Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

In the US roast pork has several names: roasted pork, slow roasted pork, pulled pork, Italian pork roast, Roman Style pork roast, the list goes on. In Italy, especially central Italy around Rome, roast pork has one name, Porchetta, [por’ ketta]. According to Wikipedia, Porchetta  , the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali has designated Porchetta to be a “traditional agricultural-alimentary product” of Italy.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Traditionally, Porchetta is a major production to make. A whole pig is gutted, deboned, massaged with garlic, lemon, wild herbs like fennel, and sometimes other meats. Then it is reshaped and cooked on a spit over an open fire. It is a meal that is served for a celebration, as well as a street food sold out of vans. Currently, you can find white vans all over Italy, but especially Rome, selling Porchetta sandwiches from the van. A special occasion meal turned Italian street food for the world to love.

I have yet to enjoy a Porchetta sandwich in Italy, but I am confident someday I will. Until that time, I can make a scaled down adaptation of Porchetta in my home. You don’t need to break down a whole pig, and you don’t need a fire pit with a rotisserie to enjoy this meal. Thanks to the fortitude of Italian immigrants and enterprising chefs, like Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, us homebodies can create this Italian Roast Pork without it being a major production.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs reicpe

Following a recipe in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I started making my roasted pork with a pork shoulder. I had the butcher butterfly it to easily spread the herbs throughout the pork, then refrigerated the pork to marinate overnight. I baked it in the oven the next day with root vegetables. The final result was a scaled-down Porchetta, a succulent roast pork with golden crispy skin and filled with herbs and lemon.

Porchetta: Italian Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Judy Rodgers does not butterfly her pork shoulder. Instead, she creates pockets throughout the pork shoulder to stuff with the herbs. I thought it would be easier to spread the seasoning all over the meat with it open in one big flat piece. I also wanted to have extra herbs to rub over the top layer of fat. Did I mention the golden crispy skin? The kind you want to pick at when no one is looking. Getting extra crispy and golden skin is one of your goals creating this roast pork.

Rosat Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Keys to Success: Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

There are some key elements to keep in mind. First, Porchetta is all about the dark crispy skin. It is difficult to find pork shoulder that has not had the fat trimmed off. If you have a good butcher, then you can get quality pork with a thick layer of fat on top. Yet, if you are like me and dependent on the grocery store to supply your meat, you can still create succulent roast, but lacking some of the cracklings. Once the pork roast is tied, rub olive oil and any extra herbs over the top.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

If you have a built-in rotisserie in your grill or oven, you are a lucky person. This recipe for roast pork shoulder is perfect for roasting on a revolving spit. The results will be closer to the traditional Porchetta, and you will get dark crispy skin all around your roast.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Several recipes for Porchetta have you cook the pork to an internal temperature of 180˚F/ 82˚C. However, this recommendation comes from chefs who are sourcing high-end quality pork. It is not the pork commonly available, and affordable, to the average person. Pork roast, cooked to 180˚F is a well done piece of pork. If you cook with pork sourced from a small farm that allows the pigs to graze and bred for flavor, therefore has more fat, the high internal temperature should not dry out the pork. In my opinion, most grocery stores do not sell pork containing the same amount of quality fat. If cooked too long the roast will dry out. The best practice roasting standard pork, is to finish baking when the internal temperature reaches 160˚F -165˚F/ 74˚C.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Finally, traditional Porchetta is stuffed with wild herbs. If you have fennel pollen, or know where to get some, I highly recommend substituting the fennel seed with fennel pollen. You will not need as much fennel pollen, because it is more concentrated in flavor. It is not too overbearing because there is more of a floral flavor in the pollen, than an anise one. I love to use fennel pollen in roasts. It is also great sprinkled over goat cheese. If you do buy fennel pollen, it will be worth it as there are plenty of ways to use it up.

One does not have to go to Italy to enjoy Porchetta. You can make it right in your own home. If you do, thank your nation’s Italian heritage. They brought their traditional foods with them to have and share for their new life in a foreign country, and we have all benefited from their journey.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Enjoy Porchetta in New York City.

Porchetta: Italian Roast Pork

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

6-8

You will be more than satisfied if you take the extra time to season a pork roast with herbs and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The pork will be well seasoned and will develop great flavor. I never miss an opportunity to roast vegetables with any roast. Vegetables add extra flavor to the pan juices and get seasoned with the juices and fat from the roast.

Cooking time will depend on the size of your pork shoulder. If you have a temperature probe with your oven, you will be able to gauge the cooking time without always having to take the pork out and check it with an instant read thermometer.

Ingredients

  • One 3-4 lb Boneless Pork Shoulder, butterflied
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest from 1 ½ lemons
  • 18 leaves of fresh sage, crushed and minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 tsp fennel seeds, gently crushed
  • 1 ½ Tbs capers, rinsed and patted dry
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 lbs of assorted vegetables cut into large chunks for roasting, (onions, carrots, parsnips, fennel, turnips, potatoes, etc...)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 - 3 Tbs Dry Vermouth or dry white wine

Instructions

    Preparation
  1. Open the butterflied pork shoulder with the top fat layer on the bottom and cut side up, and lie flat on a work surface. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt evenly over the whole section. If your pork shoulder is smaller than 3.5 pounds, use less salt. Let it rest on the counter while you prepare the herb mixture.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, lemon zest, minced sage, mince rosemary, fennel seeds, and rinsed capers. Stir and crush the herbs until evenly combined. Sprinkle the herb mixture evenly over the opened pork shoulder, reserving some for the top. Roll up the pork to resemble its natural shape, with the fat side up. Secure the pork with kitchen string by tying it in 4 or 5 sections around the width at one inch intervals. Make one more loop around the length of the pork, looping the string around a couple of the tied sections so the string will not slip off. Tie the ends and secure. Trim any loose string. Sprinkle the outer surface of the pork with the remaining herb mixture and ground pepper.
  3. Put the pork in a dish, like a Pyrex baking dish, then loosely cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
    Roast
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F / 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
  2. Cut the vegetables into large bite size pieces or wedges. Place the vegetables in a medium bowl. Lightly coat them with olive oil and season with Kosher salt. Toss the vegetables to evenly mix.
  3. Place the pork roast in a 12 inch - 14 inch oven proof skillet, or medium roasting pan. Add the vegetables around the pork. Put the pan with the pork in the oven and roast until done. After 45 minutes if you notice the roast is not browning turn the heat up to 375˚F /190˚C / Gas Mark 5 until the roast starts to brown. Then turn the heat back down to 350˚F.
  4. After one hour of cooking, turn the vegetables around in the pan to get well coated with the rendered fat from the roast. Check the internal temperature of the pork. This will help you gauge how much longer you will need to bake the pork. Put it back in the oven. At the hour and a half mark, add ½ cup of stock to the pan. If you believe the vegetables are done, remove them before you add the stock. Add any extra herbs like rosemary or sage to the liquid. Bake until the roast is done, with the internal temperature of 160F -165˚F / 74˚C. The pork will be golden brown with crispy skin.
    Make the pan sauce
  1. Separate and remove the fat from the remaining pan juices. Add about 3 tablespoons of dry Vermouth and the remaining 1/2 cup stock. Set the skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan with a wooden spatula or spoon to dissolve all the caramelized bits. Skim off as much fat from the liquid as the sauce simmers. Carefully add any juice that has accumulated on the carving board from the pork roast to the pan juices. Taste and correct the seasoning and put in a spotted serving dish. The sauce could take around 5 - 10 minutes to make.
    Serve
  1. Remove the string that is tied around the length of the roast and the first string located closest to your carving end. Slice the pork into slices no thicker than ½ inch. Remove the strings as you carve.
  2. Serve with the roasted vegetables and pan sauce.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Breakfast, how I love thee, let me count the ways. I love thee for the replenishment after an evening’s fast. I love thee for the breakfast coffee which awakens me from my evening slumber. I love thee for the simple unpretentious food like cereal, eggs, toast and fruit which ease me into a new day. I love thee for the endless sweet and savory discoveries that enlighten me.

