Hye Thyme Cafe: February 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! :)


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicken Soup with Kale and Great Northern Beans

Chicken Soup with Kale and Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe

OK, I'm busted! I was just saying how I need to stop buying pre-cooked Rotisserie Chickens from the market because they continue go get smaller and more expensive, and here I go again. Well this time, It's not because I'm cheap, it's because I'm lazy! Hey, wait a minute, that doesn't sound right. OK, maybe it does. I've been alone for a few days (unless you count Coco the Cukoo Chihuahua), so I really couldn't be bothered to cook for myself. The chicken seemed like a good compromise. I decided to deconstruct it, use half in a soup and the other half in chicken salad.

For some weird reason, I have never been able to make chicken stock. No matter what I use for seasoning, it ends up tasting like dish water to me. Maybe I just need more salt. Anyhow, I decided to use the carcass, some herbs and veg to give a boost to a carton of chicken broth for this version. If you're in a rush, couldn't be bothered, or have your own fantabulous stock on hand, by all means skip that part, but I'm including it here for anyone else who may be interested.

INGREDIENTS:
Carcass of rotisserie chicken
32 oz chicken broth (more if you like a lot of broth)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1-2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1-2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 med onion, quartered
Salt / Pepper / Cayenne Pepper
Herbs of choice (I used parsley and dill)

1 small onion, diced
5-6 large kale leaves
2 stalks celery, diced
1 can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
Cooked chicken, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces  


Once you have disassembled your chicken, set the meat aside and toss the carcass in a medium pot. To that pot, add your smashed garlic, celery, carrots (I was caught without any this time around, but if you've got some, they may as well join the party.), onion, seasoning and herbs of choice. I always like to include a little heat of some sort, so I threw in a shot of cayenne. For the herbs, I used a half bunch of fresh parsley and some dry dill weed.


Bring the pot up to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least a half hour, to give the broth a chance to reduce and soak up those flavors.

Pour the whole thing through a strainer to remove all of the bones and veg (wrap up the carrots for your pooch if you've got one), then start again ...

To the strained broth, add the torn kale and onion. Let that cook until the onion is tender, then add the celery, beans, and chicken to heat through. The time it takes to heat the beans and chicken through should cook the celery to the point where it's still a little crisp-tender. It's a nice contrast that way, but if you prefer it soft, by all means add it along with the kale and onion.

I served up a bowl for myself and topped it off with a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper.  Achooo!

Chicken Soup with Kale and Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe












Chicken Soup with Kale and Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe















Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cheesey Grits and Kale Chips


I was thinking about Kale Chips one day (I know, kinda random-what can I say), and how the smaller leaves sometimes disintegrate before you can even get them in your mouth. I love Kale Chips, but they're so delicate, I was wondering if there was a way to sort of bulk them up and make them sturdier.

My first thought was to run the kale through the food processor, spread it thin, and bake it. I was afraid that would just create Kale Crumbs, so rather than running it with the chopper blade, I pulsed it through with the shredder attachment in place. Still concerned it wouldn't hold together, my mind wandered to Pamesan Fricos. That's when you sprinkle a little pile of grated parm on a tray and bake it so it turns into a lacy crisp. If you catch them when they're still warm, you can drape them over little bowls or muffin cups to make bowls out of them for salad, etc. They're really nice if you mix a little basil or some other herb with the cheese.

So okay, how would that turn out with the Parmesan and kale? For some reason, I decided I needed another element, and although I'm not particularly fond of grits, that's what came to mind, so I first tried this with a whole bunch of kale, 1/4 c dry quick-cooking grits, some grated parm and shredded cheddar. We really like the flavor of the chips, but it was obvious that I did not spread it out thin enough. The edges were nice and crispy, but the center was too spongy.

This was my second attempt, and it turned out much better. Because of the first semi-failed attempt, I only used a half bunch of kale this time. It still filled one of our huge trays, so you might want to divide it onto two trays.


INGREDIENTS :
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 c quick-cooking grits
1 c water
1 t jarred minced garlic with hot peppers
1 c grated Parmesan

  
Wash the kale and remove the long woody ends. I did leave the ribs intact, except for a few really thick ones.  

Pulse the kale through the food processor with the shredder in place, adding the garlic with one of the batches.




Mix the grits into the water (less water than called for on the package) and microwave for 3" to cook.


 



Stir the Parmesan into the grits (mmmm, smells good!) until well incorporated and creamy.






Stir the grits mixture into the kale until well combined. It got a little stiff when the grits started to cool, so I switched from my spatula to a wooden spoon so I wouldn't snap the tip off my spatula.




Pour the mixture onto the center of a parchment lined tray (2 if you're splitting the batch), then cover with another sheet of parchment and roll out as thin as possible.






