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

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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

 

Native Strawberries, a Little Taste of Heaven! & Strawberries & Cream Parfaits

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”       

— William Butler

The world’s most popular berry, the strawberry, is finally, thankfully, just-about-ready for picking. Now, in reality this luscious red gem is not a berry at all, but a member of the rose family. Okay, wait a minute, stop the presses, back up the train … school’s out for summer. Could we maybe have a break here and skip the botany lesson. Berries or not, who can resist one (or two or a dozen or more) of these perfectly ripe, beautifully red, err, flowers? Particularly when they are growing right down the road.

While strawberries are available throughout the year, nothing can compare to a local, just picked berry. In the off season, at farms as far away as Chile, strawberries are picked before they are ripe and shipped around the world. They tempt us, they’re big, they’re bright and shiny red but unfortunately, their beauty is in the beholding. They may be pretty to look at but more often than not, they are pretty tasteless.

Native berries are ready just in time for end of school celebrations, the Fourth of July and, of course, Wimbledon. The tradition of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon may be as old as the famous lawn tennis tournament itself. Every year tons and tons of strawberries swimming in an ocean of cream are enjoyed at the All England Club.

But you don’t have to fly to England to celebrate the famous tournament; you don’t even have to like tennis. Just bring a few friends and family together, wear white, sip champagne or Pimms and nibble strawberries. I guess you had better put a television tuned into the matches in a corner somewhere for the enthusiasts. And for those who would rather play than watch; well, the ground and grass in most backyards, or at least my backyard, are not optimal for tennis. How about croquet?

In England strawberries are in season between May and September but in New Hampshire the season is fleeting and much too short. It begins in the last few days of June and goes into early July. Local strawberries are ready and ripe for just a few wonderful weeks so take advantage of the season before it runs out. Hurry over to your nearest Pick-Your-Own field, farm stand or farmers’ market and enjoy the heavenly aroma and sweet taste of native strawberries.

If you are looking for activities to keep the children or grandchildren busy and happy, berry picking could be just the ticket. With lots of little helpers, it won’t take long to pick enough strawberries to feed a hunger contingent of tennis or croquet players and Wimbledon watchers. That said, I have noticed that some young helpers have a tendency to put more in their mouths than in their baskets.

From the simplest dessert of strawberries and cream to shortcakes, ice cream, trifles and pies, strawberries are perfect for your early summer festivities. Strawberry season is short, so, make the most of this sweet time.

Enjoy the sunshine and bon appétit!

Strawberries & Cream Parfaits
Try this easy and delicious strawberry dessert at your Wimbledon or 4th of July or any early summer party. Enjoy!
8 servings

About 2 pounds fresh strawberries, halved or quartered

Mascarpone cream (recipe follows)
About 1/2 cup finely chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips
About 1/2 cup toasted chopped or slivered almonds
About 1/2 cup toasted coconut

Put a layer of fruit in the bottom of 8 wine or dessert glasses. Top with a layer of the mascarpone cream. Sprinkle with chocolate, almonds and coconut. Repeat for 2 or 3 layers.

Mascarpone Cream
6 ounces mascarpone
2-4 tablespoons honey
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups very cold heavy cream

Put the mascarpone, honey and orange 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.

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One Year Ago – Shrimp & Cucumber Bites
Two Years Ago – Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
Three Years Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Four Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Five Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Six Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
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

Welcome Summer & Smoked Salmon-Cucumber Bites

Every May, people get all excited and cheer the unofficial start to summer. Well, I can tell you, it’s a bunch of malarkey. Or at least it was this year. I don’t know about you but I’ve had to turn the heat back on at least two or three times since Memorial Day. So, let’s just forget all about this unofficial stuff. I don’t think I’m alone when stating that I am more than ready for the real thing.

No, that’s not the fourth of July. The first day of summer or summer solstice finally, happily arrives this coming Friday. The longest day of the year, I love everything about the summer solstice. The myths and legends, the rituals, the parties, the extra hours of sunshine, you name it – I like it.

It must be the combination of Swedish and Scottish blood that courses through my veins along with a splash Danish, some Irish and English. By golly, maybe some of my ancestors were druids. Or maybe I was a druid in another life. Perhaps, that’s why I am such a fan of standing stones. Years ago, I visited Stonehenge. Many believe that the circle of massive stones was built by druids. A few others think it might have been built by extraterrestrials. Either way, the site is awe inspiring.

