Nifty Cake with Strawberries Peaches and Cream

A tribute to my father for his many gifts and love. Dad gave me my first photography lesson and encouraged me to continue with it along the way. Included with this tribute is a cake recipe for Nifty Cake. An updated version of the birthday cake I baked for him when I was a teenager. This cake recipe features his favorite fruits, strawberries and peaches.  GS

Over the past few weeks my dad and his memory has filled my thoughts. His forward presence came around for no other reason than it is strawberry season. Dad loved strawberries, especially strawberries and cream. I can clearly see him sitting at the head of the table with a bowl of strawberries, pouring heavy cream all over them and then add a sprinkle of sugar. Whenever strawberries were in the house, this was his impromptu dessert.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream cake recipe

I would watch his strawberry and cream routine with a raised eyebrow and a sideways smirk, “Really Dad? You’re drinking heavy cream.” I could not see how heavy cream, even adorned with strawberries, was worthy of such attention. Eating sweetened whipped cream I understood, but cream straight out of the container was gross. Ignoring my smirky adolescent attitude, Dad would dive into his bowl of strawberries and cream like a seasoned athlete, ever so focused and determined to savor every drop. Eventually, he would look up seeing my adolescent stare and say, “What? It’s great. Do you want some?” He was always eager to share the things that brought him joy.

It amazes me how random and small instances, or thoughts, can bring out strong emotions and memories. Once the strawberry trigger hit me, memories of my life with Dad filled me with his spirit, and it hasn’t left. I am not sad with these memories, it is nice to feel his presence since I can no longer see or talk with him. He gave me many gifts over our lifetime together, and I am grateful for the precious time we spent together.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

One common interest we shared is still very prominent in my life. He gave me my first photography lesson. I can’t remember if I initiated it or not, but when I was around 12 years old he took me out to the dry grassy hills above Old St. Hilary Church and taught me how to use his Tele-Rolleiflex camera and his light meter. Tele-Rollei is a 120mm camera that required the photographer to look down into a viewing box to see the image. Also, a separate hand-held light meter was needed to determine the exposure. There was a lot to learn, and each photograph took extra time to set up and capture.

One of Dad’s favorite activities was taking pictures of wildflowers. So, on my first day I wandered along the Tiburon hills photographing wildflowers with apt attention and a new-found love. That day is as vivid to me like a bright California summer day. I wonder if Dad initiated this outing because the two of us were just sitting around the house and he thought we both needed something to do.

I recently found the photographs I took on our day together. Dad saved them filed with his slides as, “Jennifer’s Pictures.” Seeing my slides organized with his, made me feel that day was as important to him as it was to me. After all these years I never knew he had them. Ever since that day on the Tiburon hills, photography has been a significant part of my life. Thanks Dad.

Father’s Day BBQ recipe ideas to serve with Nifty Cake: 

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake Recipe for Dad

When I was in middle school I started making birthday cakes for my family. I would ask my brothers what cake they wanted and set out to bake it for them. For Dad’s birthday I did not ask him what he wanted, I knew. I created a cake overflowing with his favorite fruits: yellow butter cake (from a mix), layered with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream.

This was my first “original” cake recipe. I piled the middle layer with whipped cream and fruit, then frosted the entire cake with more whipped cream and decorated with strawberries and peaches. It was a miracle the cake did not topple over. This cake is a strawberry, peaches and cream lover’s dream come true, and I made it for him every year until I went away to college.

Dad often used the expression “nifty” when he described something fun. In his honor, I decided to recreate my cake recipe I made for dad and call it Nifty Cake. When I first developed this cake recipe for Dad I used a cake mix. Now, I make cakes from scratch and had a lot of fun figuring out the type of cake to make. After testing several cake recipes, I decided on a Buttermilk Cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Cake Bible. I slightly adapted her cake recipe and substituted all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, because it is an ingredient people can easily get.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

This buttermilk cake recipe with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream can be dressed up or kept simply adorned. If you are a person who does not like frosting, this is the cake for you. This is a delicate cake with slight tang and prominent butter flavor. It is delicious all by itself, or covered with any type of frosting. This cake is a blank canvas for endless varieties of frosting and toppings. It is the perfect cake for the strawberries and cream lover in your life.

Love and miss you Dad.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Category: Dessert

Cuisine: American

8-10 servings

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Nifty Cake is a buttermilk cake with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream. It is a delicious and simple cake that is appropriate for any occasion. The buttermilk cake can easily be eaten plain, topped with whipped cream and fruit on the side. It is the perfect cake for those who do not like frosting, as well as served with any variety of frosting you wish.

The buttermilk cake recipe was slightly adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe, "Buttermilk Country Cake" in "The Cake Bible Cookbook".

Ingredients

    Buttermilk Cake
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup / 5.5 oz / 160 g buttermilk
  • 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbls / 7 oz / 200 grams sifted all-purpose flour (see note)
  • 1 cup / 7 oz / 200 g sugar
  • 1 TB / 15 g baking powder
  • 1/2 tea / 3.5 g Kosher salt
  • 8 TB / 4 oz / 113 g unsalted butter - softened
    Fruit Filling
  • 8 oz / 225 g Fresh Strawberries
  • 1/2 Fresh Peach
  • 1/3 cup / 75 ml best quality strawberry or peach jam
    Whipped Cream Frosting
  • 2 cups / 16 oz / 500 ml heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tea sugar
  • Decorate the top of the cake with additional peach slices and strawberries.

Instructions

    Buttermilk Cake
  1. You will have more success if all your ingredients are at room temperature when you begin mixing the cake batter.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4
  3. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23cm) springform cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Lightly flour the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Shake out excess flour.
  4. In a medium bowl lightly mix together the egg yolks, 1/4 of the buttermilk, and vanilla.
  5. In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer add the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together for a few seconds on low speed so they are all fully blended. Add the butter, cut up in tablespoons pieces, and the remaining buttermilk to the mix. Mix the ingredients together on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated with the butter. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1.5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the batter off the
  6. paddle/beaters.
  7. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the flour in 3 intervals, beating the batter for 20 seconds between each addition. After mixing the batter, scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle attachment.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the surface with an offset spatula. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and dry.
  9. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Turn the cake out of the pan and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake over, right side up, and place on the cooling rack. The cake should be completely cooled before frosting and serving.
  10. This cake is best eaten the same day it is made, but will last wrapped airtight in plastic wrap, for 3 days on the counter, 5 days in the refrigerator, and for 2 months in the freezer.
    Fruit Filling
  1. Clean and remove the stems from the strawberries. Dry with paper towels. Cut the strawberries into bite size pieces and put into a small bowl.
  2. Peal the skin off the peach, then slice into thin segments. Cut each segment into bite size pieces and add to the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit together until well combined. Set aside.
    Whipped Cream
  1. Chill the bowl you will use to make whipped cream and the beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Take the bowl and beaters out of the freezer and add cold heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl. Beat the cream mixture on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted from the cream. Be careful not to over mix and turn the cream into butter. If you are planning to frost the cake with the cream, you will want the stiff peaks. If you are planning to have the whipped cream only for the middle and top cake layers the whipped cream can be softer and not whipped as stiff.
    Putting the cake together
  1. Divide the cake in half horizontally to make two layers. (See Note) Put the bottom layer on a serving plate and the top layer on another plate or rimless pan or tray. (Cardboard cake rounds are perfect if you have them)
  2. Evenly spread the strawberry or peach jam across the top of the bottom cake layer. Spread 1 cup of the whipped cream evenly across the jam.
  3. Add the mixed fruit then spread the fruit. Press the fruit evenly into the cream so that there is a flat and smooth fruit/cream layer.
  4. Slide the top cake layer on top of the bottom cake layer, lining up the notches on the side, (see note). Add the remaining whipped cream and spread it over the top of the cake. Decorate the cake with additional peaches and strawberries as you wish.
  5. The cake is best served the same day it is made. Add the fruit and whipped cream to the cake as close to serving time as comfortable. Store the cake in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
  6. After 24 hours the cake will get soggy and the whipped cream will loosen.