At this point, I used a pizza wheel to score the mixture into squares. I was assuming the cheese would fuse them back together but that it would make it easier to cut later if it turned out crispy like I wanted. I didn't want it to shatter and knew I could just go back over the same lines.


Bake at 350 for about 20" until lightly golden. 




Again, the outside was nice and crispy, but the center pieces were still a little soft, so I removed the edge pieces, separated all of the chips and put the tray back in the oven to let the residual heat continue to dry them out.




The final verdict is that I either need to make sure these get eaten right away while they're crisp, keep tweaking, or make smaller batches. They are definitely very tasty though. It was almost like a spinach pie without the phyllo.





Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chicken Étouffée

Chicken Etouffee : Hye Thyme Cafe


With Mardi Gras in full swing, I've had New Orleans on the brain all week. There's not a whole lot I miss about living there (I don't deal well with heat, ginormous bugs, etc.), but Mardi Gras was always quite a sight! Actually, all of their parades are, so if you have been wanting to get a feel for Mardi Gras but are intimidated by the thought of the crowds and all the craziness that goes along with it, try to go sometime over St. Patrick's Day or another parade holiday. That will give you a taste for it on a smaller scale. Even in the St. Patrick's Day parade, they throw beads ... and potatoes ... and cabbage ... and carrots ...

I've been debating a King Cake all week, but I won't be back in the office until Friday, and I know we wouldn't eat a whole one at home, so I decided to make a New Orleans-inspired dinner instead. Most people make some sort of seafood version, but I don't eat seafood (I'll sneak a few shrimp or crawfish here and there, or maybe a bite of lobster, but that's it.), so chicken it is. Chicken Étouffée is basically "smothered" chicken. I guess you could also look at it as a Cajun/Creole Chow Mein.

When I started looking at recipes to see how to go about it, the only things they seemed to have in common were bell peppers, celery, onion, and rice. After that, it started to vary wildly. Some include beer, others insist on a roux while others are anti-roux, etc. This is my Frankenstein version ... with beer AND a roux.  :)

Oh, I'm also not a beer drinker, so when I saw that the recipes that included beer called for a dark beer, I thought that meant a lager. I have since been informed that not all lagers are dark, so maybe I should have used something else, but I was in Walgreen's earlier and happened to notice a 6-pack of Sam Adams, so that's what I got. Not because I'm a Boston girl, but because that was the only lager and that would be one less thing to schlep from the grocery store later.  

This is another one of those recipes where I cheated and started with cooked rotisserie chicken from the market. I really need to stop doing that. They are really good, but they keep getting smaller, and the price keeps going up, so it's not really a bargain anymore - at least where I live in NY now. 


INGREDIENTS
4 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 lg onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c flour
1 T Worcestershire
1 bottle dark beer
2 c chicken broth
1 t Better than Bouillon stock base
1 t white pepper
1 T dried thyme
1 T Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
2 T tomato paste
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped 
Cooked chicken, chopped or torn
Cooked white rice


There's another bonus to using the rotisserie chickens ... you can use the bubble tops as prep bowls to clear your cutting board for the next ingredient.  :)

Saute the peppers, onion, and celery in the butter and olive oil until they start to soften, then whisk in the flour and let that cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to form a roux. If it's too dry, add another pat of butter or a splash of olive oil. 

When the roux is as light or dark as you like it, whisk in the Worcestershire and deglaze the pan with a little of the beer. Once you've gotten all the little bits off the bottom of the pan, pour in the rest of the beer.  

It should thicken up pretty quickly. Go ahead and add the broth, stock base, pepper, thyme, creole seasoning, tomato paste, and most of your parsley. Keep the rest of the parsley handy for a garnish - or you could chop up some scallions or chives.

I let the sauce simmer for a good half hour or more to reduce and give the flavors a chance to meld. While that was going on, I cooked some white rice. For me, being Armenian, that means cooking it in chicken broth and butter, but however you like it is fine. I usually only make "white rice" for Asian food. You can refer to my pilaf post for the rice/butter/broth ratio if you want to go that route.


 

Just before your rice is finished, go ahead and stir your chicken into the sauce to heat through.



 

To plate, I packed the rice into a little prep bowl and inverted it onto the plate, then poured the chicken around it and topped it with my reserved parsley.

I had intended to also add some cayenne or other hot pepper, but when I tasted it, I realized the amount of Tony Chachere's I used was plenty spicy. We've got a Goldilocks thing going on in our house when it comes to how much heat everyone can take, so if your crew likes it hot, feel free to kick it up a notch. Also, if you are using a different spice blend, you might need salt. If you're using Tony Chachere's, the salt is included.

Chicken Etouffee : Hye Thyme Cafe

YUM!




























