Staying Busy & Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Well, not necessarily in our house! My mother’s greatest fear was that even a few minutes of free time would lead her kids to some horrible mischief. She was bound and determined to keep us busy.

When we were little, it was swimming lessons, tennis and sailing. When we got older, the lessons ended but we were expected to find a summer job. If we couldn’t find one then a bunch of odd jobs would do. I did a fair amount of babysitting, ran a weekend lunch counter at the beach and sold raffle tickets for Hospital Day.

My last summer before college, I managed to land a full time job. Every day, I donned a bright smile, an ugly white uniform and even uglier white shoes. Sugar & Spice Restaurant was the beginning and end of my mercifully short career as a waitress.

Actually, I was a very good waitress. What I lacked in experience, I made up in enthusiasm. At eighteen, I had boundless energy, a bright smile and a sharp eye and ear for detail. I rarely mixed up orders or checks, filled and refilled water glasses promptly and didn’t keep people waiting for the ketchup and mustard. What more could you ask for?

A diner of sorts, Sugar & Spice opened at dawn, served three greasy meals and closed by eight. If your sweet tooth acted up, the afternoon shift’s lone waitress could help you out. She was more than happy to stop vacuuming or filling saltshakers to scoop you some ice cream, pour you a Coke or whip up a frappe.

Except for those few hours between lunch and dinner, you could get anything you wanted at Sugar & Spice. Okay, make that anything that could be thrown into a fryolator or slung onto a griddle. The kitchen produced a steady stream of burgers, hot dogs and French fries as well as mountains of fried chicken and fish. Except for dessert, the food was ordinary at best. One of the year-round waitresses did the baking and arrived every morning with fresh cakes and pies.

Speaking of staff, the crew at Sugar & Spice would have made a great cast for a sitcom. The tall, skinny boss sported an enormous handlebar mustache and wore coke bottle glasses. The vertically-challenged cook was as laid back as the boss was uptight. Two teenage brothers washed dishes. They were cute and funny as only fourteen and fifteen year old redheaded boys can be. Finally, there were half a dozen waitresses in every size, shape and temperament.

Well, not quite finally, I mustn’t forget the milkman. Not only did he come by most every day but he was my fling that summer. Between his sophomore and junior years at Dartmouth, I’m not sure why Harry decided to spend the summer delivering milk. We thought our nickname for him, Harry from the Dairy, was ever so clever but I don’t think he did. It didn’t really matter because he was feeling bored, perhaps even desperate, when he met our motley crew.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad summer. Mom was happy that I was busy and working. Waiting on table was hardly terrific but the cast of characters was entertaining. I wasn’t in love but dating a smart and funny college boy was certainly a plus. The tips weren’t great but I headed off to my first year of college with enough cash to pay for books, beer and late night pizza.

I hope the summer is keeping you busy and happy! Bon appétit!

Green Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta
Salad at the Sugar & Spice was tired Boston lettuce with a wedge of pale, hothouse tomato. This green bean salad is fresh, colorful and delicious. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2-1 small red onion, cut in half and then into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 1 pound fresh green beans
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes (in a mix of different shapes and colors if you can find them), halved
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
About 4 ounces feta, crumbled
16-20 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

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

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the beans and cook until bright green and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

While the beans cook, fill a large bowl about half way with ice and add cold water to cover. Set aside.

Drain the beans and immediately transfer them to the bowl of ice water to cool. Drain the beans and pat dry.

Put the beans and tomatoes in a bowl, add the onions and toss to combine. Sprinkle with about 2/3 of the herbs and toss again.

To serve: transfer the salad to a large, deep serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with olives, feta and the remaining herbs.

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

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

Do you have a summer job story? Feel free to share!

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

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Back on Cook’s Corner – Asparagus & Goat Cheese Crostini

Looking for a new appetizer? I’m back on WMUR today demonstrating delicious Crostini with Asparagus & Goat Cheese. Relax on the deck with a platter of these tasty treats and a glass of wine.

In case you’d like to make up a batch this weekend … my recipe for Asparagus & Goat Cheese Crostini is just a click away. Enjoy!

