Hye Thyme Cafe: July 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! :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Having a Weird Birthday!

Yup, I turned 45 today (shhh, don't tell anyone!).  It was a pretty ordinary day until after dinner, then it took a turn for the odd.

I saw a Tweet from the local newspaper that there was a house fire up the street from me.  Since none of us saw, heard, or smelled a fire, we assumed it was a mis-print and was the Lane by the same name as our Road.

Then my sister walked in asking if I had room for dessert. As I was getting ready to say "God no!" I saw what was in her hand and cracked up laughing!  

A little more than a year ago, I saw some clown cupcakes online. We were talking about cakes one day shortly after that for some reason, so I mentioned it to her. Then I decided to be wise, so I insisted that when my birthday rolled around, I expected her to make a cake for me like that. My birthday came and went without a clown.  :(

You may have noticed the smushed face on the right side of the pic. That was the clown she made for me tonight. Sadly, I was holding the plate and tilted it toward me to take a picture. Any guesses as to what happened next? I dumped him right on my shirt!! I felt soooooo bad. For my sister, not the clown. 

Aside from ripping off half his face, I managed to trash the poor little guy's bowtie and poke him in the eye.  Sorry dude!

I uploaded the pic and was just about to start this post when she walked in with the other clown. Then I felt even worse. Of course, I was laughing even harder. I much prefer the new guy's bow tie.  ;)

So I upload that pic when all of a sudden, I see something zip across my peripheral view. Rut roh ... we had a deluge earlier, and it's still raining. It was starting to feel like I was at the circus - first a clown, then a little mouse performer. Lucky for me, he ran right under my desk and into a re-usable shopping bag, so I didn't have to chase him down. Even though we employ the "catch and release" method, I hated having to dispatch the little guy out in this weather. I'll be sleeping with one eye open tonight in case he comes back.

THEN ... I overhear half a telephone conversation about the fire. Apparently it IS on our street and someone was calling to make sure we were OK - not knowing our house number. As I'm listening to that, an ambulance drives up the street from the other direction with its interior lights on, like they're working on someone in the back. That can't be good! About 30 seconds later, another ambulance comes down the street (no lights) from the direction the fire was at. We live on a circle, and the fire is at the exit end, so the ambulances would have had nothing to do with that house or they wouldn't have passed us.

What the heck is going on tonight?!?!

I may have killed a clown and caught a mouse, but I sure hope all of our neighbors are OK!!!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Muffuletta Baked Macaroni and Cheese (Recycled Mac n Cheese??)

Muffuletta Baked Macaroni and Cheese : Hye Thyme Cafe

I started off with the idea to polish off the Muffaletta Pasta Salad I made the other day by re-purposing it into a Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Then it occurred to me that I had recently made a batch of Baked Tomatoes with Cornbread and Basil and had frozen the extra topping thinking I might try it on a ... yup, Baked Macaroni and Cheese (albeit not one with olives, ham, and salami). Then when I pulled everything out to start putting it together, I remembered I had some clarified butter left in the fridge from having made Cheese Bouregs recently, so this turned out to be recycling day in my kitchen.

When anyone in my family makes Baked Macaroni and Cheese, the base cheeses are always Muenster and American, then it's a free-for-all after that. Sometimes I'll add cheddar, sometimes a pepperjack or smoked mozzarella. Then there's the topping - sometimes a crumb topping with parm and/or romano, sometimes crushed cheese crackers, etc. So that's where I started - with Muenster and American. I forgot until I started stirring the sauce into the pasta that there was already Provolone in the pasta salad. Might actually be really good with a smokey provolone (any mac and cheese that is, not just this one).

I melted a couple of tablespoons of the clarified butter and stirred in a little flour to make a roux. Then I stirred in about a cup and a half of milk and let it just start to bubble before  whisking in the (shredded) cheese.

I sprayed a casserole dish with PAM and filled it with the pasta salad. When the cheese sauce was all nice and creamy, I poured it over the pasta and stirred it well to distribute the sauce into all the little pasta tubes. I actually had a little more than I needed and probably should have tossed the excess, but what can I say. I kept pouring.

Then I topped the whole thing with the cornbread mix I had in the freezer and little dots of butter I shaved off the clarified butter and baked it for about 30" at 325 until nice and bubbly. I think I actually like the Macaroni and Cheese more than I liked it as a Pasta Salad.

