Hye Thyme Cafe: June 2015

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 25, 2015

Cookbook Review - Summer Cocktails (and The Luxe - cherries and ice cream and booze, oh my!)

Cookbook Review - Summer Cocktails

Why, oh why did I procrastinate on this post for so long?!? I received a copy of SUMMER COCKTAILS - Margaritas, Mint Juleps, Punches, Party Snacks, and More by Maria Del Mar Sacasa (Photography by Tara Striano) from Quirk Books a while back.  I read and LOVED the book, but for some reason kept putting off going to the booze store to pick up what I would need to try one of the recipes. I'm kicking myself now, because the concoction I chose to try was so delicious, it was more than worth every second of brain freeze it produced! If the names sound familiar, you might recall my earlier review of Winter Cocktails.

First off, if you have been following along with me for a while now, you know that I'm not a big fan of cookbooks nowadays. They take up too much space in my life, and with the internet at our fingertips, pretty much everything imaginable is easily found online. That said, I'm not one to turn my nose up at the opportunity to conduct a review - you never know where you'll find inspiration. Not only did I love this book, but I seriously recommend adding it to your library. Aside from the great recipes and lovely photography, I even managed to score a few tips/tricks that I can translate to cooking and baking.

Summer Cocktails provides more than 100 fabulous beverage recipes, in addition to a section dedicated to goodies to pair along with them. The front matter encompasses Pantry and Fridge Basics, A Guide to Tools and Serveware, Know your Glassware, The Well-Stocked Bar, and tutorials on shucking oysters, quick pickling, and prepping lemongrass and pineapples. A wealth of information can be gained even before the book officially opens, with sections dedicated to:

  • Classics, Throwbacks, and New Wave
  • Punches and Pitchers
  • Frosty Drinks
  • Antidotes
  • Underpinnings
  • Fill Your Plate

There is everything from the cocktail and bite recipes themselves to multiple options for making your own infused liquors, sour mixes, simple syrups, shrubs, you name it! You will doubtless be inspired to come up with your own concoctions.

I chose to try one of the Frosty Drinks, The Luxe, which is a very decadent cherry-vanilla shake. The only "negative" to this recipe is that I automatically made the full recipe for the Cherry-Vanilla Syrup, when very little actually goes into it, so unless you have another use in mind for the rest, I would recommend quartering the recipe.

Cookbook Review - Summer Cocktails
1 c vanilla ice cream
2-4 T milk
1 c fresh or frozen cherries, pitted,
   plus more for garnish (I used frozen)
2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
   (I couldn't find the Luxardo, so I
   went with Dr. McGuillicuddy's)
1 oz Cherry-Vanilla Syrup, or to taste

3 c pitted fresh or frozen cherries 
   (about 18 oz)
1 c demerara or granulated sugar
Seeds from 2 vanilla bean pods
1 c water
1 T fresh lemon juice (I had a lime handy, so I used lime)

  1. In a food processor, combine the 3c cherries, sugar, and vanilla seeds for the syrup and process until the cherries are completely broken down.
  2. Combine with 1c water and bring to a boil over med-high, reducing to med and stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Let cool to room temp, then strain (discarding solids), and stir in the lemon/lime juice.
  4. For your shake, in a blender, combine the 1c ice cream, 2-4T milk, 1c cherries, 2oz cherry liqueur and 1oz of your homemade cherry-vanilla syrup until smooth.
  5. Garnish with additional cherries if desired, and serve immediately.
Cookbook Review - Summer Cocktails

Cookbook Review - Summer Cocktails

I think next I'll have to try the Prosecco-Blueberry-Lemon Pops. How good do those sound?!? Or maybe the Peachy Keen Punch with bourbon-poached peaches. Decisions-decisions ...

As an aside, I have to chuckle because every time Quirk Books sends me something for review, there somehow seems to be an Armenian connection. In this instance, it's one of the ingredient Sources provided at the back of the book - Kalustyan's.

Summer is officially here, so I say run right out and pick up a copy to perk up all those cookouts you're gearing up for (or follow the links below). You won't regret it!

As always, a big thanks to Quirk Books. Although they provided the book for my review, as always, the opinions expressed are strictly my own, and this is in not a paid post.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Corn and Watermelon Salad

Corn and Watermelon Salad (Hye Thyme Cafe)

This recipe was borne out of pure curiosity. I had picked up a small watermelon and several ears of corn at the market, intending to have corn with dinner and cut into the watermelon the next day, but then I started to wonder. I did a search of corn and watermelon together, and sure enough, a bazillion different salsa and salad recipes popped up. I was introduced to the combination of watermelon and tomatoes last year, so why not watermelon and corn?

