Hye Thyme Cafe

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taco Meatballs and Spaghetti with a Light Cilantro Tomato Sauce

Hye Thyme Cafe: Taco Meatballs and Spaghetti with a light Cilantro Tomato Sauce

I came across a deal on ground beef at the grocery store that I couldn't pass up, but I didn't know what to do with it.  I didn't want to freeze it, and I had just made a big pot of sauce and meatballs with my sister up at here place and taken some home with me.  Where I had pan-fried my meatballs previously for her hubby, who likes them super caramelized on the outside, we rolled that last batch, then she pan-fried some and broiled the rest.  The broiling worked great and was much faster, but I'm not one for broiling anything that's likely to make me have to clean the oven.  So, with meatballs still on the brain, I decided to go with it, but in a different flavor direction ... and try baking them.

One of the things that had turned us off of meatballs in the past was that sort of gristly texture ground beef can get.  Between taking a page from Mama Dispirito's book by making a puree of the mix-ins and then simmering the meatballs in sauce after pan-frying, we hit on a texture everyone was happy with.  I was afraid that if I tried baking them, I'd be back in that same boat as before - either they'd bake low and slow and be mushy, or at high heat and be gristly.  I needed to strike a happy medium, and I did just that!  How?  Yogurt!  Aside from being slightly acidic, yogurt activates some enzymes in the meat that help break down protein, so I was able to bake the meatballs at a high temp and still achieve that nice tender center.

2 lb+ ground beef 
  (I had around 2.23 lb and wasn't going to quibble over the difference)
6 oz plain Greek (or strained regular) yogurt
2 oz taco seasoning (I used 2 packets - one regular, one low-sodium)
1/3 c cilantro
1/2 red onion
2 lg corn muffins
2 eggs
2 oz Monterey Jack cheese
Olive oil

12 plum tomatoes
1 T olive oil
1/2 red onion
1/3 - 1/2 c fresh chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

  • Empty the ground beef into a large bowl to let come up to room temp while preparing your other ingredients
  • Line a large tray with foil and drizzle or brush with olive oil
  • Slice/dice the cheese into small blocks (size depends on how big your meatballs will be)
  • Puree the yogurt, taco seasoning, cilantro, red onion (rough chopped first), and corn muffins (broken up) in a blender or food processor
  • Preheat oven to 400 and set two large pots of water on the stove to boil - one for your pasta and the other for your sauce
  • Crack the eggs into the bowl with the ground beef, then pour in the puree and mix until thoroughly combined (sometimes I wear gloves, but not always)
  • I made my meatballs about 2" in size so they would still be a good sized post-shrinking - that said, I didn't measure, just pulled out a handful at a time - pressed a well with my thumb into each, stuffed with a piece of cheese and pinched to seal, rolling well
  • Periodically rub your hands on the greased tray so when you are rolling your meatballs, you are oiling the outside of them to help with browning
  • Arrange the meatballs on your greased, foil-lined tray as you go along
  • Pop the meatballs in the oven to bake for about 20-25"
  • Slice an X in the tip of each of your tomatoes and drop into what should now be a boiling pot of water
  • Let them boil for 30-45 seconds, then pour out the water and run cold water over them until cool - the skins should peel right off for you
  • Swish your blender or food processor out with water to remove at least most of your earlier puree, then toss in the peeled tomatoes (might want to reserve one or two for garnish) and puree with a good pinch of salt and pepper
  • Dice the remaining half of your red onion and saute in olive oil until soft
  • Add the tomato puree to the onions and let cook for about five minutes, then add the cilantro and continue for a few minutes more ... or until your meatballs are done
  • Serve up the pasta topped with meatballs and sauce with some fresh chopped cilantro and/or the diced reserved tomato

Puree onion, cilantro, corn muffins, and yogurt

To fill meatballs, use cheddar or monterey jack
Monterey Jack - cubed

Make a well in the center of your meatball, fill with a piece of cheese, then wrap the cheese and roll until smooth

Stage meatballs on oiled foil-lined tray

Score ends of tomatoes to help in peeling

Drop tomatoes into boiling water for about 30 seconds
Empty hot water and run cold water until tomatoes are cooled and skins peel off easily

Puree tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper

Saute remaining onion until soft, then add tomato puree 5", then cilantro
Cook until slightly heated through and slightly reduced/thickened
Fully baked meatballs - overstuffed ones leaked :(
Confession - I sneaked 2 pieces of cheese into some, but those leaked.

