Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill

Scattered across my wooded hillside, a native wildflower called Trout Lily is now in bloom. Their yellow bell shape flowers gaze down upon their mottled green leaves, like a swan gazing at its reflection upon the water’s surface. Trout Lilies are the best alarm clock around. A silent wake-up call with a blooming declaration, “No more hibernating. Spring is continuing as planned.” As soon as the trout lilies are up, even sudden changes in temperature or snowfall, won’t deter the season’s purpose.

Every year, larger patches of trout lilies emerge, scattered about my yard like a ragged crazy quilt disguising the dried leaves, fallen sticks and emerging grasses. My wildflowers did not choose a hospitable home, and it’s a wonder to me that they return and mature every year.  The hillside is steep and the colossal deciduous trees suck away any nutrients the soil provides. Yet, these trout lilies like it here and that makes me happy. They give me my own little piece of wilderness, camouflaged in Suburbia.

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill reicpe
Erythronium americanum, Trout Lily

Rumor has it, Trout Lily, got its name because the mottled leaves resemble the speckled coloring of Brook Trout. Another theory is, they bloom at the beginning of trout fishing season. Regardless of the origin of its name, I wanted to honor “my” trout lilies and this blossoming season. Featured today is a recipe for a Spring dinner with Rainbow trout as the main attraction.  Unfortunately, where I live in the Northeast I cannot get Brook trout because they are diminishing in population. Fortunately, farm raised Rainbow trout is easily available and a best choice selection according to Seafood Watch. 

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill Recipe

A Spring dinner of Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill, served with herbed couscous and asparagus, is one of those dinners you don’t have to fuss over or plan for. Just assemble, and put in the oven. There is very little chopping and you don’t have to worry about being precise, (except for the couscous). As always, be careful not to add too much salt, and this dinner will turn out perfect every time you make it.

Substitutions are hassle free as well. If you prefer, change the dill with tarragon, fennel fronds, parsley, or add all the above. Additionally, you can replace dry vermouth with dry white wine or lemon juice. Though, I hope you try vermouth in this recipe. It nicely rounds out the flavors and tones down the acid from the lemon. Most importantly, make sure you use dry Vermouth.

Rainbow trout with lemon and dill reicpe

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill Recipe

My favorite way to prepare trout is to enclose each fish, or filet, in foil packets and bake in the oven. The fish steams in the packets and produces delicate flaky meat with herb infused juices. I stuff each trout cavity with lemon and dill, then add vermouth for some moisture. This is the same method I used for Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce. Also, you can make Arctic Char with Basil Sauce  using this same technique. Trout, salmon and char belong to the same family and most of the recipes for them are interchangeable with minor adjustments.

Farm-raised rainbow trout is usually sold whole, cleaned, butterflied, and each weighing near one pound (453 g). Depending on the size, one whole fish equals one portion. To me, that seems like a lot of fish. Therefore, I select rainbow trout about one pound in size and consider it enough for two portions. Honestly, they are not large portions, but served with fulfilling side dishes, like couscous and asparagus, a light, healthy and satisfying dinner is at hand.

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill Recipe

For a light starch side dish, Couscous is perfect with rainbow trout. It has a slightly nutty taste with a light and fluffy texture. Fortunately, couscous falls in the top 10 list of easiest foods to make. Simply add boiling water to dried couscous, cover and let it steam for 5 minutes. Luckily, I just discovered a simple technique that makes fluffy couscous from Herbivoracious.com. It works better than the directions on the back of the box of couscous. Instead of steaming the couscous in a sauce pan on the stove, it uses a shallow baking dish, large enough for the couscous to cover it in a thin layer. This brilliant idea gives the couscous more surface area and prevents the miniature pasta from getting sticky. It is my experience cooking couscous in sauce pans, that it gets very gummy towards the bottom of the pot.

