Hye Thyme Cafe: November 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, November 18, 2011

Pecan Crusted Chicken

Pecan Crusted Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

There was a really weird coincidence tied to my making this dish when I did. When I used to live in Louisiana, there was one of those grocery/restaurant/take-out places (Foodies), where I first had stuffed artichokes and buttermilk pecan fried chicken. They also had the tallest baked macaroni and cheese I have ever seen, and some of the coolest breads ever! Anyhow, every once in a while, I would stop in on my way home from work and pick up a piece of chicken or something for dinner. Sadly, I went to pull in one day and was gobsmacked to see that they were gone.  :(

The chicken ties into my favorite example of why I have to fall asleep with the TV on - preferably running a tape of something I've seen before. That gives my brain a chance to shut down during a commercial, knowing I won't be missing anything since I've already seen it. If I read, I can't put the book down and am up all night. If I listen to music, my radio/alarm won't wake me up in the morning - I'll just incorporate it into what I'm dreaming. If I watch something I haven't seen before, I'll be too interested in seeing the outcome to fall asleep. If all is quiet, my brain runs in crazy directions and won't shut down. Such as ... 

One night back in 1999, I was thinking about having ordered Chicken Parmesan for lunch, which made me think of Foodies, and the Buttermilk Pecan Fried Chicken. That made me think of trying to make it sometime, maybe with a combination of coconut and pecans, because another restaurant I loved back in MA made an awesome coconut chicken with a raspberry dipping sauce. Then I started thinking about food allergies and how many people can't eat peanuts. Some people can die from peanuts like others from bee stings. That led to thinking about how sad it is that kids nowadays have to be super-cautious about lunches at school, etc. Then I started to wonder, since we don't necessarily share allergies with our parents, could some instances of pre-natal death be attributed to a pregnant woman eating foods containing peanuts? Would that be possible? Has a study ever been done? Has anyone else in the world even thought about that before? I actually had to get up to look it up because it was that distracting! A study HAD been done, but apparently, they couldn't attributed any miscarriages to peanut consumption. See why I don't sleep? I have a very weird interior monologue running all the time.

So what was the weird coincidence?  The morning after I made this dish, for the first time since that stream of consciousness attempt to fall asleep in 99, I was driving to work and heard on the radio the results of a new study showing that children are more likely to have potentially life-threatening allergies to peanuts if their mother consumes peanuts during pregnancy.  How freakin' weird is that?!?!? You would think it would be the other way around - the Mom eating it would build up an immunity in the kid. Kinda scary.

It's been so long since I had that chicken that I can't remember it well enough to try and duplicate it. I decided to try for something in that realm, but not fried. I was actually quite pleased, but I think next time, I'll pound the cutlets thinner. I usually buy breasts and pound them myself, but I happened to see a good deal on cutlets that day, so I went with those, as is. They did turn out very juicy and tender.

2 lb chicken cutlets
1/2 c plain yogurt
1 T honey
1/4 t cayenne pepper
2/3 c Panko crumbs *
1 1/2 c ground pecans
1/2 c grated Parmesan

  • Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, and season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Stir together the yogurt, honey, and cayenne pepper.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the Panko, nuts, and Parmesan.
  • Coat the chicken with the yogurt mixture, then roll in the crumbs and press to adhere.
  • Bake at 350 for about 40" until juices run clear.

*  The Panko may look odd to some of you in the pic but totally normal to others. Up until recently, whenever I have purchased Panko crumbs, they have been almost like if you smashed a Butterfinger candy bar - kinda like little shards. This particular brand is shaped more like fish tank pebbles, with smooth rounded edges. If I end up with this kind again, I'll probably give it a quick pulse in the food processor. I like the crispiness of Panklo over regular bread crumbs, but I don't want them to be too big. I'll make the pecans smaller too. I was afraid of over processing them.

Pecan Crusted Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe
Pecan Crusted Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

The combination of honey and the pecans gave this dish a slightly sweet maple taste. There was just enough cayenne to make itself known, without being overpowering. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taco Meatloaf

Taco Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Does anyone else do this? When I get an idea for a recipe I'd like to try, or a new cooking technique or ingredient I want to play with, I actually add it to a list so I don't forget about it. I usually think of things when I'm either in the car on my way home from work, or in bed trying to fall asleep, so I have no idea how many I may have forgotten about before they even made it onto my list. Anyhow, one of those things was a Taco Meatloaf or Taco Burgers.