Notes

I find I have more consistent results when I weight my dry ingredients whenever I bake. The original recipe was calculated using cake flour. I decided to use all-purpose flour because the cake made with cake flour was very delicate and did not hold together well. 200 grams of cake flour is about 2 cups of cake flour. 200 grams of all-purpose flour is shy of two cups of flour. You do not want to add a full 2 cups of all-purpose flour, or the cake will be too dry. If you switch up any flours or dry ingredients it is always better to follow the weight vs the volume measurement for accuracy.

There are many ways to slice cake layers in half horizontally and different tools you could buy. I cut cake layers using a ruler, toothpicks and a long serrated knife. I am not brave enough to cut it in half without a guide. First, cut a small vertical mark on the side of the cake. This mark will be your guide to evenly line up your layers. Measure with a ruler the middle point around the circumference of the cake. Mark the middle with a toothpick every 3 inches all the way around the side of the cake. Put one hand gently on top of the cake with the other hand working the knife. Place the middle of a long serrated knife against the top of the toothpicks and make a cut, or score, around the circumference of the cake. Use the hand on the cake to turn the cake as you cut. Continue to cut in a circle around the edge of the cake, focusing your eye on the tip end of the knife. It helps keeps the knife level. Cut your way around the cake, gradually cutting toward the middle and then all the way through.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

Several years ago I discovered two cookbooks that opened a new world of food and cooking, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. When first published, I resisted reading these cookbooks because of the hype surrounding them. It is my experience, hyped-up media often disappoints and does not live up to the claims. Later, when I got around to reading the books for myself, I realized how completely wrong I was. These cookbooks and all their other publications, are worthy of all the praise they receive. Jerusalem and Ottolenghi cookbooks changed the way I approach learning about new ingredients, cuisines, and cooking.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron reicpe

There are many recipes between these two books that I love, like Roast Chicken with Clementines and Arak, and Basmati Rice with Saffron Barberries Pistachios and Mixed Herbs, just to name a couple. However, I wanted to feature their recipe for Saffron Chicken with Herb Salad. I just learned this recipe and believe is perfect for this time of year. I renamed it, Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing. This recipe is fresh and vibrant and easily prepared. Perfect for the days when the warm sun is beckoning you outside.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing reicpe

For another salad idea try chicken salad with avocado dressing.

Grilled chicken salad with orange saffron dressing shows how well bitter and sweet flavors blend to form a perfect union. To start, a whole orange simmers for an hour with honey and saffron until soft and the liquid is reduced. The bitterness of the orange peel mellows when combined with grilled chicken salad, crisp fresh fennel, and handfuls of fresh herbs. This is a well composed salad and with each ingredient plays an important role. The grilled chicken provides the backbone and mellows the concentrated flavor of the orange dressing. A composed blend of fresh herbs brightens and lightens the salad with sweet aromas and a refreshing bite. The finishing touch that ties everything together, is a spark of heat from the fresh hot red pepper.

Additionally, this recipe taught me a new trick. The secret to making this dressing is to blitz the whole cooked orange in the food processor with the reduced syrup. Using the whole fruit developed intense orange flavor that reminded me of concentrated frozen orange juice. Also, the best orange popsicle you ever had on a hot summer day. It is amazing how bittersweet fruit flavor can cut the heat of summer in an instant like diving into a mountain pool.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing recipe

Personally, I hate throwing away citrus rind and am always looking for ways to include the zest in my meals. Citrus zest makes everything taste better so I was more than happy to use the orange rind. There is also less food waste. This grilled chicken salad recipe will turn heads and enlighten taste buds because of a simple and brilliant idea. It is a healthy and refreshing salad with hardly any added fat to weigh the meal down.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing recipe

The moment I read these two cookbooks, it was love at first sight. Savoring the bold flavors in each tested recipe, inspired me to be more daring in my cooking. I no longer shied away from unfamiliar spices like za’atar and sumac, but embraced them. For the past several years, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi hold an influential spot in my life like The Silver Palate and Marcella Hazan cookbooks did in the 1980’s. Not only are they inspirational, but educational about new ingredients, fresh insights, and different cultures. I am forever grateful.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Category: Dinner Salad

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

6 servings

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

This is a bright and refreshing salad. By itself the orange dressing has a very concentrated bitter-orange flavor lightly sweetened with honey and saffron. The dressing mellows with the other ingredients and the freshness of the herbs are key to the bright flavor. A kick of heat from the fresh red chili pepper ties everything together. You can mix the salad with arugula if desired. Best eaten the day it is made. This recipe is from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 orange
  • 2 1/2 TB (50g) honey
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/4 (300 ml) cup water
  • 2 1/4 lbs / 1 k skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, or 1 large bulb
  • 1 cup / 15 g picked cilantro leaves
  • 2/3 cup / 15 g picked basil leaves, torn
  • 15 picked mint leaves, torn
  • 2 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 red chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