Thursday, February 16, 2012

Marx Foods - East Meets Delicious Recipe Challenge



The crazy nice folks over at Marx Foods had us at it again!  This time around, the challenge was to come up with not just one dish, but two.  Participating bloggers were sent six ingredients and were required to use at least four of those ingredients to come up with both an appetizer and a main dish.  The ingredients we received were:
  • Adzuki Beans
  • Maitake Mushrooms
  • Mochi Rice
  • Dried Star Fruit
  • Organic Millet Seeds
  • Hijiki
Aside from enjoying the challenge of playing with their ingredients, what made me decide to sign on for this challenge initially was the Mochi Rice.  I love Mochi (mostly the ice cream version), so the prospect of making it from scratch really appealed to me.  If you're not familiar with Mochi, it's a kind of glutinous rice that is pounded into a paste and turned into a marshmallowy confection.  I first had the ice cream version, but have also had a traditional bean paste filling, sesame fillings, peanut butter, all sorts of things.

When I received the ingredients, it occurred to me that not everyone participating would necessarily be familiar with Mochi, so when researching what to do with the rice, they might lean toward trying that, or maybe a Mochi Cake or Rice Balls, so I decided to switch gears, but to what????  While starting at the ingredients, it occurred to me that rice and dried fruit also appear in one of my traditional Armenian appetizers - Stuffed Grape Leaves.  I could substitute the long-grain rice for the Mochi Rice, the currants for Dried Star Fruit, and the dill for Hijiki (a form of seaweed).  That was a start, now what to do about the entree??

The remaining ingredients were the mushrooms, beans, and millet.  My first instinct was to make some sort of stew, but I didn't see that pairing well with the grape leaves.  In thinking about textures, I realized that I could transition the beans and millet in place of the lentils and bulgar in a Lentil Kufte ("Vospov Kufte").

As for those pesky mushrooms, as much as I detest them, my brother-in-law is the consumer of the most stuffed grape leaves in my foodie circle, so in deference to him, I added them into the rice mixture so that I could use all six of the ingredients.  [Don't tell anyone I said this, but I actually liked the mix, despite the shrooms.]



MOCHI STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
1 med onion, diced
1/4 c canola oil
2 T Hijiki, boiled and rinsed
2 T minced Maitaki Mushrooms
4 slices Dried Star Fruit
1/2 c Mochi Rice
1 T tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 t black pepper
2 T rice vinegar
pinch of sugar
1 jar grape leaves






The reason for pre-boiling and rinsing the Hijiki is an apparent concern over arsenic content.  It seems a little silly for this amount given that people have been eating it pretty much forever, but better to err on the side of caution.  After trying it, I'm wondering if that's what you are served pickled at a lot of Japanese restaurants.  Anyone know what I'm talking about??  I might have to try playing around with what I have left.


Saute the onion in the canola oil until it starts to sweat, then add the mushroom pieces and continue to cook until the onions are translucent.
[I didn't bother to re-hydrate the mushrooms since they were going into a liquid.]






Add the Hijiki and Tamari, followed by the Mochi Rice and 1 1/4 c water.






When the rice starts to absorb the water, go ahead and add the rice vinegar, pepper, Star Fruit, and pinch of sugar. 





Continue cooking until the liquid is mostly incorporated and the rice is cooked.  Remove from heat.


Pop open your jar of grape leaves and give them a quick rinse to remove some of the brine.

You can refer to my traditional Stuffed Grape Leaves post for a step-by-step on how to roll and cook them.


Although I actually liked the filling and, as suspected, my brother-in-law loved this, I wasn't necessarily crazy about it in the grape leaves.  It was a texture thing for me, but I've been eating the traditional version for 40+ years, so I guess that should have been expected.  I can definitely see making it again like a risotto type of side and skipping the leaves.  Just cut back a little on the water, or maybe use a wine (or combo) instead.





LOPEE KUFTE (Bean Kufte)
1 c Adzuki Beans (soaked overnight and rinsed)
3/4 c Organic Millet Seeds
32 oz beef broth
1 can Great Northern Beans 
1" piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 t jarred minced garlic with red peppers
1/2 c fresh chopped parsley
1/4 t Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 T fresh chopped cilantro
chopped fresh scallions
toasted sesame seeds


Start by soaking your beans overnight.  When you are ready to start cooking, pour out the stale water and cover them with fresh.  Cook the beans in beef broth (or water) until very soft.  I started with water, but when I realized I needed to add more, I decided to use the broth - same for the millet.




In a separate dry pan, toast the millet seeds over medium heat until fragrant and lightly golden.






Cover with water or beef broth and cook until soft, adding more liquid as needed.  (If you haven't worked with millet before, it ended up having kind of a Corn Chex taste to it.)

