, I was shocked and saddened to see a great architectural achievement on fire. Catastrophic flames leapt high into the sky. It was unreal. After weathering revolution, countless protests and two world wars, after eight centuries, Notre Dame was on fire.

I have visited Paris many times. After all, it was a quick three-hour trip by train from Geneva, my adopted home for almost two decades. Upon hearing and seeing the tragedy, my thoughts turned immediately not to my first trip to Paris nor to my last. Instead, memories of my first solo trip came flooding back.

Solo travel can be daunting, particularly for women. However, for those first few months in Switzerland, I was the new girl. I didn’t have a posse of family and friends to enlist in my travel goals. Fear and intimidation be damned, I resolved to spread my wings and visit all the great centers of Europe. Once a month, alone or not, I would hop on the train or find a cheap flight. At the time, I thought I’d only be there a year. I wasn’t going to waste it. From the leaning tower of Pisa to the tower of London, I wasn’t going to miss a thing.

I arrived in early August and it didn’t take long to settle into my new job and studio apartment. My docket as a research associate at an international leadership and management education institute (wow – that’s a mouthful) filled up quickly. The tiny apartment overlooked a different Notre Dame. It didn’t take long to unpack and find the nearest grocery store, farmers market and gym. I was settled and ready to see Europe.

From the start, I kept to the plan and spent weekends in Vienna and Munich. Paris was next. For a New England girl, it was amazing to leave work a few hours early on a Friday afternoon and arrive in Paris in time for dinner. Mind you, Parisians don’t eat at five or six but then neither do I.

I stayed in a cheap hotel, ate in neighborhood cafés and walked and walked and walked some more. It was October, a bit cool, mostly overcast but thankfully the rain held off. My feet took me from one great landmark to another. I wandered around and in Notre Dame Cathedral as well as the Arc de Triomphe, Les Jardin des Tuileries and a few interesting little shops. I took great delight in walking up and down the Seine and over its famous bridges. I drank tiny cups of strong coffee and glasses of dry wine. I feasted on croissants, steak-frites and oysters with raspberry vinegar and shallots.

Perhaps I was feeling a little homesick on Sunday afternoon. Before heading home on the train, I stopped for lunch at, of all places, a Greek restaurant. No, I’m not Greek but my mother and I used to go to the theater once or twice a year. We went to the matinée and before the show we joined the ladies-who-lunch at the Athens Olympia Café on Stuart Street in Boston.

A charming older woman sat at the next table. We exchanged polite smiles. After I gave my order, she asked a question or two. I replied in faltering French and a pleasant, only slight awkward conversation ensued. As I got up to leave, she commended me, not because I was anything close to fluent but because I made the effort. My mother would have been proud of me. I was proud of me.

Here’s to adventures great and small, safe travels and bon appétit!

Goat Cheese Souffle
Jacque Pepin’s mother’s souffle recipe is the inspiration for this simple, throw it all together dish. Enjoy!
Serves 4

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, plus more for the ramekins
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups whole milk or half & half or a mix
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled and at room temperature*
4 large eggs, at room temperature*
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 tablespoon minced rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter 4 (1-cup) ramekins, place them on a baking sheet and set aside.

Make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly for 1-2 minutes. Continuing to whisk constantly, add the milk and whisk until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt and pepper and set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Put the goat cheese, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano and herbs in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer or whisk with a fork until well combined.

Beating constantly, add the béchamel a little at a time and mix until well combined. Pour into the prepared ramekins.

Can be made ahead to this point, covered and refrigerated for several hours. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until puffed and golden, about 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.

It will be easier to combine the goat cheese and eggs if they are at room temperature. If you forget to take them out of the refrigerator in advance – don’t worry just beat for a minute or two more.

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One Year Ago – Vindaloo Chicken
Two Years Ago – I Love Lime Pie 
Three Years Ago – Quinoa Salad
Four Years Ago – Latkes 
Five Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Six Years Ago – Peanut-y Chocolate Chip Cookies
Seven Years Ago – Espresso Brownies
Eight Years Ago – Lemon Scones
Nine Years Ago – Shrimp with Jicama Slaw
Ten Years Ago – Pork Mole

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

Do you have special memories of Paris? Feel free to share!

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

Notre Dame Cathedral photograph – courtesy of Peter Haas, CC BY-SA 3.0

Easter Bonnet & Easter Bunny Carrot Cake

Okay, now we all know that Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, Christmas is all about Santa and presents, Halloween is costumes and candy and Independence Day is fireworks. Now, what about Easter? With all respect, Easter is all about hats and dresses. I note with respect because Easter is often considered to be the holiest of day in the Christian calendar.

Easter marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent and the final day of the long Easter weekend. Holy Week commemorates the days and events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ. Easter celebrates the resurrection and the triumph of good over evil.

Like many Christian feast days, today’s Easter traditions are a mix and mingle of many ancient cultures. Centuries ago, Europeans celebrated the coming of spring and warm days with great joy. Warmer, longer days were a relief after months of cold darkness. For Anglo-Saxons and Celts, spring was a time of planting, fertility and renewal. As Christianity spread north, its beliefs, symbols, celebrations and rites collided with pagan traditions.

Over time, this collision created a strange combination. On the one hand, you have a history of fasting, prayer and serious worship. On the other, you find vestiges of pagan symbols of renewal with eggs, new clothing to welcome spring, parades, bunnies, lambs and baby chicks.

My mother was among the millions of America’s suburban women who took their children shopping for Easter clothes. I suppose mothers in urban and rural America took their kids shopping too but I didn’t see it with my own eyes. Like clockwork, back-to-school and Easter forced any and all moms to take a deep breath and, then, a hard look at their children’s clothing. More often than not, everyone had jumped a size, if not two.