After going to Carrabba's the other day and swooning over their Sangria (no, not because it was too strong for me LOL), I was transported back to high school, when I went to Spain and first had Sangria.  I wanted to see if I could duplicate Carrabba's version (no such luck - yet),  so I realized that would be a good time to try the Taco Meatloaf or Burgers. Given the time of year, I decided to go with the Meatloaf (besides, I'm kinda skeerd a the gas grill - lighting it anyhow). 

Half way down Walton Mountain (That's wat I call the hill we live on. It's three miles from the bottom to our house - not a straight climb of course.), it occurred to me that it was Sunday, so the liquor stores wouldn't be open to get what I needed for Sangria. Imagine my surprise when I found out they are in fact open on Sunday. When did that happen??

Even stranger ... on my way back up Walton Mountain, I was listening to an interview on NPR. Does that make me old? I have my radio set to a talk station? Sniffle, sniffle. The interview was of a chef whose name escapes me. He has a new cookbook coming out, and rather than being set up by course or by ingredient, it's by cooking technique. They decided to discuss water, and he mentioned that he always cooks meatloaf using a water bath. Excuse me? I've never heard of anyone using a water bath for something like that - much less when it's formed into a loaf rather than pressed into a loaf pan. I'm used to using a water bath for custards and that sort of thing, so I assumed it involved the mixture actually touching the water to be affected by its heat. That's what I get for assuming!  

The meatloaf turned out awesome, and perfectly tender. Never having used a water bath for meatloaf before, I can't say whether that or the ingredients, or a combination of the two, was responsible for the texture. I'll have to try my "regular" meatloaf in a water bath next time so I can make a comparison.  

I wanted to hit on everything we normally include with tacos, so I got ground beef, taco seasoning, black olives, onion, tomato, salsa (or taco sauce), cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, jalapenos (I used a pablano since we had a fresh one that needed to be used up), and corn muffins to replace breadcrumbs or stuffing and serve in place of the taco shells.  You can save the lettuce for sandwiches with the leftovers.  ;)

2.5 - 3 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced fine
1 tomato, diced
6 oz can black olives, diced
1 c shredded cheese (Mexican or Pizza blend  + more for garnish)
1 egg
Two 1.25 oz packets taco seasoning 
   (I used one regular and one low sodium)
3 T fresh chopped cilantro (+ more for garnish)
2 corn muffins, crumbled
whatever hot peppers you like with tacos 
   (I used half a fresh poblano, but could have used more)
1/2 c salsa, divided
sour cream for garnish

Gently mix together everything but the sour cream and 1/4 c of the salsa, and form it into a loaf in a casserole dish or pan. Slather the top with that extra 1/4 c of salsa, then set that pan inside of a larger pan, and fill the larger pan about half way with very hot water. Bake at 375 for about an hour and a half.  

Taco Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Taco Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

That's another crazy thing - temperatures. My "regular" meatloaf cooks at 350 for an hour and a half. Never having used a water bath before, I looked online and found some that call for 400 degrees for an hour; 400 for an hour covered and 30" uncovered; 375 for 45-50"; 375 for 35-40", you name it. I was afraid of cracking a dish at 400, so I went with 375 for an hour and a half to be safe. It came out perfectly moist and tender, and the corn muffins turned out to be an interesting choice, since they added a note of sweetness to the mix.

I sprinkled a little more cheese on top to melt in while it was resting. I was actually shocked by how much liquid came out, so as soon as it was rested, I used two big spatulas to transfer it to a serving platter. With my luck, if I tried to pour off the liquid, I would have flipped the meatloaf right out of the pan.  ;)

Taco Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

In keeping with the whole taco theme, I topped each slice with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of that reserved fresh chopped cilantro. For sides, I went with vegetarian refried beans topped with scallions, and steamed haricot vert (a/k/a skinny French string beans) with a pat of butter. In place of having chips and salsa with the "tacos," I made a light salad of thinly sliced tomato and avocado dressed with fresh cracked pepper, a little sea salt, and balsamic dressing.

Taco Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Little Old Lady Recipes (Cookbook Review)

Come for the recipes - stay for the laughs!