If you missed the segment … you can always watch it online.

Stuck in the Middle & Almost Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake

There are all kinds of silly holidays spread throughout the year. Emma M. Nutt Day is coming up on the first of September. Why do we celebrate Emma? Why not – after all, she was the first woman telephone operator in America. Don’t forget Mad Hatter Day on October 6. No, it’s not a day devoted to finding the perfect hat. Forget shopping and enjoy a topsy-turvy day filled with Through the Looking Glass riddles and contradictions.

Anyway, along with the list of excuses to eat pie and fly kites, is one holiday I can get behind. Yes, Middle Child Day and it’s this coming Sunday, August 12. In case you missed it, I am one of those poor, pitiful, stuck in the middle children. (By the way, you don’t need the calendar to tell you to eat pie or fly a kite. You can do either or both on most any day you like.)

So, what’s up with middle children and our ridiculous attachment to Middle Child Syndrome? First of all, let be clear: all sorts of child experts and psychologists confirm that MCS is real. I don’t know if they call it MCS or not but I just did and here’s how it works:

First borns are anxiously awaited and then celebrated with the greatest joy. At least for a year or three, she has her doting parents all to herself. She enjoys the riches of unfettered attention, new toys and never-before-worn onesies. Youngest children aren’t so much celebrated as coddled. Ask any older sibling, the baby of the family is not only spoiled; he gets away with everything. Middle borns are just that – stuck in the middle.

Unlike the first born, a middle child is not heaped with praise at every turn. Take for instance, the first time she ties her shoe or rides a bike. Mom and Dad don’t immediately jump on phone with grandparents, post videos for all the world to see or suggest a parade down Main Street. They’ve seen it all before. Besides, the baby is crying and demanding to be fed or changed. In case you’ve forgotten, that crying baby – he’s the one who stole that poor middle child’s bedroom.

The experts tell us that,although surrounded by siblings, middle children tend to be the most independent. Crowded on all sides, sometimes the best, the only, thing to do is get out. That could mean joining your neighborhood pals at the swings or finding some peace and quiet in the basement. As a child, I did both with regular frequency. When I hit my twenties, I did more than wander out into the neighborhood. I moved half way around the world.

Along with independence, middle children are known for being agreeable and diplomatic. We are the great compromisers. We just want everyone to be happy and get along. That said; I did inherit a bit of a stubborn streak from my mother. She was an only child. Some might disagree but I tend to think that I have an inordinately long fuse. I comply and compromise again and again until, BAM, that’s IT. I’ve had enough. As of right now, I’m no longer listening, no longer negotiating. I want my way … otherwise; I’m taking marbles and going home.

If you are a middle child, be sure to indulge yourself this coming Sunday. If you have a middle sibling or are the parent with a middle child, feel free to shower that her with a little extra attention and unmitigated praise.

Have fun and bon appétit!

Almost Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake
Although I’ve made a few changes (that’s the cook’s prerogative isn’t it?), this cake comes from my grandmother’s recipe box. Since we have many summer birthdays in our family, our blueberry cakes are generally slathered with cream cheese frosting, decorated with blueberries and topped with candles. Enjoy!

2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided plus more for the pan
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature plus more for the pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1 overflowing cup fresh blueberries plus more for garnish

Butter and flour 2 (8-inch) cake pans or a 9×13-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put 2 1/4 cups flour, the baking powder, spices and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and whisk again. Set aside.

Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat again until smooth.

With mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and continue beating until just combined.

Toss the blueberries with the remaining flour and, using a rubber spatula, fold the blueberries into batter. Spread the batter in the prepared pan(s) and bake at 350 degrees until golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.

Cool the cake completely. If you like, slather with Cream Cheese Frosting and decorate with more blueberries.

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

Put the cream cheese and butter in a large 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 mix until well combined. Increase mixer speed and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

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

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

Are you a first born, middle child or baby of the family? Feel free to share!