Like most younger sisters, my wardrobe was mostly hand-me-downs. However, somehow or other, both my sister Brenda and I received a new outfit in time for Easter. Now, Easter is a strange holiday since it pops up anytime between the middle of March and late April. One year it’s a celebration of spring and the next you’re up early shoveling snow before church. Living in New England, our Easter outfits ranged from little wool suits to sweet cotton dresses. With full skirts, puffy sleeves and lace collars, the dresses were far superior to any chic little suit.

Thankfully, regardless of timing and weather, a bonnet was always included in our Easter ensembles. Bedecked with flowers and ribbons, those bonnets were the highlight of Easter shopping. I’m not sure if they were ever worn more than once but they stayed firmly on our heads throughout Easter Sunday.

I credit those bonnets to a lifelong love of hats. Funny enough, except for wool caps in winter, I rarely don one. Perhaps, I should change that this spring. Why, I could throw on a fascinator or wide brim and make every day a parade. Given the miserable weather we’ve been having, it might not be a bad idea.

New duds or not, have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

Easter Bunny Carrot Cake
For Easter or anytime – carrot cake is always a favorite. Enjoy!
Makes a 9×13-inch cake or about 24 cup cakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark rum

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan or line muffin tins with paper liners.

Put the flour, baking soda and powder and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Put the carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins in a bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.

Put the oil and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined. Add the rum and beat until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes (cupcakes for 30-45 minutes) or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Generously slather with cream cheese frosting and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Put the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat to combine. Increase the mixer speed and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

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One Year Ago – Poverty Stew with Cilantro-Lime Salsa Verde
Two Years Ago – Coq au Vin au Printemps
Three Years Ago– Moroccan Baked Cod
Four Years Ago– Artichoke Pesto
Five Years Ago– Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Six Years Ago– Runners’ Chicken with Spaghetti
Seven Years Ago– Bananas Foster
Eight Years Ago– Tapenade
Nine Years Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Ten Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

How will you celebrate Easter this year? Feel free to share!

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

Hidden Beauty & Green Olive Salsa or Tapenade

I always complain about April. Well not just April, I also have this thing about November. As far as I’m concerned, they are the two worst months of the year. They are funky, in-between months. The days pass slowly as we anticipate the new season and next adventure. In November, we anxiously look to sky for enough snow to ski or snowshoe and ice to skate. In April, we anxiously wait for the last of that snow and ice to disappear.

In both cases, the predominant color is gray. We New Englanders love our blazing fall colors but by November the trees are bare. We also love the bright green buds on the trees, the pink and white apple blossoms and the first cheery yellow daffodils of spring.

If anything, April is worst than November. Both are gray but April is just so messy. I’m far from being a clean freak but the mountain of sand that come into the house gets to me every year. As much as I’d like to enjoy a beach right now, I don’t want one in my kitchen.

Speaking of beaches, that’s the other thing about these two in-between months. There’s nothing special to do. Next season’s fun is still a month or two away. The lake is covered with ice but probably not all that safe for skating. The mountain has closed down for the season. Hiking paths are covered with a mix of mud and ice. Perhaps I could take up mah jongg or go nuts with spring cleaning. Both would keep me busy but I’m unsure of the fun factor. That’s not quite true, spring cleaning is low on my list of fun stuff to do.

Then, like the proverbial silver lining, I spied a bright spot in the drab landscape. Maybe the barren countryside isn’t so bad. Without foliage or four feet of snow, I made an interesting discovery on my walk the other day.

Looking out from the sandy edge of the road, I saw evidence of beavers. They’ve been at work in a swampy area near Great Brook. Bands of newly exposed wood were visible at the bottom of several trees. Still others, were mere stumps, chewed to a sharp point. The wind was blowing a gale. The sky had clouded over but none of that mattered. A soothing abstract arrangement of trees in pale gold and gray was etched against the snow. It was beautiful.

beaver_landscape_014

While I have never tried to ramble around back there, I suspect it’s barely accessible. Part of the network of wetlands that surround much of the lake, it would make for a soggy walkabout. Melting snow and any significant rainstorm create a maze of little streams. As soon as it warms up, poison ivy will again be rampant.

For most of year, this magical view is shielded by thick foliage or mountainous snowbanks. Perhaps, that’s the magic. Hidden away, it’s ignored by all but the most curious puppy out for a walk. That combination of light and dark, gray and gold is only revealed for a few days. Soon the snow will melt and the trees will retreat into a muddy backdrop.

Sun or clouds, be sure to spend some time exploring your world and bon appétit!

Green Olive Tapenade or Salsa
Same ingredients – two results. Both are delicious.  Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

2 cups pitted Castelvetrano olives or your favorite green olives, rinsed and well drained
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes or to taste
1 bay leaf (optional)

Salsa: finely chop the olives and capers and mince the garlic. Put all of ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Cover and let sit for up to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Serve the salsa on crostini with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano or with grilled fish or chicken or toss with pasta.

Tapenade: working in batches, throw everything but the bay leaf into a small food processor. Process until the mixture comes together in a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl or jar, add the bay leaf, cover and let sit for up to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator to combine the flavors.

Serve the tapenade with raw vegetables and flatbread crackers or use it to add a bit of punch to sandwiches and pizza.

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One Year Ago – Pasta Primavera
Two Years Ago – Coq au Vin au Printemps
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Baked Cod
Four Years Ago – Artichoke Pesto
Five Years Ago – Quinoa with Sweet Potato & Spinach
Six Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with
Seven Years Ago – Bananas Foster
Eight Years Ago – Tapenade
Nine Year Ago – Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème
Ten Years Ago – Lemon Tart

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

How do you survivemud season a favorite dog? Feel free to share!

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