Alas, more breakfast love has come my way in the form of a new breakfast discovery. It is not sexy or fancy, but belongs in the simple and unpretentious category – baked oatmeal. I happen to like oatmeal, and all hot cereal, so I am open-minded to this idea of baking it. However, if you are not a fan of oatmeal this might be the recipe that will win you over. It is one of the easiest and adaptable breakfast recipes around.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples ad Apricots recipe

For the last 50 something years, I have been dutifully stirring a pot of oatmeal to just the right consistency, without ever questioning if there was a better way. That was foolish of me, because there is. What a novel idea. It is so simple, I am kicking myself for not thinking of this earlier. Apparently, it is an old secret because the Amish have been baking oatmeal for generations.

Baked oatmeal is rolled oats layered between fruit and sweetened with maple syrup and milk. It is like a cross between a bread pudding and a fruit crumble without the crunch. It is not custardy or rich like bread pudding, but there is a similar texture. The rolled oats absorb the maple syrup and milk, plus the juices of all the fruit and spices while it is baking. This process transforms oatmeal from an indistinguishable porridge to a healthy baked breakfast treat. It is so good, you will believe you are eating dessert for breakfast, minus the guilt.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apriots

While I was baking breakfast rolled oats, the house filled with the sweet scent of maple syrup, apple pie and oatmeal cookies. It was quite intoxicating. I had almost forgotten how magical these aromas can be. Despite the fact I had just eaten lunch, the smell of baked oatmeal made me so hungry, I became impatient for the oatmeal to finish. This seductive smell is very persuasive and could convert any oatmeal skeptic to grab a spoon and dig in. Certainly, I wish I knew about this 28 years ago when I tried, and miserably failed, to get my kids to eat hot cereal. I can imagine their chiming, “Is it done yet? Can I have some?”

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Oatmeal recipe

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Easy Adaptations for Baked Oatmeal

As I mentioned earlier, baked oatmeal is one of the most adaptable recipes around. If you are on a non-dairy diet, substitute milk with unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk. If you are on a vegan diet, substitute with non dairy milk and a flaxseed egg substitute. Full disclosure, I have tested that yet, but I don’t see why it would not work. If you make this a vegan breakfast, please let me know how it goes.

Additionally, use your favorite fruit or whatever is in season. I made this fruit filling because I needed to use up some leftover dried fruit from my pantry. The dried figs, apricots and cranberries went perfectly with apples and minced ginger. Follow the basic recipe, then substitute the fruit with any seasonal fruit you have available, even frozen fruit. They all work. If raisins are the only fruit you want to use, then you will need a fresh fruit like apples, or bananas sliced lengthwise and cover the bottom of the pan. Mix the raisins with the rolled oats and proceed as directed. The fruit on the bottom of your baking dish will help prevent the oats from sticking to the pan.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, is my primary source and where I first discovered this simple but remarkable breakfast. For this recipe, I followed a basic formula I found consistent in most baked oatmeal recipes. Typically, they all had about 2 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of liquid, 1 egg, melted butter, a sweetener, and various amounts of fruit and spices.

March is a tweener month for fresh produce, and why this recipe includes apples and dried fruit. I love to combine fresh and dried fruits. The concentrated flavors of the dried fruit add a lot of fruit flavor. Plus, I had a lot of odd amounts of dried fruit that I needed to use up, and this recipe is perfect for that. My baked oatmeal has a decent amount of fruit in it, but if you want a ratio of more oatmeal than fruit, it is easy to scale the fruit down. Just make sure there is a good fruit layer on the bottom of your pan.

Baked Oatmeal With Apples and Apricots recipe

More breakfast ideas from Lemon Thyme and Ginger:                         Banana Oat Pancakes, Gluten free Dutch Baby Pancake, Lemon Glazed Apple Muffins, Goat Cheese Omelet 

Baked oatmeal is also easy to make ahead and reheat it for a later time. I like to make it on a Sunday morning, then reheat individual portions in the microwave throughout the week. This makes the work week easier to manage when I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast. You can also prepare it ahead, refrigerate, then reheat the whole dish, covered in aluminum foil, in the oven.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

To be honest, I was surprised at how good baked oatmeal is. However, there is one downsize, and that is I used three bowls to make it. Baked oatmeal may require more cleanup, but it is more enjoyable to eat than the standard stove top recipe. This is one new discovery worth making. Oh baked oatmeal, how I love thee.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

6 servings

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Baked oatmeal is an easy and delicious substitute for stovetop oatmeal. All the ingredients are mixed together to make a comforting and nutritious breakfast. It is perfect to make ahead of time, then warm up individual portions to eat during the middle of the week. This is a delicious family breakfast that all members will enjoy.

Use the basic recipe and substitute any fruit to fit into the current season or personal preference.

Serve warm for breakfast or a hearty dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 apples which can be different varieties but should be ones that do not get too mushy when baked
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 6 dried figs
  • ¼ - ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 heaping Tbs of minced ginger
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 tsp if using store bought ground nutmeg)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • Shy ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 cups milk or unsweetened nondairy milk - like coconut or almond milk
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas Mark 5 and place the rack on the top third of the oven. Generously butter an 8’ x 8” (20cm square) baking pan.
  2. Core and slice the apples then chop into decent bite size pieces. There is no need to peel the apples. Mince the dried apricots into pieces between ¼ inch to ½ inch big. Chop the dried figs into bite size pieces.
  3. Add the prepared fruit into a mixing bowl, then add lemon juice, freshly ground nutmeg, and minced ginger. Mix well to get all the fruit evenly distributed. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl mix together the rolled oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and most of the chopped walnuts. (Reserve some walnuts to sprinkle on the top). Mix the ingredients together to get evenly combined. Set aside.
  5. In a third bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, and room temperature melted butter until thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
    Putting it all together.
  1. Add a good layer of the prepared fruit to generously cover the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Add the oatmeal and spread it to cover the layer of fruit. Pour the milk mixture all over the oatmeal, and tilt the pan to encourage the milk to flow into all corners and throughout the oatmeal. Bang the pan against the counter to make sure the milk has flowed completely through the rolled oats and fruit. Add the remaining fruit and chopped nuts to cover the top of the oatmeal.
  2. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until it is golden brown on top and looks set in the middle.
  3. Remove the baked oatmeal from the oven and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon portions of the baked oatmeal in a bowl and serve warm plain, or with additional milk or yogurt. I think it is sweet enough as is, but add more maple syrup if you want it sweeter.
  5. Store in the refrigerator covered for several days. Re-heat in the microwave in a glass container covered with a paper towel.
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Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

