Archives for posts with tag: Thyme

I am going to admit to one of my strange quirks…. one of many….of course.

I love to watch the cranberries split!  I love it.  This is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving.   Most people would say they love eating roasted turkey or pumpkin pie.   They may say that they love the football games or eating stuffing.

For me, right behind hanging out with my family would be watching the cranberries split.  What?  You may be thinking “what does she mean?”  Crazy food blogger…..

Well, let me tell you about it.

It is a multi-sensory activity using your sense of smell, taste, visual and auditory all in one easy cooking activity.  What more could a food obsessed individual need for the holidays

I love looking over the edge of the pot and seeing the different reds and purples and pinks of the fresh cranberries mingled with the dark green rosemary and bright yellow of lemon.  Shiny with water and sugar the berries sparkle in the light.  They dance when the water starts to boil.  It is like a cranberry disco on your stove.

Turn up the heat and wait a couple of minutes and the fun really starts.  The berries start to dance around in the pot and the earthy smell of rosemary and bright smell of lemon reach your nose.  Next comes the popping.  Cranberries will expand and split when cooked and release that quintessential of holiday smells, fresh cranberry sauce.

I just love it.

Simmer the berries a bit longer and that is all you have to do.  The sauce is best cooled overnight and it will thicken naturally.  No need to add gelatin.  Gone forever from your table is the metallic tasting can of cranberry flavored gelatin that slides out in one big ribbed lump.  Canned cranberry gelatin is not nearly as fun as dancing cranberries with fresh herbs and citrus.  You can get very creative with cranberry sauce as you can see from my extensive list of variations at the bottom of this post.  Have fun with this traditional side dish and add dried fruit, nuts, spices and herbs.

Master Cranberry Sauce

200 gram sugar (1 cup)

1 cup water

4 cups fresh cranberries

After you cook the cranberries you may add any savory or sweet additions you would like to flavor your sauce.  At the bottom of this post I will list some of my favorite variations.  Makes 2 1/2 cups cranberry sauce.

1 Wash your lovely cranberries.  In a saucepan bring water to a boil and add sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add cranberries, return to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.   Lovely!

2 At this point you can add all number of optional ingredients.  The cranberry sauce in the picture has fresh rosemary and lemon wedges.   You can add a cup of dried cranberries or dried cherries.

3 Remove from heat.  Cool at room temperature for 1 hour and chill in the refrigerator overnight.   Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

Cranberry Sauce Variations

Southwestern Cranberry Sauce

1/2 tsp chipotle powder and topped with minced fresh cilantro and lime juice before serving

Orange and Almond Cranberry Sauce

Substitute fresh orange juice with water and add sliced almonds

Apple and Ginger Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs candied ginger diced fine with 1 cup diced honey crisp apple

Rosemary and Port Wine Cranberry Sauce

1 tsp minced fresh rosemary, 1/4 cup port wine (reduce water to 3/4 cup) and 1 tsp orange zest

Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

4 tbs maple syrup, substitute brown sugar for white sugar and 1/3 cup diced toasted walnuts

Apricot and cardamom Cranberry Sauce

1/3 cup diced dried apricots and 1 tsp cardamom

Lemon Thyme Cranberry Sauce

1 tbs fresh thyme and 1 tbs lemon zest

Let me know if you have any creative variations for cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving menu.

Yesterday was bright and sunny when I woke up.  There was a bit of a chill in the air but overall it was sunny and clear.

I went up to the lodge and got the grill ready.  My mother in law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming up for Sunday brunch.

It was a perfect spring day.  I was even thinking we may set up a table on the deck and eat outside.  Was I wrong.   Weather can change fast in the mountains.

I starting grilling and decided to take some pictures from the deck.

It was warm and sunny.  Next thing I know I spot a white mass out over one of the hills.  It almost looked like smoke.

As the mass began to move and drift toward the lodge I realized the it was bringing a chilly wind.  It began to spread out and when it reached the lodge I realized it was snow.

Snow….in May.  Well I do live in the Rocky Mountains.

So here I am standing on the deck in cut offs and sandals grilling in the snow.  It made me laugh because almost every time I pull out the grill it starts raining.  I should grill more often since we are having a dry spring.

Thankfully I was done grilling and could move in a light the fireplace and relax with my family.

Ok, so back to the food….I was planning on featuring a summer salad.  This is a salad that we make nearly everyday during the summer.

But how can I feature a salad when it is snowing?  Shouldn’t I feature a stew or soup?  Well since the rest of the country is not blanketed in snow I will go ahead with my summer salad.  It kept snowing all night.  Most of the snow melted on impact but we got some great precipitation that was needed.

In the warm spring and summer months my  family enjoys salads nearly every dinner.  Sliced ripe red tomatoes, rich and creamy cheese, and bright fresh herbs is our favorite combination.