When I saw how much the millet was expanding compared to  the beans, I realized I wouldn't have the right ratio.  To make up the difference, I rinsed/drained a can of Great Northern Beans and tossed them in with the Adzuki during the last few minutes of cooking, then mashed them together - not completely, you want a little texture.

 

While everything else is browning and/or boiling away, you can go ahead and dice your onion, grate your ginger, and chop up your greens. 
 







Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil, until the onions are translucent.





 



Add the ginger, parsley, and Sriracha to the onions and remove from heat.







When the millet is very soft, and the liquid has been absorbed, stir the onion mixture into it, then fold in the bean mixture once mashed, saving the cilantro until the end.


 


As soon as the mixture is cool enough to work with, shape into kuftes with your hands.  To serve, sprinkle with the chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

These can be eaten warm or cold and provide for a very healthy meal, served with a simple side salad.


 


I must say, I was surprised to see forks dipping into the pot before I could even shape the kuftes.  This was a BIG hit!

I can easily see increasing the cilantro and Sriracha and serving this hot (and a tiny bit looser) as a side with Mexican food instead of re-fried beans.  You could stick to just water to make it a vegan dish.  The one catch is the time factor.  Both the beans and the millet took a lot longer to cook than what I was reading in various places, so I'll probably toast the millet and throw everything but the cilantro in a crock pot on low for the day, then give it a mash and stir in the cilantro at the end.





A big thanks to the folks at Marx Foods for allowing me to participate in another one of their challenges and for providing me with the samples.  I had fun as always!




Monday, February 13, 2012

Betty Crocker Coupons - Fun da-middles & Molasses Cookies




The folks over at Betty Crocker, through MyBlogSpark, passed along a few coupons they wanted to share ...


o You can visit http://www.myblogspark.com/uc/main/4d61/ to download a printable *coupon for 85 cents off when you buy ONE BOX of Fun da-middles Cupcake Mix.

o Also, you can visit http://bit.ly/cookiescoupon to download a printable coupon for 75 cents off when you buy ONE POUCH of Betty Crocker Molasses Cookie Mix.


Hmmm, I wonder if there's gonna be a surge in home-baked fun da-middles since Hotess recently filed for Chapter 11 protection?? 










Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pear Salad with Candied Pecans and Pear Vinaigrette



I originally made this a few years ago when someone brought me a bottle of Pear Vinegar from a trip to a winery in California. I kept the ingredients to a minimum so the pear could shine. I don't have any more Pear Vinegar, so I had to make my own this time.


SALAD:
Romaine Lettuce
Pears  (I had never seen them before, so I tried red pears)
Celery

DRESSING:
1/2 c white wine vinegar
1 pear
pinch of sugar
1/2 c olive oil
1/8 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 t honey
1/2 t mayonnaise

PECANS:
Pecan Pieces
Butter
Brown Sugar
Cinnamon

I did not include quantities for the salad or pecans, because it will vary depending on how many people you're serving.


Cut one pear into pieces (I threw it in skin, seeds, and all) and add it to a small pot with the white wine vinegar. Add a pinch of sugar and bring it up to a boil, then lower to a simmer and let cook until the pear breaks down, 20-30". Pour through a strainer and set aside to cool.



 
I thought it was interesting that after cooking for so long - accounting for evaporation of the vinegar and juice being released from the pear, I ended up with basically the same 1/2 c of liquid in the end.




Add your nuts to a pan with a little butter. When the butter melts and the nuts are nicely coated, stir in a little brown sugar. You'll know you have a good ratio when a little bit of syrupy goo starts to form. You don't want too much, or it will be candy when you're done. Remove from heat and sprinkle with a little cinnamon, stirring to coat.



Now that the vinegar mixture is cool, go ahead and whisk or process it with the remaining ingredients. I know that such a small amount of mayo seems silly. That just acts as an emulsifier to bind everything together. If you know you'll be using the dressing right away, you can omit it if you want. You could also replace it with a mustard, but again, I wanted the pear to shine through.

Slice a few stalks of celery on the diagonal. I usually de-string the stalks first by bending back the thick end until it snaps and then pulling that piece along the stalk so the strings pull away with it.

For the pears, I like to slice a few into thin slices and use cookie cutters to form different shapes. As an aside, I noticed this time that I was using two plastic cutters (heart / star) and one metal cutter (diamond). The pear pieces cut with the plastic kept their bright color, while the diamond pieces started to brown a little. It was definitely a reaction to the metal, because I didn't cut all of the diamonds first. I did the cut-outs randomly, so I would have expected the first slices to discolor before any others.

Toss the celery with the lettuce and arrange on salad plates, then garnish the top with the pear slices and candied pecans and drizzle with dressing.



 




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