Muffuletta Baked Macaroni and Cheese : Hye Thyme CafeMuffuletta Baked Macaroni and Cheese : Hye Thyme Cafe

Muffuletta Baked Macaroni and Cheese : Hye Thyme Cafe

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lentil Kufte

Lentil Kufte : Hye Thyme Cafe

Thanks to Alison at Cooking with Friends, I recently scored some lentils from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council to play with. Being Armenian, and never having made them myself, the first thing that came to mind was Lentil Kufte. Usually, if I'm going to do something with lentils, it's soup or a salad, but I'm really glad I finally made the kufte. Even my pickiest critic ate three of them!

This is not a traditional version in that most use green bell peppers, red lentils, and maybe some cumin. I replaced the green bell pepper, which none of us are particularly fond of uncooked. I also added chili powder, garlic with hot pepper, smokey paprika, and tomato paste.

Aside from the butter, which you could certainly substitute something else for, it's definitely a healthy dish. I'm also thinking that it would be a great base for vegetarians/vegans to play with in a taquito, on nachos, or even as a meatloaf if you increase the ratio of bulgar and tomato paste.

In addition to being flavorful, and healthy, this dish is also very easy to make - another bonus.

1 c fine bulgur wheat
1 c lentils
3 c water
1 vidallia onion, diced fine
1 t jarred minced garlic with red pepper
4 T butter, divided
1 sm yellow bell pepper, diced fine
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1/2 t smokey paprika
salt & pepper
2-3 scallions, sliced thin
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
3 T tomato paste


Put the bulgur in a bowl and set aside.   

Boil the lentils in the 3c water for 20-30" until tender.

Saute the garlic and onion in 2T of the butter until the onions are soft and starting to get some color on them. When it gets to the point where the pan is almost dry and the onions are starting to stick, add the remaining 2T of butter, along with the yellow peppers, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and a little salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.


Pour the lentils, along with any remaining water, over the bulgar, then add the onion mixture. Stir everything together and let sit for 20" or so to give the bulgur an opportunity to absorb the water and butter.

Add half the scallions and parsley, and the 3T of tomato paste, and knead well. You want to work it for a few minutes to break down a lot of the lentils and really incorporate everything.

 Grab a handful and roll it between your palms to form an oval. It will be very sticky, so you might want to start with clean, wet hands. Garnish with the remaining scallions and parsley.

Lentil Kufte : Hye Thyme Cafe

Lentil Kufte : Hye Thyme Cafe

Lentil Kufte : Hye Thyme Cafe
A big thanks to Alison and the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Toasted Almond Panna Cotta

Toasted Almond Panna Cotta : Hye Thyme Cafe

One of my favorite cocktails has always been a Toasted Almond, which is Kahlua, Disaronno, and cream ... or milk ... or ice cream if you're doing a dessert version. For some reason, I was driving home from the office one day last week and this idea popped into my head. Making a Panna Cotta in clear coffee mugs with a Kahlua/coffee base and Disaronno "sugar cubes" on top. Yes, I realize that sugar cubes don't actually float on top of your coffee.

This was a cute idea that was delicious, but poorly executed. Well, not that bad, but I do need to tweak it.  

My first problem is that I never make coffee at home. I leave that to the nice folks down the street at Dunkin Donuts.   We do have a Keurig coffee maker at the house, but I have never used it before. Being home alone at the time, aside from the fact that it took me a while to find and figure out how to use the loose-grind filter instead of the pre-made K-Cups (so I could use Dunkin Donuts coffee of course), I also didn't realize that I couldn't make a strong cup of coffee using the Keurig. It came out pretty light, so that led to another problem.

My next problem was the gelatin ratio. I knew I would need more gelatin in the coffee part than in the sugar cubes, but I mis-calculated, so the cubes came out a little rubbery. As for the coffee, because the real coffee was so light, even after adding the Kahlua, it was still too light, so I added a little more, and a little more...  so it turned out a little too loose. Of course that's also what made it taste so good!  ;)

I'm not sure why this was the case, but for some reason, it also had that kind of greasy feel to it like when someone makes whipped cream with too much sugar. I have only made Panna Cotta once, and that turned out great. It was a Limoncello version that I made using brown sugar rather than white. I used the same amount of sugar with the same amount of cream as the last time. Hmmmm??? I think next time I'll try using less sugar and/or a lighter cream to see what the difference is.