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill recipe

Another perfect side dish with rainbow trout is, my recipe for asparagus with orange mayonnaise. It has delicate citrus flavor and easy to prepare. For an extra bonus, make the mayonnaise ahead of time for you to enjoy throughout the week. If you wish, you can keep the asparagus hot, and not add it to the ice bath, as directed in my recipe. Additionally, add a little more lemon zest or juice with the orange mayonnaise for more citrus flavor. I also love saffron aioli with asparagus, and it pairs well with the rainbow trout as well.

Recipe for Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise recipe with Rainbow trout
Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise

Rainbow trout with lemon and dill recipe

Fortunately, it does not take a lot of effort to create an elegant and healthy Spring dinner. With little effort, all portions of the meal can be prepared at the same time. For its ease of preparation and flexibility, rainbow trout with lemon and dill, couscous, and asparagus with orange mayonnaise is an excellent choice for the days when you want to spend your time outside. You can get your day in the sun and later enjoy a meal reminiscent of your playtime. The air is so refreshing now, and lots of earthy wonders to discover. I hope you have a chance and enjoy the blooming Spring days ahead.

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill and Herb Couscous

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Category: Dinner

Cuisine: American

4 small servings

Serving Size: About 4 oz / 125 g for each serving

Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill and Herb Couscous

Celebrate the Spring with an easy dinner of Rainbow Trout with Lemon and Dill. Steaming the trout in foil packets is a very healthy and effortless way to prepare light and flaky fish.

Serve the trout with Couscous and Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise . It is an easy meal to prepare and leaves you lots of free time to enjoy your day.

Ingredients

    Rainbow Trout
  • 2- Shy one pound / 453 g Rainbow Trout, cleaned and butterflied*
  • 1-2 lemons, sliced thin across the width
  • 6-8 springs of fresh dill
  • 2 Tbs dry vermouth
  • Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil for making the packets
    Couscous with Herbs and Lemon
  • 1 cup / 190 g dried couscous
  • 1 cup/ 250 ml boiling water
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp butter (optional)
  • Lemon zest from half a lemon
  • 1-2 tsp of minced fresh dill or another herb

Instructions

    Rainbow trout
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F / 200˚C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the center.
  2. If you wish you can cut the heads and tails off the rainbow trout, (or have your fish monger do it).
  3. Cut 4 pieces of foil, at least 6 inches / 16 cm larger than each fish. Set aside.
  4. Open the trout so both sides are lying flat with flesh side up, then lightly sprinkle the fish with Kosher salt. Scatter small pieces of butter across the flesh, about 1 teaspoon per fish. Lay two or three slices of lemon on one side of the trout. Scatter a few sprigs of fresh dill and top off with another lemon slice. Enclose the lemon and dill filling by moving the unadorned filet over the herbs, like closing a book. Repeat with the other trout.
  5. Take two pieces of foil and place one on top of the other with the dull side up. Drizzle about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil across the center of the foil and smear with your hand to create a nice even coating of olive oil. Place two lemon slices in the center on the foil, then place the seasoned trout on top of the lemon slices. The trout should be centered on the foil. Add a sprig of dill to the fish and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of vermouth. Sprinkle the trout with a pinch of kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil, about 2 teaspoons.
  6. Bring the long sides of the foil together and fold over into itself, to create a sealed seam. Twist each end tightly to seal the pockets. Set on a rimmed baking sheet.
  7. Repeat with the other rainbow trout.
  8. Place the baking sheet with the trout in the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The timing will depend on how big the trout is and how much stuffing there is. I start checking at the 15-minute mark and check every 5 minutes thereafter. To check, carefully unfold one of the foil packets, being careful to keep your face away from the escaping steam. Lift the top filet of trout with a fork or fish spatula and peer inside. Look near the spine and where the flesh is the thickest to see if the flesh is cooked through. The fish is done when the flesh looks whiter than it is pink, and is flaky. The meat springs back when you touch it, and no longer looks translucent.
  9. To serve, carefully open the foil packets and gently lift the fish onto a plate. Open the trout up and cut down along the spine with a sharp knife. Place one filet on a plate and drizzle the rainbow trout with some of the accumulated juices. Serve with couscous and Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise.
    Couscous with Herbs and Lemon
  1. Pour the dry couscous in a baking dish large enough for the couscous to cover in one layer less than ½ inch / 1.5 cm. (My dish was oval shape 7" x 10", 18 cm x 25 cm. Any dish will work just be careful it is neither too big or too small).
  2. Sprinkle the couscous with Kosher salt, butter, minced dill and lemon zest. Gently mix together with a spoon or your clean hands.
  3. Boil the water and pour it over the couscous. Stir with a spoon, then tightly cover the dish with plastic wrap. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Once the time is up, unwrap the dish and fluff the couscous with a fork, scrapping the couscous across the dish until it is evenly loosened and fluffy. Keep covered until ready to serve.

