Hye Thyme Cafe: November 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! :)


Friday, November 30, 2012

Peaches & Cream Kadayif



Peaches came up in conversation somehow before Thanksgiving, so that got me thinking. [No wisecracks about me thinking!] I like to make a tray of Kadayif for at least one of the holidays, so why not try a Peaches & Cream version? Because we always have so much food, even after sending everyone home with takeout, I decided to make a half batch.

Follow the Cream-Filled Kadayif recipe, cutting everything in half.  

To incorporate the peaches, I drained two 15 oz. cans of Del Monte Freestone Sliced Peaches, reserving the syrup. I diced the peaches, tossed them with a little cinnamon, and folded them into the cream before filling the shell. Once baked, I replaced the water for the simple syrup with the peach syrup, reducing the sugar called for in the simple syrup to account for the sweetness of the peach.

When I got to my destination on Thanksgiving Day, I found that there was a bowl of peaches in the fridge, so I pirated a few slices to decorate the tops.

Although I did enjoy this version, I'm sure that fresh peaches when in season would be even better. I was a little disappointed that the syrup didn't have the effect I was expecting. I thought that would really push the peach flavor. Maybe some Peach Schnapps next time instead??? Sounds good to me!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Orange Honey Butter

Orange Honey Butter : Hye Thyme Cafe

When I was asked to bake up a batch of Cheese Bread Knots for Thanksgiving, my first thought was about butter. I usually make a roasted garlic butter and/or some other herb blend and just set them up in ramekins. I decided to change things up this time and go for the sweet side and individual servings. We had company this year, so I figured a little fancification was in order.  

I actually threw away the note I had jotted down with the amounts as I was doing this, because it seemed not to be working out well. Oh how wrong I was!! This was a huge hit and kept coming up over and over again in dinner conversation.

The reason I thought it wasn't going to work is that no matter what I tried, neither the honey nor the orange seemed to be blending into the butter, just the zest. I finally gave up trying and poured out the liquid. I figured at least the orange zest would permeate. Frustrated, I pressed the butter into a silicon mold, threw away my note, tossed the butter in the fridge, and called it a day.

As it turned out, although I had poured out all of that juice and honey, they still managed to nicely flavor the butter before meeting their demise, so just play around with amounts to see what works for you, and don't worry if it seems like it's not working. It will be worth it! This would be very nice on toast, scones, I'm thinking even roasted beets???? Hmmm, I might have to try the beets for Christmas.


INGREDIENTS :
1c (1/2 lb) butter, softened
zest and juice of one medium orange
3 T honey

I'm thinking that if you first whip the butter with a little milk or cream before stirring or blending in the rest, you would end up with an awesome whipped butter to top Pancakes, French Toast, etc.! 

If you don't have molds to press the butter into, you can either do what I mentioned above and just serve it in small ramekins or prep bowls, or you can form it into a log on a piece of plastic wrap, roll it up and then hold the excess plastic wrap at either end and spin the tube until the ends twist tightly shut and butter is compacted. Then you can chill it until ready to serve and slice it into coins. I was tempted to freeze it, but I was afraid the honey would crystallize. You can definitely do that with garlic and other herb butters to make it easier to slice.

By the way, that plastic wrap/spinning into a tube method works great for freezing cookie dough. I never understood why people freeze lumps of cookie dough on baking sheets, then transfer them to containers to be frozen - they take up much more space that way. I freeze the tubes, and when someone wants cookies, I just slice off as many as I need and toss them in the oven, re-freezing the rest.   


Orange Honey Butter : Hye Thyme Cafe


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Pops



When my sister and I were going over our Thanksgiving menu, she mentioned that there had been a request for Baked Macaroni and Cheese. For Thanksgiving?? No way!! I put my foot down. On top of what she was already doing, she had a few different breads in the works, etc., and almost every time these skinny young people with functioning metabolisms come to her house, she makes them Mac and Cheese, so there was no need to have it on a holiday too. Then the word minis came out of her mouth. Apparently, it was suggested that maybe a mini version might be in order. Hmmmm? We willllll be doing apps earlier in the day. OK, you do what you're already planning, I'll do what I'm already planning, and if I have time, I'll throw together a Mac and Cheese.