It won’t take long to muscle your way through a big bowl of these spicy mussels. Chances are, your bowl will be empty before you realized you started. Eating this shellfish can consume ones’ attention, especially when they are steamed in wine, garlic, and spices. No one wants to miss out of getting every drop and morsel of the flavorful broth. It is a fun and messy affair, but well worth it.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

I have grown to realize people either love mussels, or refuse to eat them. In the past, clams and oysters had a better reputation, because eating mussels was considered risky behavior. Only Gods like Hercules should eat them, for they were invincible to everything. For the longest time, I was a member of that camp. They just did not appeal to me. Fortunately, I have grown-up and changed my attitude.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

When I was a child, I saw mussels everywhere anchored to pillars, rocks and boats throughout the intertidal zone. I believed they were the strangest creatures around. At low tide, I would play under the docks, looking for the perfect skipping rock and other hidden treasures. I saw colonies of mussels tightly glued on pillars, like bunches of grapes ready to be picked. Purposefully, I would attempt to pull one off, and always fail. How they managed to cling so tightly to every surface along the shoreline intrigued me. Their beards were thin and stringy, and I was dumbfounded at the holding strength of the tiny fibrous strands. If someone told me back then, mussels were alien creatures from another galaxy, I would have believed them. The thought of eating these sea creatures never crossed my mind.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Several years ago, I was researching healthy foods and mussels kept showing up as a superfood. Based on my research I became more open-minded to try them. After all, how can I have an opinion on something I know nothing about? Fortunately, I did change my mind, because now I love them. Unlike clams, they are very tender and slightly sweet with lots of protein, low in fat, and tons of beneficial nutrients.

There are many ways I like to prepare mussels, and this recipe with chorizo sausage is just one in a collection. One of the best aspects of cooking with mussels, is you do not really need a recipe to create a delicious meal. Exact amounts are not necessary. Put them in a pot with a little liquid and garlic and you have an easy dinner. My recipe is a little more involved than that, but still simple to execute. I have written this recipe as a guideline for you to learn the process and hopefully inspire you.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Tips for Success Cleaning and Eating Mussels

Where to get mussels? If you are lucky enough to know a secret spot along the coast where you live, this will be your freshest option. Please only take what you need and be aware of the health of the waters you harvest in.

The most available option is to buy mussels at the store. The ones that are most common are from, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Mussels from PEI are farm raised, reliable and sustainable. They are also a great bargain with a 2 lb bag costing around $7.00. Harvesting date and best used by dates are provided on the label of each bag.  Ask the fishmonger to pack them in ice, if they have not already done so.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Care and cooking: As soon as you get home, take the mussels out of the plastic bag and store loosely in a bowl covered with a kitchen towel. Put the bowl immediately in the refrigerator. No plastic wrap, and not submerged in water. If you are keeping them in the refrigerator for a couple of days, pour out any accumulated water from the bottom of the bowl.

When you are planning to cook the mussels, inspect each one and clean them. Most farm raised mussels come cleaned, but they still need a once over for stray grit and beards. Run cold water over the mussels and inspect for broken shells, grit and the beard along the straight edge of the shell. Slice off any stray beards with a sharp paring knife.  Throw out any mussels with broken shells.

If a mussel shell opens, tap the top of the shell with your finger. If the shell does not close, throw it away. Store the clean mussels in the refrigerator in a bowl loosely covered with a towel until you are ready to cook them.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

4 large main course servings, or 8 first course servings

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

Mussels steamed in wine, tomatoes, garlic and spices creates a delicious broth that will have you licking your fingers. The chorizo adds some warmth and kick to the mussels, providing more depth of flavor. If you are cooking for non pork eaters, this meal is just as delicious without the sausage. Serve with a salad and lots of crusty bread to soak up all the sauce. You will need extra napkins.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs / 1k mussels
  • 2 Tbs olive oil divided
  • 1/2 lb / 225g chorizo sausage
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 medium size garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1 1/2 cups / 250 - 375ml dry white wine like sauvignon blanc
  • 8 tomatoes from a 28oz can of whole tomatoes (or 8 fresh plum tomatoes)*
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • Small pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • two sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
  • Finely grated zest from one lemon, and juice from half a lemon
  • 1 long strip of orange zest (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 4 oz / 125g watercress, or arugula, or swiss chard, thick stems removed and rouch chopped

Instructions

  1. Before cooking, clean and inspect the mussels. Check for grit and stray beards. Discard any mussels that have broken shells and the ones that the shells remain open after tapping them with a finger. Put the cleaned mussels in a bowl loosely covered with a cloth, no plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until you are about to cook them.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausage. Pour 1 Tbs of olive oil in a Dutch oven and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the chorizo sausage and cook, stirring often to break the sausage up. Continue to break up the chorizo while the sausage cooks to get different size pieces that resemble cooked ground beef. Remove the chorizo from the pot and reserve for later. Taste the cooked chorizo to see how spicy the sausage is so you will know how to adjust the seasoning for your broth.
  3. Add the remaining olive oil and turn down the heat to medium. Add the minced shallots and cook, stirring occasionally so the onions don't brown. Cook the sausage until they soften and look translucent, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook until the garlic begins to release its scent, about one minute.
  4. Pour in 1 cup / 250 ml of white wine and deglaze the pan. Allow the wine to boil down slightly for a couple of minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme bundle, pinch of saffron, orange zest, and lemon zest.
  5. Cut the tomatoes into irregular bite size pieces, then add the tomatoes to the pot with the wine and onions. Reserve the juices from the can to thin the broth if necessary.
  6. Bring the tomatoes to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Simmer the tomato sauce for 15 minutes so all the flavors blend. Half way through the simmering, taste the tomato sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. You may need a small pinch of granulated sugar, (1/2 tsp) if the tomato sauce tastes to sharp. Add more salt, paprika and red pepper flakes if more punch is needed, or based on how spicy the chorizo is.
  7. After the tomato sauce has simmered taste for the balance of flavors. Add more wine if the sauce need to be a little thinner. The mussels will also emit their own juices so don't make the sauce thin. Add the cooked sausage and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the sauce to a full boil then add the mussels. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. No peeking under the lid for the first 5 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately in bowls with crusty bread and a spoon, and lots of napkins. Mussels are best eaten the same day it is made.

Notes

If you want to cook with fresh tomatoes, cut plum tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Rough chop the tomatoes for irregular shaped pieces.

The meal can be made ahead of time up to the point of adding the mussels. Keep the tomato sauce in the pot covered in the refrigerator if you will be saving it for longer than one hour. Keep the mussels in the refrigerator up to the minute you are ready to add them into the pot to cook.

