Hye Thyme Cafe: June 2011

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! :)


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pumpkin Butterfinger Ice Cream Pie



A couple of days ago, I was on Twitter and noticed a post by Nestle Kitchens indicating a pie contest they have going on.  I thought OK, I'm game, and decided to throw my hat pie into the ring.  You were required to use at least one Nestle product, but that's not much of a challenge, so I decided to use several.

When I looked at the list of possible ingredients and saw Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin, it occurred to me that the odds were fairly slim that people would be submitting pumpkin recipes this time of year.  Once I made that decision, the rest was easy.  Since it is summer, I wanted to make it an ice cream pie, and since pumpkin, chocolate, peanut butter, and cinnamon all get along so well together, I decided to also incorporate those flavors by using Butterfinger candy bars, a chocolate cookie crust, and a chocolate milk whipped cream topping.


INGREDIENTS :
1 sleeve of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Ice Box Cookies
1 heaping T cinnamon
3-4 Butterfinger candy bars
1 c whipping cream
2 T Nesquik (chocolate flavored)
chocolate syrup




Start by setting your ice cream out to thaw to a spreadable/pourable consistency.

Stir the cinnamon into the half can of pumpkin and set it in the fridge to chill.  You want it to stiffen up a bit so when you mix it in with the ice cream, it doesn't completely blend in.  You want it to sort of ribbon through the pie.



Run the cookies through your food processor.  Don't worry about any big pieces that remain.  They'll soften up and blend in once the ice cream is poured.



Thinking back on it, I will probably do it differently next time, but what I did was spread half of the cookie crumbs into the bottom of a 10" pie plate, then stirred a little of the dulce de leche into the remaining crumbs to make them sticky enough for me to press them around the edges of the plate.  It has since occurred to me that I could probably have achieved the same effect by lightly spraying the pie plate with Pam Baking, or even misting it with a water bottle.





Pour the dulce de leche into the cookie crust and place in the freezer to set.



While that is setting, go ahead and chop your candy bars into bite-sized pieces, retaining about a quarter of one bar for later.




Stir the candy pieces into the vanilla bean ice cream.  Resist urge to grab spoon and dig in right now...


 

Unearth the pumpkin/cinnamon mixture from the fridge and gently fold it in with the cookies and ice cream, remembering that you don't want it to completely blend in.  Pour the whole thing into the pie plate over the dulce de leche layer and return to the freezer to set.






If you want your whipped topping to be soft, you can wait until you plan to serve the pie to do that.  If you want to top and freeze the whole pie, go ahead and whip the cream until soft peaks form.  Sprinkle in the Nesquik and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.  



In my mind's eye, I had envisioned a big mound of chocolate whipped cream on top of my pie, but in reality, when I added the chocolate milk powder, the cream sort of sucked it all in and condensed, so I just spread it over the top.  I thought I might be able to get away with the porcupine technique, where you tap the cream with the bottom of a spoon and pull up so it forms a spiked surface like a sea urchin or porcupine.  That didn't want to work either.  




No problem!  Break out that remaining piece of Butterfinger and grate it over the top.




When you're ready to serve, be sure to let it thaw for a few minutes, then serve up a big slice and top with chocolate syrup.






 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing


Aside from being so delicious, this simple salad makes such a beautiful presentation, people ask for it wherever I go.  My Mom has been making it for years, so I have no idea where it originated.  I could have added some mozzarella and toasted pine nuts, or some arugula or something to make it "my own," but we love it so much as it is, I never bothered.  If I ever find out where it originated, I'd be happy to to give thanks and refer everyone there in hopes of finding other gems, but for now, we'll have to content ourselves with this beauty.