Hye Thyme Cafe: Taco Meatballs and Spaghetti with a light Cilantro Tomato Sauce

Hye Thyme Cafe: Taco Meatballs and Spaghetti with a light Cilantro Tomato Sauce
Hye Thyme Cafe: Taco Meatballs and Spaghetti with a light Cilantro Tomato Sauce
Hye Thyme Cafe: Taco Meatballs and Spaghetti with a light Cilantro Tomato Sauce

Hye Thyme Cafe: Taco Meatballs and Spaghetti with a light Cilantro Tomato Sauce
See, super tender inside.

Jasmine Meringues

Hye Thyme Cafe: Jasmine Meringues
Yes, I know that flower is not jasmine. ;)

I recently posted about some tea samples I received from Teavivre, one of them being a lovely jasmine tea (Superfine Jasmine Downy Dragon Pearls Green Tea).  Being a food blogger, I thought OK, I can try the samples and post a review of what I think of each, but I need to also incorporate tea into a recipe.

My first thought was scones, but then I realized that would be silly.  I associate tea with scones - as in High Tea.  What do you do when your scones contain tea?  Drink coffee instead so you're drinking coffee and eating tea?  Drink the same tea that you used IN the scones?  That would be redundant.  Nah. Then I thought about biscotti, but again, that's something I dunk in my coffee.  I wouldn't want to dunk tea in my coffee. Then it hit me - meringues!  :)

That turned out to be a great choice!  A delicate flavor for a delicate treat.

3 lg egg whites
1/4 t cream of tartar
3/4 c suuperfine sugar *
1 packet (1T) Superfine Jasmine Downy Dragon Pearls Green Tea
1/4 t vanilla
Violet food coloring and/or sugar crystals - optional

* I did not have any superfine sugar left, so I made my own by running sugar through the spice grinder until very fine.  If you do likewise, just be sure to measure out the sugar after it has been ground.  

Whether you are starting with superfine or regular granulated sugar, use some of it to grind with your tea.  You want the tea as fine as you can get it.  If you know a day or two ahead that you will be making these, you might want to grind the tea/sugar then to let that flavor really infuse into the sugar (like when you stick a vanilla bean into sugar to make vanilla sugar), then sift it through a very fine sifter to catch any larger bits of tea leaves.

Superfine Jasmine Downy Dragon Pearls Green Tea

  • Preheat oven to 225
  • Beat the egg whites on low to medium speed until nice and frothy
  • Sprinkle in the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form
  • Increasing the speed, add the sugar (including the tea you mixed with sugar) a little at a time until stiff peaks form
  • Add the vanilla and food coloring if using, and continue beating for another 30 seconds or so - should be smooth, thick, and glossy
  • Pipe or spoon the meringue onto parchment-lined trays (I played around with a large star tip)
  • Sprinkle with colored sugar crystals if desired - I only sprinkled some, as I was afraid the sugar might sink or start to dissolve - needn't have worried
  • Bake for 40-45" - pay attention to your nose; you should start to smell the jasmine
  • Turn off the oven and leave the meringues inside for at least a half hour to cool and finish cooking through

Meringue should be smooth, thick, and glossy
Pipe or spoon onto parchment-lined trays

Optional - sprinkle with colored sugar prior to baking


Ha!  After all that talk of what to make with the jasmine - not wanting to drink tea with scones flavored with tea, etc., what did I do ... went to my sister's house for dinner and brought these with me.  No big deal, right? What did I do on my way up to my sister's house?  Yup, drive through Dunkin Donuts to get us both a coffee, so I still ended up drinking coffee with my tea lol.  That didn't occur to me until just now.  Sigh ...

Well, coffee or no coffee, we did enjoy the meringues, although I had an issue with the random bits of tea - thus my suggestion to pre-grind/infuse and sift.  If you don't have time to do that, I would still recommend sifting, or maybe use a mortar and pestle to powder the tea rather than the spice grinder.  I was especially happy when I got home later and realized I could still smell the jasmine in my apartment.  I got a treat and an air freshener all rolled into one! ;)

Thanks again to the folks at Teavivre for the samples.  I never would have thought to do this otherwise!