Hye Thyme Cafe: June 2012

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 28, 2012

Tomato-Basil Cornbread Pudding

Tomato-Basil Cornbread Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe

The end result here was not at all what I had envisioned, but it did turn out delicious and had a light, velvety texture.

A few weeks ago, I saw a recipe that piqued my curiosity. I would have sworn it was a Tomato Bread Pudding and that I had saved the recipe to try at some point. Well, the other night was "some point," but could I find the recipe? Of course not!

If I see a recipe in a magazine that interests me, I look it up online. If it's there, I'll e-mail it to myself so I have the picture with the recipe. If that particular magazine doesn't post recipes, or you have to be a member, etc., I'll scan the magazine page and save it in the applicable folder for future reference. If I see something on a blog that interests me, I'll subscribe to the blog through Google Reader and tag the recipe there. Then there's Pinterest... I looked everywhere I could think of. I can very clearly picture it in my head, so I tried a Google Image Search, but still nothing. Argh! Oh well.

I couldn't refer to the recipe I first saw, so I just winged it. There were other recipes online, but none drew me in like that first one. I decided that since we love the Baked Tomatoes with Cornbread and Basil that I make as a side dish so much, I would go with that same flavor profile, using cornbread rather than some other type of bread.

3 corn muffins (or leftover cornbread)
5 tomatoes
1 1/2 T dried sweet basil
pinch of salt
2 eggs
Butter or Baking PAM

Because cornbread has a different texture than yeast breads, I decided to cube and toast it a bit so it would hold up to the wet mixture without turning to mush. (I was annoyed at how crumbly the muffins I got were when I tried to cube them.)

Next I sliced an "X" into the bottom of each tomato and plunged them into boiling water for about 1" until the skins started to separate, then ran them under cold water; the skins slid right off. I cut them in half and scooped out seeds so there wouldn't be so much liquid. (Annoyed again - naked tomatoes not so red.)

Butter or spray a small casserole dish and add your cornbread pieces.  

In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes with the sweet basil and a pinch of salt, then add the eggs. 

Pour the puree over the cornbread, jiggling the dish so it settles into all the little nooks and crannies, then chill for 30" or so. I did not quite use all the puree; just enough to cover. (Now I'm totally over the whole thing - looks like barf - and decide I had better throw on a pot of Pilaf in case it's completely inedible and I need another side dish!)

This is how it looked when it came out of the fridge after the cornbread absorbed the moisture from the puree. (Yup, still looks kinda gross.)

Tomato-Basil Cornbread Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe

Bake at 350 for 30-35" until set and lightly browned. Wow, it may have looked gross going in, but it started to smell pretty awesome in the kitchen about 15" in.

Tomato-Basil Cornbread Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe
Looks a little better now that it has a tan.  ;)

I was going to just scoop it out, but then I got curious and decided to invert it instead, to see what the bottom looked like ...

Tomato-Basil Cornbread Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe
Oops, the top right stuck - not enough spray.

Tomato-Basil Cornbread Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe

Tomato-Basil Cornbread Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe

The verdict? Two out of three of us were VERY pleasantly surprised. The third was a big wuss and afraid to go near it because it smelled like cornbread but looked like a Pineapple Upside Down cake gone horribly wrong. This may not have been what I had in mind (A deep red zesty tomato creation), but it was certainly delicious and will appear on our table again.

What I'll do differently next time? I'm thinking about roasting the tomatoes first, which I think will deepen their color and concentrate their flavor. If not, I'll probably add some tomato paste or a few sun-dried tomatoes. The cornbread and basil were definitely the more prominent flavors here. I'm also thinking about either layering tomato slices on the bottom, or halving cherry tomatoes and standing them around the outside so you'll see the tomatoes once it has been inverted. We'll see...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Spinach Bouregs (Spanakopita)

Spinach Bouregs (Spanakopita) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Let me start by making two apologies. The first is for not being around/posting much lately. There has just been other stuff going on, and I haven't been in the kitchen much. I don't expect that to really change until probably sometime in August, so don't give up on me. I'll be back to posting more regularly soon. The second apology is for not having posted this sooner! I was thinking about these yesterday, but I noticed that I had never posted the recipe. I can only assume I was waiting to make them again to take better pictures. The problem with that is that I have made them a few times since and didn't take pictures, thinking I had already posted it. Sigh ...  I'll try to remember to take pictures next time and update this post.  :)