When I first moved to NY and started sharing meals with my sister and her family, we would serve salads before the main dish, but her sons would scarf down so much of this salad, they wouldn't want their dinner, so we had to stop doing that.  It's one of a handful of things her boys always ask for, so you know it's good.  Young people looking for something healthy, especially boys, is always very heart warming.  :)


INGREDIENTS:
Romaine lettuce
Strawberries
Red Onion

DRESSING:
1/2 c mayo
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c milk
2 T lemon juice
2 T poppy seeds

You can make this salad in a bowl, of course, but it looks so pretty on a platter if you have one handy, I always try to serve it that way.  I'll wash and tear the lettuce, slice the berries and onions, then layer them in the platter; a layer of lettuce topped with some of the onion and berries, then repeat, so all of the strawberries aren't just on top.

For the dressing, just whisk everything together.  Depending on how many servings of salad I'm putting together, there is usually more dressing than I need, so I'll pour about half of it over the salad and have the container handy in case anyone wants more.  You just don't want it to get soggy.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grapenut Custard


I wish I could claim this recipe as one of my own, but it's not.  It's from the Scargo Cafe in Dennis, MA, on Cape Cod.  One of my Mom's best friends growing up was my "Aunt" Marge.  I think all of my parents' friends were aunties and uncles when I was little.  Mom and Marge were even pregnant at the same time, so me and my "cousin" Marla were born exactly two weeks apart.  Strangely, there is the possibility that if you follow our family trees back a few generations on my Armenian side, we might actually find we're related.  I'm not quite sure about that yet.

Anyhow, one of Marge's favorite desserts was always Grapenut Custard.  I'm not big into eggs, so the thought of a custard back then just grossed me out!  Marge passed away while we were in college.  Several years later, I was on the Cape during the summer and happened to stop at Scargo for lunch.  When I saw the Grapenut Custard, it made me think of Marge, so I had to get it.  I absolutely loved it!  I had expected to just take a bite as a sort of toast to her memory and that would be it, but I ended up scarfing down the whole thing!
 
The other fantastic item on their menu is their sweet potato fries.  I'm not a seafood person, so I usually end up going for lunch and getting one of their current sandwich offerings.  I have never been disappointed, so definitely stop in if you get the chance.  I understand their Chowder is fabulous too.

At some point while I was living in New Orleans, I was thinking about the custard and looked them up online.  Lucky for me, they have the recipe posted on their website!  Warm or cold, it's creamy and delicious ... and easy!  The one thing I will say is that, in addition to using more vanilla and cinnamon than called for (that's pretty much a given with me), I kept forgetting to make a note on my recipe card to increase the amount of Grapenuts.  I finally did that today; made the note that is.  I didn't remember until I saw the end product, so it's pictured as written, but I would like a thicker bottom layer.  You can see how it separates, so the Grapenuts sink to the bottom, while most of the cinnamon and nutmeg linger at the top.
 

INGREDIENTS :
9 lg eggs
1/2 gallon light cream
2 c sugar
2 T vanilla
1 t nutmeg
1 t cinnamon


Preheat oven to 325. 
 
Whisk the eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla together, then pour into a 9x12" pan.  Toss together the Grapenuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then sprinkle evenly over the custard mixture.

Nest that pan inside a larger pan, then fill the larger pan with water to the height of the custard mixture, forming a "water bath."
 
Bake for about 90", until the center is set.  The whole thing will still be a little wiggly.

If, like was the case with me, your pans are close enough in size where you can't remove the smaller pan without sticking your potholders into scalding water, you can suck out the water with a turkey baster!

To serve, scoop into a bowl or glass and top with a dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar.








Dang!  I was thinking about how this would work with the Grapenuts Trail Mix Crunch - lighter crunch, almonds, raisins - but when I pulled up the Post site to get the link for the Grapenuts, it wasn't there.  Hope they didn't stop making it!  I'll have to see if I can find some and stock up if they did.  I usually eat cereal dry like a snack, but I actually eat that one in a bowl with milk, like normal people!  LOL

 





Saturday, June 25, 2011

Edamame Salad



I'll never forget the first time I ate edamame.  It wasn't until somewhere around 2001.  I was living in New Orleans at the time and went for lunch with a co-worker at a local Chinese restaurant.  It was buffet style, so when I saw the edemame, I definitely wanted to try it and added some to my plate.  What I didn't know at the time was that the pods are NOT like a sugar snap.  I made the mistake of popping the whole thing in my mouth and trying to chew it.  When the girl I was eating with stopped laughing, she explained that I needed to pop the beans out of the pod.  