    Make the Orange Saffron Syrup
  1. Cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of the orange so it will stand flat on a cutting board. Cut the orange in half then cut each half into 6 wedges. Add the orange wedges into a medium sauce pan. Add the honey, saffron, vinegar, and water to the saucepan. If any of the orange wedges are exposed and not submerged under water, add more water so all oranges are covered. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the oranges to a boil. Then turn the heat down and simmer the oranges for about 1 hour. By the end the wedges will be soft and there will be about 5 tablespoons of syrupy liquid.
  2. Once reduced, add the oranges and syrup to a food processor and process until the orange syrup is smooth. If needed, add water to thin out the sauce and reach a runny and smooth dressing. Set aside.
    Prepare Chicken
  1. While the oranges are simmering, preheat the oven to 400F /200C. Gently pound the chicken breast with a meat mallet or the heal of your hand to create an even thickness in each piece. Mix the chicken breasts with 2 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. Sear the chicken breasts for 2 minutes on each side on a stovetop grill pan, or cook on a grill. Transfer to a sheet pan or baking pan and cook in the oven until done. (If you are using the grill there is no need to cook the chicken in your oven.) Pierce each breast with a fork, if the juices from the chicken are clear, not pink or cloudy, then the chicken is done. Internal
  2. temperature of 165F - 170F (74C - 77C). Depending on the thickness of each piece of chicken, roasting time could last for 5 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven (or grill) and set aside to cool.
    Putting it all together
  1. Once the chicken is cooled, shred the chicken breasts into decent size pieces and place in a bowl. Mix 1/2 of the orange dressing with the shredded chicken. Cut the fennel bulb in half and slice as thin as possible, lengthwise. Trim off the core if desired. Add the fennel, fresh herbs, remaining olive oil, crushed garlic, and lemon juice to the chicken. Gently stir to combine. Add the sliced red chili. Taste and correct for seasoning with olive oil, lemon juice or Kosher salt if needed.
  2. Serve immediately.

Notes

For an easy shortcut, substitute the grilled chicken with shredded rotisserie chicken, or any leftover chicken.

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Kitchen Sink Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

What do you get when you combine, rolled oats, sun-dried raisins, butterscotch chips, dark chocolate chips and cinnamon? You have everything but the kitchen sink oatmeal cookies. This recipe is a family favorite and one of our staple cookie recipes. Kitchen sink oatmeal cookies have stood the test of time and saw this family through growth spurts, swim meets, birthdays, snow days, fun days, and holidays.

I got this recipe about 19 years ago from a friend. Our children were in nursery school together and it was her turn to bring the school snack. I can still hear Jane’s friendly voice telling me about her cookies.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies reicpe

Me: “What are these cookies? They are delicious.”

Jane:  “They are Kitchen Sink Cookies.”

Me: Perplexed and speechless as I tried to grasp the meaning behind naming cookies after a kitchen sink.  Certainly, my kitchen sink was not an appetizing sight, especially after making cookies. Obviously, I was not to date with familiar expressions.

Jane: Seeing my befuddled expression rescues me from my confusion and with a joking smile on her face says, “They’re called Kitchen Sink Cookies because they have everything in them but the kitchen sink.”

Me: (LOL) “Oh yeah, I get it. Right.”

With that mystery solved, Jane gladly shared her recipe.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies recipe

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies reicpe

The real surprise inside these oatmeal cookies is the blast of buttery caramel from the butterscotch chips. Even though there is a decent amount of butter, the butterscotch makes everything stand out. Every bite is loaded with surprises. I believe there is no such thing as too many goodies mixed into cookie dough.

When I make these cookies, I feel like I am not just sharing cookies, but my family’s history as well. This oatmeal cookie recipe begins when my youngest son attended preschool and fills many spaces up to the present. Hopefully, there will be several  opportunities to share these oatmeal cookies in the future. Every time I make these cookies, clear memories of each of my sons come to mind. It is one of the great things about homemade cookies. Not only do they bring joy, but they share a story of life well lived.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies reicpe

One memory I have, and it always gives me a laugh, is from Andrew’s college years. You would think nothing would outshine cute preschoolers eating cookies with their classmates, but imagine college varsity swimmers inhaling a bag of cookies after an exhausting swim meet. That is a sight to see. Think of Doctor Seuss characters with crazy spiked hair and large funnel-shaped mouths, sucking up everything in its path. 

After giving Andrew two bags of Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies to share with the team, I noticed everyone seemed restless. The whole team sat on the bleachers, supposedly listening to their coach go over the team’s accomplishments after a triumphant swim meet. However, all the swimmers discretely had their eye on the bags of cookies. Their facial expressions said, “Where’s the cookies?” while glancing back and forth from their coach to their teammates searching for the cookie trail.

I discovered Andrew was on a mission to hide the cookies from his best friend. A person who had no problem inhaling the double batch of cookies in one bite, especially after a swim meet.  When I caught up with Andrew I saw a full bag of crumbles, not a full bag of homemade with love oatmeal cookies.  I imagined this bag of cookies being tossed about and stuffed into backpacks just to keep them out of sight. Andrew did not mind because with his mission accomplished, that bag of cookie crumbles was all for him.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies reicpe

I really like cookies and for many years always had them in the house. Between myself, Joe, and three sons we easily went through more than one box of cookies a week. If there weren’t any cookies in our pantry, the boys would say there was no food in the house.

We are now better behaved. Several years ago I made a promise to myself, I would no longer buy cookies. If I wanted them, I would make them, or someone else in the family could. I made this promise to cut back on processed food and lose weight. It worked, and over the years I kept this promise 98% of the time. It is not as much of an inconvenience as I first thought.

There is a big difference in flavor and texture between homemade and store-bought cookies. If you are going to eat sweets, then you might as well eat the freshest and healthiest option you can.

Fortunately, when I make kitchen sink oatmeal cookies they satisfy everyone’s favorite cookie requirement. Joe and Andrew’s favorite cookie is oatmeal raisin. I always want some form of dark chocolate in my cookies, and Evan and Taylor are just happy to have them. Making one batch beats buying multiple boxes from the store every time.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies recipe

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies reicpe

Making cookies instead of buying them is an easy promise to keep. I discovered it is not a major production to do. Besides, cookies are timeless and every generation enjoys having fresh made cookies, as they bring out the child spirit in all of us.

Kitchen Sink Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Category: Dessert

Cuisine: American

About 40 Cookies

Kitchen Sink Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

These chewy oatmeal cookies are loaded with raisins, chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. They have have lots of great flavor with a pop of buttery caramel from the butterscotch. They make a perfect snack with fruit or a great casual dessert.

Nutmeg is another spice that tastes great with oats. Substitute the cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg up to 1/2 teaspoon for a change of pace.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (223 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp (1 g) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (2 g) cinnamon (or 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg)
  • 1/2 tsp (1 g) Kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb / 2 sticks / (226 g) butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 cup (192 g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (109 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp (3 g) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (253 g) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 heaping cup (85 g) raisins
  • 1/2 heaping cup (88 g) Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 heaping cup (88 g) butterscotch chips

Instructions

  1. If you are cooking one cookie sheet at a time, arrange the oven rack in the center position in your oven. Preheat oven to 350F / 175C/ Gas Mark 4 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl add the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and stir with a wire whisk until evenly mixed. Set aside
  3. In a bowl of a stand mixer, or handheld mixer, beat together on medium to medium-high speed, the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until soft and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until the eggs are thoroughly combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed to start just for the flour to get absorbed in the batter. Then turn the seep up to medium and mix until just combined. This does not take long so be careful not to overmix the dough.
  6. Add the rolled oats and mix until just combined.
  7. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the raisins, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips until evenly combined in the cookie dough.
  8. Drop rounded tablespoons (1 oz / 32 g) of cookie dough on the cookie sheet, spaced about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
  9. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown.
  10. Cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes, then move the cookies to cool on a cooling rack.
  11. Store the cookies in an airtight container on the counter. Should stay fresh for a couple of days.