Notes

You can have the fish monger cut of the heads and tails if you prefer. Or you can leave the fish whole. You can also prepare trout filet with this technique as well. The cooking time will be less, so start checking them around 10 minutes.

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

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancake with Mushrooms and Onions

What do you get when you have a cake with a creamy and delicate interior protected by a crispy caramelized exterior? You have a rösti. A potato pancake like no other. Its’ soft creamy interior holds together with just the right amount of the potato’s natural starches, creating a pancake that is tender, creamy and crunchy. Rösti originated in Switzerland and was a breakfast staple for farmers.  Now, people from all over the world enjoy these potato cakes.

I have enjoyed rosti in restaurants and wanted to see if I could recreate them for myself. After researching many recipes, I decided to use a recipe from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. His science based technique is typically spot on, inventive, and not too difficult to follow. After making his recipe a few times I picked up a few skills and some new information.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions reicpe

Like life in general, the key to making a successful rösti is all about balance. They are like fritters or latkes, but are thicker and creamier. The type of potato and the technique used to prepare them, work together and create the perfect amount of starch necessary to hold the whole pancake together. Too little starch and the rösti falls apart when you cook it. Too much starch and you have a sticky pancake. Have you ever played with potato starch mixed with water? Its gooey stuff and not something you want in your pancakes.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions reiccpe

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions reicpe

Kenji believes Russet potatoes are the best ones to use. They are high in starch and will create pancakes with fluffy interiors and crunchy outsides, like the perfect French fries. I agree with him if you follow his technique. For experimentation, I tried a different parcooking method using Russet potatoes and the results were not so great.

Rösti has essentially one ingredient and the key to keeping them intact is the initial preparation. Good sharp tools, like a mandoline or a very sharp knife will cause less potato starch from releasing. A box grater is not as sharp but does a good job cutting the potatoes into the right size.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and onions reicpe

Parcooking helps prevent the potatoes from oxidizing and give the rösti the right texture. He likes to parcook the potatoes in a microwave which is easy enough, and eliminates a step common in other recipes. I often read potatoes are grated raw, then squeezed to rid them of excess water before assembling. Parcooking potatoes gives the potato cake great texture and fully cooked potatoes throughout the pancake.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

Unfortunately, my potatoes oxidized even though I sliced them with a mandoline and parcooked them in a microwave. I am not sure why, but one theory I have is my potatoes where doing what potatoes do, oxidize when exposed to air. Maybe I did not work fast enough, or my knock off Japanese mandoline needs sharpening.  After several trials, I am still working this out.

To experiment, I parcooked the potatoes whole in a microwave, let them cool, then grated them using a box grater. This produced rosti with a light and creamy color, but looked and tasted like mashed potato cakes, not a rosti.  Maybe a medium starch potato like, Yukon gold is better suited with this technique. Oh, so many variables to figure out, and so little time.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushroom and Onions reicpe

If you have a non-stick pan, it will be a lot easier to make. I do not own one and used a cast iron skillet. They are good pans to use just harder to maneuver the rösti out of the skillet. The sides of my pan are more vertical than they are slopped. My rösti had to slither up and over a cast iron mountainside before it could ease on to a plate. It required some extra encouragement with my spatula to get the rosti to “slide” out of the pan.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

As I cooked rösti, I was reminded of making a traditional Spanish tortilla. The amount of oil and the heat of the pan had to be just right so the tortilla would cook properly and slide in and out of two different skillets multiple times. Rösti has less ingredients than a Spanish tortilla, which makes the delicate balance all that more important. It is not hard to make rösti, just more particular.