I liked them, and know they're good for you, so I added them to my regular rotation of snacking veggies.  That's how I usually eat them, shelled or not - as a snack.  Once in a while, they'll make an appearance as a side dish, but it never occurred to me to use them in a salad until I saw the Edamame Bean Salad posted on The Apron Archives the other day.

There aren't many beans that I like, so I didn't follow that particular recipe, but it made me want to try one of my own.  I do like Northern Beans.  They don't have that gritty texture that some other beans seem to, and they have an almost buttery flavor, so I opted to use those.  For contrasting texture, I decided to include bean sprouts as well.  Everyone really enjoyed it, so I'll definitely be making this again.  It's super easy, and definitely a healthy dish.  


INGREDIENTS :
12 oz bag mukimame (shelled edemame)
8 oz bag fresh English peas
1 can Great Northern beans
1 can Garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 small red onion
1 lime
Mung bean sprouts
Cilantro
Cumin
White balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt / Pepper


Both the mukimame and the peas had instructions for steaming them right in their bags in the microwave, so I cooked each for half the time recommended, tossed them together in a bowl and let them cool. 

While those are cooling, go ahead and rinse the chick peas and beans and set those aside to drain while you chop a handful of cilantro and thinly slice your onion.

Toss all of the above in the bowl along with a good amount of bean sprouts - I didn't measure, just poured in what looked like a balanced ratio, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, squeeze in the juice from one lime, and season with salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.

FYI - I did end up adding more lime juice the next day, so you might want to have two on hand if you try this.

Not from a taste perspective, but just as a visual note, I think when I make it again, since the Northern Beans and Garbanzos are the same color, and the peas and mukimame are the same color, I think I'll throw in a little yellow or orange bell pepper for color.





Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sweet Basil Seed Watermelon Cooler



This was actually more funny than anything.  Last week, we were planning a big Japanese dinner one night, so I took a pass through the Asian market down the street.  While I was wandering around, I saw a little packet of Sweet Basil Seeds.  Never having seen that type of seed as a food application, it piqued my curiosity, so I took one.  When I was cashing out, the girl asked what I was going to do with it.  I told her I had no idea, that I had never seen them before.  She brought me over to the refrigerator case and showed me a canned beverage with the seeds floating in it.  Although they look like any other seed in the packet, once in contact with a liquid, they bloom into something resembling a pomegranate aril.

She doesn't speak much English, so that was pretty much as far as the conversation went, although she did say it's usually used by people dieting.  Sounds logical.  If you drink a glass before eating, it would plump up and fill your stomach, making you less hungry.  That's my guess anyhow.  I looked it up online when I got home but didn't see much else, so I figured OK, I'll start with a drink and then decide what to do with it from there.




 
I didn't want to drink them in just plain water, so I decided to run some watermelon through the blender with crushed ice.
I poured lime seltzer water into a measuring cup and sprinkled in some seeds to bloom them.  I didn't want to crush them in the blender, and I also didn't want to spin the carbonation out of the seltzer water, so I wanted to keep them separate for the moment.

 
Fill a glass to about 3/4 full with the watermelon mixture, then top it off with the lime seltzer and sweet basil seeds.  It turns out the seeds don't really have much of a flavor on their own, but when they plump up, they have a tapioca-like texture.  We just kept taking sips, looking at each other with weird expressions, and laughing.  Whey would anyone want to drink tapioca?!?
 
Here's a progression ...