Notes

If you wish, spoon the cookie dough on a cookie sheet then cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Then bake. They might take a minute or too longer to bake. The chilled dough makes the cookies a little lighter and fluffier then when you bake the dough beginning at room temperature.

If you are baking more than one rack at a time, arrange the oven racks in the upper thirds of your oven. Rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom rack and front to back halfway between the total cooking time.

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Here Comes the Sun: Papaya, Cucumber and Feta Salad

Is it June? Cold and damp air surround me, along with dark grey clouds and constant rain showers. It’s so damp and chilly, I’m wearing my fleece jacket inside. This is not typical seasonal weather in New York. When will the warm days of summer arrive? Wrapped in my winter sweater, I gaze out my window and feel dreary about the looming storms. This past weekend, I got a rare 24 hours of warm glorious sunshine, but it was nothing but a tease. I am craving warmth and sunshine in any form.

Sunshine Salad of Papaya Cucumber and Feta recipe

In good conscious I cannot complain about rain. I value its importance too much. Yet, we all have a fickle relationship with rain. It is something that you want when you don’t have it, and something you hate when you do. However, this weather is getting me down. Desperate times call for the unexpected and if I cannot feel the sun on my back, I must taste it in my food.

This recipe for papaya, cucumber and feta cheese salad is a bowl of sunshine and a party of different flavors and textures mixed together. The ingredients include sweet tropical fruit, crisp vegetables, crumbly cheese, brined olives, and a citrus dressing. This is what happens when tropical paradise invites the Greek Islands over for a party. You are not sure how everyone will get along, but delightfully they harmoniously mingle and create a festive atmosphere. Even the cured Greek olives add a welcome note into the party.

Sunshine Salad with Papaya, cucumber and Feta recipe

Sunshine Salad with Papaya, Cucumber and Feta reicpe

Learn more about Papaya here.

I first discovered this papaya salad from one of my brothers in law. Tom made this salad for my mother in law’s 85th birthday party. I was curious how the papaya would taste with all the ingredients because papaya is not a fruit I typically eat or cook with. Tom took great care making the salad and arranged each layer like a sculptor attentive to every detail. We placed his salad on the table like a work of art, almost too beautiful to eat.

Sunshine Salad with Papaya, cucumber and feta recipe

As expected, the papaya salad was a huge success. Each guest stopped and admired the salad before they helped themselves. A lot of love went into making the salad, and in return love was given in appreciation. The fresh flavor of papaya and cucumber complemented the saltiness of the feta and olives. This unexpected pairing brought a delightful and subtle sensory experience. They say opposites attract, yet they also harmoniously blend and make for some of the best tasting foods.

Tom made this salad from a recipe in, The Inspired Vegetarian by Louise Pickford with photographs by Gus Filgate. This cookbook was first published in 1992 and Louise Pickford is a British cook and food stylist. Her intention was to inspire vegetarian cooking to mean more than sprouts and tofu. She certainly succeeded with this recipe.

Sunshine Salad with Papaya cucumber and feta recipe

Tips for making Papaya, Cucumber and Feta Salad

I slightly adapted Louise Pickford’s recipe, which she adapted from a feta salad recipe she first tasted in Astipalaia, Greece. First, I increased the amount of cucumber, then decreased the amount of feta. The contrast of the crisp cucumber with the soft papaya is refreshing. Adding more cucumber helps with the dryness of the feta cheese as well.

I also added fresh mint and eliminated the ground nutmeg. I am sure the nutmeg is nice, but I was hoping to create a fresh and sunny salad. The flavors of fresh herbs with a hint of spice from ground red chilies brought forward the flavors of the sun I dream of.

Papaya is ripe when the skin is yellow. The riper it is, the sweeter the taste. Like avocados, it is rare to find ripe papaya in the store. So plan to buy your papaya at least 3 days in advance. Hopefully, 3 days is enough time for the papaya to ripen.

If you cannot get papaya (or not a fan), substitute the papaya with ripe cantaloupe or watermelon. The olives might not pair as well with the watermelon, but they are easily removed.

I also like to serve this salad on greens dressed in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. This papaya salad tastes great on peppery arugula or other slightly bitter greens.

Sunshine salad with papaya, cucumber and feta recipe

Sunshine salad with papaya, cucumber and feta recipe

Here comes the sun and summer fun with Papaya, Cucumber and Feta Salad. It is an unexpected and delicious salad and delight for the senses. And I say, “It’s all right.”

Papaya, Cucumber and Feta Salad

Category: Salad

Cuisine: Greek with a Tropical twist

4 servings

Serving Size: 4-6 servings

Papaya, Cucumber and Feta Salad

Papaya and feta cheese is not your ordinary combination, but mixed with cucumber and cured Greek olives this recipe creates a beautiful and delicious salad. The mild sweetness of the papaya with the saltiness of the feta and olives blend perfectly. This is a fresh and unexpected salad perfect for a party or BBQ.

Plan ahead because papaya's take a few days to fully ripen.

Best eaten the day it is made.

This recipe is slightly adapted from The Inspired Vegetarian by Louise Pickford, 1992

Ingredients

    Salad
  • 1 cup / 4 oz / 125 g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large cucumber, (about 14 oz / 400 g) peeled, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 TB chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp fresh mint, chiffonade
  • 1 large, about 2 lbs 11 oz / 1 K 225 g) papaya
  • Shy 1/4 cup / 1 oz / 28 g pitted black Greek olives, sliced thin
    Salad Dressing
  • 1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Pinch of ground chili pepper

Instructions

    Make the salad dressing
  1. In a small bowl, blend together the salad dressing ingredients until well incorporated.
    Make the salad
  1. In a medium bowl mix together the chopped cucumber, crumbled feta cheese and fresh dill and mint. Add two thirds of the salad dressing, about 2 tablespoons (38 g) to the feta and cucumber and mix. Cover the salad with plastic wrap and let the cucumbers and feta cheese marinate at room temperature for a couple of hours. About a half hour before you want to display the salad or eat, peel the papaya, cut it in half, then remove the seeds. Cut the papaya into bite size chunks. The papaya can be peeled and chopped in advance, but not too long for it to get soggy. Pour the remaining salad dressing over the papaya and mix. Arrange the papaya around the interior rim of your serving platter, then add the cucumber and feta mixture in the middle. Sprinkle with sliced olives and more fresh mint.
  2. Serve
  3. Papaya cucumber salad is best eaten the day it is made. Leftovers will keep well in the refrigerator, in a sealed container for 24 hours.