Somewhere along the line, she had picked up a few vintage aluminum ice cube trays and started using them for baking quick breads and that sort of thing - genius! They make the perfect sized slices for a tea or a holiday breakfast table. She recently scored another set of trays for me, but only one had the insert. I decided to use those to make bite-sized versions of our Mac and Cheese. If you are making this recipe but don't plan to make minis, just butter a regular casserole dish and bake it in that. The time and temp still worked out the same.


The recipe our family grew up with calls for American cheese. Before you turn your nose up at that, we're just talking a few slices here. It really adds to the creaminess of the cheese sauce. I'll sometimes throw in some cheddar or whatever else I have on hand, but the base is Muenster cheese. Several years back, I threw in some Pepper Jack, and we loved that so much, we've been doing it ever since. The problem is that sometimes you don't even notice it, so we'll also throw in some diced jalapeno on occasion - sometimes canned, sometimes fresh. If you don't like Pepper Jack, swap that out with a block of cheddar. For the topping, if you don't have bread crumbs on hand, you can crush some Ritz crackers or maybe some Goldfish or Cheez-Its. Use your imagination and just play around with different things.


INGREDIENTS :
1 lb elbow macaroni (medium)
salt
butter
grated Parmesan
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 1/2 c milk
4 slices American cheese
+/- 1 lb Muenster cheese
8 oz Pepper Jack cheese
Black pepper
Minced jalapeno (optional)
Dry seasoned bread crumbs
Paprika (smoked is nice)


Bring a pot of water up to a boil and season with some salt, then drop in your pasta to boil to al dente.


In a separate pot, over medium heat, whisk together the butter and flour to create a blonde roux, then add the milk. Once the milk is hot, begin adding the cheese. I always start with the American, breaking the slices into pieces and letting them melt down before continuing with the Muenster and whatever other cheese I'm using. Oh, when it comes to the Muenster, I always buy a 1 lb block and then chop off a strip to nibble on, so I don't actually use the whole pound. I also trim off the orange rind, but that's not really necessary. Be sure to keep whisking or stirring so the bottom doesn't stick and burn.

When your pasta is done, drain off the water and toss the pasta with a chunk of butter and some grated Parmesan. If you're making a full-sized casserole, you can do that right in the buttered casserole dish to make clean-up a little easier. If you're afraid you'll slosh over the sides, you can throw it back in the pasta pot.

When all the cheese has melted, season with some black pepper and let it come to a bubble and thicken a bit, then remove from heat.

Pour about half of the cheese mixture over the pasta and really stir it well to make sure the sauce fills in those elbows. Then continue adding sauce until you're just about to the top. You want to make sure some elbows are peeking out over the cheese so you don't end up with a flat  layer of cheese at the top. Sprinkle your crumbs and some additional Parmesan over the whole dish, then a little paprika, and dot with bits of butter here and there.

If you have any extra cheese sauce, you can use it over some veggies or even over a baked potato. No need to waste it.

Bake at 325° for 1' until golden and bubbly.

For whatever reason, probably an offshoot to childhood again, I usually serve this up with a ham steak, a side of peas and a can of Del Monte peach halves.

For the minis, I sprayed the trays and lined them with some additional crumbs in hopes of making it easier to release them from the tray. Kinda like flouring a cake pan. I didn't have any jalapenos, so I added some crushed red pepper to the sauce. I filled both trays, then pressed the insert into one of them. I figured that would be easier than filling all those little slots separately. As it turned out, it worked out better using the tray without the inserts - it had cleaner edges when I sliced it later. On one tray, I used the traditional crumbs and paprika, but since I had a container of Chipotle Panko crumbs, I used that on the other.

Cube or shred the cheese
Whisk over medium ...











Add the milk until hot
... to create a blonde roux










Continue with remaining cheese
Add the cheese, American first









Season with black pepper
Allow to bubble and thicken









Drain and toss with butter/parm
Stir in half the sauce










Use any extra on veggies
Continue just to the top









Fill your buttered tray and add toppings

Bake until bubbly...
... and golden










YUMMMMMM!!!!

Yes please!  :)

A Little Blog Love Came My Way - LIEBSTER BLOG AWARD



!!!  I GIVE UP  !!!