Chili powder goes well with both, so I decided to start there. Cumin is another flavor that works well with corn, and it seemed like it might be a nice balance when played against the sweetness of the watermelon. That turned out to be a good choice, because they all worked really well together. 

The next day, I decided to shred some lettuce, slice some little tomatoes and cucumbers and pile a mess of the Corn and Watermelon Salad over the top. That was great too! I just ate another big bowl for dinner tonight.  It will be even better in August when the corn will be at its peak of flavor here.

Rather than boiling the corn like I normally would, I decided to remove it from the cob, toss it with a bit of oil and the herbs and then roast it to really infuse those flavors. You will definitely have a few stray kernels, but if your corn is flying all over the kitchen, that means you're not cutting close enough to the cob and are losing a lot of that great corn flavor.

5 ears corn
2 T olive oil
1/4 t salt
1 T chili powder
1/2 - 3/4 t cumin
1/2 red bell pepper, petite diced
1/4 c red onion, petite diced
1 lime
1 T white balsamic vinegar
Approx 3c petite diced watermelon

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Remove kernels from corn and toss together with the olive oil, salt, chili powder, cumin, and zest from the lime.
  3. Transfer to baking sheet and roast for 15-20" until just starting to brown a bit around the edges; let cool.
  4. Toss the cooled corn in a large bowl with the diced pepper and onion, balsamic vinegar, and a good squeeze of lime juice.
  5. Gently fold in the watermelon and chill for 30" before serving.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sujuk Pizza

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

The idea for this flavor-packed pizza came from wondering what to do with the last batch of Sujuk I picked up at the Armenian bakery when in Boston. If you are not familiar, Sujuk and Basturma are two cured beef products commonly found in Armenian homes - think pepperoni and pastrami or beef jerky. Sujuk is made from ground beef and spices formed into oval sausage-type links, while Basturma is a filet or other cut of beef cured wrapped in a spice paste and sliced very thin. I usually eat both with cheese and cracker bread, but this last batch of Sujuk was just "off" to me texturally. It was too soft and seemed sort of loose - I know that sounds weird. Anyhow, I decided to use it in a different way, and pizza was what came to mind.

This will be just the first version, as I intend to keep playing around with it. I really liked this one, but I have never been one to make my own pizza crust - I usually buy the bags of raw dough at the grocery store - so I want to play around with different crusts, and I had also intended to use string cheese - not the mozzarella sticks you find in the dairy aisle, but the real knots of Armenian string cheese over by the deli with the mozzarella and artisan cheeses. For some reason, there appears to be a run on string cheese. I tried three different markets and a Lebanese restaurant, but none of them had been able to get it recently.

The other thing that I ended up being completely fine with in the end but that threw me was the fenugreek. I know that fenugreek comes as either an herb - the leaves, or a spice - the seeds. I purchased what I thought was the ground seeds, but when I got home and opened/smelled it, it struck me that it smelled just like the "chaman" spice mixture that the Basturma is swathed in. I took a second look at the label and saw that it indicted chaman next to Fenugreek, so now I'm confused. I know fenugreek to be an ingredient in chaman, along with garlic, cumin, and other spices. I tried wandering around Google for an answer to this, but much like the black seeds used in Choreg, everyone seems to have something different to say. All's well that ends well in this case, but how will you know what you're buying? Ground fenugreek? Chaman? Chaman gets confusing as well, since some insist that it's a translation of cumin - sigh ...

As for the crust, my sister mentioned that she loves the one she uses, which turned out to be an Emeril recipe, but since I had already picked up pizza crust yeast and that one uses regular yeast, I decided to try the Fleischmann's recipe on the back of the packet. It was good, but I have a very specific crust I like, so I intend to play around with that at some point. I did add mahlab to the crust, which is what gives the Choreg it's wonderful flavor. It is also used to flavor string cheese, so I was thinking it would tie the whole thing together - except, of course, I couldn't find the string cheese!

Because I couldn't get the string cheese, I used a combination of Kraft's Touch of Philadelphia Shredded Mozzarella and a second five-cheese blend that included mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan ...