I also decided that next time, I'll either start with a cup of black coffee from Dunkies, cold brew the coffee like for iced coffee so it comes out darker, or use a coffee syrup. It occurred to me later that there really wasn't a reason to separate the Kahlua and Disaronno. I can use them both in the coffee part and just use a little almond extract in the cubes. That way, they won't get tinted from the Amaretto. I also realized once it was in the fridge that even though I couldn't come up with anything square in the kitchen to mold the cube part in, I could have lined a jewelry box with foil. That would have worked perfectly!

Here's the recipe as I did it, in case someone wants to play around with the idea. I'll update when I do it again. Hey, any excuse to play some more with three of my favorites - coffee/Kahlua/Amaretto!

1 c strong (dark) coffee
3t unflavored gelatin, separated
2 t Disaronno Amaretto
1 T Kahlua+
2 c heavy cream
1/2 sugar
Almond extract
PAM cooking spray
In a small bowl, dissolve 2t gelatin in the 1T Kahlua. In another small bowl, dissolve the additional 1t gelatin in the Amaretto.
Whisk the sugar into the cream over medium heat and bring just to a boil, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat, pour 1/2c into a small bowl (spray with PAM), stirring in the Amaretto gelatin to dissolve.  To boost the flavor without affecting the color, I added a few drops of extract.  Stir the Kahlua gelatin/coffee into the pot with the cream, then distribute evenly into your coffee mugs.
Toasted Almond Panna Cotta : Hye Thyme Cafe
Chill to set until ready to serve.   Invert the bowl with the Amaretto part and cut into cubes.  Top the "coffee" with the "sugar cubes" and enjoy.

 Toasted Almond Panna Cotta : Hye Thyme Cafe 

Toasted Almond Panna Cotta : Hye Thyme CafeToasted Almond Panna Cotta : Hye Thyme CafeToasted Almond Panna Cotta : Hye Thyme Cafe

Toasted Almond Panna Cotta : Hye Thyme Cafe

Monday, July 25, 2011

Muffuletta Pasta Salad

If you're ever in New Orleans, make sure you try their signature sandwich, the Muffuletta. Just be sure to have an army with you, because those babies are huge! I remember when I first went to visit my cousins (I was 13 at the time) after they moved there, they brought me to Cafe Maspero in the French Quarter so I could try one. I swear that thing was the size of a Frisbee. I think my eyes popped out of my head like a cartoon character! 

It's kinda like the Philly Cheese Steak debate - who makes the best version? The original came from Central Market, but most people swear by Maspero's. There is also a debate over what goes into the sandwich. The first ingredient is an olive salad. That much is non-negotiable. Some versions include ham, salami, and provolone, while others up the ante to include capicola, mortadella, and emmentaler. Whatever you decide, just so long as you have the olive salad, provolone, ham, and either salami or pepperoni, you should be golden.

When I lived in New Orleans, I used to love going to lunch meetings where they brought in sandwich trays that included mini muffalettas. They're so cute! Sadly, now that I live in New York, I don't have access to that nice chunky olive salad mix. My favorite was always Sal & Judy's, but I don't see it on their website now. I hope they didn't stop making it for some reason?!?  

Every once in a blue moon, my Mom or her sister would send me a few jars to hold me over. We do have olive salad here. It's just not the same, and the only one I can find is teeny tiny. Another way I used to love that mix was at my old office. The cafe made a salad with lettuce, the olive mix, and Italian dressing. They would serve it as a side with pasta, etc., but it was so good, I would just order a big serving of the salad for my lunch.

Sooooo, I've had this jar of olive salad in the pantry for a while now. It was such a fine dice, I just didn't get that same "pull" from it to use it in a salad. I had anticipated getting around to using it on a pizza at some point, but then pasta salad popped into my head the other day, so I decided to go with that. Must be the weather. I can't believe how hot it has been this week!!

1/2 lb ditalini pasta  (I wanted everything roughly the same size)
1/4 c Italian dressing (I made Good Seasons with balsamic vinegar)
1/4 lb ham, cubed
1/4 lb salami, cubed
1/4 lb provolone, cubed
16 oz olive salad

Cook the pasta to al dente, going easy with the salt since the olives, etc. will supply plenty.

I got the ham, salami, and provolone at the deli so I could ask for them in "slabs." That way I could dice them rather than having thin slices to deal with. Whatever you prefer is fine, just cut, chop, or tear it all into bite-sized pieces.