A few days ago, I was very pleased to be bestowed a Liebster Blog Award by Tango's Treasures.  Pleased, that is, until I decided to look into the origin of the award.  I really make myself crazy sometimes!  Try as I may, no matter what route I took in tracing back to its origin, I came up empty.  I surfed sites in Germany, Italy, Romania, Greece, you name it.  Every single road led to a dead end at either a blog that had merely mentioned the giver's first name with no link or an indication of their blog name, or a blog or post that had been deleted, or one that was by invite only.  Grrrrr!  I'm like a dog with a bone when doing something like that, so I spent HOURRRRRRRSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS running searches using the Google date range feature, image searches, etc.  I can trace it back to December 2010, but that's as far as I get.  Thanks a lot L!  

The reason I started looking into it was that Tango had added "11 random things about me" beneath her post, with no indication of whether the two things were related.  As I started backtracking to look into it, I was really stumped by why it was 11, rather than 10 or some other number.  In addition to 11 random facts, many blogs also posed 11 questions to each of their recipients, as well as having to respond to 11 questions from the giver.  Some had just the random facts, while other had just the questions…

The general consensus is that Liebster is a German word meaning favorite, dearest, or beloved, and the award is given to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers (elsewhere fewer than 3,000 - BIG jump!) to help spread the word about their blogs and to help them gain wider recognition.


The Liebster comes with five conditions for acceptance: 
  1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  2. Choose five blogs with fewer than 200 followers to award the Liebster to.
  3. Post the award on your blog.  
  4. List the bloggers you are giving the award to with links to their sites, leaving a comment on their blog so they know about the award.
  5. Share 11 (?) random facts about yourself that people don't know about you.

It was tough choosing which blogs to pass the award along to.  I follow a bazillion different blogs, mostly other foodies, but not all.  Many of you/them are linked to one of my Pinterest Boards.  The problem is that not all blogs give an indication of how many followers they have - since Google shut down Friends Connect in favor of G+, you can't even go by blogs that have their members posted.  Then there is the matter of wanting to pass it along to bloggers who have not already received it. Hopefully those of you I have nominated fall into those categories - fewer than 200 followers and haven't already received a Liebster.  If not, close enough!!  Here are my picks.  Be sure to check them out...


Azara at Tesseract - Funny lady posting about a little of everything.


Joan at The Baloney Bug - I forget how I first stumbled on her blog, but I quickly fell in love ... with her dog Brady, and it never fails to crack me up that she and her husband (and Brady for that matter) look like they belong in a catalog.  They are currently expecting their first two-legged child.

Bethel, a/k/a Marash Girl - Keeps me posted on what's going on around Boston, my old stomping grounds, as well as what's doing in the Armenian community.

Deb at Just Keepin' It Real Folks - Another funny lady posting a little bit of everything.

Tracey at Linus & LuLu - Foodie, DIYer, Donut Fiend


Hmmm, OK, so about those 11 random facts about me.  Anyone who follows me regularly probably knows some of these already, but let's see ...

  1. I am half Armenian - my other half is Irish / French Canadian
  2. I was born in Quincy, Massachusetts
  3. I grew up in Hingham, MA - Home of Talbots 
  4. I once got hit by a car while walking to my office, landed on their hood while managing not to spill my Dunkin Donuts coffee.  Nice save!
  5. My "brush with fame" entailed eating breakfast at IHOP with Anthony Michael Hall
  6. I was in 26 plays as a kid (not professional - school, community, etc.)
  7. The day I was seated on the jury for a burglary case, I went home to find that my apartment and been burgled.  How's that for irony?!?
  8. My favorite play is Evita -- the movie was just OK, although I pegged Madonna for the part as soon as I knew it was going to be made into a movie.
  9. I had to evacuate from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina - went to Galveston, TX and had to evacuated from there because of Hurricane Rita - went to Florida and on the way back to New Orleans, stopped for lunch and had to wait out a tornado!!!
  10. I love poking in antique and/or thrift shops.  I get a kick out of the memories they bring of my grandparents' house or trying to figure out what some of the kitchen gadgets/farming equipment/implements of torture and destruction (?) were really for.  I also collect vintage hair combs, so I always keep an eye out for those.
  11. I still swear I saw Santa Claus flying by one night when I was a kid.  My Dad had brought us to a Christmas party at the local AmVets, and as far as I was supposed to know, Santa was inside at the party.  Nu uhhhh!!  I even saw Rudolph.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Thanks again to Tango, and make sure you check out those other blogs ... or I'll have Santa put you on his Naughty List!!!!!!