The only thing I could think to use them in would be maybe a Panna Cotta or something like that.  When we poured out the rest of the cup we didn't use, it looked like a bunch of fish eyes in the sink.  Then I started thinking about silly applications.  Halloween came to mind.  You could make Jell-O shots with those in them, or use Halloween molds to make jigglers.  That would definitely be creepy looking!

As a more practical application, I suppose if you like to make Sushi at home, but someone in the family doesn't like roe, you could bloom some of these in Mirin or Sriracha and use them in place of the roe??  :)


 

Coffee Talk (and Boozey Iced Coffee)






While scrolling through my daily Google Reader posts of blogs I follow, I saw Ree Drummond's (The Pioneer Woman) post on Perfect Iced Coffee.  I thought "Ooh, that looks good.  I never make coffee at home though," and I passed it by.  Anyone who follows my blog knows that I'm a Dunkin Junkie, so I'm the drive-thru coffee queen.  However, one of my favorite alcoholic beverages is a Toasted Almond, which is Kahlua, Amaretto, and cream ... or milk ... or vanilla ice cream.  The post kept coming to mind over the next day or two, so I decided to try a Toasted Almond version.

I followed Ree's instructions using Dunkin Donuts coffee, Poland Spring water (2 gal less the volume of alcohol), a 375 ml bottle of Kahlua, and a 200 ml bottle of Disaronno Amaretto.  My inner Dunkin Junkie loved it.  The Toasted Almond fan, however, wants more alcohol next time.  (No, it wasn't just me who thought so!)




 












Growing up in Massachusetts, a "Regular" was always a hot coffee with cream and sugar.  When I first moved to New Orleans back in 93, when I walked into a Dunkin Donuts and asked for a regular, they looked at me like I was an alien.  They had no idea what I meant.  Around that same time, my sister and her family moved to New York.  Similarly, they went to Dunkin Donuts and asked for a "regular," only to be handed a hot black coffee.  They had to start ordering their coffee not only as having cream and sugar, but as a "regular" as opposed to "decaf" with cream and sugar.  Now that I'm living in NY as well, I noticed that I've never had to specify regular/decaf, but I do ask for cream and sugar.  I'm not sure if "Regular" is a New England thing, or just MA.

At least I can understand the confusion on that count, but another weird thing when I first moved to New Orleans was decaf.  They didn't have it?!?  I was at Dunkin Donuts with a cousin one night.  She was off caffeine at the time, so I ordered my "Regular" and her decaf.  What did they bring her???  Instant Sanka!  Um, excuse me?  Dunkin Donuts makes their own decaf!  They had NO IDEA!!!  It's one thing not to have it - weird, but OK - but to not be aware your own company makes decaf???  This was in the mid 90s by the way.

Going back to the iced coffee (but still in New Orleans), I was on my way to work and stopped into Dunkin for my morning jump start.  I noticed a new display of bags of coffee and that there were new flavors.  I think there was a Hazelnut and a French Vanilla.  Anyhow, I made a comment about it to the woman behind the counter (who I knew well by then), and she got very excited.  She said, and I quote ... "That's nothing.  Get this... Pretty soon, we're going to have i-c-e-d coffee!!!"  She could barely contain herself.  Really?  I know the brew of choice below the Mason-Dixon line is Sweet Tea, but to never have heard of iced coffee?  Wow!  I didn't have the heart to tell her.  Again, this was in the 90s.

OK, my last coffee story is just for giggles and points to how much of a Dunkin Junkie I really am.  For anyone who follows me regularly, I'll see you next time (I think I've mentioned this before).  For those of you who are new here, I was walking from the parking lot to my office one morning, came to a crosswalk, had the light, there was a car stopped at the light to my right, so I started crossing.  Half-way thru, while I was DIRECTLY IN FRONT of the car to my right, the tool behind the wheel decided it was the perfect time to jump the light!  Now, I may be on the short side at 5'5", but I'm no waif, so I certainly made a clear target.  Better yet, it was raining out, so I was also walking with an open umbrella, making me an even more visible target!  Here's where the chuckles come in ...