When the pasta is cooked, drain the liquid and immediately toss with the Italian dressing. That way, it will absorb that nice flavor. Hey, it's gotta have something to do while it's cooling down. ;)

Once the pasta has cooled to where it won't melt your cheese, go ahead and toss in everything else. I didn't want too much liquid in the bowl, so I spooned the olive salad out of the jar and sort of pressed the spoon against the side to squeeze out the excess.

Muffuletta Pasta Salad : Hye Thyme Cafe

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Prosciutto-Cantaloupe Salad

I wasn't the one making dinner tonight, so this was just sort of a last minute idea I threw together. Some killer beef tips and pilaf were waiting on me, so I didn't have a lot of time to play with plating and photos, but I figured if I didn't write this down now, having pretty much zero retention, I'd end up forgetting about it! I keep hearing about people wrapping slices of cantaloupe with prosciutto, or skewering melon balls with prosciutto in between, etc., so I got it in my head to use them together in a salad to accompany dinner.

At first, I was thinking of using some of the Kale Pesto I made last week to make a vinaigrette, but I was afraid that would be too strong. It definitely came in handy last night though - we made pizzas, and I used the pesto as a base for one of them with chicken, mozzarella, and romano. We all loved it! Anyhow, everyone really liked the salad, so I'll be playing around with it more in the future. I think I'll add some toasted pine nuts or something next time to introduce another texture.  

INGREDIENTS:  (3 servings)
6 leaves of romaine lettuce
a few handfuls of a spring mix of greens
6 slices prosciutto
1/4 cantaloupe
1/4 English cucumber
small amount of red onion, sliced thin
olive oil
white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
I didn't think we would like the texture of the prosciutto in a salad in it's original state, so I layered it between sheets of paper towels, like you would with bacon, and microwaved it for 2.5". I'll keep it in a little longer next time so it's really crispy. I may also introduce an herb - maybe thyme or dill?? Any suggestions from someone who has paired prosciutto with cantaloupe before??

Wash and tear the romaine and toss with the spring mix. 

Slice the melon, cucumber, and onion very thin. I started using a veggie peeler, then noticed that the cantaloupe was starting to look like the prosciutto when sliced that thin, so I switched to a knife. Add them to the bowl with the greens, then crumble and add the prosciutto.

Deciding to stick with a mild-flavored dressing so as not to obscure the other ingredients, I opted for just a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic with a little salt and pepper.

Blogging by Mail 2011 - Handle with Care

When I first started this blog last fall, I came across a post about Blogging by Mail.  It sounded like a fun way to reach out and meet new bloggers, while scoring some presents in the process.  The only problem was that I couldn't find anything recent.  I set up a Google Alert for myself, so when Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness announced a new edition, I was all over it!

How it works is that she pairs up the bloggers, so that one sends a package to another, and it continues down the list.  You aren't necessarily sending goodies to the person you will be receiving from.  This year's theme was Handle with Care.  The premise was that we were to send a C.A.R.E. Package of "must have" items, be they kitchen goodies or otherwise.

Here's the list of this year's participants so you can check out their blogs and their posts on the exchange when they come out ...

I was paired up with Pages, Pucks & Pantry on the giving end, and The Knitting Baker on the receiving end.

Here are the goodies I received from The Knitting Baker.

I didn't realize how color-coordinated everything was until I uploaded this picture.  LOL  The yarn is a beautiful purple/green/white, but even the label is blue!

On the left is a letter explaining each item and how they bring comfort to her, while on the right is the recipe for one of her favorite comfort foods, Apple Oatmeal Crumble.  Each of the items did turn out to be of particular interest/meaning to me in a different way ...

I never had this problem growing up in Massachusetts, or when I lived in New Orleans, but for some reason, since moving here to New York, whenever I wash my hands, I immediately feel the need to apply lotion.  It must be the water in this area.  Anyhow, I ironically just finished the bottle of lotion I keep at my office, so this came just in time to serve as its replacement.  It's a thin lotion, but rubs in very nicely and has a lovely scent.
OK, are you singing/saying it in your head yet?  R-I-C-O-L-A  My brain automatically goes to the commercial for the cough drops. :)  I'm not sure if she picked this up from my blog or not, but I have been an insomniac since I was in the 6th or 7th grade, so anything that might help me drift off in the evening is a definite plus!  [cross your fingers]  

I had to laugh later.  I didn't notice right away, but she put a translation on the back of the tin for me ...  :)
Do I really need to say anything about the chocolate?  Isn't that on everyone's "must have" list?!?  My only decision here is whether to make something with it or just dive right in.  Hmmmm, maybe half and half.  We'll see ...