6 oz can Hunts Tomato Paste
1 c water
1/4 c olive oil
1 1/2 t fenugreek/chaman
2 t sugar

CRUST:  (Fleischmann's Recipe + Mahlab)
1 3/4 - 2 1/4 c flour
1 envelope Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast
1 1/2 t sugar
3/4 t salt
2/3 c very warm water (120-130)
3 T oil
2 t mahlab

2 links of sujuk
Shredded cheese of choice
Cornmeal (optional for dusting tray)

  1. You want to make your pizza sauce first, to give it at least an hour for the flavors to marry. You can throw it together a day or two ahead and just keep it covered in the fridge. It's terribly difficult! Stir everything together until the oil is blended in. Think you can handle that? ;)
  2. For the crust, combine 1c of the flour, the sugar, salt, yeast, and mahlab in your bowl or mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour in the oil and hot water, mixing for about a minute until blended, then add more flour, a little at a time, until it pulls together into a ball - will be slightly tacky still (I used just shy of 2c). Knead for about 5" until smooth and elastic. Pat or roll into shape and transfer to baking pan. I like to use the cornmeal to prevent sticking and to add more texture to the crust.
  3. Set your oven to preheat to 450.
  4. Spread sauce over the top of your crust, sprinkle with cheese, and top with slices of Sujuk. I like it sliced diagonally, about 1/4" thick, and I always snip off an end so I can peel off the casing first.
  5. Transfer to oven, immediately lowering heat to 425, and bake for 15-20" until golden and bubbly.

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe
Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe
Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

Sujuk Pizza - Hye Thyme Cafe

Monday, June 8, 2015

REVIEW - Teavivre Oolong Loose-Leaf Teas

REVIEW - Teavivre Oolong Loose-Leaf Teas

Growing up near Boston, it's only natural that I became a Dunkin Junkie. There is practically a Dunkin Donuts on every corner. When I moved to New Orleans back in 93', I was concerned that I would miss it because they seemed to trail off around Virginia. No need to worry - there were two Dunkin Donuts in the New Orleans area - one right down the street from my apartment and the other right down the street from my office. I couldn't have planned that any better!

I didn't become a tea drinker until after attending my first High Tea at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. I wanted to participate, so I felt it only right that I order tea, even though I could have gone with lemonade or something else. After thoroughly reviewing the menu options, I settled on their Oolong, which was referred to as the "champagne of teas" and touted to have peach notes. I was hooked from the first sip! Not only was it extremely flavorful and soothing, but I didn't need to put anything in it.

I had tried teas in the past, but they always left me feeling like I was drinking dish water. I just couldn't warm up to it, so I stuck with coffee. The Oolong came as a welcome relief. What I didn't realize at the time is that there is a wide range of Oolongs, some that are delicate and pale, more along the lines of a green tea, and some that are rich and bold, closer to a black tea. Once I started to enjoy tea, I went back and tried other varieties, thinking that I had developed a taste for it - nope, for whatever reason, the teas I enjoy the most all fall under the Oolong canopy.

When Teavivre first contacted me to ask if I would be interested in sampling their teas and writing a review, I secretly hoped for Oolong. I was slightly disappointed when that didn't happen, but as it turned out, I did enjoy most of the teas they sent. Fast forward a bit and you can imagine how happy I was when they contacted me again asking if I wanted to sample and review their Oolong.

The following are the five varieties I sampled:

Unlike with my first experience, there was not one variety that I didn't care for. If pressed to pick a favorite, I would have to go with the Nonpareil Anxi Qing Xiang TieGuanYin. Not only did it have a lovely flavor, but in a strange way, it made you pause and think about it while you were sipping. This particular tea had a stronger aroma than taste, so as you bring the cup to your mouth, you are expecting to taste what you smell. When that doesn't quite happen, it gives you a momentary pause, and then comes a floral flavor, almost with a hint of lilac, but not in any way cloying as lilac would imply. I like that it draws attention to itself in that way and makes you take your time and appreciate it - a reminder to slow down and enjoy.

If you lean in one direction or the other - Green v. Black tea, Oolong falls somewhere in between, with green teas being un-oxidised and black teas being fully oxidised. I strongly urge you to take a walk into the center and add some Oolong to your tea repertoire. And for those of you who are new to tea, I think Oolong is the best place to start!

REVIEW - Teavivre Oolong Loose-Leaf Teas

The first Oolong I tried was the Taiwan Jin Xnan Milk Oolong, to accompany some Cranberry-Orange Muffins.

REVIEW - Teavivre Oolong Loose-Leaf Teas

It was with a batch of Coconut Scones that I tried my favorite of the group, the Nonpareil Anxi Qing Xiang TieGuan Yin. 

When conducting a review, I always like to use the item in some sort of recipe, so I strong-brewed some of the Taiwan Monkey Picked (Ma Liu Mie) and incorporated it into a Peach Butter. That was great on its own slathered on toast and stirred into yogurt, but then I attempted to incorporate the rest into a batch of oatmeal cookies which turned out to be an EPIC FAIL on my part!