Saturday, November 24, 2012

Olive Tapenade Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes


I hope that everyone had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving. We had a great day, celebrated with some soon to be extended family members. This year, I was tasked with baking rolls for dinner, making an appetizer, and a dessert. One of the apps I made was something that I had seen in Gourmet Magazine years ago. Theirs was a Spanish olive version, but I chose to go in a different  direction.

Tapenade is typically used as a spread, and often contains anchovies and/or brandy. I always hear that anchovies blend into a dish and are undetectable, but I can't even imagine me handling them, so I passed. As for the brandy, in looking at various recipes, there is such a small amount called for, I didn't bother buying a bottle just for this.  

What turns me off about most Tapenade recipes is the photos. Sadly, mine don't do these bites justice, but that's not how I meant it -- most recipes puree the olives all the way into a paste. Even if I loved all of the ingredients, I don't think I could bring myself to eat a gray blob.  

I was first thinking that I would leave some olives aside to mince and sprinkle on top, but when I was pulsing to puree them, I made sure to stop when you could still see all the little bits, pieces, and various colors. Others suggest using a mortar and pestle, but again, I find the color unappetizing, so if you don't have a food processor and want to go that route, I would suggest leaving a few of each item aside to mince and blend in at the end for texture and visual appeal.

INGREDIENTS :
1 c pitted Kalamata Olives
1 c Colossal Green Olives
8 Peppadew Peppers
2 T Capers
1 large clove Garlic
1 T fresh-squeezed Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
1 T Balsamic Vinegar
Cherry Tomatoes
3 T fresh chopped cilantro (additional for garnish)


In the bowl of your food processor, pulse together the olives, peppers, capers, and garlic. Add the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil and give it another whirl or two until you achieve a texture you are happy with.



At this point, I tasted the mixture and thought ... uh oh, I don't think I'm going to like this?!?! L

Because I was making the filling two days early, I decided to not worry about it. I had already decided to add the cilantro at the last minute so it wouldn't discolor in the meantime, and figured I could doctor it up later.

I brought all of my tomatoes, my filling, and cilantro up to my sister's house for Thanksgiving, having gone early in case there was anything I could do to help. I tasted the mixture again there and realized that it had really just needed time for the flavors to blend. Pfeww!! I added the cilantro and a tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar and was good to go!  J

If you have enough to spare, you can sprinkle some additional cilantro onto a platter to give your tomatoes something to grip and stand up on.  

Slice the stem end off of each tomato, hollow out the center and fill with the Tapenade mixture.  Sprinkle cilantro over the top of the platter when filled.







I was curious (translation = nervous) to see how these would go over with the crowd. There were so many items to chose from, I noticed that a number of people never got around to trying one. However, I also noticed that the people who did try them went back for several, so that made me happy. I would not hesitate to make these again (intentionally giving the mixture time to sit and come together), but hope that I can find slightly larger tomatoes next time. For some reason, all of the cherry tomatoes I found were closer to the size of a grape tomato. It would be nice if I could find some yellow as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies


I don't know what it is about me and cookie recipes! I went to try a recipe I saw in the newspaper a few years back and made the mistake of not reading the whole thing before I started. Part way through, I realized that there were ingredients listed that were not mentioned in the directions, and other ingredients referred to in the directions without having been listed in the ingredients. I ended up winging it and coming up with a great cookie (a retraction was printed the following week), but you would think that would have taught me a lesson. Not so much ...

I was flipping through my sister's recipe collection at some point and saw these cookies. I decided to give them a try but saw that the recipe had continued onto another page and she had apparently only clipped the beginning; again, I winged it. This is one of our favorite cookies now, and aside from how crisp and tasty they are, they seem to keep FOREVER. The first time I made them, it was around Christmas, and there were so many different treats in the house, they didn't get eaten as fast as they normally would. After a while, someone would reach into the tin hesitantly like ... they MUST be stale by now ... but nope.  