When he hit me, I went flying up on the hood of his car.  I don't know which of us was more startled, me looking in at him, or him looking out at me.  Luckily, the arm with the umbrella swung up.  If it had gone down, and I was still holding on, it probably would have pulled me down and under the car.  So there I was, sprawled out across the hood of this little red car, with an umbrella still in one hand, and my coffee still in the other.  I slide off the car in a slight panic.  I mean, I knew I was still alive, but I had right knee surgery as a kid, and that's where he hit me; I also mangled my back in a car accident years ago.  I stood up, shook it off and thought OK, my knee is fine, and my back doesn't hurt.  Then I looked at my coffee and saw that some had sloshed out of the steam vent in the cover, so I sucked it up.  THAT was my response to getting hit by a car??  I immediately realized how ridiculous that was, said "I'm fine" and started off for the office again.  A woman I had never met before, who works in an office across the street from me, ran up and handed me a note with the license plate number of the guy who hit me in case I needed it.  Luckily, even after the shock wore off, I was just fine - embarrassed, but fine!  LOL

OK, now that you've had your daily chuckle at my expense, go make some iced coffee.  And if you decide to try my boozey version, add more booze - at least more Amaretto.



 

The Betty 10 - Red Hot Summer Trends



The folks over at Betty Crocker, through MyBlogSpark, wanted to bring our attention to some cool summer trends.  They're also featuring tips by DIY guru Erica Domesek from P.S.- I made this.

After checking out the Betty 10, I think the first thing I'm gonna have to try are the Fresh Sriracha Refrigerator Pickles.  I've been putting Sriracha on everything lately!  Then again, I'm extremely curious about the Grillside Guacamole.  I've never heard of grilled guacamole before!  
As for Erica's tips, I really like the idea of the mini pie plate candle favors, and the one about making grill-marked placemats for a cookout.  :)



Check out the links and let me know your favorites ... or share an idea of your own.

  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Couscous (Houston's Copy Cat)




One of my favorite restaurants while living in New Orleans was Houston's.  They have great burgers, shoestring fries, tortilla soup, awesome spinach and artichoke dip, etc.  Sometimes I would order the spinach dip as my meal.  They serve it with super crispy tortilla chips, sour cream and salsa.  It was always such a tough decision between their burger and dip, so I loved when I went with someone else who would split with me so we could do half and half.  Same thing with the fries and couscous.  I loved them both, so I would always try to split with someone.

They're not big on sharing recipes though, so I had no idea how to make the couscous.  First of all, I had never had couscous until then.  I didn't know if it was cooked in water, broth, or something else.  I made a note to myself listing the items that were mixed in, but now I don't know what I did with my note!  I thought I had e-mailed it to myself, but apparently not, so I just winged it.

I picked up a box of Near East brand plain Couscous and cooked it in chicken broth and a little olive oil.  Since the package called for two cups of liquid, and a can of broth is only 14 ounces, I used water to make up the difference.  Per the package, I brought it to a boil, then covered it, removed it from the heat and let it sit for five minutes to absorb.

After the five minutes were up, I fluffed the couscous with a big serving fork and threw in a handful of golden raisins.  That's one of the things I'm questioning my memory on ... whether Houston's uses the golden raisins or currants.  I put them in while the couscous was still hot so they would plump up from the heat and moisture.

While that was cooling, I sliced some radishes into rings and then matchsticks, rough chopped some cocktail peanuts, and ran a knife through some fresh cilantro.  Cilantro was the other thing I questioned later ... was it mint or cilantro?  Hmmmm?

You don't want your radishes to cook, your peanuts to be soggy, or your cilantro to turn dark, so make sure the couscous is cool before you stir them in.  Looking at it when I was done made me think that something was missing.  My memory was telling me there was a slight sheen to their version, but I don't remember detecting another flavor, so I went with a drizzle of olive oil.