The one thing to really pay attention to is removing as much liquid as you can from the spinach. Growing up, my mother and grandmother made these all the time - sometimes the triangles, other times layered in a tray like Paklava and cut into squares, so I never bothered. A year or so after I had moved out on my own, I was putting together a baby shower for a friend and decided to make these as one of the food items. Talk about an EPIC FAIL! I didn't squeeze out enough of the liquid, so it turned into a gummy mess! I was soooooooo mad at myself.

If you have enough time to plan ahead, you can defrost the spinach overnight in the fridge over a strainer. Sometimes I'll run water over it to defrost it, but then my hands cramp from it still being so cold when I try to squeeze it. I know a lot of people will twist it in a clean dishcloth or a cheesecloth, but I just think that makes a mess, and I'd probably end up with strings in my spinach or something. I finally realized it makes things a whole lot easier if you pop it in the microwave for a minute or two. That draws out a lot of the liquid and you can squeeze it without getting frostbite!

When I was living in New Orleans, one of the attorneys I worked with (she was Greek) brought me some Spanakopita that her daughter had made. It was very good and had a kick to it that I really liked. I asked for the recipe a few times but never got it.  I'm still not sure if she kept forgetting or if it was a recipe they didn't want to part with. In any event, I couldn't pinpoint what their heat source was, but since then, I've been adding a few Pepperoncini peppers into my filling. 

6 eggs
1/2 lb feta cheese
1 c cottage cheese
1/2 c grated Romano cheese
3 boxes frozen chopped spinach
1 med onion, chopped fine
3 T olive oil
3 T fresh chopped parsley
2 T fresh chopped mint
1 T farina (cream of wheat)
3-4 Pepperoncini peppers, minced (optional)
salt and pepper
1 lb phyllo dough
clarified butter (see link to Paklava above)

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the cheeses.

Defrost and squeeze the spinach (very) dry, then blend into the cheese mixture.

Stir in the onion, olive oil, parsley, mint, farina (and minced Pepperoncini if using), and season with a little salt and pepper.

If you want to fold them into triangles, you can see that step-by-step on my Cheese Boureg post. 

If you would prefer squares, brush your tray with clarified butter and layer two sheets of phyllo, butter again and repeat until you have used about 1/3 of the dough. Spread the spinach mixture over the phyllo, then continue layering/buttering until you run out of dough. You don't have to cut all the way through, but you will want to at least score the top layers to allow steam to escape. You can follow through with those cuts once it has come out of the oven and cooled a bit. I will never understand why some people don't cut it until it's done. Not only does that hold in the steam, but then your top layers will crumble apart when you cut into them, because they're dry. Same thing with Paklava; some people wait until it's cooked to cut it. That makes even less sense to me since the whole thing is dry. As least here you have moisture. But I digress ...

Bake at 350 for about 45" until golden. The triangles will cook faster, so just keep an eye on them.  

These and the Cheese Bouregs are great to have in the freezer for a quick appetizer or even alongside a salad for a meal. If you are making a tray of the squares, you might want to plan to assemble two. That way, you can cook one now and have the other in the freezer for another occasion. With the triangles, most people seem to freeze them on a tray, then transfer them to a zip-top bag or other container. I have always just layered them in waxed paper and stacked them directly into the zip-top (or foil). Just be sure to allow for extra time if baking directly out of the freezer.

Spinach Bouregs (Spanakopita) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, June 15, 2012

Peachy Keen Pork Tenderloin

Peachy Keen Pork Tenderloin : Hye Thyme Cafe

When debating what to make for dinner the other night, it occurred to me that we haven't had pork in a while. I will typically make a Southwestern Pork Tenderloin - marinating the tenderloin in a little olive oil and southwestern seasoning and then roasting it with sliced potatoes, onions, and peppers. This time around, I wanted to try something different, but I had no idea what ... until my eyes settled on a jar of Peach Salsa at the grocery store!