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

More Muggies Weekend Special

The muggies just won’t quit. Looking forward to the weekend it’s going to be more humidity, heat and a few thunderstorms for good measure. Unless you decide to pack I in and spend the weekend in the movie theater, I’ve got a few suggestions for dinner.

First invite some of your favorite people over … then serve up something simply cool and delicious …

Start with something simple. Sip a glass of prosecco and nibble Roasted Almonds and cool cucumber slices with Tapenade.

Keep it cool and light with salad for dinner. It’s summer’s answer to the one dish supper. I’d like to suggest my Moroccan Grilled Chicken & Carrots with Chickpea-Quinoa Salad.

Dessert – keep it simply cool as well. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are ripe for the picking. Throw a handful on a scoop of ice cream. If you’d like to try something just a bit more special, serve the berries with a spoonful of my Creamy Lime Custard

Stay cool and have a great weekend. Bon appétit!

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

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

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

Muggy Summer Weekend Special

As soon as I start to think that this slog of muggy weather is about to end … it rains again. Then the sun comes out for a few minutes and hot steam billows off the pavement. Without whole-house air conditioning, I’ve got a few window units and fans working overtime. I can’t wait for a break in the weather – the noise is deafening.

When it comes to cooking this weekend, keep it cool. Between the muggies and rain, it will be a shorts and flip-flops type of weekend. But what the heck, invite your friends over, park yourselves on the porch and take it easy.

Start with a dip or two and chips. If you love salsa, give my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa a try. Alternatively, my Feta Walnut Spread is delicious with fresh veggies. If you want to wow your guests, whip up a batch of my Gazpacho Shots.

When it comes to dinner, salads are summer’s answer to the one-pot supper. You and your friends will love my Lemon-Tarragon Lobster Salad, Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad with Salsa Verde or Grilled Chicken Salad Provencal. If you like, round out your meal with a spoonful of New Potato Salad Dijon, Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts or Wheat Berry Salad.

Local blueberries are ripe for picking and at the farmstand. As long as you do it early, you should be okay baking my dad’s favorite Blueberry Pie or a tasty Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler. If you can’t stand the thought of turning on the oven, try my Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone Cream.

Can’t deal with company on a steamy night? I can’t say that I blame you. Give yourself a break. Send a text to friends and family to see who else might like the evening off and make a reservation at your favorite local restaurant.

Or relax at home with a quiet dinner on the porch. Start with my Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese and then enjoy my Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes & Basil. Dessert? It’s been a while since I made up a batch of Brown Sugar Yogurt Gelato. Now might be a good time!

Have a wonderful weekend. Bon appétit!

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

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

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

Around the Lake & Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes & Basil

With very few exceptions, there’s something cool or quirky about almost everyone. When things get dull, there’s almost always something you can show or tell at a cocktail party. For some it’s an extra finger or toe. Others can claim that the snotty-nosed kid they babysat in high school grew up to be Jeff Bezos or they share a great-great-grandmother with Emma Stone. Perhaps you’ve written a one hit wonder or your uncle invented the Pet Rock. You get the picture; the possibilities for five minutes of fame or near-fame are indeed endless.

Along with meeting Andy Warhol, interviewing an Olympian and asking a then-candidate-soon-to-be-president a question at a televised town meeting, I’d say my coolest claim would be living abroad. Yes, lots of people live overseas for a while but I flew to Switzerland for an eight week internship and forgot to come home… for almost seventeen years.

Besides many wonderful friends, the best part of living in Geneva was the beautiful lake and countryside. I lived in half a dozen apartments and my windows invariably framed something spectacular – an ancient cathedral, mountains or a field filled with roses. Lac Leman (sometimes called Lake Geneva) was within walking distance. The Alps were about an hour’s drive away.

Now, speaking of friends, Geneva is a transient town and people come and go. However, for a summer or two, a group of young and youngish expatriates came together for what can only be described as adult adventure camp. Almost every weekend, we enjoyed a new escapade. White water rafting, glacier skiing and mountain biking – day trip or weekend – it was always good fun.

