Archive for the ‘Thyme in the Kitchen’ Category

Salad Days

Friday, January 18th, 2013

I love salads! Fruit salad, vegetable salad, grain salad – or a combination – the colors, the textures, the flavors….the possibilities are endless. Whether inspired by a display of local, in-season produce in the grocery store or leftover veggies in the refrigerator, tossed with a homemade dressing, topped with a special garnish….salads appeal to my creative side as a chef. The ingredients for this salad can all be combined in a bowl as a tossed salad, of course, but assembling them as a stacked salad makes a stunning first course for a dinner party and sets the stage for an elegant evening of gourmet dining.

Double Mango Stacked Fruit Salad

Double Mango Stacked Fruit Salad

an original recipe created by Chef Barb Crispin, A Gift of Thyme personal chef service

serves 2

1 cup mango, ripe, peeled and cubed

1 pear, chopped

1/2 cup chopped strawberries + 2 whole strawberries for garnish (optional)

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/4 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon salt

agave nectar to taste (honey or other sweetener may be substituted if preferred)

3 cups salad greens, chopped

1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped (I used mint + a sprinkling of fennel fronds)

3″ salad ring or biscuit cutter

Place 3/4 of the mango in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add lime juice, oil, coriander, and salt. Process until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Combine remaining mango and chopped strawberries with 1 tablespoon of the pureed mango. Set aside. This will be the middle layer of your salad.

Toss 1/2 cup chopped greens with the fresh chopped herbs. Set aside. This is the top layer of the salad.

Combine the remaining salad greens with the chopped pears and 1/2 – 1 tablespoon pureed mango. This is the base of the salad.

Place the salad ring  in the center of the salad plate. Using the salad ring as a mold, fill it about half-way with the greens/pear mixture. The weight of the mango-strawberry layer will compress it. Add enough of the mango-strawberry mixture so that 2/3  – 3/4 of the ring is filled. Top with the layer of greens and herbs. The top of this  layer can be slightly above the top edge of the ring. Carefully slide the ring upwards. Repeat for the second salad.  Garnish the plates with strawberry fans if desired.

You will have extra pureed mango. It keeps well in the refrigerator (or can be frozen) and can be used on other salads, as a topping for ice cream, as a dip for fresh fruit, mixed with yogurt…


Making Lots of Dough

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Ah, the good old days.  I used to make all of our bread, from scratch, without a breadmaker, thank you, just lots of mixing and kneading by hand. Great exercise and lots of time for quiet meditation as the dough slowly turned from a sticky, doughy blob into a smooth, elastic work of art.  Then the yeast would work its magic and the dough would rise, then give a soft sigh as it was punched down.  I would let it rise twice for a finer texture, then roll it out and shape it into loaves.  One last rising and then into the oven…and the heavenly aroma of fresh baked bread would fill the house.  And the flavor?   Absolutely amazing.

Life is more complicated now, busier.  But every now and then, I indulge in the luxury of bread baking and quiet contemplation.  And I never regret it.

Faust “Speaks”

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Hi!  I’m Faust! A few weeks ago I found myself living in this house with a chef.  Pretty cool, huh?  You’d think I’d be living quite a grand life, eating all sorts of gourmet treats, right?  Think again.  Don’t get me wrong – these humans are very nice.  I get to go on nice walks, and when I get tired the man will carry me.  I have a nice soft bed to curl up on, fun squeaky toys, and during the day I get to spend time in a place surrounded by flowers, listening to classical music.  But mealtime?  It’s pretty much kibble.

I know the chef makes some pretty wonderful stuff – I can smell it!  And I’ll often sit in her lap as she creates menus and types recipes into the computer, and most of it sounds quite tasty – Latin-Style Flank Steak, Spicy Beef Empanaditas, Baked Chiles Rellenos; Chicken Quesadillas, Fajita Turkey Burgers – did I mention I’m part Chihuahua?  And Monday she came home smelling like grilled filet mignon.  I was sure she had a scrap or two in her pocket, but if she did I never saw a bit of it.  So I sat in her lap, enjoyed the aroma of ‘what might have been,’ and left some of my hair on her jacket so that next time she might remember to bring me a sample.