Traditionally, rösti is considered a side dish, but I love to serve rösti as a meal topped with an egg and salsa. They are also delicious served with any vegetables like spinach. I used Kenji’s suggestion and mixed in a layer of mushrooms and onions because they are one of my favorite foods. I really like this idea and will make it a staple feature whenever I make them.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

Serve rösti as an appetizer with garlic or saffron aioli. It is a delicious small plate option for any cocktail party.  Add smoked or cured fish, pickles, eggs, vegetables, aioli, and your guests have a satisfying and unexpected meal.

I would love to hear from you about your experience making rösti. Let me know in the comments section below the recipe how you like to prepare rösti. Enjoy!

Rösti: Potato Cake with Mushrooms and Onions

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Appetizer, Breakfast, Brunch

Cuisine: Swiss

4-6 servings

Rösti: Potato Cake with Mushrooms and Onions

Rösti can be served for any meal at any time of the day. It is a great brunch food when served with eggs or sausage, or a delicious appetizer with saffron aioli. My favorite way to eat it is with a poached egg and tomatillo salsa or saffron aioli.

You can serve this plain without the mushrooms and onions if you wish.

The rösti recipe is from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Best eaten hot off the skillet.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium russet potatoes, l lb- 1.5 lbs /680 g rinsed peeled and cut with a box grater or mandolin
  • 5 Tb/ 62 g olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 oz / 125 g mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the prepared potatoes in a microwave dish and cook on high for around 5 minutes. You do not want the potatoes overcooked and mushy, they should still have a slight bite in the center.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 Tb olive oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet and add the onion and mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms and onions until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, around 6 - 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper, stir to mix and cook until you begin to smell the garlic's perfume. Remove the mushrooms and onion from the pan and set aside.
  3. Wipe the skillet clean and return it to the burner. Turn the heat to medium and add 2 Tbs to the skillet. Heat the oil until shimmering. Make sure there is an even coating of oil across the whole pan, then spoon half of the potatoes into the skillet. Press down on the potatoes with a rubber spatula and form the potatoes into a pancake. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then spread the mushrooms and onions over the potatoes. Add the remaining potatoes to cover the mushrooms and onions, then press down on the potatoes to cover the top of the pancake.
  4. Cook the rösti on one side for around 7 minutes. Do not disturb the pancake for at least 4 minutes into the cooking time. After 7- 8 minutes, run a thin spatula around the edges and underneath the potatoes to loosen it from the bottom.
  5. Slide the potatoes onto a plate large enough to hold the rösti. Place another plate, upside down, on top of the plate holding the rosti, so the rims are kissing each other. Flip the plates over, so the bottom plate is now the top and lift off the plate. You should see a beautiful golden brown crusty rösti.
  6. Wipe off any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan and add 2 Tbs olive oil.
  7. When the oil is shimmering, slide the rösti back into the skillet and sprinkle with salt and ground pepper. Cook for 7 more minutes.
  8. When finished, loosen the rosti from the pan and slide it onto a serving plate.
  9. Keep warm or serve immediately.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise

Every Spring tender asparagus spears emerge out of the dirt, like miniature trees from an underground world. It is so cool how the spears seem to pop up out of nothing and creep upward toward the sun. It is a wonder to me how these funny looking green stalks grow.