Notes

Papaya is ripe when the skin is yellow and the flesh is somewhat soft. If you cannot find papaya in your store, ripe cantaloupe or watermelon are great substitutes. You may or may not want to add the olives with the watermelon.

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Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta

It appears that many cultures have a traditional stuffed pastry snack, at least in the Mediterranean. In Greece, Spanakopita is a popular appetizer made with phyllo dough, spinach and feta cheese. I also just learned about an Israeli stuffed pastry, Bureka, pronounced börek. Like spanakopita, it originated from Greece and Turkey, but landed in Israel. Essentially, Burekas are individual stuffed pastry made with puff pastry or phyllo dough and filled with a savory filling of meats, cheese or vegetables.

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta recipe

Stuffed pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta Recipe

Earlier this week I really wanted to bake, but I was in the mood for something savory. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of savory baking recipes in my memory box, so I looked to a new cookbook I borrowed from the library, Breaking Bread by Uri Scheft. Uri Scheft is a baker from Israel and owns bakeries in Tel Aviv and New York City. His cookbook focuses on Israeli bread baking. This is a wonderful cookbook with clearly written instructions along with photographs featuring each step. Reading this cookbook is like having Uri Scheft standing at your side and calmly teaching you how to bake bread.

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss chard and Feta recipe

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta recipe

I did not have the time to bake bread and go through the different proofing stages so I decided to bake one of the burekas recipes featured in his cookbook. The photograph of the Swiss Chard bureka was so appealing and I could clearly visualize a group of friends sitting round a table, having drinks, eating burekas with tahini, olives and pickles. It was an all are welcome greeting with a large platter of delicious bites.

At the time, there were three things that attracted me to the recipe: the photograph as mentioned earlier, Swiss chard, and store-bought pastry dough. As Uri points out, puff pastry is very difficult for the average home baker to make, so buying puff pastry is a great time-saving alternative. I like to make a lot by scratch, but puff pastry dough is out of my league. Buying it saves a lot of time and worry.

I love braised Swiss chard. This leafy green is not as soft and mild as spinach, or bitter and tough like kale. Plus, the colors of the stems are vivid and stunning. Swiss chard has a great balance of body and flavor. It is nice and green and not too bitter. Add a sprinkle of lemon zest over Swiss chard and this green vegetable really brightens up.

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta recipe

More recipes with Mediterranean Feel

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Oven Roasted Chicken with Shallots and Fennel

Sweet and Spicy Carrots

Uri Scheft’s recipe had all my favorite ingredients with the convenience of store-bought puff pastry dough and I was eager to try it. This is not a difficult recipe to make, but working with puff pastry has its challenges. Each time I bake with it I get a different outcome. So, clearly there is more I should learn. However, listed here are a few key considerations when baking with puff pastry.

Look for good quality puff pastry made with all butter. The butter helps the laminating process of the pastry and creates the flakes.

My purchased puff pastry came in a one pound box with 2 sheets. The recipe calls for 5 strips of pastry cut at least 4 inches wide and about 12 inches long. How you figure the placement and division of the strips is up to you. I pinched the two pieces together and rolled out the pastry to the dimensions I needed. Unfortunately, I did not achieve a lot of puff. This could be for many reasons, one being the pastry dough is made with vegetable oil and not butter. Or, the dough was too warm. I often find the layers stick together. Here is a great article from Bon Appetit about working with puff pastry dough. 

Get as much of the liquid drained from the cooked vegetables as possible. Excess liquid will make pastry soggy and weigh it down. Gently press out the liquid from the vegetables in a fine mesh strainer using the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to mush the vegetables.

Make sure the prepared filled pastries are cold before you put them in a preheated oven. Either place in the freezer for twenty minutes, or refrigerate for one hour. Don’t skimp on this step. The butter in the pastry dough must be cold to create a nice flaky pastry.

Make in advance preparation: Make the bureka and place them on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer. Once they are frozen, put the burekas in a freezer bag and keep in the freezer for up to a month. When you are ready to bake, paint the egg wash over the frozen burekas and place them directly on a hot baking stone or an upside rimmed baking sheet in the pre-heated oven. Bake until golden brown.

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard recipe

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard recipe

I am sure by now you know how much I love learning about new foods and techniques. Cooking and baking is always a process of discovery, whether I made the dish for many years or just for the first time. New discoveries energize me and make me more curious. I was thrilled to learn about these savory stuffed breads and hope to perfect my technique as I continue to make them. Happy cooking.

As always, I would love to hear from you and bout your culinary adventures. You and follow me on Instagram @lemonthymeandginger, Facebook or leave a comment under this recipe on my blog.

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta

Prep Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Category: Appetizer or Lunch

Cuisine: Israeli

5 Burekas

Stuffed Pastry with Swiss Chard and Feta

Stuffed pastry with Swiss chard and feta cheese makes a great appetizer or serve for any meal of the day. This recipe is an adaption of a traditional Israeli snack called Bureka. Serve with yogurt tahini spread, olives and hard-boiled eggs, and you have a perfect meal.

Please don't be discouraged by the long prep time. Most of the prep time is waiting for the dough to chill, or the vegetables to cool. Give yourself some time to make these. This stuffed pastry recipe can be made in advance and frozen for up to one month for your convenience.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Baking Bread by Uri Scheft

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (342 g) Swiss chard
  • 5 oz (142 g) spinach, tough stems removed
  • 1 TB (100 g) olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely minced
  • 2 celery stalks and leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tomato, seeds removed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice and zest from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 lb (455 g) store bought puff pastry - thawed if frozen
  • All-purpose flour for rolling the pastry dough
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TB water
  • For Garnishing
  • Garnish with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, everything bagel mixture, or dried herbs and spices