I hang out in the kitchen a lot.  You’d think something would fall on the floor once in a while.  So far it’s just a piece of celery, or carrot or onion that flies off the counter, and usually before I can even sniff it, it gets picked up and thrown away.  Well, I guess that’s okay.  Now, if it were a piece of that filet mignon…Look out for your fingers, chef!

It does get boring after a while, sitting and watching and waiting, and I do have other things to do, like taking a nap, or lying outside in the warm sun, or checking up on what the man is doing… So I go about my business.  But I remain hopeful.  I know this is my foster home, not my permanent home.  Maybe they’ll throw me a grand going-away party complete with, yes, my very own grilled filet mignon! Ruff!

Fond Memories

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Working in the kitchen can be a trip down memory lane.  The inviting aroma of sautéed garlic instantly transports me back to the Philippines, and I am walking through the marketplace, surrounded by fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish, and invariably some vendor is preparing a quick stir-fry for lunch as they tend their stall.  The thought of cornburgers (a old family favorite) brings back memories of my childhood and summer suppers at the beach.  And who cannot think of pumpkin pie, and not be reminded of Thanksgiving traditions with family and friends gathered around the table?

I recently was preparing pecan rolls for a BNI Visitor’s Day brunch. As I rolled out the dough, sprinkled on the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture, then covered it with chopped pecans, the image of my then three-year-old daughter at my elbow helping me make the very same treat suddenly came to mind.  I had to stop and smile.  While the members and guests at the brunch had no way of knowing, the secret ingredient in those pecan rolls that morning was love.

Wine, Cheese…and Chocolate!

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Wine, Cheese … and Chocolate!

A quiet Sunday afternoon found me with a group of friends enjoying wine, cheese and chocolate.  Each of us had been encouraged to bring a dish to add to the buffet.  After looking over the list of what some of the others were bringing, it seemed the chocolate was under-represented.  Most of my chocolate dishes are delightful confections requiring spoons or forks – not really convenient for a wine and cheese party.  So I set out to create a simple chocolate bark that could be enjoyed as finger food along with a glass of wine.  Judging from the few pieces left over for me to bring home, I’d say my Toasted Almond Chocolate Bark was a success!

Looks Good Enough to Eat

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Sometimes I create a dish that truly looks spectacular and makes me stand back and say “Wow!”  However, it isn’t often that a vegetable dish elicits this reaction – usually it’s a “looks nice” or simply “yes!”  However, last week I prepared a Two Tomato and Fennel Gratin that was indeed “wow!” worthy.

I made a tomato pesto from scratch using sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated, which I blended with garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil and thinned with some vegetable stock.  I assembled the dish layering zucchini slices, shredded fennel, and slices of Roma tomatoes, spreading ½ of the pesto on top, and a generous sprinkle of more Parmesan cheese, repeating the layers once.  As it baked (covered) in the oven an enticing aroma filled the kitchen – a hint of what was to come.

After 30 minutes I added the breadcrumb topping – fresh whole wheat bread crumbs mixed with more Parmesan and put it back in the oven for 15 minutes. The resulting dish looked fabulous – layers of green and white zucchini, deep red tomatoes and tomato pesto, melted cheese all topped with a golden crust….

Would have loved to sneak a taste – but a spoonful taken out of the corner would surely have been noticed!  Will definitely make this again, and next time I make a little extra for the chef.

Thyme to Share

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

What a joy to gather in the kitchen with friends and family!  Whether we are prepping and cooking together, or I am simply putting the finishing touches on the dinner while chatting with friends, sharing what I love with the people I care about is a truly delightful way to spend an evening.