When I first heard from Quirk Books asking if I would be interested in receiving a review copy, I was immediately sold on the title. Come on, you know you're mind went right to your grandmother's kitchen and you got all nostalgic for a minute there. Then you noticed the fine print around the photo and couldn't help but smile. Well, turn the page and your smile will get even bigger.

It's a clever little book. The background on the cover looks like a needlepoint sampler you might find hanging in your Granny's kitchen, then you flip the page, and the cover's backing is a small floral print reminiscent of a vintage apron. You're all set to step back in time and read some old-fashioned stick-to-your-ribs no-nonsense recipes, of which there are plenty, but then you start to realize there's more going on here.

From the way the recipes are written, to the photographs of the "Little Old Ladies" in question, and the quoted pearls of "Kitchen Table Wisdom" scattered throughout, you are entertained at every turn. I do have to admit that when I first realized the author is neither a little old lady nor the creator of the recipes, and that the photos are of some of the ladies rather than of the recipes (I'm a stickler for being able to see what it is my recipe is supposed to turn out like), I was disappointed - for about a minute. Then I realized how much I enjoyed the book and immediately got over myself.

I found this book to be timely, in both content and attitude.Times are tough, and many people are being forced to scale back and to stretch their budget, including their food budget. Many of these recipes were originally created with that in mind. Chicken and Dumplings for instance - you get the benefit of the chicken flavor throughout the dish via the sauce, while being able to stretch your budget and still fill all the bellies at the table by including the dumplings. That's the practical side. The other side is the cheeky attitude. Heck, Little Old Lady Recipes sums it up nicely. Take a good look at some of the pictures, and you'll wish you could spend an afternoon with these ladies. You can see a twinkle in the eye here, and hearty laugh there. Makes you wish you could have tagged along with the author and photographer to see what other wisdom the ladies had to pass on.  

It should have come as no surprise when I got to the end and read that the author, Meg Favreau, is actually a comedian. That's in addition to being an obvious food enthusiast, as evidenced by her once having won an eating contest that involved octopus (I'm afraid to look into that one further). Meg is also the Senior Editor of Wise Bread / Living Large on a Small Budget. Photographer Michael Reali did a great job in capturing the personalities of all the ladies. I just wish they had opted to photograph each of the ladies with their respective dish.

This book is the perfect size to slip into someone's Christmas stocking. It would also be great as a hostess gift, or for an office gift exchange. Be sure to pick up a copy at:  
Available as an ebook
E-Book ISBN:  1594745188
ISBN:  9781594745188
Page Count:  160
Release Date:  November 1, 2011

** I was provided an advance copy of the book for review by Quirk Books, but I have not otherwise been compensated for this post, and all opinions are strictly my own.  **

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens : Hye Thyme Cafe

My first encounter with mustard greens was over the summer, when I had them as the base of a tomato salad. Since then, I've had them in sauces, pesto, dressings, etc., but I had yet to actually eat them as a "green," like with spinach, kale, etc. So, when I picked some up the other day to use under a Butternut Squash Salad, I decided to cook up the rest as a side.

We all really liked it, but strangely, agreed that it somehow reminded us of Chinese food. I'll have to remember that the next time I have leftover pork tenderloin. That would be a great pairing.   

1 bunch mustard greens
5-6 slices bacon
1 t jarred minced garlic with red pepper
1 red onion, sliced
2 pickled cherry peppers, seeded and diced 

Wash and tear the mustard greens into pieces, removing any particularly thick stalks.

Cook the bacon until very crisp, then set aside for the moment.  

Drain off most of the bacon grease, leaving just enough to saute the garlic and onion.

Once the onion is translucent, toss in the diced pepper, then start adding the torn greens. If your pan isn't deep enough to accommodate it all, don't worry - like spinach, it will cook waaaaay down in just a minute.

Mustard Greens : Hye Thyme Cafe

Crumble and mix in the bacon at the very end so it doesn't get soggy. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Quinoa with Olives and Swiss Chard

Quinoa with Olives and Swiss Chard : Hye Thyme Cafe

I was planning to make a chicken dish for dinner the other night, and since it had been a while since we had Quinoa, I decided to use that in a side dish. I had apples and fennel in mind when I hit the grocery store, but that changed to olives and Swiss chard somehow. I don't think I had ever tried Swiss chard before, but the placard above it stated that the leaves taste mildly of spinach, while the stalks lean toward celery. Sounded good to me! Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Quinoa that day. I was counting on already having some in the pantry - we did, but not enough of the white to go around, so I had to use red. Don't get me wrong, I love the red - it just didn't provide the right color contrast againt the olives and Swiss chard.