REVIEW - Teavivre Oolong Loose-Leaf Teas

A very BIG thanks to Teavivre for again expanding my horizons when it comes to tea; in this case, more specifically Oolong.

Although Teavivre did provide me with the samples - as always, this is not a paid post, 
and all opinions expressed are strictly my own.

REVIEW - Teavivre Oolong Loose-Leaf Teas

Monday, June 1, 2015

Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter

Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter - Hye Thyme Cafe

I feel awful! I had completely forgotten that I had received some Oolong tea samples from Teavivre a while back (and by a while, I mean several months) to taste and review. When reviewing a product, I always like to come up with some sort of recipe to use it in, as well as sampling the product "as is." Although you can certainly use whatever variety of Oolong you prefer, the one I chose to work with for this recipe was the Taiwan Monkey Picked (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. That's quite a mouthful, isn't it?? You're picturing monkeys picking tea leaves right now, aren't you?

Oolong is often referred to as the "champagne" of teas and is cited to have peach notes to its flavor, which is why I decided to incorporate it into this recipe. I thought it would complement the fruit nicely and that a bit of ginger would perk things up. I do have fresh ginger but chose to use powdered ginger in wanting the flavor to be subtle and not overpower the tea or peaches.

I'm not in any way experience with making jams, jellies, etc. (except for picking a bazillion grapes, blueberries, etc. as a kid for my Mom to use), but from what I can gather, a fruit butter is basically a fruit sauce, such as apple sauce, that has been further cooked down into more of a paste - pretty much like how you would cook down tomatoes to make tomato paste. Strangely, a lot of what I read about this was indications of apple sauce being plain and apple butter containing cinnamon, clove, etc. Perhaps these people haven't noticed the entire Mott's shelf at their local grocery store, but many varieties of apple sauce contain cinnamon, etc., and not all apple butters seem to contain anything more than apples and sugar. In any event, this is my version, and I think it's pretty darn tasty, so whatever you want to call it is fine by me!

If you would prefer to peel your peaches, an easy way to do so is to plunge them into boiling water for about a minute, then immediately drop them into an ice bath or run them under cold water. The skins should slide right off. I chose to use mine skin-on. With a small amount of sugar, the antioxidant properties of the tea, added fiber from the peach skins, and the addition of ginger and lemon, this is actually a fairly healthy recipe.

I have only slathered it on toast so far, but it would be great spooned over vanilla ice cream, served on pancakes or waffles, or even stirred into yogurt or your morning oatmeal.

Peaches (I had 7 smallish)
2c Water (for brewing your tea)
Oolong Tea - 2 bags or portions if using loose leaf
1/4 c Sugar (can be increased, but the peaches are sweet enough)
1 t Ginger Powder
1 T Lemon Juice

  1. Wash and dice peaches and place in pot.
  2. Brew tea for longest recommended time for your particular variety, then pour 1 to 1 1/2 c of the strongly brewed tea over the peaches.
  3. Stir in the sugar, ginger, and lemon juice.
  4. Stirring often, simmer for about 45" until the peaches are very soft and mashable.
  5. Either run an immersion blender around the pan to puree the mixture, or transfer to a blender for a quick whirl - being sure to allow for steam to escape.
  6. Return the puree to the pan, lower the temperature and continue to cook down to desired texture. The time required will vary depending on how large your pan is, etc. The bigger the pan, the more surface space to allow for evaporation of the liquid. You at least want it to thicken to the point where you can run a spoon through it and the path will not immediately fill in - see (terrible) photo below.
  7. Let cool, then transfer to a covered bowl or jar and refrigerate - will get a little thicker as it cools.

Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter - Hye Thyme Cafe
Dice peaches - skin on for extra fiber

Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter - Hye Thyme Cafe
Pour tea over peaches, then stir in sugar, ginger, and lemon.

Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter - Hye Thyme Cafe
When soft, puree.
Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter - Hye Thyme Cafe
Lower heat and reduce.

Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter - Hye Thyme Cafe
Thick enough to stay in place but not sticky/thick.

Oolong-Ginger Peach Butter - Hye Thyme Cafe
Hmmm, what will I put you on next??

Although subtle, I was pleased to note that both the oolong and the ginger did manage to make their presence known ... and I can't begin to tell you how good my kitchen smelled while this was reducing!

A big thanks to Teavivre for the samples. My review will follow shortly - I promise!

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