1 Pkg pork tenderloin (usually includes 2 strips)
1-2 jars peach salsa
1 large onion 
3-4 fresh peaches
Dried and/or fresh cilantro

I decided to marinate the tenderloin in the salsa for a couple of hours, so I first rubbed it with dried cilantro, then dropped it in a zip-top bag and poured in about 1/3 of the jar of salsa. 

Peachy Keen Pork Tenderloin : Hye Thyme Cafe

Once that was tucked away in the fridge, I turned my attention to the peaches. I peeled them just like I would tomatoes - sliced an "x" in the tips, dropped them in boiling water for a minute or two, then plunged them into cold water. The skins peeled right off. I cut them into chunks, then sliced the onion into wedges and dropped both into a separate smaller zip-top bag with more of the salsa.

As dinner time rolled around, I pulled the tenderloin out of the fridge so it wouldn't be going directly from cold to hot.  

Peachy Keen Pork Tenderloin : Hye Thyme Cafe 
When ready to cook, settle the tenderloin into a baking dish, sprinkle with additional cilantro, and arrange the peaches and onion wedges around it. 

Bake at 400 for about 45" until cooked through.   

To serve, slice into medallions and top with a scoop of onions and peaches. If you have fresh cilantro on hand, that would be a nice topper. You can also warm the remaining salsa to serve with it. That was my one "complaint." The tenderloin turned out just as juicy and flavorful as I expected (loved the fresh peaches with it), but most of the heat cooked out of the salsa. If you like a little kick, you will definitely want to reserve some of the salsa to warm and spoon over as a sauce.

Peachy Keen Pork Tenderloin : Hye Thyme Cafe

Peachy Keen Pork Tenderloin : Hye Thyme Cafe

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Greek Chicken Salad

Greek Chicken Salad : Hye Thyme Cafe

I suppose there really isn't anything particularly Greek about this chicken salad, but that's what I call it. Maybe it's just so everyone knows what I mean when I ask if they want Green Chicken Salad as opposed to say Curried Chicken Salad, Thai Chicken Salad, or just general Chicken Salad. Or maybe because when it's still in the bowl, it vaguely reminds me of the filling for Spinach Bouregs (Spanakopita). You can call it Spinach Chicken Salad or whatever you want, but it's definitely a nice change of pace and a way to get picky kids to eat spinach.

Cooked chicken
Spinach (frozen chopped spinach, thawed)
1 small onion
Dried Oregano
Mayonnaise (and/or plain yogurt)
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Garlic (optional)
Salt and Pepper

I don't think I ever specifically set out to make Chicken Salad. It usually comes about when I'm making a chicken dish that doesn't require as much chicken as I purchased. I'll cook it all, then set aside the extra to make Chicken Salad later for sandwiches. That usually means the basic celery, onion, pickles (or relish), mayo, maybe a little mustard and/or dill. Every once in a while, I'll be in the mood for this instead.

Saute a box of spinach with a diced small onion and about a tablespoon of oregano flakes. You might also want to add some crushed red pepper for heat, or maybe some garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside to cool - you do not want to add hot spinach to cold chicken and mayo!

If you buy spinach by the bag, you have more control over how much goes into it. I had a box in the freezer, so I used the whole thing. Had I not done that, I would have had a random small amount of spinach left that probably would have gone to waste.

Once the spinach mixture has cooled, stir it into your diced chicken, then dress with as much mayo as your crowd prefers. If you want to lighten things up a bit, you can use a light mayo and cut that with a bit of yogurt to take it a step further.

If you want to serve little sandwiches for an app or make them for a lunch meeting, etc., you can trim the crusts from you bread and quarter the sandwiches into triangles, or use cookie cutters for interesting shapes. For the smaller sandwiches, you can finely dice the chicken and give the spinach a quick pulse in the food processor for better distribution.

If you would rather serve it over greens than in a sandwich, you might want to crumble a little feta on top, or some lightly toasted pine nuts - maybe a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.