The Swiss Chard I found that day was red. I think it would be really cool to make this with Rainbow Swiss Chard if I could find it. That's on my "unicorn" foods list, along with pear tomatoes (had them in Vegas but have never seen them elsewhere), golden beets, rainbow beets, purple carrots, etc.

1 c Quinoa
2 c chicken broth
+/- 2 c mixed olives, chopped 
    (I used a tub from the olive bar - Kalamatas, and Colossal Green 
     marinated in Garlic)
1/2 bunch Swiss Chard
olive oil
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon

Bring the broth to a boil, then stir in the Quinoa, reduce to a simmer, pop a top on it, and forget about it for about 15".

Carefully wash and slice your Swiss Chard. I found it to be extremely muddy! I snipped off the very ends of the stalks, then chopped my way up them in about 1/2" segments and sliced the leaves into ribbons.

Saute the Swiss Chard with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, until tender, then add your olives. 

When the Quinoa is done, fluff it with a fork and stir it into the pan, then finish it off with the lemon zest to brighten things up a bit.

Quinoa with Olives and Swiss Chard : Hye Thyme Cafe

See what I mean? It tasted great, but the colors get lost against the red quinoa.  :(

Quinoa with Olives and Swiss Chard : Hye Thyme Cafe

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Butternut Squash Salad

Butternut Squash Salad : Hye Thyme Cafe

First let me apologize. I guess it's a good thing I don't have more followers yet - that would mean more people I have left hanging for a while. I've just been in this weird funk I can't seem to pull  myself out of to get back to cooking / baking / blogging regularly. I'm also really depressed because I didn't win the Powerball last week. It was over $200M!! Someone in CT is VERRRRRY lucky! If they can just get their power back on and find where they put that ticket!  ;)

Part of our household is avoiding carbs at the moment, so in wanting to make a side dish the other night that steered clear of potatoes, rice, etc., and decided to go with butternut squash. I remembered having seen a post for a Sweet Potato Salad with a buttermilk dressing a few years ago and have been meaning to try that but didn't want to use sweet potatoes that day. We have used pumpkin a few times already recently, so I opted for the squash instead. By the way, I just looked it up, and there's not as big a difference in carbs between the butternut and the potatoes as I thought. They're pretty close in fiber too. Oh well.

We all enjoyed the flavors in this dish but were left debating the texture. I opted to roast the squash, so I'm left wondering how it would have worked boiled, or maybe just cut into smaller pieces. You could definitely feel the fibrous strands as you were eating it ... no, it wasn't undercooked. If it had cooked longer, it would have been mushy. Just something to think about. Ironically, the very next day, I scanned through my new Google Reader posts and saw that Brown Eyed Baker just posted an oddly similar recipe - Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette.  Maybe I should ask her about the texture??  ;)

1 Butternut Squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2T plain yogurt
1 T agave nectar 
2 t rice vinegar
1 t cinnamon
1 c pecans - rough chopped
3/4 c dried cranberries - rough chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
Mustard greens

Peel, seed, and cube the squash, then toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 375 until fork tender - about 20".  Set aside to cool. 

Stir together the yogurt, agave nectar, rice vinegar, and cinnamon.

Transfer the squash to a serving bowl, pour in the pecans and cranberries, then gently fold in the dressing to coat.

Serve over a bed of mustard greens sliced into ribbons.

Butternut Squash Salad : Hye Thyme Cafe
Kinda funny - although there are a bunch of colors mixed in, I just noticed in looking at this picure how I apparently decided to color coordinate dinner that night. Pineapple rings over baked ham steaks, the butternut squash, and corn. Even funnier is that I carried it a step further and decided to try the mustard greens as "greens" as well, but you can't see that on the other side of the plate, so I've got varying shades of yellow and green going on.

This salad was actually a nice combination - the squash playing against the sweetness from the cranberries, the slightly sharp bite of the greens, the tangy yogurt, and then the nuts. There's a lot going on with flavor and texture - I'm just not sure I like the texture of the squash itself. If you give this one a shot, come back and let me know what you think.

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