Friday evening I joined a small group of friends for a potluck dinner of elk stew and tres leches cake.  I contributed my ‘signature salad,’ a colorful salad full of contrasting textures and flavors garnished with pistachios and drizzled with a light citrus vinaigrette.  If a salad can be described as “exciting” this would be the one, guaranteed to start a party off on a festive note.  Everything was amazingly delicious…the elk stew was melt-in-your-mouth tender, perfectly seasoned, and the cake was gloriously decadent complemented by fresh espresso.

Saturday I was back in my own kitchen, wrapping chicken breasts around stalks of fresh asparagus, sliced cremini mushrooms, chopped artichoke hearts, and shredded mozzarella; slicing zucchini to be sautéed and garnished with smoked almonds; and, once again, tossing together my signature salad.  Earlier in the day I had blended frozen yogurt with lime juice for dessert and that was tucked away in the freezer; raspberries were thawing in the refrigerator to be spooned over the frozen yogurt for a splash of color – all in anticipation of entertaining a special friend that evening.

A recipe for contentment:  Good friends, good food, and good conversation.

Leftover Inspiration

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The vegetable bin in my refrigerator is full – leftovers from cooking earlier this week.  Zucchini, cabbage, carrot, peppers…. What else is in there? Let’s see, some mushrooms, a leek, some fennel, a cup of canned diced tomatoes, some kidney beans and garbanzos… Great ingredients for soup!  And with the temperatures outside below zero, it’s the perfect day for it, too.  I put all of these treasures on the counter, pull out my cutting board and chef’s knife and get to work.  A partial container of vegetable stock is in the refrigerator, too.  I’ll use that as my base.

I heat the soup pot on the stove, give it a quick spray with some cooking spray, and toss in the sliced leeks and chopped mushrooms.  Lots of sizzle as they tumble into the pot – that’s good.  Quickly the aroma of the mushroom/leek sauté fills the room and I’m in heaven.  When they are a rich, brown color I add minced garlic and sauté a few minutes more.  The fennel, carrots, green and red bell peppers and the tomatoes go in next.  I let the mixture boil for a few minutes while I search my pantry for the perfect seasoning.  Homestead Seasoning, a blend from the Savory Spice Shop, looks good.  Not exactly what I was thinking of, but it will work.  The liquid from the tomatoes is almost all evaporated, so I stir in the seasoning.  Did I put in enough?  Or was it too much? Won’t know until it’s done…  I add the cabbage and zucchini, give another quick stir and add the vegetable stock.  Not quite enough liquid, so I add some water.  I can always stir in some bouillon or some more seasoning at the end if I need to.  I bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer – it’s looking good… Before the zucchini and cabbage go all mushy, I remove the pan from heat and add the kidney beans and garbanzos.  A taste… hmmm, good, but it needs… yes! a splash of sherry vinegar!  Another taste… I have to admit – that’s pretty darn good soup!

A Gift of Thyme’s Pretty Darn Good Soup

3 cups chopped mushrooms

1 1/3 cups leeks, white part only, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup fennel, thinly sliced

1 cup finely chopped green and red bell peppers

1/3 cup chopped carrots

1 teaspon seasoning blend (Homestead Seasoning recommended)

1 cup each diced tomatoes (canned), diced zucchini, sliced cabbage

3/4 cup vegetable stock plus 1 cup water

1/2 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds

Heat soup pot over medium-high heat.  Spray with cooking spray.  Add mushrooms and leeks to pan; saute for 5 minutes or til lightly browned, stirring frequently.  Add garlic, fennel and carrots; saute another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add diced tomato with juices; allow to boil until most of the liquid is evaporated.  Stir in cabbage and zucchini, vegetable stock and water; return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer til vegetables are crisp-tender.  Add garbanzo and kidney beans and remove from heat.  Stir in vinegar.  Taste to adjust seasonings as needed and serve garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds.  Enjoy!

Makes 8 cups of soup – 6 servings (1 1/3 cups each)