A bicycle ride around Lac Leman was among my favorite trips. The ride is just under 200 kilometers. If you don’t speak metric, it’s a bit more than 120 miles. First, I freely admit that from the start we planned a two-day ride. It was not meant to be an endurance test but a fun weekend with an overnight stop in Montreux for dinner and dancing. (If it sounds familiar, Montreux is famous for its Jazz Festival.) The route through Switzerland and France is mostly flat with a few gently rolling hills and spectacular scenery. The weather was perfect.

Gently rolling hills or not, there is nothing like a 100+ mile ride to separate the fit from the non. Within an hour, maybe less, our group was scattered across the plain above Geneva. Only wanting to be polite, the leaders stopped and patiently waited for the stragglers to catchup. I proudly admit I was among the handful at the head of the pack. It was soon apparent that we would never make Montreux, let alone back to Geneva, if we continued to stop and wait every five or so miles.

A goal was set with a town square named as the lunchtime rendez-vous. If all else failed, we’d meet at the hotel in Montreux at the end of the day. If you didn’t show up by six, the support car would go out and fetch you. Finally, we were well and truly off. For some of us, it was a delightful day. It was late summer and the relaxing ride took us past fields of sunflowers and vineyards filled with fat grapes. The Alps were to the right, the lake to the left. For others, it was sixty miles of pure hell.

Although dinner that night was festive, there was little dancing. The next day was as beautiful as the first. The Alps rose over the lake on our left and terraced vineyards climbed up the hill on our right. About a third of our little group were among the missing on day two. Well, not really missing, they took advantage of Switzerland’s highly efficient train service and were home in time for lunch.

Happy trails and bon appétit!

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes & Basil
For a simple supper, you can’t beat pasta with fresh, local tomatoes and herbs from the garden. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

3 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
About 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Dash or to taste hot pepper sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 large handful basil leaves, cut in julienne
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Grated pecorino Romano cheese to taste

Put the chopped tomatoes and their juice in a bowl, add the garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar and pepper sauce, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Let the tomatoes sit for about an hour.

Cook the spaghetti according package directions, less one minute. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot, add the tomatoes and toss to combine. Cover and set pot of pasta over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or bowl, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, sprinkle with basil and pine nuts and toss to combine. Sprinkle with grated pecorino Romano and serve.

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

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

Were you a free-range kid? Where was your favorite place to roam? Feel free to share!

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

Burger Time – Summer Weekend Special

Summertime is burger time. If you don’t have any special plans this weekend, why not roll out the grill and flip some burgers? Backyard or beach, gather friends and family together, I can’t think of anything better with this beautiful weather. Here are a few suggestions …

Keep the appetizers easy with chips or veggies and dips. The first corn is at the farmstand. It’s not NH native but it’s still pretty good. Toss a few charred kernels into my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa and dig in. Alternatively, you might enjoy fresh veggies and chips with Baba Ganoush.

For the main course … bring on the burgers. Beef eaters will love my Not Your Ordinary Burger with goat cheese and sundried tomato aioli. If you like a little spice with your burger, add a slice of cheddar and a dollop of my Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Ketchup. If you prefer a delicious turkey burger then give my Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese & Rosemary-Tapenade Aioli or Southwest Turkey Burgers with Cheddar & Chipotle Aioli or my Turkey Burgers with Greek Salsa.

Don’t forget the salads. To stay with the grilling theme, treat yourself and your friends to my Grilled Romaine Salad or Grilled Zucchini Salad. You might also like to add a platter of Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction. It wouldn’t be a summer cookout without potato salad. Try my Grilled Potato Salad or Dijon Potato Salad.

Brownies are the perfect cookout dessert. I have two great suggestions for you – Triple Threat Brownies or Cheesecake Browines. Want more? Well, then, bring on the s’mores.

Have a wonderful weekend. Bon appétit!

p.s. It’s too late for this weekend but don’t forget to put up some pickles. If you mix up a batch of my Spicy Refrigerator Pickles this weekend, they’ll be ready for your next cookout.

p.p.s. It’s too early for local green beans in New Hampshire but they’ll be here soon. Be sure to put up a few jars of my favorite Dilly Beans.

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

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

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