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Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Have you ever heard of wild sea spinach? I hadn’t until I read about it in, The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Henry. Wild sea spinach grows along the coastline of Ireland, and other countries in the UK. Another species of wild spinach grows in New Zealand and parts of Asia. Sea spinach is related to most cultivated beets. However, casting family lines aside, prepare sea spinach the same way as cultivated spinach. Darina has made me so curious about wild sea plants. I wonder how they taste and if they are salty from being bathed by the sea.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

Anyway, I saw a recipe of hers where she prepares wild sea spinach in a butter sauce and serves it spooned over oven poached sea trout. Maybe I am a romantic at heart, but the idea of cooking vegetables and fish from the local coastal area made me want to jump into the cookbook and be there. If you read my post about crispy potato skins, you know about my fantasy wanting to forage wild plants with Darina. It is very possible this recipe could have been the one that got my fantasy in full gear.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

In Darina recipe, she poaches a whole sea trout “en papillote”. This is a technique where you wrap fish in foil or parchment paper and bake it in the oven. I love to prepare fish using this technique. The fish is very moist and the natural juices accumulate in the pouches. I have never poached a whole fish en papillote before. My visual of a whole salmon wrapped in foil is rather massive and would be hard to handle. For my purposes, I decided to scale the recipe down.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Salmon filets are a great substitute for sea trout. I also believe arctic char or small rainbow trout would work too. Perhaps, I may have to go to the UK to get sea spinach, but now and then sea trout is available in our stores in the Northeast US. I substituted baby spinach to replace the sea spinach. It may not have the ocean saltiness, but the baby spinach has a wonderful smoothness and flavor in a butter sauce.

The spinach butter sauce is an adaptation of a beurre blanc, a French white butter sauce, and is traditionally served with fish. It is not difficult to make, but you must be patient and not let the butter get too hot. While I am whisking in the butter, I usually move the pan on and off the heat to control the temperature. It is important to keep whisking away until the butter is all incorporated. Your whisking, and keeping the temperature low, are the keys to get the butter emulsified in the sauce.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach butter Sauce

Baked salmon with spinach butter sauce is a delicate and rich dish. Because the spinach sauce must stay warm, and is not easily reheated, it is not a meal that can easily be made ahead. It is possible to cook the fish ahead and serve at room temperature. However, the spinach butter sauce must be warm. I have read that a thermos will help keep the butter sauce warm, or placed in a double boiler on very low heat. Ultimately, it is best to eat salmon with spinach butter sauce as soon as it is done.

This is an elegant meal, and I believe a treat to be served on occasion. Serve along with baby potatoes boiled in salted water then drizzled with olive oil and herbs. You need the boiled potatoes because whatever amount of sauce the salmon does not soak up, the potatoes will. You should not serve this meal with anything else that is rich and fancy. The spinach butter sauce is all the embellishment you need.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

A delicious dinner of oven poached salmon with spinach butter sauce, boiled baby potatoes with parsley and chives, green salad with a light dressing, white wine, and good company. Your special dinner is ready.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

4-6 servings

Serving Size: 4- 8 oz servings or 6- 5 oz servings

Fish wrapped in foil or parchment paper packets, en papillote, then baked in the oven is a great way to cook fish. The fish stays moist and the natural juices accumulate in the pouches. The spinach butter sauce adds a luxurious element and compliments the fish nicely. Perfect with boiled baby potatoes.

This recipe is slightly adapted from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

Ingredients

  • 5 oz / 150g baby spinach
  • 2 lbs / 1 kilo salmon filet, or one side of arctic char
  • Kosher Salt
  • 4 tarragon sprigs, divided
  • Fennel Fronds (optional)
  • ¼ cup/ 60 ml dry vermouth or dry white wine (optional)
  • 5 Tbs butter plus 1 Tbs
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml heavy cream
  • 1 lb / 455 g fingerling potatoes
  • 1 – 2 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
  • About 1 Tbs minced chives
  • About 2 Tbs chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F / 190˚ C / Gas Mark 5
  2. Wash and remove the stems from the spinach. Blanch the spinach in salted boiling water for one minute after the pot returns to a boil. Drain the spinach then shock in ice water. Place the blanched spinach on a clean flour sack towel, or thin kitchen towel, to dry, then squeeze out all the water from the spinach. Finely mince the spinach and set aside.
  3. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is at least 6-8 inches (20 cm) longer in length, and wider, than your piece of fish. Lay the aluminum foil on a sheet pan, large enough to hold your piece of fish, and smear half a tablespoon of butter across the center part of the foil. Place the salmon on the buttered surface and smear, or dot, the surface of the salmon with a half tablespoon of butter. (If your piece of fish is larger or your a cooking a whole fish, you will need more butter). Sprinkle the salmon with salt and scatter half of the tarragon leaves over the salmon and some fennel fronds. (If you are cooking a whole fish, add the herbs and salt in the cavity of the fish). Add the vermouth or wine if using.
  4. Cover with another piece of aluminum foil and fold in and crimp the 4 sides of the foil to create a tight seal.
  5. Place the fish in the preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your fish. Start checking to see if your fish is done at 20 minutes. Press down on the top of the salmon at it thickest part. If it feels tender but firm with some give, then the salmon is done. Once the salmon is done cooking, take it out of the oven and let it rest in the foil for 10 minutes. You can take the salmon out of the oven slightly before it is done, as it will continue to cook while it rests.
  6. In the meantime, mince the remaining tarragon and set aside.
  7. Boil some salted water in a saucepan large enough to hold all your potatoes. Add the fingerling potatoes, whole, to the salted boiling water and cook until done. Depending on the size of the potatoes, they could be done between 10 and 20 minutes. The potatoes are done when you pierce them with a knife, and the knife slides easily in and out of a potato without resistance. Check several potatoes to determine if they are all cooked. Drain the potatoes, and when cool enough to handle but still hot, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, chopped parsley and minced chives.
  8. While the salmon and the potatoes are cooking, make the spinach sauce. Add the heavy cream to a wide mouth saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Carefully bring the cream to a boil. Once the cream starts to boil turn the heat slightly down, simmer until the cram is reduced by half its volume, ¼ cup. Once reduced, add the minced spinach and remaining tarragon and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low then add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, to the sauce and whisk in completely. Once the butter is thoroughly whisked in, add another knob of butter then whisk and repeat whisking it in. Repeat until all the butter is emulsified in the sauce. While you are making the sauce, watch the heat carefully and whisk constantly, you do not want the butter to get too hot or it will separate or brown. Once the fish is rested, carefully pour out some of the juices from the fish into the sauce, then whisk until combined.
  9. Place the fish on a platter and spoon the spinach butter sauce over the fish. Put any leftover sauce in a bowl for your guests to help themselves. Serve with the boiled potatoes.
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Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Whenever I go out for breakfast or brunch I have a silent debate about what to order. Usually, I will toggle back and forth between the different selections. Do I want pancakes? Eggs? My thoughts circle around in my head questioning which would be healthier, won’t leave me hungry in two hours, and what do I really want? It is ridiculous, but I must walk my way through the menu, weigh each option, assess my mood, then grant my wish.