Greek Chicken Salad : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, June 8, 2012

Traditional Potato Salad

Potato Salad : Hye Thyme Cafe

I know, I know ... what's traditional to us isn't necessarily traditional to everyone/anyone else, but for me, this is a traditional potato salad, as opposed to a warm potato salad, a potato salad with eggs, various dressings, etc. Personally, I never understood putting eggs in potato salad. If I want potato salad, I make potato salad. If I want egg salad, I make egg salad. The combination just seems weird to me.

When it comes to potatoes, I'll sometimes use white, sometimes red. I lean more toward the waxy varieties, like Yukon Gold. I think they hold up better when being tossed with the other ingredients.

4 lg potatoes
1 small red onion
4-5 pickling cucumbers
5-6 Vlasic baby dills
3/4 c Hellmann's Mayonnaise
1 T dried dillweed
3 T pickle juice
Salt and Pepper

Whether you want to peel your potatoes or not (sometimes I half peel them so there is just a little skin in the mix), you want to dice them into relatively uniform pieces for even cooking. Bring a pot of water up to a boil, season with a little salt, then add the potatoes and cook until tender. If you have a large strainer, it makes things easier. You can just lift the strainer out to drain them when they're done, dump out the pot and run the potatoes under cold water to stop the cooking process. The strainer also comes in handy since you can toss the pieces in it while you're chopping and your pot is already on the stove coming up to temp.

For the cucumbers, I prefer the pickling cucumbers since they have great flavor and aren't as seedy as their larger counterparts. As you can see above, I leave a little of their skin on for color as well. They're just the right size to slice in half lengthwise, then into half-moons.

When it comes to dill pickles, I'm a Vlasic kinda gal. I find them to be much more flavorful and crisp than other brands. I don't mind branching out when we're talking about sweet pickles or bread and butter, but don't mess with my dills! ;)  If I can't find the babies for some reason, since the larger ones are softer in the middle, I'll slice them the same way as the small ... cut off one side, turn the pickle flat onto that cut side, cut off the next, turn it onto that side, cut off the next.  When it comes to the center, I usually eat that for a snack and stick to the more sturdy/crunchy outer edges. With the little ones, I'll use the whole pickle.

Dice your onion into whatever size you like, then set all of that aside and check on how your potatoes are doing - poke them with a fork to see if you meet with resistance; if so, keep cooking and go make your dressing ...

Mayo is another thing I'm a stickler about. Some brands are very eggy tasting, and some are very sweet. I try to stick to Hellmann's, which I think is a nice balance. Stir the dill into the mayo, then add the pickle juice. You may need more or less depending on your brand. If it's too mild, try a splash of vinegar. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste, then check on your potatoes again.

You want to dress the potatoes while they're still warm, so they soak up that flavor, but you want to let it chill for a bit before adding the veggies so they don't cook. If you like your potato salad chunky like we do, you will want to try and gently fold the dressing and veggies into the potatoes so you don't end up mashing them.

Once everything is incorporated, give the top a little sprinkle of paprika, let it chill for a while, and you're good to go. 

Potato Salad : Hye Thyme Cafe

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two Ingredient Super Simple Slaw

If you're anything like me, most deli slaw and potato salads just don't cut it. When someone brought up potato salad and slaw today, I decided to run with that and bake some BBQ chicken for dinner. When thinking about the slaw, I was reminded of one of my cousins who introduced me to bagged slaw mix. I had never even noticed that before having it at her house one day. Rather than a traditional coleslaw dressing, she used the bagged slaw with a Vidalia Onion Poppy Seed dressing. It was awesome! Sadly, that was in New Orleans, and we apparently don't have that particular dressing here in New York - at least not that I've come across so far.

In any event, having recently had broccoli slaw for the first time and deciding I prefer it to most cabbage slaws, I grabbed two bags of that and a jar of Poppy Seed Dressing. Ironically, they did have Vidalia Onion Dressing, just not the combo or brand I was looking for.

Just pour the slaw mix into a bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat. That's it!

The broccoli slaw is also really good with other dressing options. Maybe toss in some nuts and dried cranberries, etc. Just play around and see what you like. Of course it depends on what you're serving it with.

Broccoli Slaw Mix
Poppy Seed Dressing

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