OK, now this one's kinda funny.   When I was a kid, my Mom was big into knitting.  Of course, she was great at everything back then - sewing, knitting, cooking, decorating, you name it!  I'm not sure if it's because I'm a lefty, so I was trying to learn backwards, or because I'm just a spaz and couldn't do it, but I could never keep my tension consistent, and it just didn't work.  I gave up!

About two weeks ago, we had company, and I was sitting out on the back deck talking to one of the ladies, and afghans came up in conversation somehow.  I think she was talking about having made them for her grandkids, so I was telling her about all the great winter hats, sweaters, afghans, etc. that Mom used to make for us.  I told her it has been so many years now, I really should give it another chance, and then what do I receive "magically" in the mail two weeks later!

How random/weird is that?!?

I had to laugh at this too.  First of all, I did a doubletake when I saw the pattern on the right.  At first glance, they kinda look like elf slippers or something.  I thought the cuff was the socks rolled down rather than the person's pants rolled up.  The other reason this was kinda funny is that one of the items I included in my C.A.R.E. Package to Mrs. L over at Pages, Pucks & Pantry was a pair of pink (her favorite color) fuzzy socks!  I love to throw them on when I go to bed in the winter.  They're nice and cuddly warm, but non-restrictive, so once you warm up, they just sort of slip off in your sleep.  I guess we're on the same wavelength - which is also kinda weird since it's summer!  :)

I can't wait to see everyone else's posts to see what they consider "must haves."

A big THANKS to Stephanie for putting this together and to The Knitting Baker for the goodies.  I can't promise I'll be successful, but I definitely promise to try the knitting again.  I still haven't decided that to do about the chocolate!  ;)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Imrig Halva

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe
Need a last minute dessert, but you're short on ingredients or don't have time to bake? Easy - break out the Cream of Wheat! Yup, you read that right.

It wasn't until a week or so ago when I read the Cream of Wheat Biscottis post over on Taste of Beirut that I thought to make this dessert. It has been at least a year since I had it. She mentioned wanting to eat more Cream of Wheat, but not liking it in its traditional "hot cereal" state. I don't know her stance on oatmeal, but it's the opposite for me. I love a bowl of Cream of Wheat, but can't manage to choke down a bowl of Oatmeal to save my life ... no matter how much I love oatmeal bread, oatmeal cookies, etc.

I grew up eating this, so I think I was programmed at birth to use pine nuts, but I'm assuming any nut you like would be fine. Because I don't know many people who make this version of Halva, I decided to take a peek online and see what I could come up with. It turns out it hasn't been around for as long as I had assumed. According to an article in The Armenian Weekly, it came about at the end of the Armenian Genocide (WWI), when America was shipping donations of Cream of Wheat over to the Armenian orphanages. The directions said to serve with cream and sugar, but with none being available, a resourceful George Mardikian (Freedom Fighter - later of Omar Khayyam's restaurant in San Francisco) opted to cook the farina with pine nuts and a honey syrup, creating a new twist on an old favorite, the traditional Sesame Halva.

Again, because I grew up on it, I have an old-school approach and just dump some in a bowl and eat it, but because of it's texture, it lends itself well to being molded - in a ramekin, prep bowl, cookie cutter, etc.  I like it best served warm.

1/2 c butter
1/3 c pine nuts
1 c Cream of Wheat  (farina)
1 1/2 c water  (or half water, half milk)
3/4 c sugar
cinnamon for garnish

Melt the butter, then add the pine nuts and farina, stirring to coat, and cook until browned. Just be careful to keep stirring. If your pine nuts sit in one spot for too long on the heat, they'll burn.

While that's cooking, in a separate pot, bring the sugar and milk up to a slow boil and pour over the browned mixture. Give it a stir so you don't end up with big lumps, then pop a cover on it and remove from the heat. Just let it sit for 10-15" to absorb, like you would if you were making couscous.

Fluff it with a fork, then serve up a bowl (or mold it), sprinkled with cinnamon.

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe

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