This salad is made with tomatoes (Compari vine ripe tomatoes from Costco), fresh mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme.

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella and Balsamic Salad

The key to getting the best flavor from this salad is to thinly slice the mozzarella which can be done if you freeze it for about half an hour or until slightly firm but not hard.  With the thinner mozzarella you can marinate it with balsamic and olive oil and the flavor will permeate the creamy cheese.

8-12 vine ripe compari tomatoes (I used the tomatoes from our local Costco but the salad is best with fresh tomatoes in season)

1 lb fresh mozzarella ( I used Bel Gioioso brand)

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I used my trusty Kirkland Signature Brand from Costco, yes I know I love Costco..)

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove minced finely

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (you can also use basil, oregano or mint)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your mozzarella thinly and marinate with balsamic, olive oil and garlic.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours in your refrigerator. 

Slice tomatoes and arrange tomatoes, mozzarella with marinade and fresh herbs on a plate.  Drizzle a bit more vinegar and olive oil and top with fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Serve as a first course with crusty fresh-baked bread or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled meat.

Here are a few variations on this salad:

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, oregano and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, blue cheese and bacon and arugula

Fresh tomato, brie cheese and pancetta

More great tomato salad recipes:

This one from Jamie Oliver. (I just love how he uses tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.)

Or try this one from Martha.

Here is Elsies’ beautiful version of the tomato mozzarella combo.

I enjoy to just sitting and watching my tomato starts and dream that this season will be long enough for us to actually harvest some tomatoes.  Last year our crops froze before they had a chance to ripen.  We are much more prepared this year.  Wish me luck!

If I am not successful I will have the Boulder Farmers Market at my disposal and in late summer the farmers in the area will have a dizzying array of tomatoes to choose from.

Now I will resume my fresh tomato dreams…..

In my quest to make everything from scratch that my family eats one of the items that has slipped from the list is crackers.  My husband and son love to eat cheese and crackers.  My son also adores cheese crackers like cheese its.  I decided to give crackers a try for Easter.

When I am trying a new recipe I google recipes for what ever it is I am making.  This is the best cookbook around.  As a professional chef many people ask what my favorite cook book is and I usually say Google.  The reason Google can be so powerful as a cookbook is that you can peruse many different recipes in minutes.  Then you can see what underlying themes or techniques are used.  At this point I will usually build my own recipe or try one from a respected source.

There are thousands of places to find recipes on the internet.  With recipe sites, blogs and food sites, lists can be endless.  How do you know which ones are any good?  Over the years there are a number of sites that I find are invaluable resources and I am sure the recipes are well written and tested.  Here is a list of sites that I find have great recipes every time.

www.cooksillustrated.com  If you are not familiar with Cooks Illustrated I encourage you to pick up a copy of the magazine at your grocery store or check out the website.  They literally test recipes many  times and find the best possible way to make each recipe.  On their website you can pay a small yearly fee and have access to hundreds of tested recipes for everything from cupcakes to pot roast. Money well spent in my household.

www.marthastewart.com  Now I am sure everyone is familiar with Martha.  Not only are her recipes good but the comments section at the bottom of each recipe contains comments from people who have made the recipe and what they found worked or did not work.  It is great information. Martha also has great recipes for the season with stunning photos.  This site is a great inspiration.

www.smittenkitchen.com   This veteran blogger has not only some of the most beautiful photos on the web but she is honest in her posts.  A good example would be her Everyday Chocolate Cake post.  She was not successful with her first attempt and discussed where she got her original recipe, how she tweaked it and what worked and what did not work.  This kind of information is great for home cooks and professionals alike. It is always good to learn from someone elses mistakes.

www.simplyrecipes.com  Another talented veteran blogger whose beautiful pictures and simple prose get right to the point and convey great information on how to make nearly everything.

www.realbakingwithrose.com  Rose Levy Beranbaum is the queen of pies and cakes.  She writes her recipes in weight measurement, she has adjustments for altitude and gives you just about any information you may need.  Her meticulous recipes have been a staple in my kitchen for years.  I usually consult one of her cookbooks or website where ever I bake anything!  Check out some of her cookbooks.  The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible and Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

www.davidlebovitz.com  The undisputed pastry king he writes a wonderful blog about making everything from appetizers, entree and baking all set in lovely Paris.  I have never made one of his recipes that failed.  All of his recipes are meticulously tested and documented.  This blog is beautiful, fun and informative.

There are also many different personal blogs that I follow but that is going to have to be another post.

So on with the cracker trials.  I decided to try a recipe that I found on www.foodnetwork.com.  This recipe is by Ina Garten.  Parmesan and Thyme Crackers.