Instructions

  1. Clean the Swiss Chard and remove the stems from the leaves. Cut the stems into 1/4 inch (.5 cm) chunks and set aside. Stack the chard leaves on top of each other and slice across the width into 1 inch (3 cm) ribbons. Then cut the ribbons in half across the width. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the spinach the same as the Swiss Chard, but discard the stems. If you are using baby spinach there is no need to chop the leaves. However, remove any long stems from the baby spinach.
  3. Turn the heat to medium and heat the olive oil in a large 10-inch skillet. Add the minced onion, celery and Swiss chard stems and 1/4 tsp of Kosher salt to the skillet and cook until soften. About 5-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent browning.
  4. Add the chopped tomato, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook the vegetables until the tomatoes break down about 2 - 3 minutes. Stir the vegetables frequently while they are cooking.
  5. Add half of the Swiss chard greens and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt, and stir and cook until they have all wilted. Add the remaining Swiss Chard and cook until it is all wilted.
  6. Add the spinach leaves in two batches to the skillet with the vegetables. Once the spinach is heated and wilted, add the lemon juice. Stir and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if needed. Remember, the cheese in the filling will add a lot of salt to the bureka, so go light on the salt in the vegetables.
  7. Transfer the filling to a bowl and cool completely. The cooked vegetables can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for several hours.
  8. Once cooled, place the vegetables in a fine mesh strainer and drain out any excess water. Gently press down on the vegetables without squishing them.
  9. Make the egg wash. In a small bowl beat the egg, water and a pinch of salt until completely combined. Set aside.
  10. Prepare two large rimmed baking sheets and line with parchment paper.
  11. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Set the puff pastry on the floured surface, long side facing you, and lightly flour the top of the pastry. Gently roll the pastry into a rectangle about 20 inches (51 cm) by 12 inches (30.5 cm) and 1/16 inch thick. When you roll out the pastry dough, roll the pin in one direction beginning from about 1/3 of the way up from the side closest to you. Switch directions and roll the pin across the width in one direction. And switch again. Turn the pastry over and roll in one direction from each side. Repeat this until you have an even shaped rectangle about 1/16 inch thick. Rolling the pin back and forth confuses the dough and you do not get an even stretch. Be careful not to over work the dough because it could get too warm. If the dough gets sticky and hard to work with, place on a rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  12. Divide the dough into 5 strips across the width of the pastry dough, about 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 12 inches (30.5 cm) long. Brush each strip with the egg wash. Reserve the egg wash for later.
  13. Divide the sautéed vegetables into 5 equal portions about 1/2 cup (120 ml). Spread the Swiss chard mixture evenly down the middle of each strip. Add about a shy 1/4 cup (60 ml) of feta cheese crumbles on top of the vegetables. (If the dough is difficult to work with, chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.)
  14. Fold the right side of the pastry strip over the filling and even with the left side of the pastry, like closing a book from the back to the front. Press on the edges and seal. Turn the filled pastry seam side down.
  15. Twist each pastry into a spiral and make them into a U shape. Place each pastry on the prepared baking sheets. Place in the refrigerator and chill for one hour. Or place in the freezer and chill for 20 minutes.
  16. Preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes to 400F (200C or Gas Mark 6). If you have baking stones add them on the oven racks when you turn the oven on. Or turn a rimmed baking sheet large enough for two or three bureka to fit, upside down on an oven rack. The stones or the baking sheet will get good and hot and help create a crisp crust. If you only have one stone bake the burekas in batches.
  17. Brush the burekas with the egg wash and garnish with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt, or herbs and spices of your liking. Bake until the burekas are golden brown 30 - 35 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.
  18. Burekas are best eaten the same day they are make. Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
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Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera

It is funny how one little pasta dinner is the cause of serious debate and unfavorable opinions. After all, pasta primavera simply is pasta prepared with delicately cooked vegetables. What is so serious about that? Well, Pasta Primavera’s origin for one, and its popularity for another.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe
A Brief History of Pasta Primavera

This pasta specialty is not of Italian origin, but is a 1975 American creation either at Le Cirque in NY City, or in Nova Scotia with a Le Cirque chef/owner connection, (Wikipedia). The recipe’s fame started at Le Cirque where customers could special order the meal because it was not on the menu. Amanda Hesser’s 2009 article in the NY Times, states Jean Vergens, then chef at Le Cirque, hated the dish so much he refused to allow Pasta Primavera cooked in Le Cirque’s kitchen. In order to satisfy their costumers, the staff had to cook the dish in the hallway.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

What is not of debate is, Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey’s article about Le Cirque’s recipe in the New York Times, made Pasta Primavera famous. Unfortunately, the fame of pasta primavera help create its’ loss of appeal. Across America, Italian American restaurants served Pasta Primavera. This crossover from a secret meal specially prepared, to mainstream America changed its identity. How can pasta with vegetables taste bad? It can when mediocre restaurants take over the pasta primavera market, (Hesser, A. New York Times 2009). Unfortunately, a meal created using French and Italian cooking techniques, became ordinary in the mass production.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Pasta Primavera Done Right

I like my pasta dishes with an abundance of extra ingredients mixed with some pasta, not the other way around. Depending on the recipe, pasta is a foundation for vegetables and sauces to stand out. Preparing pasta with good technique and consideration for the ingredients, creates food that is fresh tasting and has good structure and texture. A pasta dinner becomes a light and comforting meal. Pasta primavera is no exception. Primavera means spring and the vegetables and sauce should reflect a meal with fresh green vegetables with a light sauce. A rich and heavy sauce will overwhelm the vegetables and drain one’s energy.

More pasta recipes: Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables, Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Sausage and Pasta

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and, like a lot of their recipes, has a lot of steps. However, these steps help build flavor and develop a creamy sauce without a trace of cream. Even still, this recipe has 6 steps and the original Le Cirque recipe has 10, so fortunately, it is not as involved as the original.

What makes Cook’s Illustrated recipe so different? The pasta is prepared like risotto. This technique develops lightly toasted pasta with a nutty flavor. Additionally, this technique produces a silky and creamy texture and a double layer of flavor from the vegetables.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

I slightly adapted the recipe by adding mushrooms and lightly toasting the pasta. It is my experience the pasta does not toast evenly in a Dutch oven. It is too deep and therefore, you get an uneven toasting. However, it is convenient to cook this recipe in a Dutch oven, otherwise I need an extra-large sauté pan or more pans. My focus is on the flavors of the vegetables and creating a silky-smooth textured sauce. Because I like the flavor of this recipe so much, I decided not to eliminate the step altogether and just pared it down. I was concerned the luscious texture would not be the same without this step.

As the name suggests, Pasta Primavera is a spring meal overflowing with vegetables. Also contributing to the lively spring flavor are wine, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. This is one of the freshest tasting pasta primavera recipes I’ve had. It is a lovely spring melody of asparagus, peas, mushrooms, leeks, and fresh herbs. It is clear the vegetables are the star of the show.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Gluten-Free Pasta Primavera

A note for a gluten-free version of this recipe. It is my experience that gluten-free pasta breaks down when prepared following the risotto style directions. The result is an unappealing pile of mushy pasta with your delicious vegetables. I recommend substituting the recipe’s method of cooking pasta, and follow the directions given with your favorite gluten-free pasta. I am not certain why my quinoa pasta turned to mush, but it seems a gluten protein structure keeps the pasta shape intact.

You will need less stock and only add it to braise the vegetables. Lightly, cook the vegetables for less time, in a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan. Then, add some vegetable stock and wine and gently braise the vegetables until they are crisp tender. If you wish, just before serving, swirl in a couple of tablespoons of butter to the vegetables for a silkier sauce.

I would love to hear from you. Please tag me @lemonthymeandginger on Instagram or visit my Facebook page if you make this recipe or any recipe from Lemon Thyme and Ginger.  Also, leave me a comment or question in the comment section below the recipe. I love to see and hear about your creations.