I later looked online at other copy cat versions and saw that some included carrots, while others used some sort of dressing, yogurt, or cooked the couscous in orange juice.  All in all, I was quite pleased with my version and will definitely be making it again!  The raisins and peanuts definitely add a nice contrast of textures, while the chicken broth and cilantro enhance the flavors.




Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beef Rollatini


Leave it to me.  I didn't think this was going to turn out well, so I was sort of half heartedly snapping pics as I went along.  Meanwhile, it turned out great and everyone loved it!!  Typical.  LOL!  What happened was that we had a big family Sukiyaki night on Wednesday, and I found out we still had a lot of beef left over.  Nobody was in the mood for Philly Cheese Steaks tonight, so this popped into my head as an alternative.

The reason I didn't think it would turn out well was that I realized the beef had all sort of fused together and was more like a plate of beef "threads" than the beautiful thin slices it started out as.  The two "rolls" pictured above were all I managed to assemble.  The rest of the beef was so uncooperative, I just sort of improvised and threw it together lasagna style - a layer of sauce, then a layer of beef, the veggies over that, another layer of beef and then sauce.  Didn't matter.  It was a BIG hit!


INGREDIENTS :
Thin sliced beef
2 small zucchini
2 small summer squash
1 lg red onion
10-12 pickled peppadew peppers
chives

SAUCE :
2 T butter
2 T flour
28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
1 c Cabernet Sauvignon wine
jarred minced garlic with red pepper





I knew the beef was so thin it wouldn't take long to cook, so I needed to make sure the veggies would cook at the same rate.  I was originally thinking about blanching the squashes, then I thought about cutting them into matchsticks.  I ended up going with a veggie peeler to get super thin slices.  I also decided to pre-cook the peppers and onions.

So, once you've got everything sliced, go ahead and heat a pan with a tablespoon or two of butter over medium heat and slowly caramelize your onions.  If I was doing them in olive oil, I would have added a little salt up front, but I was using butter today.  When they started to cook down, I did add a pinch of sugar.  Once those are done, remove them from the pan to a small plate and toss the peppers in the same pan with a little of the minced garlic with red pepper until soft.  If you need to, add a little more butter or a shot of olive oil.  

I can't tell you how much we all love those peppers!  They're hot, but very sweet at the same time.  I can't help it.  Every time I walk by an olive bar and see them, I have to buy some.  I hear them calling my name "Pssst, Chrissy, over here.  You know you want to take us home with you!"

While you're cooking your onions and peppers, you can get your sauce going in another pot.  I wanted it to be on the thick side, so I started by melting the butter and whisking in the flour, cooking it until it was a nice golden roux.  Then I added the tomatoes, about a tablespoon of the minced garlic with red pepper, and the wine.  I just let that bubble over medium heat until I was ready for it.

You might want to work on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap in case your beef gives you a hard time.  That way, you can used it as a tool to help you roll if necessary.  Depending on how big your slices are, lay one (or two overlapping side-by-side) on your work surface, lay a slice or two of the squash down the center, top that with your caramelized onion and peppers, then the zucchini, and roll it.  Use the chives to secure the ends, then coat the bottom of a casserole dish with some of your sauce and start placing your rolls.








Like I said, two rolls was all I could manage because the beef had all fused together, so over the rest of the casserole dish, I just spread out the beef the best I could, covered it with the veggies in the same manner as the rolls, topped it with the rest of the beef and then sauce.  I was afraid cutting it when it came out would be a nightmare, but even that wasn't too bad!

Bake at 350 until done.  For most people, about 20" should be good, but we've got an eater who is phobic about stuff potentially being underdone, so I let it go for 30".  Since I didn't end up needing the chives for "ties," I chopped them up and sprinkled them on top.  You will probably have more sauce left too, so you can hit it with more sauce if you want.



See the squash and zucchini peeking out the end? 

Mmmmmm! 





Here's a shot of the lasagna version ...









I know, the plate is different.  I was trying out a sample I received from Marx Foods.  These plates were actually made from palm leaves!  I'm testing them out with different things before I comment.