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes recipe

On the occasion that I do choose pancakes, I feel as if I have made a gutsy decision. A cheer for a laissez-faire attitude to eat whatever I want, and stand up to the imaginary food police. When did pancakes become a guilty pleasure? A song comes to mind coaxing me to live by the wise words of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU
Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Fortunately, I devised a solution to convince my inner grumblings and created a more “nutritiously dense” pancake breakfast. I substituted all-purpose flour with oat flour. I could be kidding myself, believing pancakes made with oat flour are healthier and a more nutritious choice then pancakes made with all-purpose flour. It is a whole grain after all. At this time I am not sure how reliable my nutritional information is. Yet, if we put the potential nutritional benefits aside, pancakes made with oat flour are moist, airy, and have a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. In other words they taste great, extra health benefits or not.

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes recipe

It is not just a straight swap of all-purpose flour with oat flour. Oat flour does not have the gluten proteins and will need extra leavening. Also, oat flour has more moisture than all-purpose flour, so you might not need the same ratio of liquid to flour. The easy part is, pancakes are the perfect place to start learning how to cook with gluten-free flour because of its free-form structure.

You can make oat flour by putting rolled oats into a blender and grind away. However, the flour will not get as smooth as the store-bought oat flour. The uneven gritty texture might be fine in some baked goods, but I prefer my pancakes light with an fluffy texture minus the granules. If you can find oat flour at your grocery store, buy it. Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur  are two companies that make oat flour. Fortunately, Bob’s Red Mill is widely available at most grocery stores and usually costs around $3.65, and over $6.00 for gluten-free oat flour. If you want to make banana oat pancakes for someone with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, make sure the package says it is gluten-free on the label.

Airy Banana Oat Pancake recipe

I believe oat flour adds a nice flavor to pancakes and does not have that floury aftertaste that you sometimes get with all-purpose flour. Banana Oat Pancakes are a great way to sneak in some oatmeal for little ones, (and big ones) who are not so fond of eating a bowl of oatmeal cereal.

 

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

14 pancakes 3 inch pancakes

Serving Size: 2 - 3 pancakes per person

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Airy banana oat pancakes are light with a slightly sweet and buttery flavor. It is a great way to add some nutritious oats into your diet. They are made with oat flour and is a delicious gluten-free alternative for pancakes.

For Blueberry Pancakes substitute the bananas with 1 cup fresh blueberries.

For Buttermilk or yogurt pancakes: substitute the milk with 1 ½ cups buttermilk (or yogurt) and ½ cup milk. Substitute the baking powder with 1 tsp baking soda plus 1 Tb baking powder. Omit the vanilla. The batter will be a lot thicker than pancake batter with milk.

Serve the pancakes with butter and warm real maple syrup.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tb (1 1/2 oz/ 43 g) melted butter
  • 2 cups (7 oz/200 g) oat flour
  • 3 Tbs granulated sugar (2 oz/56 g)
  • 1 Tb plus 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 tsp if using store bought ground nutmeg)
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs separated
  • ¾ cup rough chopped bananas (4 ¾ oz / 137 g, about 1 ½ bananas)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 225˚F. Place a baking sheet in the oven on a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Melt the butter using a microwave or stove top. Set the butter aside to come to room temperature.
  3. Sift the oat flour into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg to the bowl with the oat flour. Stir the ingredients so they are evenly combined with a wire whisk. Set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix together the egg yolks, milk, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add the egg and milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix together until well combined with the whisk. The batter will thicken and you will see some air bubbles. Add the cooled melted butter and bananas then mix until just combined.
  7. Add the egg whites and mix until well combined. You do not have to worry about over mixing with oat flour because there are no gluten proteins. Optional: whip the egg whites with an electric beater until they are stiff, but not dry. Then fold one quarter of the egg whites into the batter. Add the remaining egg whites and carefully fold them until all mixed in.
  8. Heat your griddle or skillet to medium - medium/high heat. (I set my electric griddle to 350˚F, then turn in down to 325˚F when it is hot.) To test if your pan is hot enough, flick some water onto the surface of your heated pan. If the water bubbles, sizzles and dance, the pan is hot enough. If the water just sizzles, then the pan needs more time to heat up. If the water immediately evaporates, then the pan is too hot.
  9. Melt a little knob of butter on the griddle or skillet, and spread it evenly over the pan's surface.
  10. Use a 1/4 dry measuring cup to scoop the pancake batter and pour the batter onto the hot surface. Use a thin rubber spatula to help scrape out the batter from the cup. Continue to scoop and pour batter onto the hot pan until the pan is full but not crowded. I fit 6 pancakes at a time using a countertop griddle. A 12-inch skillet will fit 3 pancakes at a time.
  11. As the pancake batter cooks it will begin to form bubbles. When some of the air bubbles pop, the pancakes are ready to flip. Look for some air bubbles appearing in the middle of the pancake, about 2- 3 minutes. Use a sturdy spatula, flip the pancakes over, and cook the other side for another minute or 2. You want nice golden brown color on both sides of the pancakes and cooked all the way through in the middle.
  12. Put the cooked pancakes on the baking sheet in the oven to keep them warm while you finish the rest of the pancakes.
  13. Serve with warm maple syrup.

Notes

Pancake batter is not suitable to making ahead of time. All the loft from the leavening and egg whites will deflate over time. Cook the pancakes as soon as the egg whites are folded in the batter.

If you need to prepare the pancake mix ahead, mix together all of the dry ingredients and cover them with plastic wrap. They can sit on the counter until you plan on making them. Add the wet ingredients and egg whites when you are ready to cook them.

It is optional to whip the egg whites. I did not detect a significant difference between whipping them or not. Pancakes made with oat flour benefit from extra leavening so it won't hurt, but it is not mandatory.

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Pasta Dinner with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

I am craving some cozy comfort and additional heat. My immediate options are to curl up wrapped in a blanket and read a sultry book, or I could build a fire in the fireplace and enjoy a nice cocktail with my husband.  However, dinner is pressing and although I have been known to get passionate, no one can be comforting when they are hungry. A steamy pasta dinner comes to mind. Eating pasta is always comforting, and the heat can easily be added. Putting all my available ingredients together, I can create a pasta dinner with Brussels sprouts and sausage. A plateful of comfort and spice, all bathed in olive oil, garlic and hot red pepper flakes.

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

What I love about cooking with pasta is the ability to immediately create a meal with absolutely anything. If all you have in your pantry is a box of pasta and a can of tuna, a delicious dinner is at your fingertips. A no fuss, use what is available, pasta dinner. This recipe is an example of just that. I created a pasta dinner with spicy Brussels sprouts and sausage because, Brussels sprouts and sausage were my only options for dinner.

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Our cupboards are not usually so sparse. We have all had those moments of staring blankly into the refrigerator or pantry, wondering what to make for dinner. Pizza delivery can often win out on such occasions.

I have to admit that for the past 33 years there has always been at least one box of pasta in my pantry. A box of pasta has saved the day more times than I can remember. With three sons who were all swimmers, a box of pasta always ready and available in my pantry, was an absolute necessity. These boys were always hungry.  If I had pasta, additional vegetables, some protein, or a can of beans, I could squelch their hunger pains with a satisfying pasta dinner in 30 minutes.