Up until a few years ago, I had no clue about their growth habit until I saw them sprouting in my sister’s garden. Also, the spears don’t just die away after weeks of cutting them back. Eventually, the remaining tips of the spears will loosen and sprout forth 4 to 6 foot feathery fronds for the remaining summer. Fortunately, come the following Spring, this miracle occurs again and asparagus spears emerge for another season.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
Morning light on growing asparagus spears. Photograph by Perrin Smith

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

If an opportunity comes your way, eating freshly picked asparagus is a special treat. Even if you do not like asparagus, you might be pleasantly surprised once you have tasted the newly picked spears. It is a wonder how different freshly grown asparagus tastes compared to the store-bought kind. There is a slightly bitter, slightly sweet, distinctive greenish earthy flavor. Honestly, any vegetable straight from a garden tastes better because it is fresher and given more TLC. I am always grateful for the garden gifts from my sister and friends.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Dressing reicpe

Like a lot of vegetables, asparagus is very easy to prepare and does not require a detailed recipe to enjoy. The most important consideration is to not over cook them. The total amount of cooking time will depend on how thick the spears are, and your method of cooking. Some of my favorite ways to cook asparagus are: simmering, braising, roasting, and grilling. All methods produce good results. Ultimately, no matter which way you want to prepare them, just cook them until they are tender and have a slight crispness when you bite into one.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing Recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
How to Prep Asparagus

If you have never made asparagus here are some tips. There is some debate about how to prep asparagus. Should you peel them? Do the ends need trimming? Do you need a fancy asparagus steamer to make them? First, no fancy steamer pot required. I am not a big gadget person and work very hard to buy kitchen items that have more than one purpose. Steaming is a great way to cook asparagus and can effectively be done without an asparagus steamer in a microwave oven.

Trimming off the woody ends is a good idea, especially for the thicker stalks. Thin stalks don’t always need to be trimmed, but the thick ones do. I usually hold the bottom of a spear with one hand and place the other hand near the center of the stalk, then bend the two points downwards. The theory is asparagus will break at the place where the woody tip ends. This sounds good in theory, but it does not work perfectly all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes bending the stalk breaks off tender and edible sections.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
Trim off the woody end.

Another trimming method is, to line the asparagus up end to end and cut off the ends about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from the bottom. You can see a change in color in the spear as they it gets less woody. The woody part will be whiter in color. Additionally, you can feel with your fingertips where the woody part ends. The woody part will be harder and denser.

To peel or not to peel, that is the question. My answer is sometimes I peel the spears, sometimes I don’t. There is no particular reason for my decision and most of the time I leave the spears alone. Honestly, it depends on how much time I have or how fancy I want to be. If you have older and fatter asparagus, the skin is tougher and not as pleasant to eat. Whereas the thinner stalks have tender skin and easier to eat.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

To peel the skin, hold the asparagus near the tip in your non-active hand with the cut end pointing away from you. Hold the vegetable peeler in the other hand and begin in a downward motion, peeling off the skin. Start about a third of the way down from the tip and move to the bottom. You don’t want to peel off a lot of the spear, only the thin layer of skin.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing Recipe

When I am in a hurry or preoccupied with another part of the meal, I like to simmer asparagus for around 4 minutes in salted boiling water. Once drained, I give them a light coating of olive oil, a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and add minced herbs and/or lemon zest. It is as easy as that. You can add lemon juice or any acid, but it will change the color from bright green to khaki green.

There are times when I want to give my vegetables some extra pizzazz as a part of a composed meal. Asparagus with orange mayonnaise dressing adds pizzazz and offers an unexpected flavor with your asparagus and dinner. It is perfect for asparagus served at room temperature or cold. This recipe is easily adaptable, just add the amount of orange juice to give your mayonnaise the consistently and orange flavor that you want. Additionally, it is easy to prepare a head of time and If you own an immersion blender, even easier to make.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Homemade mayonnaise is a new discovery of mine. I love how light the flavor is. Some recipes call for extra virgin olive oil, but I find that it has too strong of a flavor so I use olive oil instead. If you do not have a blender, food processor or immersion blender, you can still make mayonnaise the old-fashioned way. Use a sturdy bowl, a good wire whisk, and a lot of continuous whisking by hand power. I think it is worth it.