INGREDIENTS :
* Optional - Lemon/Orange Zest
1 T orange juice
1 T lemon juice
3 c flour
3 T poppy seeds
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 1/4 c sugar
2/3 c butter
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2 t almond extract

GLAZE :
1/3 c sugar
1/2 t poppy seeds
3 T lemon juice


Zest and juice your citrus and set aside. You might be able to get away with one lemon, but I always have a spare handy in case the first one doesn't give off much juice. If using bottled juice, don't  worry about the zest. There will still be plenty of flavor.


Using a fork, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt, and set aside.  






Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the extracts, juices, and zest.










Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, a little at a time until incorporated. I don't usually bother, but this is a very soft dough, so you might want to chill it for a few minutes to make it easier to handle.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Working with about a third of the dough at a time, on a lightly floured surface, roll it out to between 1/8" and 1/4" and cut as desired. You can use whatever size cutters you want. Just make sure that if you make various sizes of cookies, you bake the same size on one tray so they don't bake at different rates. Sometimes I just use a pizza wheel to cut them into sticks or diamonds. I used 2" cutters this time and ended up with around 5 dozen cookies.












Set the cookies on parchment-lined trays and bake for 12-15" until lightly browned around the edges. They will puff up more than spread out, so you don't need to leave a whole lot of space between them.




While waiting on that first tray, you can stir together the sugar, seeds, and lemon juice for your glaze. You want to let it sit for a few minutes to give the sugar a chance to dissolve somewhat; it will be pretty thick/syrupy.


As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, brush the tops with the glaze so it will soak in. Let the cookies sit on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to racks to cool/dry. [They will continue to cook a little more, and you won't have to deal with glaze dripping on your counter. J]  












!! YUMMMMMM !!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nancy Drew - The Case of the Smothered Pork Chops


With Sunday being Veteran's Day, I was already in a nostalgic mood, so having a package of pork chops defrosting in the fridge made me think back to the first meal I ever made for my family as a kid.  From the time I received my first Nancy Drew book, I was hooked, so it should come as no surprise that I also had the Nancy Drew Cook Book. All I remembered about The Case of the Smothered Pork Chops is that they were on the pale side, but since I made this dish several times back in the day, they had to be at least pretty good, right???  If you knew my Mom, you would know if it had been a fail the first time, they would not have made a second appearance - she would definitely have diverted me on to something else.

  
Although the recipe calls for four chops, I was using a package of three. I'm now left wondering what I did about the rice back then.  It seems silly to me to cook a half cup of rice for four people (at least if not making a veg side as well).  "OK, here's your nice big pork chop and a teaspoon of rice, enjoy!"  You might want to double the rice, but as you will note from the picture of the dish upon coming out of the oven, you do not need to double the liquid, just increase it slightly.

INGREDIENTS :
4 pork chops, fat trimmed
1/2 c rice
2 t freshly grated ginger *
1 med onion
1 orange *
1 can beef broth
Salt and Pepper

* As I remembered it, I had always made this dish with orange slices, so as much as I love lemon, I went with that and used an orange.  Rather than slicing the whole orange, I cut one slice to top each chop, then squeezed the juice from the rest of the orange over the dry rice.  I also seasoned the chops with S&P before browning, and decided to introduce some fresh ginger to the dish for a more flavorful rice.  Oh, and I also skipped the part about melting the fat to brown the chops and opted to just give my grill pan a shot of cooking spray.


Preheat oven to 325°

While heating a grill pan or skillet to med-high, trim the fat from the chops and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Brown on each side for approximately 3".  




While I would normally have seared the chops longer, to give them more color, because they would be baking for an hour, I didn't want them to dry out.  If you find the final color to be less than appetizing, you could always give the rice a head start and add the chops to the pan part-way through.  Just make sure if you do that to add the onion slices at the same time as the rice, so they are cooked through.  The citrus can be held back until the chops are added.

Slice the onion and citrus into rings, leaving part of the citrus intact if you intend to squeeze the juice over the rice.

Pour the uncooked rice into the bottom of a baking pan/casserole dish, and top with the citrus juice (if using), then grate the ginger over the top.

When the chops are browned place over the rice and top each with a slice of onion, followed by a citrus ring.  Pour the beef broth and reserved citrus juice over the top and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.












Although my chop looks like it needs a tan after bathing in broth for an hour, it was quite juicy and tender.  I really enjoyed the addition of ginger to the rice as a nice complement to the citrus.



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