I used to despise Brussels sprouts. They smelled bad, and in my opinion had a rancid flavor. Fortunately, my attitude was surprisingly altered. A few years ago, I tasted Brussels sprouts at a holiday dinner. The Brussels sprouts were bright green with a surprising sweet flavor and I had never tasted them like that before. Since that time, I turned into a devout fan. I realized that up until that point the Brussels sprouts I was familiar with were not properly cooked. In fact, they were overcooked. Unfortunately, this happened frequently to all the prepared vegetables of my youth, and I find it amazing that I have overcome my childhood disdain for them. If the Brussels sprouts are cooked properly, they will appeal to everyone.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

Brussels Sprouts with Lardons

Now a warm blanket of a delicious pasta dinner has enveloped me. The comfort of being with my family surrounds me, and my craving pangs are subdued. However, the idea of building a fire in the fireplace and enjoying a cocktail would be an added bonus. Reading a sultry book not a bad idea either. Enjoy!

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Pasta

Easy Substitutes for Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Substitute the Brussels sprouts with 1 head of broccoli or cauliflower. Cut the vegetables up into bite size pieces. You can blanch the broccoli in the pasta water before you cook the pasta, then add them to the sausage in the skillet. Be careful not to overcook the broccoli.

Substitute the sausage with 6-8 oz of diced pancetta or chopped bacon. Cook them until nicely browned.

Instead of pork sausage use chicken or turkey sausage. Depending on how they are prepared, keep the chicken sausage in its casings and slice them into bite size pieces on the diagonal.

For a lighter meal, replace the sausage with 6 anchovies filets. Add the anchovies with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir the anchovies so they dissolve into the olive oil.

For a vegetarian option add walnuts or pine nuts to replace the sausage. Toast the nuts, then add them when you add the pasta.

Add some extra sweetness by adding a handful of golden raisins. They are a perfect pair with the Brussels sprouts and pine nuts.

Pasta Dinner with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

 

Pasta Dinner with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

4-5 servings as a main course

Pasta Diner with spicy Brussels sprouts and sausage is an easy dinner that can be adapted to any taste. I prefer the heated spicy additions of a pasta dinner to be a background flavor and not overpower the meal. Add more or less of the dried red pepper flakes to suit your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb box favorite pasta, such as campanelle, penne, or farfalle
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ lb sweet sausage*, casing removed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, green germ removed and minced
  • ½ tea red pepper flakes
  • ½ tea crushed fennel (optional depending on type of sausage)
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • Zest of 1//2 a lemon
  • Small handful of parsley, chopped
  • Fresh Fennel fronds minced (optional)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • About ¼ cup reserved pasta water
  • Grated Romano Cheese for serving

Instructions

  1. Trim off the ends of each Brussels sprout, remove any discolored or loose leaves, and cut into quarters. Set aside.
  2. Fill a stock pot with water. Turn heat to high and boil water.
  3. Place a 10 – 12-inch skillet on a burner and turn it on to medium high heat. Add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot and shiny, add the sausage. Cook the sausage until it is no longer pink and completely cooked through. Use a wooden spoon, or fork, to stir the sausage and break it into crumbly chunks. When just cooked through, turn off the heat and remove the sausage from the pan using a slotted spoon. Set the sausage aside on a plate, or in a bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil add 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the back of the box, making sure the pasta is al dente when finished. Frequently stir the pasta to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  5. Turn the heat back on and add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and crushed fennel. Cook briefly until you begin to smell the garlic then add the Brussels sprouts and ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt. Stir to mix the Brussels sprouts with the garlic and red pepper flakes, then allow the Brussels sprouts to cook through and get golden brown on the sides. Add extra olive oil if the pan if it is dry.
  6. Add the vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water to the pan then stir to combine. Cover the skillet with a fitted lid, and cook the Brussels sprouts until they become soft but still bright green, about 4 minutes.
  7. Uncover the pot and turn off the heat if the pasta is not ready.
  8. Once the pasta is done, collect about ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the cooked pasta back into the stock pot then add the sausage and Brussels sprouts. Stir to evenly combine then add the parsley, lemon zest, fresh fennel fronds if using, about 3 Tb of pasta water, and butter. Gently stir to combine.
  9. Serve immediately while hot with grated Romano or Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

Notes

A lot of stores and brands make their own sweet or spicy Italian sausage. I have not discovered one that I really like. The sausage is usually seasoned with an herb or spice, or other ingredient that dominates the flavor. usually that added ingredient does not go well with what I am making. Often black pepper is overwhelming and I find it to be very bitter. Thus, I usually do not buy the store brand. I have had consistent results with Premio Brand, Sweet Luganiga Sausage, or their breakfast sausage. It is available at most supermarkets in my area. A breakfast style sausage, not Jimmy Dean, is another option. If you have a favorite sausage that you prefer, please use it. However, I recommend to taste and adjust the seasoning throughout the cooking process.

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Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

My family knows, they can always give me a cookbook as a gift.  It does not matter if the cookbook is an older publication or a new one, I will always welcome any addition to my collection. This year my husband gave me The Baking Bible Cookbook by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I am familiar with Rose Beranbaum’s work because I own another book of hers, The Cake Bible. She is a one of a kind baking guru and a significant authority about the science involved with baking. If you are curious about culinary science, she is the number one resource. Learning from her cookbooks will make you a better baker.

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

As I turned each page of my new book I made mental notes to myself of baking projects to try later.  Ultimately, my goal was to find inspiration for something I could make immediately. Upon first sight of her recipe Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes, I decided this was the one. These baby cheesecakes enriched with blue cheese instantly grabbed my attention. They were beautifully photographed with slivers of Bosc pears draped over their tops. Additionally, the crust of the baby cheesecakes is made with one ingredient, crushed walnuts. They are a new twist on the classic pairing of walnuts and blue cheese. Add some champagne to serve with these baby blues and you have an elegant party spread for all to enjoy.

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecake

Another great feature of these baby cheesecakes is the blue cheese itself. The combination of blue and cream cheese creates flexibility for the cheesecakes to be served as either an appetizer or a dessert. I can add additional blue cheese to make them more savory, or less to make them sweeter for dessert. As well, they can be made in advance, which is always a plus. I am not usually a cheesecake fan, however this recipe for baby cheesecakes came across as a pleasant surprise. They are savory, sophisticated and unexpected all in one bite.

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecajes

One change I made to the original recipe was to switch the type of blue cheese. The original recipe called for Stilton cheese, which I like, however I love Point Reyes Blue Cheese. It is creamier and not as sharp as Stilton, yet still maintains that distinctive blue bite. This is my favorite blue cheese, and is made in the sacred land of my childhood, the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. I can’t help myself when it comes to Point Reyes Blue Cheese or any of the other cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. Their cheeses remind me of home and help me feel connected to this treasured seashore.

Dinner Ideas when serving Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

Serve Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes as a first course with a green salad then  Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak , or My One Pan Chicken Dinner as the main entree.