This recipe is a combo of two. I used J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s technique for quick homemade mayonnaise  using an immersion blender. His technique has produced the most consistent results for me. I have made mayonnaise with my food processor, but the success depends on how slowly the oil drips into the eggs while the machine is running.

The orange mayonnaise comes from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I was intrigued with her suggestion to use this with asparagus and wanted to try it out. I love her work and she is a great resource for vegetarian cooking.

As usual, Deborah Madison is right on. The orange mayonnaise brings a delicate and unexpected fruity orange flavor with the asparagus.  She also recommends using the orange mayonnaise with broccoli, fennel, and cauliflower.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Category: Vegetable side dish

3-4 servings depending on size

Serving Size: 6-8 spears per person

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing

A delightful recipe of tender Spring Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing. The delicate flavors of the dressing add subtly and sophistication to a vegetable platter or side dish with salmon, chicken or grilled meats.

The mayonnaise recipe is adapted from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Foolproof Homemade Mayonnaise, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Ingredients

    For the Asparagus
  • 1 pound asparagus, cleaned and woody ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt
    Orange Mayonnaise Dressing
  • 1 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • zest from half an orange
  • 4 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice, or more to taste
    Mayonnaise - makes 2 cups
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • One small clove garlic, finely minced or grated with a microplane (optional)
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1-2 Tbs water
  • 1 cup of canola oil
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

    Asparagus
  1. Trim the asparagus as needed. If you peel them, hold each asparagus at the tip and beginning around a third of the way down, gently peel off the thin skin with a vegetable peeler. Peel down lengthwise along the steam and work your way around.
  2. Prepare an ice bath for the asparagus. Fill a medium bowl part way with ice and add water to cover. Set the bowl aside near the stove.
  3. Put water in a shallow sauce pan and add a pinch of kosher salt. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a bowl. Add the trimmed asparagus and simmer in the boiling water about 4 minutes. The total cooking time will depend on how thick the asparagus spears are. The asparagus should be tender, but still have some crispness and look bright green.
  4. Remove the asparagus with tongs or a spider, and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the asparagus bright green.
  5. Once cooled, remove the asparagus from the ice bath and dry on clean kitchen towel. (Ahead of time note, wrap the asparagus in a paper towel and place in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator until you need them. Eat the asparagus the same day you cook them.
    Homemade Mayonnaise
  1. Immersion blender method by Kenji Lopez-Alt: Use a tall cup just large enough for the immersion blender head to fit in, place the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and one tablespoon of water inside the cup. Slowly add the canola oil to the eggs then slide the head of the immersion blender inside the cup until it rests on the bottom. Hold onto the cup with one hand and turn on the immersion blender. The egg and oil will begin to emulsify. As the oil get pulled down to the bottom, very slowly raise the immersion blender up. You will see the mayonnaise begin to form and the oil being sucked towards to bottom and emulsify.
  2. Once all the oil has emulsified, turn off the immersion blender and scrape out with a rubber spatula, the mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl large enough to whisk in the remaining oil. Hold the bowl steady with your inactive hand and whisk up the mayonnaise. Drizzle in the olive oil small amounts at a time, about a tablespoon, into the mayonnaise, and vigorously whisk the mayonnaise to incorporate the olive oil. Continue to whisk in the olive oil in small increments until all the oil is added. The mayonnaise will last for two weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
    Orange Mayonnaise Dressing
  1. Add one cup of homemade mayonnaise to a small mixing bowl. Add the orange zest and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Whisk all the ingredients together. Taste the mayonnaise and add more orange juice, one tablespoon at a time until you get the right flavor and consistency you want. The orange mayonnaise will last for about one week in the refrigerator.
  2. When done, spoon into a small serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the asparagus.
  3. Arrange the asparagus on a serving plate and drizzle the orange mayonnaise across the asparagus.