Druids or ET, no one is altogether sure what Stonehenge is all about. After all, it was completed almost four thousand years ago. However, many believe it pays tribute to the longest day of the year. If you stand in just the right place before sunrise on the solstice and look towards the northeast, you will see the sun rise over what’s known as the Heel Stone. It’s quite dramatic and more than amazing. Thousands of years ago, without cranes or a backhoe or whatever else, ancient people created this incredible monument.

If you like, you too can channel your inner hippie or inner druid and join the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge. Unfortunately, you are more likely to see the back of someone’s head than the sun coming up over the Heel Stone. Over the years, the annual vigil has become more than a bit of mob scene.

Just as intriguing, are the more modest rings and rows of standing stones found throughout the British countryside. I’ve seen them in the south of England and maybe Scotland. I took a walking tour of Scotland one summer but the trip’s details are now a bit hazy. If you like, or at least don’t mind, a long walk across the moors, you might stumble upon a group of stones. Too small or remote to attract tour buses, there are no souvenir stands or tea shops. There’s a good chance you’ll have the stones all to yourself. The locals know where they are. Ask around, some kind soul is bound to send you in the right general direction. It’s quite something to see them.

Across the North Sea, the solstice celebrations are no less festive. To many Scandinavians, the solstice is as, if not more, important than Christmas. From Denmark to Sweden and Norway, everyone turns out for parties and bonfires by the sea and picnics in the park. After a long, dark winter, everyone is happy to stay out late and enjoy the midnight sun.

The Scandinavian solstice is a wonderful time for family and friends. It is certainly less frenzied than the gathering at Stonehenge. Whether you have a Swedish grandfather like me, a Danish grandmother or no particular ties at all, think about a Scandinavian picnic to celebrate the longest day. You don’t want to miss a minute of sunshine in our too short summer.

Have a great summer with family and friends and bon appétit!

Smoked Salmon-Cucumber Bites
Salmon – smoked, cured, grilled, roasted or poached – is a favorite throughout Scandinavia. This light and bright hors d’oeuvre is perfect for summer picnics and cocktail parties. Enjoy!
Enough for about 4 dozen pieces

Horseradish Cream (recipe follows)
1 1/2 – 2 English cucumbers, peeled and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
About 1 pound smoked salmon, cut in small pieces
Chopped chives

Make the Horseradish Cream.

Top cucumber slices with smoked salmon, add a generous dab of Horseradish Cream and sprinkle with chives.

Horseradish Cream
Makes about 1 cup sauce

2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup or to taste prepare horseradish, well drained
2 tablespoons capers, drained and finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Grated zest of 2 lemons

Put the cream cheese in bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. A spoonful or two at a time, add the sour cream and continue beating until smooth.

Add the horseradish, capers, mustard and lemon zest and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour to combine the flavors.

Cover and store leftover Horseradish Cream in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Vietnamese Beef
Two Years Ago – Grilled Steak with Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic & Rosemary-Balsamic Glaze
Three Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Four Years Ago – Maple-Bourbon Pork Ribs
Five Years Ago – Gravlax with Tarragon-Caper Mustard Sauce
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Crunchy Slaw with Cilantro, Mint & Peanuts
Eight Years Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola 
Nine Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
Ten Years Ago – Grilled Steak & Potato Salad

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

How will you celebrate the summer solstice? Feel free to share!

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

Many thanks to Mystic Realms for use of the photograph of the sun coming up over the Heel Stone at Stonehenge.

Telling our Stories & Grilled Eggplant Salad

Last week, I went back to my university, Saint Lawrence, for a reunion. The photographs of happy smiles on Facebook are a testament to two things. First, a good time was had by all. Second, if anything, we’re better looking today than we were all those years ago. Women of a certain age, we have earned every wrinkle and every gray and white hair and wear them with pride.

Yes, once upon a time, I spent a handful of years at Saint Lawrence with a bunch of wonderful people. Strangers, we came together in the idyllic north country, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. College is a Neverland of sorts. We were so young, so full of fun but still so serious and, at least in my case, pretending to be brave. Somewhere between orientation and graduation, lifelong bonds were formed. Then and now, we are sisters from other mothers; distance can separate us but it can’t break those ties.