Serve Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes as a cheese course along with fresh and/or dried fruits at the end of the meal. 

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

My new book, The Baking Bible, has been christened and I have a new recipe using one of my favorite cheeses. Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes are an elegant, versatile and creamy bite of bliss.

Cheers to a beautiful, happy and healthy 2017. Enjoy!

Helpful Hints Making Point Reyes Baby Cheesecakes:
  1. If using a metal muffin pan, do not skip the step of placing parchment paper into each muffin cup. Even if you have a non-stick pan the parchment will make it a lot easier to lift the baby cheesecakes out of the cups. Additionally, the parchment paper will stick to the pan so you will not have to pull the paper off the bottoms.
  2. Boil water in a tea kettle and then pour into a medium bowl. Use the hot water to heat up a metal spatula or knife and then wipe clean with a kitchen towel. The heated and cleaned knife will make lifting the cheesecakes out of the tins easier and smooth out the edges.
  3. Garnish the baby cheesecakes with fruit, nuts or minced arugula combined with chopped walnuts and pears. Lightly dress the greens with extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.
  4. If serving as an hors d’oeuvres, serve them on a multigrain cracker. It will taste great and will be easier to manage.
  5. For a first course serve the Blue Cheese Baby Cheesecakes with a salad of arugula and pears, lightly dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.

 

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

12 baby cheesecakes

Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes

These delicious Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecakes can double as a dessert or an appetizer. For a personal touch, feel free to use your favorite strong flavored blue cheese. The original recipe used Stilton cheese in these baby cheesecakes. This recipe is from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 shy cup (3 oz/84 g) walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tb (2.6 oz/75 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 Tb (9 g) cornstarch
  • Kosher salt, a pinch
  • 1 1/3 cups (12 oz/60 g) cream cheese at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup (2.1 oz/35 g) sour cream
  • 2 -3 Tb (35 g - 52 g) Point Reyes Blue Cheese*
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten

Instructions

    Prepare the muffin pans
  1. 2 - 6 cup silicone muffin pans set on a wire baking rack and placed into a sheet pan Or 1 - 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. For the silicone muffin pans - lightly coat the muffin pans with cooking spray then place them on a wire rack set in a baking sheet.
  3. For the muffin tin - coat each muffin cup with shortening or butter and cut small circles of parchment paper to set in the bottom of each cup. Lightly spray each cup with cooking oil spray.
    Toast the walnuts
  1. Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the oven at 350˚ F/175˚ C/Gas Mark 4. Let the oven heat up for twenty minutes before you toast the walnuts.
  2. Spread the walnut halves evenly over a small baking sheet, place in the oven and toast the walnuts to bring out the oils and enhance their flavor. Toast for 7 minutes turning the walnuts over a couple of times while baking.
  3. When finished spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free dish towel and fold one end over the walnuts to cover. Place your hands over the covered walnuts and gently rub back and forth to loosen and remove the walnut skin. Rub off as much of the walnut skins as you can and place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Discard the skins.
  4. Lower the oven temperature to 225˚ F/107˚ C
  5. Pulse the food processor to finely chop the walnuts. You want an even consistency without turning the walnuts into flour.
  6. Spoon 1 Tb of ground walnuts into each muffin cup and press down evenly to pack the walnuts together.
  7. Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer, mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt until just mixed together. Add the cream cheese and beat on low speed until the ingredients are evenly combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until very smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the batter down the sides of a bowl.
  8. In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and blue cheese until evenly combined. A fork is great for this job. Add the blue cheese mixture to the cream cheese and mix together on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds.
  9. Add the lightly beaten eggs and mix until evenly combined. The batter consistency should resemble sour cream.
  10. Pour the cheesecake batter into each muffin cup almost up the top, about 1.8 oz/50 g in each muffin cup. Smooth over the tops of each cheesecake with an offset spatula.
  11. Bake in the 225˚ F/107˚ C oven for 15 minutes. Rotate the muffin pan in the oven from front to back to encourage even baking and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. The muffins are done when an instant read thermometer reads 160˚ F/71˚ C. The batter will jiggle somewhat and the centers of each muffin will spring back when touched. Put muffin tin and/or baking sheet on a cooling rack.
  12. Allow the cheesecakes to cool in the muffin pan for 30 minutes. Cover the muffin pan(s) with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before unmolding.
  13. For the metal muffin pan: run a small spatula or knife, heated up with hot water, around the edge of each muffin cup. Press the spatula or knife up against the side of the pan to not scrape the sides of the cheesecakes. Clean the spatula with warm water and wipe clean with a cloth for every cheesecake. Lift the cheesecakes out of the muffin cups with a spatula. Smooth the sides of each cheesecake using a small metal spatula that has been heated with hot water and wiped clean.
  14. For silicone muffin pans: Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends placing a baking sheet on top of the plastic wrap-covered muffin pan and turn it upside down. Then place a dish towel in very hot water. Wring out the excess water and drape it over the muffin pan. Make sure to press the hot wet towel into the recesses of the pan. Let it sit for about 2 minutes. Remove the towel and carefully lift off the muffin pan. If the cheesecakes do not release, repeat the above steps, and try again after another minute. Once released, place a second sheet pan on top of upside down cheesecakes and turn them right side up.
  15. Place the cheesecakes on a serving platter and serve.
  16. Store, refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Notes

*To make the cheesecakes more savory add the total 3 Tb blue cheese to the batter. If you want the cheese cakes for dessert use 2 Tb blue cheese.

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Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

My family loves cod because they like the delicate taste of white fish with large flakes and sturdy body. Unfortunately for us in the Northeast US, Atlantic Cod is on Seafood Watch list of fish to avoid. I don’t usually buy frozen fish, but I came across frozen Pacific Alaskan Cod at Trader Joe’s and wanted to try it. As I mentioned in my post  Arctic Char with Basil Sauce, I try my best to buy sustainable fish when I can.  Since cod is an affordable fish and works in so many different types of recipes, I was happy to consider frozen Pacific Cod as a viable option.

Cod braised in tomato saffron broth

I also treated myself to a small tin of Spanish saffron and everyday I have dreamed about how to use it.  Remembering a Spanish seafood stew, I decided to prepare the cod with  Mediterranean flavors and style. Additionally, I wanted the saffron to be the primary seasoning, creating a recipe elegant enough to be served on Christmas Eve.

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

Tomato and saffron are a classic Mediterranean pair. Both ingredients balance each other because of the saffron’s warmth and distinct flavor cuts the acid in the tomatoes. To be honest, I love anything made with saffron but particularly enjoy tomato saffron broth with fish. The floral scent of crocus drifts up while I am cooking with saffron, and I feel like I am walking through a field of crocuses. Put these two family favorites together, and we have a special family dinner of cod braised in tomato saffron broth.

I am a big fan of using the simple technique of braising fish of which cod is very suited for. The fish is gently cooked in a broth that is also an integral part of the meal. The chunky tomatoes make the broth more substantive, while still keeping the broth bread dunking worthy. The final result is a fish dinner that is moist, delicate and multidimensional in flavor.