Notes

Homemade mayonnaise in a blender or food processor. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, pinch of salt, garlic (if using), and one tablespoon of water into the bowl of your appliance. Mix together. With the motor running very slowly add the canola oil through the hole of the feed tube. Add the olive oil by hand the same way as described for the immersion blender technique.

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How To Make Soup Without A Recipe

I am feeling overwhelmed with all the leftover food from Thanksgiving. Add that on top of all the food I made testing recipes for the blog, my refrigerator is stuffed to capacity. I will feel counterproductive if the food goes to waste.  Ultimately, it is a difficult task for two people to be solely responsible for consuming these large quantities of leftovers. I am humble enough to realize the big picture, too much food is not really a problem. Yet, I can feel the spiritual “Waste not, Want not” glare from my parents singeing me. Plus, my freezer is full.

One benefit of having too much food is I do not have to go out to the grocery store and shop. As long I have a surplus of pantry staples, I can make whatever I desire. Today is a soup kind of day and I am hoping making an impromptu soup for myself and Joe will help me eat up some of this food.

There is no need to follow a recipe for an impromptu soup. Just follow your instinct, desire, and what is in your refrigerator. It is easy to make soup without a recipe. Simply, keep in mind these three layers: the base, the body, and the enhancements. The base is your stock. The body is the ingredients, “fixings,” you want to put in the soup such as meats, vegetables, and grains. The enhancements are the herbs and spices. They give your soup that je ne sais quoi, add depth, and additional flavor to your impromptu pantry soup.

I decided to make turkey soup for lunch using up my homemade turkey stock, cooked turkey, celery, mushrooms, ginger and basil. All ingredients were available and needed to be used up. I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and fresh basil leaves to liven up the flavor of the turkey stock.  It is not a necessary step, but it did add a zippy layer of flavor to contrast the rich turkey stock.

How to make soup without a recipe:

Start with your base, the stock. Homemade stock is best, but if store-bought stock is all you have then go for it. I always say to use what you got. Making soup is an easy way to use up the container of store-bought stock. Vegetable, chicken or turkey stock is a great base with most soups. If you are using store-bought stock, taste it before you season with salt. Use as much stock as you need to feed yourself and or your companion(s), about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of stock per person. This will depend on what type of soup you are making and how hungry you are.

I wanted to make enough soup for myself and my husband, with no leftovers, and used 3 cups of stock.

How to Make Soup without a Recipe

Enhance the stock to the flavors you desire. This is the optional phase of impromptu cooking and depends on your time, what’s available, and your mood. If you have fresh herbs or spices and you want the flavor to be layered within the stock, add a sprig of a herb or two and let it steep in the stock.

I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and a sprig of basil. I steeped the herbs for 30 minutes, then strained out the herbs with a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth. 

Optional ingredients: garlic, fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, dill, cilantro, parsley, lemongrass, ginger, chili paste, white wine, coconut milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, lime zest, lime juice, sherry just to name a few.

Tip: While you are heating up the stock, be careful to prevent the soup from boiling. Boiling will make the stock cloudy.

Add the body, the “fixings”. The fixings can be vegetables or proteins, like cooked chicken, pork or shrimp, or a combination of the two. If cooked rice, potatoes and pasta are available they can be great additions as well. This is a pantry soup so add whatever you want to use up in your fridge or freezer, and believe will taste well together. The amount of each ingredient is up to you. Yet, keep in mind there should be more broth then the fixings, because it is soup not stew.

If you have fresh vegetables cook them first by sautéing them, such as onions, celery, carrots or mushrooms. Or blanch vegetables like green beans, sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, escarole. Frozen vegetables do not need to be defrosted before adding them to your soup stock.

I had some mushrooms, celery, scallions and cooked turkey to use up and added them all. First, I sautéed the celery until softened then added the mushrooms and minced ginger. Once they were all cooked, I added the turkey to heat through. Then I added the cooked ingredients to the soup stock and garnished with scallions and basil.