Mostly suburbanites, a few country girls and a couple of city slickers found their way into our mix. After school, we headed back into the real world. There we found love and jobs,  started families or not, and did our best to live good, interesting and meaningful lives. Years later, we are at that age when children are grown. Phones are filled with pictures of adorable grandchildren. Parents are gone or aging and causing frequent worry.

It was a pleasure to reconnect with old friends. All these years later, bonds still hold firm. It was so easy to fall into conversations, silly and serious. It was truly an honor to catch up, listen and learn. An outsider can only guess at the stories behind the many smiling faces in photographs captured throughout the long weekend.

What I learned: more than anything, we are no longer pretending. We are indeed a brave bunch. In spite of distance and years, many of the events that mark our lives are similar. Along with unique experiences, we share a whole bunch of oddly familiar stories. From the happiest of times to the worst of times, we are not alone in our adventures and misadventures. Many of the tales told by these old friends could have been my own.

Maybe it’s the intensity of college days but our bonds are more than a long-ago, short lived common past. Since the day we all drove south after graduation, we have each faced a multitude of successes, trials and tribulations. The years have been filled with love and loss, promotions and layoffs, births and deaths, celebrations and tough times. Both mini and mega, the crises and triumphs we have faced and continue to face are somehow similar. Not down to the nitty-gritty details but there is a familiarity. More than the short time we spent together, we share generational mores and values. We have a natural, you might call it intuitive, empathy for each other’s’ joys, frustrations and sorrows.

Job loss to mental illness, we don’t just murmur a superficial, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Whether we share an identical story or something only sort of similar or even quite different; we get it. Throughout the weekend, we listened intently, hugged generously and shared openly. There is comfort in knowing you are connected to this wonderful network, this wonderful sisterhood. It was only a long weekend but we headed south smiling, bolstered and ready for whatever comes next.

Here’s to more stories, a great summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Eggplant Salad
Summertime is salad time. Since most local produce is still a few weeks away, grilling the vegetables will intensify the flavors. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch slices
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
About 8 ounces arugula (optional)
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn mint leaves
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn parsley leaves
4-8 small pitas

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Brush the eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant for 4-6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender. Remove from the grill and when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, chop into bite-size pieces.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time.

If you like, brush the pita with a little olive oil. Grill the pita until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side or less. Cut each pita into 4 wedges.

Put the arugula in a deep platter or individual shallow bowls, top with eggplant and tomatoes drizzle with Spicy Green Olive Vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta, scallions and herbs and serve with grilled pita wedges.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The vinaigrette can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Store any extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Salad
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Tort
Three Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Ten Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

With whom will share your stories this summer? Feel free to share!

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

Thinking about Joy & Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad

It seems to me that June is a particularly joyful month. Or at the very least, it is a month filled with joyful celebrations. There are lots of wedding and, of course, anniversaries as well as graduations and all the parties that go along with them. We are thrilled when that beautiful young couple ties the knot. We are delighted to help family and friends celebrate twenty, thirty, fifty or more years together. In some cases, we’re not just happy for a young graduate, we’re relieved and over the moon that he or she will indeed march to the beat of Pomp and Circumstance. However, it’s not always the big events that bring us joy.

If you are open to them, joy and wonder surround us. June is filled with sunny days and starry nights. After a cold, wet spring, there are no better cures for the doldrums. From simple contentment to unmitigated bliss, it’s up to each of us to embrace the new season.

Here is a handful of little things that bring me joy …

The call of the loon in the early morning.

Local asparagus.

The sound of peepers.

Fireflies dancing in the dark.

The smell of lilacs.

Bright red poppies on the side of the road.

Children giggling.

A game of kick the can.

A beautiful sunset.

Complimenting a stranger.

Complimenting a loved one.

A favorite song comes on the car radio.

Inventing a new recipe.

Sharing a new recipe.

Smiling.

Laughing out loud.

A supermarket checkout lane with no line.

My favorite summer rosé is on sale.

A great hair day.

A table surrounded by friends and family.

While happy accidents happen every day, a joy-filled life takes more than chance. To find happiness, open your senses and your heart to the world around you … and the world of possibilities.

Here’s to a joyful summer and bon appétit!

Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad
Warmer temperatures bring salad season. Simple or complex, I love them all. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 pounds European cucumbers
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
Thai Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro or mint or a mix of the two
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and slice into 1/4-inch half-moons. Put the cucumbers in a bowl, add the scallions and toss to combine.