Spring Pasta Primavera

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Entree

Cuisine: Italian American

Serving Size: 4-6 servings

Spring Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera is a bright spring vegetable pasta dinner garnished with lemon zest, chives and mint. The texture is creamy, yet there is no cream added. This is because the pasta is cooked like risotto and absorbs all the vegetable stock in the pot. I love the melody of the fresh spring vegetables.

Gluten free note: If you prefer using gluten free pasta, cook the pasta according to the directions on the back of the pasta box. I made this recipe with quinoa pasta and the risotto style cooking method turned the pasta into mush. Briefly cook the vegetables in a separate skillet then add some vegetable stock and braise them until they are crisp tender. You are not going to have as creamy a texture, but the flavors will still be fresh, bright and delicious.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Spring Vegetable Pasta.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, washed then sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 lb asparagus (453 g)
  • 2 cups (330 g) frozen peas, defrosted
  • 8 (about 100 g) white mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 2 TB fresh mint, minced
  • 2 TB fresh chives, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fine lemon zest, plus 2 TB lemon juice
  • 5 TB Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound (453 g) pasta, like farfalle, penne, campanelle
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
  • 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    Prep the vegetables:
  1. Trim off the tough ends from the asparagus. Rough chop the tough fibrous ends and put into a large sauce pan. Cut the spears on the bias into one inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Set the trimmed spears aside.
  2. Wash and trim off the dark green parts of the leeks and add to the pot with the tough asparagus ends. Slice lengthwise down the middle of each leek. Wash each half making sure all the dirt is washed off between the layers of the leeks. Dry them with a clean cloth and slice each half into thin half-moons. Set aside.
  3. Defrost the peas and divide into 2-one cup (250 ml) portions.
    Enhance the broth
  1. Add the dark green leek trimmings and 1 cup of the peas to the pot with the asparagus trimmings. Add the vegetable broth and one cup of the water. Turn the heat to medium-high heat and bring the stock to a simmer. Turn down the heat and simmer the vegetables in the broth for about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables from the stock through a fine mesh strainer over an 8-cup measuring cup or large bowl. Press down on the vegetables to extract as much of the juices as possible. Discard the vegetables and add more water to make 5 cups of stock. Return the stock to the sauce pan and keep warm on low heat.
    Herb mixture:
  1. While you are waiting for the stock to finish, mix the lemon zest, minced mint and chives into a small bowl. Set aside.
    Cook the Vegetable Medley
  1. Add 2 TB extra virgin olive oil to a Dutch oven and set the stove to medium high. When the oil shimmers, add the leeks and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir to evenly coat the vegetables in olive oil. Cook the leeks until soft and just starting to brown about 4-5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the trimmed asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes until just tender, but still has a crispy bite. Add the red pepper flakes and minced garlic, stir and cook for around 30 seconds. Add the peas, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Taste the vegetables and add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat and spoon the cooked vegetable medley onto a plate. Reverse.
    Cook the Pasta
  1. Wipe out the Dutch oven and add 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 2 minutes stirring constantly.
  2. Add the wine and cook until the wine has dissolved. Stir frequently while the wine is reducing.
  3. Add the vegetable stock. Turn the heat up to bring the stock to a light boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Frequently stir the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the stock. 10-12 minutes.
    Putting it all together
  1. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano cheese, and half the reserved minced herbs. Stir the pasta until the cheese is evenly combined. Add the vegetables and stir. Season with Kosher salt, ground pepper.
  2. Serve immediately and garnish with remaining herbs and Romano cheese.

Notes

If you use store-bought vegetable stock, use one that is not predominately made with carrots or winter squash. The stock will look orange and so will everything you cook it with. There are many vegetable stocks on the market and all taste different depending on the vegetables used to make it. (This is one reason why I make vegetable stock). I cannot deny the convenience of store-bought stock, but I encourage you to read the ingredients so you know what you are getting.

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Perfect Holiday Weekend Menu Ideas

What to eat over the weekend? I complied a list of three menus for the holiday weekend to satisfy a variety of food preferences and tastes. One menu for the steak lover. One for food with a little heat. And a menu for a plant-based meal.

My focus for each menu is ease of preparation and the option to cook the main entrée on a grill. Each menu includes an appetizer, main course, vegetable side dish, and dessert. I hope each menu inspires you to cook for yourself and don’t be shy to mix it up a bit. The recipes are easy to scale up or down depending on your crowd. Or enjoy your leftovers for a later date.

Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to only these menus. Just search my archives listing the food you crave and hopefully you will find something to your liking.

It still feels like spring here in the Northeast, but now that it is Memorial Day, the summer has officially started. Let me know if you make any of these weekend menu ideas. I would love to hear from you.

Weekend Menu Ideas For the Meat Lover

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon Recipe

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak 

Zucchini and Corn Salad with Pistachios

Zucchini and Corn Salad with Pistachios

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette

Weekend Menu Ideas For the Spicy Food Lover

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

Roasted Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Dressing

Poblano Chili Cream Sauce with Grilled Chicken recipe

Grilled Chicken with Poblano Chili Sauce

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet and Spicy Herbed Carrots

Double coconut pie recipe

Double Coconut Pie

Weekend Menu Ideas for the Plant Food Lover

Roasted Red Pepper Dip -Muhammara

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Fennel Chickpea Ratatouille Recipe

Fennel Chickpea Ratatouille

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

Auqafaba meringue nest recipe

Aquafaba meringue nests with mixed fruit recipe

Aquafaba Meringue Nests fill with mixed fruit and coconut whipped cream

Hope every one has a fun weekend with friends and family. It looks like a sunny weekend is in the forecast, perfect for lots of outdoor activity and grilling. If you make any one of my recipes post a picture on Instagram and tag me @lemonthymeandginger and #therecipename. You can also post a photo on my Facebook page. I would love to see what you create.

Enjoy!

Perfect Holiday Weekend Menu Ideas
Banana Oat flour Pancakes

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette

There is nothing like eating a fresh ripe nectarine or any ripe fruit for that matter. Its sweet perfume and the soft give of its’ flesh, informs me that I am holding a delicious and ripe nectarine. I love the warm colors. Each nectarine has a unique and variegated mosaic of rich sunset colors. No two nectarines are the same. The bright perfume and one bite will tell you just how ripe the nectarine is. As the juice drips down my chin and elbow I forego all good manners just to get every drop of its sweet juice. To eat a fresh ripe nectarine, is tasting the fruit at its brightest and sweetest. I am in awe of Mother Earth and her many nourishing gifts.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette reicpe

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

Fresh fruit is refreshing and delicious, but sometimes extra preparation and cooking will reward you with a sweeter and more concentrated fruit-filled flavor.  A simple baked fruit tart is an easy and delicious choice for a summer dessert.  One of my favorite baked fruit dessert is a galette. The free form structure of a fruit galette is just my style. I love pie, but I am never satisfied with how mine look. I feel a lot of pressure to present a pristine and detailed pie crust without any flaws. Whenever I try to make a pie, I feel like my fingers just get in the way and I lack the extra-fine motor skills to perform such neat and detailed work. I know practice makes perfect, but the simplicity and informality of a galette appeals to me.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette reicpe

 

Continue reading “Nectarine and Blueberry Galette”

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing

Every time I walk around the Farmers Market I feel like I am on a treasure hunt. There is an element of familiarity with each vender, but also curiosity as the seasons transition from the sparse offerings of early spring to the abundant fall harvest. At every visit, I anticipate the changing produce and new discoveries.  Fortunately, this past week was no exception for I discovered sorrel.

Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing Recipe

In my area, sorrel is only available at Farmers Markets. It is a green leafy vegetable with a bright lemony flavor. It is a hardy plant but for some reason does not have wide appeal. However, every vegetable centered cookbook I own has a few sorrel recipes.  Therefore, it must have some appeal. If Deborah Madison and Alice Walters took the time to highlight this vegetable, it is worth bringing home to see for myself.

Continue reading “Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing”

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

When I first ate quinoa, my gratitude propelled my love for it more than its flavor. I was desperate for another gluten-free option to replace rice, and I was also on a low-glycemic diet. I can eat wheat and other gluten-protein grains, but several of my friends can’t. So, serving food that everyone can eat, not feel different or left out is my entertaining and personal philosophy. Quinoa is a perfect grain (seed), to eat and a great source of protein for plant-based diets. Ever since my discovery of this recipe, quinoa salad with avocado and dried fruit makes a regular appearance on my dinning table, especially for entertaining.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit reicpe

I discovered this salad recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine 2009, in an article featuring avocado recipes. Next to dark chocolate, avocados are one of my favorite foods. Naturally, the recipe grabbed my attention.  During the time, I needed vegan and gluten-free recipes to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. The quinoa salad with avocado turned out to be the perfect option, a two for one deal. Additionally, this quinoa salad turned my attitude around from not just being grateful, but liking quinoa as well. This salad appeals to everyone, not just people who are vegan, vegetarian, or on a gluten-free diet.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

There are many reasons why I love this salad and the taste is just one of them. This quinoa salad is just as much about avocados as it is quinoa. With a ratio of about 2 cups of cooked quinoa to 2 whole avocados, you get a creamy avocado morsel in every bite. Being a major avocado fan, I find this significant amount of avocados wonderful. What’s not to love about an avocado in every bite? There is never such a thing as too much avocado.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Reicpe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The dried apricots and raisins adds punch and concentrated flavor. The nuttiness of the quinoa and creaminess of the avocado provide a foundation for the dried fruit to pop. You do not need a lot of dried fruit, a little goes a long way. The deep orange color of the apricots adds a nice attractive element to the salad as well. If you live in an area where apricots are grown, try substituting fresh ones for the dried apricots. The only consideration is, once sliced, apricots get mushy and aged looking after they linger. However, adding a fresh ripe apricot might be worth a try.

Quinoa Salad and Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The lemon cumin vinaigrette is much brighter than it sounds. Thanks to the absorbing power of the quinoa, the cumin flavor is in the background and does not overpower the delicate flavor of the avocado. The cumin adds a bit of earthiness against the airy and lemony sunshine. The taste of the flavors are unexpected, yet truly complimentary. I love it. The blend of the quinoa, avocado and dried fruits with the dressing is a nice balance of sweet, acid, nuts and earthy flavors. It is not a heavy dressing, just enough to season the ingredients. Therefore, the quinoa salad does not taste or look oily.

More Gluten-free recipes:

Nifty Cake recipe 

Gluten free Dutch Baby

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The only thing I change is, I like to add fresh herbs when they are available. Basil adds a nice bit of fresh green sweetness, and even parsley or mint works. If you want to add cilantro, substitute the lemon zest and juice with lime and see how you like it. Quinoa and avocados pair well with a variety of herbs and spices, just be careful not to overpower the salad with too much of anything. If you need a more substantial meal or substitute for almonds, chickpeas are also delicious in this salad.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit recipe

Making this salad reminds me of my hometown in California. I can picture so many parts of my childhood with each ingredient. Eating avocado sandwiches with my friends at a restaurant in Strawberry. Climbing our apricot tree and picking them before the birds got them.  But, what really touches my heart is when I rinse the quinoa. Running my hands through the cold, wet and gritty quinoa seeds, reminds me of making sand castles and building forts at Cronkite Beach.  It’s usually cold, foggy and the sand is rough. Despite the cold, I love the Marin Coastline and will forever hold it dear in my heart.

Food has a way about savoring old memories and making new ones. Deborah Madison created this recipe, but after making it for so long and cherishing new and old memories, it feels like my own.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

 

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Main Salad

Cuisine: American/ Vegan

4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

If you love avocados, like I do, you will love this quinoa salad. The lemon and cumin vinaigrette is bright with just enough seasoning to blend well with all the ingredients. I make this salad often for entertaining and weeknight dinners.

If you ever need a salad that covers many dietary considerations, this is the one to make. It is perfect for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free diets, as well as a crowd pleaser for everyone.

Use any color quinoa you like. I like the mix the white and red quinoa, but the red quinoa with the green avocado and orange apricot is very appealing.

You can make the salad ahead, but do not add the salad dressing, almonds and avocados until you are ready to serve. Best eaten the day it is made, but will be ok for leftovers the next day.

Recipe is from Fine Cooking Magazine, by Deborah Madison 2009

Ingredients

  • 3 TB raisins, dark, golden or a mix of raisins
  • 2 TB dried apricots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red or white quinoa, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground sweet paprika
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2-3 TB coarsely almonds

Instructions

  1. Add the raisins and apricots to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Soak the dried fruit for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside.
  2. Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water passing through the strainer runs clear, not chalky. Add the rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook until the water is all absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. You will see the germ ring that will look like a white curlicue around each seed.
  3. When done, fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread out on a sheet pan to cool to room temperature.
  4. While the quinoa is cooking, toast the almonds. Heat a small skillet on the stove at medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add the almonds and stir, shake or flip the almonds in the pan and toast the almonds until they get slightly darker and release their oil. About 1 minute depending on how hot your skillet is. You will start to smell the almonds as they toast. Keep the almonds moving so they do not burn. Immediately remove the almonds from the skillet and cool. Once cooled, rough chop the almonds and set aside.
  5. Make the salad dressing. Finely grate the lemon zest into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, and whisk until well combined.
  6. In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa, apricots, raisins, avocados, scallions and chopped almonds. Carefully mix the ingredients together. Try mixing them with a fork so you do not squish the ingredients together. Then add the salad dressing. Mix until combined. Spoon into a severing bowl, garnish with chopped almonds, scallions, and lemon zest. Serve at room temperature.
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