Assemble and heat through. Put all the prepared and cooked fixings in the stock and heat up. Now you have a simple and delicious soup for lunch or dinner. It is a savvy soup using food from your refrigerator and pantry, and done in 30 minutes or less. A simple process that will get your culinary creative juices flowing and your taste-buds happy.

How to make soup without a recipe.

 

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Lamb Chops, An Early Fall Harvest Dinner for Two

Up until recently lamb was a special occasion meal that was right up there with crab for my requested birthday celebration. I love lamb, but it can be pricey, especially for a family of 5. My five are not your average eaters, 3/5 of them are big, athlete, hungry eaters who devour their meal in half the time as everyone else. Needless to say, we did not serve lamb on a regular basis when my sons were all living at home.

Now that we are two serving lamb, especially lamb chops, is more affordable and we do not have to wait for a special occasion to have a treat. At my grocery store the rib lamb chops come already cut up into single rib pieces and will cook in less than 5 minutes on the stove.  To make delicious lamb chops all you need is a small amount of preparation and a couple of standard ingredients. The lamb chops are so delicious very little needs to be added in for flavor. Do not be intimidated, believing that lamb chops are “gourmet” and will be difficult to prepare. They are little gems and so easy to prepare.

How to make lamb chops

First take the lamb chops out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to cook them. Take them out of the packaging and arrange on a plate. Blot both sides of the lamb chops with a paper towel, then sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt lightly but evenly over the lamb chops on both sides. At this point you can decide how “fancy” you want to get. I like to sprinkle ground sumac and a bit of chopped fresh rosemary, but you can decide what, if any herbs and spices you would like to add. If you do not have sumac, salt and rosemary will be just fine. I do not apply ground pepper at this time because when I cook meat with ground pepper, the pepper can burn in the pan or on the grill and have a bitter taste.

Lamb Chops Early Fall Harvest Dinner for Two recipe

Let the seasoned lamb chops rest on the counter for one hour. The meat will come up to room temperature, which is what you want. Beginning the cooking process with meat that is at room temperature vs 40° F, means less cooking time. There is no need to cover the lamb with plastic wrap, just keep them undisturbed on the counter. If you are nervous about having uncovered meat on your counter, loosely cover the lamb with plastic wrap.

When you are ready to cook the lamb chops, use a skillet, cast iron pan, or grill pan, and heat the pan on the burner on high heat. Add a drizzle of oil (canola or olive oil) to the pan, just enough to lightly coat the bottom. You are ready to cook the lamb chops when the pan is hot and the oil will be shiny and just about to smoke. Arrange the lamb chops on the pan, turn the heat down to medium-high heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes undisturbed. Be careful not to crowd the pan by adding too many lamb chops. Depending on the size of your pan and how many lamb chops you are cooking, you may need to cook the lamb chops in a couple of batches. In my 12-inch cast iron skillet, I can cook 5-6 rib lamb chops at a time.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

A Hint of Summer on a Winter’s Day

I made a new discovery this past week. As I was walking around the produce department I spotted a fruit that I had never seen before, lemon plums. The color was what first grabbed my attention, a warm vibrant yellow with a thin smooth skin. Their shape is somewhat similar to a lemon and somewhat similar to a plum, but longer and a little larger. These days anything bright and warm looking will hold the attention of any skeptical winter weary person. The end of winter is here and we North easterners no longer see the virtue in the color grey. I stared at these lemon plums as if I was watching a long summer sunrise. Entranced, I collected some plums to buy and bring home.

Lemon Plums in season in winter.

My research informed me that lemon plums are in season now and from Chile. They are rare and I was instructed to snatch them up when I saw them. Lemon plums are picked when they are yellow and unripe. As they ripen they gradually turn the color of a reddish-orange, the darker they get the riper and sweeter they will become.

Ripening lemon plums

Ripening lemon plums

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.