Drizzle with enough Thai vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss to combine. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and sesame seeds and toss again.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

Thai Vinaigrette
Makes about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sriracha
1/2 teaspoon or to taste sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Put the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, sriracha, salt, garlic and ginger in a bowl or glass jar and whisk or shake to combine. Let everything sit until the sugar and salt dissolve and whisk or shake again.

Add the sesame oil and whisk or shake to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes or more to mix and mingle the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Salad
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Tort
Three Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Ten Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

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

What brings you joy? Feel free to share!

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

Thinking about Gratitude & Rhubarb Tarlets

A few years ago, I was asked to take a look at an early draft of a job description and share any thoughts or advice. I’m a sucker for that pitch. Tell me, who doesn’t like to spout an opinion or two? Anyway, the job description included an outline of key responsibilities. Nothing stuck out; it was pretty typical for the job at hand.

Next, it described the personal qualities needed to excel at the job. Excellent communication skills, the ability to work independently and problem solve topped the list. I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a help wanted ad in search of a bad communicator. Furthermore, I’ve yet to hear of a company looking for someone totally dependent on minute-to-minute guidance and instruction. Of course, there was something about technology – like it or not computers are part of life and work.

In other words, it was all pretty standard … with one exception. The person was expected to be grateful. It was a bit vague but, along with a warm and friendly demeanor, something about gratitude was on the list. I immediately put on my contrarian hat or maybe it was my Bolshevik hat and asked, “Grateful for what?” It reminded me of my parents, insisting that I not only eat my peas but like them too. After all, children were starving in Africa.

Now this all happened a while ago – back when gratitude was all the rage. It might have been a sign of the times. The country was starting to find its way out of the mortgage debacle. While not great, the economy was steadily improving. With a sigh of relief, people were thanking their lucky stars that they had a roof over their heads, food on the table and a job to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, researchers discovered that feeling grateful was actually good for you. They figured out that gratitude led to happiness. Perhaps I was too quick to raise those hackles; what employer doesn’t want happy employees? They’re more productive and don’t quit in a huff. Then again, maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe happiness leads to gratitude. I’m not so sure about the whole cause and effect with this psychological stuff.

In any case, it seems to me that gratitude comes from within and can’t be dictated
by an employer. Hopefully, most of us can easily come up with any number of people, places and things we’re grateful for. Let’s start with the basics – a safe place to live, food and water. Now, a decent paying job is usually part of that. An interesting job, one you like or even love, takes it up a notch. I must say having the good fortune to live in beautiful New Hampshire is better than basic. Even when I am harried and rushed, the lake and surrounding hills bring me peace and fill me with happiness.

While they can drive us absolutely, positively crazy, most of us are grateful for our families. I suppose that, if all else fails, they are fodder for a great story or two or more (probably lots more.) Still and all, I don’t think I could do without mine. Same goes for friends. From a fun-filled day to a shoulder to cry on or a new perspective on an old problem, what would we do without our friends. Whether the circle is huge or just a few close besties, we are grateful for each and every one.

When it comes to people and gratitude, I hope that you are grateful for you. Don’t be shy, it’s okay to appreciate, to value and to give thanks to the wonderful person you are. Perhaps you make the world’s best cup of coffee, are a fantastic listener or can touch your nose with your tongue, any and all of that are worthy of thanks and gratitude. Let’s hope your boss agrees!

Feeling grateful for warmer and longer days – bon appétit!

Rhubarb Tartlets
I’m grateful that local rhubarb is ready for harvest. Enjoy!
Makes about 30 tartlets

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed and chopped very fine
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the sugar, corn starch and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb, orange zest and Grand Marnier and toss to combine.

Spoon the filling into the tartlet shells, sprinkle the tops with Crunchy Topping and bake until the crusts are golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets from the tins. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2-4 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls (about 1/2 ounce each). Place the balls in mini muffin tins and, using your fingers, shape each into a tartlet shell. Freeze the shells for at least 15 minutes.

Crunchy Topping
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Combine the flour, nuts, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine and finely chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand and starts to clump together.

Store extra topping in the refrigerator and sprinkle on your next fruit crisp or crumble.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Zucchini Tacos
Two Years Ago – Grilled Lamb with Fresh Mint
Three Years Ago – Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Four Years Ago – Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Five Years Ago – Asparagus & Radish Salad
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Asian Noodle Salad
Eight Years Ago – Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart
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 are you grateful for? Feel free to share!

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