On the first try the dough came out too dry.  This could be because it is a very dry climate here in the mountains.  I added a teaspoon of water and then the dough came together nicely in the food processor.

I chilled the dough and rolled it out with minimal flour on the rolling surface.  The dough rolled out nicely.  I used a flower shaped cutter and lined the baking sheet with parchment paper.  The crackers baked nicely and came out lightly browned.

They were delicious.  Much like a tiny and thin biscuit.  I recommend these crackers for entertaining.  A bit heavy for everyday snacking but great for a special occasion.  After Easter dinner some of my family and friends went home smiling with little bags of crackers for later.

Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

Inspired by Ina Garten

1 stick or 1/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature

2 1/2 oz freshly grated aged parmesan cheese ( I used Parmigiano Reggiano – Riserva Stravecchio from Costco which is a great price and very tasty)

187.5 grams of all-purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Place butter in the bowl of food processor.  Process until creamy.  Add cheese, flour, salt and thyme.

Process until dough forms a ball.  Dump the ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface.  Push down into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.

Chill for half an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface.  Flouring your rolling-pin if needed.

Roll to about pie dough thickness.  You can roll it out thicker if you like.  They were good both ways.

Cut with a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned about 20 minutes.

When my husband and I were first married we lived  on the coast of California right outside of Monterey.  What a terrible place to live!  Great weather,  world-class restaurants, stunning ocean beaches all within 10 miles.  This is where most of the strawberries, garlic, lettuce and artichokes are grown that people enjoy all over the United States.  There were 2, year around farmers markets and dozens of organic farms within a 1/2 an hour drive. 

I worked for a couple of years at a wharf side seafood restaurant in Monterey.  It seemed that after going to see all of the wonderful fish at the aquarium at Monterey Bay people wanted to eat fish.  While working in a seafood restaurants it was  one of the first times in my life where I ate fish regularly.  Not just at  the restaurant I worked at but some of the other restaurants in the area.  I can remember having a cioppino in a little French restaurant with only 6 tables that tasted of the sea, sunshine and fresh fields.  We loved to go to a little clam chowder shack and have clam chowder in freshly baked bread bowls.  Not the kind you find in chain restaurants but real freshly baked tangy, tender and crunchy crusted sourdough.  I can recall a calamari dish that I can honestly claim had the most tender and flavorful calamari I have ever eaten.  I frankly have stopped ordering calamari at restaurants because it never lives up to my expectations after the calamari from Monterey Bay.  One evening when my husband and I were driving home late  I looked out over the bay and it was beautifully lit with little white lights.  Those were the calamari boats out fishing in the early hours of the morning.  It was one of the most captivating sights I have ever seen. 

We do not eat enough fish in my household these days.   I have been reading about sustainability issues and seafood and am committed to serving, to my family, more fresh fish that is sustainably farmed.  This brings me back to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and its wonderful website on sustainable fish and seafood.  You can download and print and fish and seafood buyers guide that will tell you which fish to choose for the most sustainable choice.  The Seafood and Fish Buyers Guild.

I have found out, from the seafood buyers guide, that the flounder that I  have purchased from Whole Foods is actually a recommended substitute but not the most sustainable choice.  I am now downloading the app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium so that I can know while at the store what is the best choice.

Tonight my fish entrée features flounder.  This mild tasting white fish has a sweet flavor.  If you do not like the “fishy” tasting fish then flounder is a good choice.  It has such a mild flavor that it will take on the flavors of the added ingredients.  I added some sweet grape tomatoes, sweet sun burst tomatoes, fresh thyme, rosemary, lemon juice and  minced shallots and just piled it all on top with a good drizzle of olive oil and roasted it in the oven on broil.  This is similar to the way I prepared Chicken with Feta, Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives and Fresh Herbs.

The best thing about cooking fish for dinner is it cooks quickly.  This dish took about 10 minutes to throw together and roasted in the oven on broil for 10 minutes. 

Flounder is a lean fish so you need to cook it quickly and with liquid.  The juices from the tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil help keep the fish moist during broiling and will mix with the juice released from the fish for a light and flavorful sauce. 

Flounder with Fresh Herbs, Lemon, Tomatoes and Shallots

4 Flounder Fillets

8-10 Grape Tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise

8-10 Sun Burst Tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise

1/2 Shallot Minced

6-8 Sprigs Fresh Thyme minced

2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary minced

2 TBS Fresh Lemon Juice

2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pre-heat oven to broil or as high as you can set it.  I used broil setting on high.  Spread 1 TBS olive oil on bottom of baking dish.  Lay fish in a single layer on top of oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Pour over lemon juice and top with shallots, herbs and tomatoes.  Top with remaining olive oil.  Bake for 10 minutes or until fish is completely white and flakes apart easily.

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