Cod braised in tomato saffron broth

Cod braised in tomato saffron broth

The total cooking time will vary depending of the thickness of the fish. Figure on  the total cooking time to be anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes until done. My Pacific Cod fillets ranged in size from 5 oz to 6 oz, and was at most an inch thick. They took about 8 minutes to cook. Atlantic Cod tends to be thicker at the head end and should take longer to finish cooking.  The fish is done when the meat sections gives way to the gentle pressure of your finger, and the sections begin to separate. The color of the fish will be a translucent white.

Do Ahead Tips for Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

To make life easier you can prepare the braising liquid ahead of time. About fifteen minutes before you want to eat, heat up the broth, then braise the cod.  This recipe is very easy to make and flexible in design to fit into any schedule and a great meal to make for entertaining.

For those of you who like to serve fish for Christmas Eve dinner, or any special occasion, cod braised in tomato saffron broth would be a delicious treat. To send this recipe over the top, serve with saffron aioli smeared over toasted bread. Dunk the aioli smeared baguette into the broth and delight in a double saffron indulgence. Saffron aioli with cod in tomato saffron broth is out of this world delicious. Jamie Oliver has a short cut saffron aioli recipe with his Fabulous Fish Stew. It is really easy to make using store-bought mayonnaise. The instructions for the aioli saffron begin at step 2 in his recipe.

Cod braised in tomato saffron broth

cod-braised-in-tomato-saffron-broth-9

Hope everyone has a wonderful Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas.  Enjoy!

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

4 4-6oz servings of cod fillet

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

Cod with tomato saffron broth is a moist and delicious fish dinner. It is elegant to serve at a dinner party, or for a casual family meal. The broth can be made ahead of time then reheated to cook the fish just before you want to serve it.

Serve with thick crusted bread like at baguette and green salad. For a double saffron treat spread your baguette slices with saffron aioli. Link to saffron aioli recipe in blog.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 leek, cleaned, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced across the width (can substitute with 1 shallot, minced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 28 oz / 794 g can whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup / 250 ml dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml fish stock or clam juice
  • 1/2 cup/ 125 ml juice from the can of tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of thyme tied together
  • 1/2 tea saffron thread
  • 1/2 tea Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tea granulated sugar (optional)
  • 4 4-6oz / 113 - 180 g cod fillets or other white fish fillets, black sea bass or halibut

Instructions

  1. Peel the garlic then slice each clove in half lengthwise. If there is a green grem remove it. Thinly slice each half across the width. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large 12" saute pan, (see note.) Add the sliced leeks or minced shallots and saute until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add the the sliced garlic to the leeks and cook until it becomes fragrant, 1 minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Turn up the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes, breaking up each tomato with your fingers or a knife while you add them to the pan. Add the wine, fish stock, canned tomato liquid, bay leaf, bundled thyme sprigs, saffron and Kosher salt. Stir to mix and bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the sauce for about 15 minutes at a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning. If it is too acidic add the sugar and add more Kosher salt if needed.
  4. Place the fish fillets evenly spaced in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Cook the fish fillets until just done. The amount of cooking time will depend on the how thick the cod fillets are. I cooked using Pacific cod and they were thinner than Atlantic cod. The cod was just cooked at around 7 minutes. The cod is cooked through when you pres down on the thickest part of the fillet with your finger and the flakes give into the pressure and start to break apart. The flesh will have a translucent white color.
  5. Spoon some broth in 4 large wide-mouth soup or pasta bowls. Place a fillet in each bowl with the broth. Garnish with minced fresh parsley. Serve with crusty french bread to help soak up the broth.

Notes

A sautee pan with its high sides is a perfect pan for braising fish. If you only have a skillet by all means give it a try, as long as you have a matching lid. Another option is to make the tomato saffron broth in whatever pan you have, then pour the broth into a large baking dish. Add the fish fillets and cover the fish with a sheet of parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F / 175 degrees C / Gas Mark 4, oven for 10 minutes. Check for doneness, and, if necessary, continue cooking checking every couple of minutes until done.

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

Tomato Sauce With Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar á la Marcella Hazan

Tomato Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary RecipeDuring this frenetic and festive holiday season, it is helpful to have a well-stocked pantry to quickly feed the family without sacrificing flavor or nutrition. If you have a can of plum tomatoes, garlic and olive oil you can cook up a tomato sauce in 15 minutes. If you have fresh or dried rosemary and balsamic vinegar, that 15-minute tomato sauce elevates into a herby infused wonderland. There is no need to call for pizza delivery, tomato and balsamic vinegar sauce mixed in with steaming bowl of penne pasta is quick, easy to make, and will warm you up on these brisk fall nights.

Tomato Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary recipe

 

Tomato and balsamic vinegar sauce is a throwback and staple recipe of mine. I used to make it a lot during the early years of my marriage for my growing family. Some recipes are timeless and will never feel out-of-place no matter how many years have passed. Tomato and balsamic vinegar sauce is such a recipe. It is a special classic.

Tomato Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary

Tomato Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary recipe

 

I discovered it in a cookbook of mine, Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan dating back to 1986. Marcella Hazan is one of my cookbook authors who I attribute to teaching me about real Italian cooking. While I read and cooked through her cookbooks, I learned how simple, but not simplistic, Italian cooking is. Using only a few key ingredients and traditional techniques, it is easy to create a fresh tasting, delicious and satisfying meal. Of course there are those traditional meals that take hours to make, but most of the food I relied on, could be prepared in 30 – 40 minutes. Many of Marcella’s pasta recipes became family favorites that over time would develop into our own.

Tomato Sauce with Balsamic and Rosemary Recipe

This recipe first caught my attention because of the added balsamic vinegar and rosemary was unlike any tomato sauce I had before. From this recipe I learned about adding vinegar to a sauce or stew to brighten up the flavor of the food. Up until that time I had only used vinegar for salad dressing. I loved the additional body and bright flavor the vinegar brought out in stews and sauces, and I continue to season with vinegar in several of my other recipes.

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

The Best Pineapple Stuffing

Most people have a favorite Thanksgiving food. If it were ever omitted from the menu, their Thanksgiving celebration would not feel complete without it. A couple of years ago I discovered pineapple stuffing is the symbolic Thanksgiving placeholder in my family. They believe Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without pineapple stuffing.

The Best Pineapple Stuffing Recipe

The Best Pineapple Stuffing Recipe

My favorite Thanksgiving food is not just one food item, but the whole meal. A coming together to gather, create, and give thanks: a celebration centered around special and delicious food and family. Each composite bite of turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and all the different vegetables is a sumptuous forkful of gratitude. I am always grateful and thankful for the love of my family, good health and well-being, and our amazing diversified bounty. For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.

Pineapple stuffing may not be a traditional Thanksgiving food, but it fits right in with all the usuals.  It is a perfect side-dish to pair with ham as a sweet and buttery spoonful of comfort. When combined with the salty/meatiness of ham, it is a flavor combination that will satisfy your cravings and calm your soul. I believe no ham is complete without the pineapple stuffing. Forget the pinned pineapple rings, pineapple stuffing is a lot more satisfying an easier to manage.

Learn all about buying and cooking ham here.

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