Category Archives: Beginnings

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Spinach, Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Gruyere Dip

Well yesterday was the Super Bowl and I suppose it could be said this post is a day late.  I actually put this together yesterday with out recipe . . . shooting from the hip if you will.  It came out so darn good I wanted to post it! During the game it was hard not to keep getting up and having a little more dip, sometimes on the French bread I took to serve with it and sometimes on a chip.

This recipe is easy to make, the longest part is slowly caramelizing the onions which can take a 1/2 hour or so to do right.  Low and slow wins while caramelizing onions.  This recipe will serve 8 as a appetizer.  Serve with chips or French bread to dip.

Enjoy

Thyme fly’s

Jason

 

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

6 ounces bacon, diced

3/4 cup white wine

5 ounces baby spinach

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise (commercial)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 packet Hidden Valley ranch powder .4 ounce

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

  1. Turn your oven to broil and set out your cream cheese to soften.
  2. You will need to have two pans one to render the bacon and one to slowly caramelize the onions.  Begin by rendering the bacon.  Heat a pan to medium and add the tablespoon of olive oil to get started but once the bacon starts to cook it will give you all the fat you need.  As the bacon cooks you will see a good amount of fat rendering off, this is what you will use to caramelize  your onions.
  3. When the bacon is almost crispy pour most of the fat into your other pan and turn on to medium heat. Add the diced onions and start to cook them.  Once they start to sizzle and begin to brown turn it to low.  Then slowly caramelize slowly while stirring every few minutes.
  4. When the onions are golden brown add the spinach and wilt down.
  5. When the spinach is fully cooked add the wine and bring to a boil.
  6. When the wine is boiling add the everything except the gruyere cheese.  Let everything heat until it is all melted together and hot.
  7. Pour into a oven proof dish and top with the gruyere.  Put in oven on broil and cook until bubby and brown.

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Cauliflower Hummus

Is Cauliflower  a misunderstood and underappreciated vegetable? You bet!  It’s often regarded as a peasant vegetable, not elegant or full of flavor, and that’s just wrong!  Cauliflower has many wonderful uses – not the least of which is this awesome low carb, paleo friendly, healthy “hummus”. It also happens to taste great!

I  love all things hummus but once in a while I find myself looking for something just a little bit healthier (not that hummus isn’t good for you), something with just a few more veggies and less carbs.  This is it!  Healthy and fantastic.

In this recipe the cauliflower is grated then cooked in the microwave with a bit of water.  This can take anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes depending on the microwave.  Its very important to cook  completely or it will be impossible to get the smoothness you will want.

Cauliflower Hummus

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower

1/8th cup of water

1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 ounces of tahini (Lebanese)

1.5 ounces lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1.  Separate the head of cauliflower into flowerets that are a good size to grate.  Grate the cauliflower and put into a microwave save container.

2,  Add the water to the cauliflower and microwave on high for five minutes.  Cover and microwave at lest 3 more minutes (but up to 10 minutes depending on the microwave).  The important thing is its complete cooked.

3.  When the cauliflower is completely cooked put all remaining ingredients, including the cauliflower into a food processor and puree very well.  This could take 5 to 8 minutes.  Scrape down every minute or so with a rubber spatula.  This needs to be very smooth!

4.  Chill and serve with a drizzle of avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy and be healthy!

Thyme for a snack,

Jason IMG_2864 IMG_2849 IMG_2852 IMG_2859

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Quick, Easy and Delicious Hummus

Greetings all. I was recently enjoying a glass of wine (bottle actually) reflecting on things, life and hummus. Thinking of the old times when I lived in Dearborn, Michigan. Some if the best hummus in the world was a 5 minute drive away, to a restaurant called La Shish. In my post “Chasing the Hummus Ghost” I shared my experiences on trying to replicate the famed hummus of La Shish (complete with 15 years of failure).  I still hold to the belief that the recipe in that post gets really close to the magic of “la Shish”, however, I do realize not everyone wants to wait two full days to satisfy a hummus craving.

For years at work we have been making a “quick hummus” which has Greek yogurt in it. The yogurt adds creaminess and a tang to the hummus. Short of making the recipe from scratch with dried chickpeas this quick hummus is one of the best recipes you can find. It takes about 10 minutes to make, 5 to 8 of which is watching it puree in the food processor.

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to make the hummus as smooth as possible. Put everything in a food processor and puree!! Every so often stop the food processor, grab a rubber spatula and scrape it the bowl down in case some chickpeas get stuck on the side or on the bottom. The cumin is optional. Some people are chickpea purists and would not want it, others like the extra spice. I fall directly in the middle and use it about half the time.

When I serve this I like to drizzle with some avocado oil (or extra virgin olive).  Use some nice warm flat bread or some nice crisp lettuce to scoop.

Thyme In,

Jason

Simple Quick Hummus

Ingredients

2 each 15 ounce cans of chickpeas (drained reserving ¼ cup of the liquid)

4 ounces Lebanese tahini

1 teaspoon of kosher salt (heaping)

4 teaspoons lemon juice

6 ounces Greek yogurt (2/3 cup)

1/4th cup of the drained chickpea liquid (optional)

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserve ¼ cup of the liquid (adding the liquid is optional depending on the texture you like in a hummus)
  2. Place everything in a food processor except he reserved liquid.
  3. Puree very well. In my experience this can take 5 to 8 minutes. Occasionally stop the machine and scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula. While pureeing you can decide if you want the liquid in. It will help with the pureeing but will also make the final hummus a bit lighter than without. It’s really a matter of personal preference.
  4. Puree until ultra-smooth!

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Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

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I love it when great taste and good nutrition meet! The genesis of this was plain and simple . . . hunger and the desire to have something healthy! I had all the ingredients in the refrigerator so it was just a matter of measuring, mixing and cooking. With all the fragrant ingredients the house smelled awesome.

I often lean toward Asian flavors, could have something to do with working almost ten years working for an Asian hotel chain (Mandarin Oriental). This dish, although not based on a traditional recipe it is certainly full of flavor.

For old thymes sake,

Jason

 

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

 

Wraps

1 pound ground turkey

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 ½ teaspoons roasted sesame oil

1 bunch chopped cilantro

3 teaspoons soy sauce

3 teaspoons kosher salt

½ recipe of my essential cabbage slaw

16 lettuce cups romaine or bib lettuce work great

 

  1. In a bowl combine all the ingredients except the slaw and the lettuce. Mix well with a rubber spatula, trying not to let the mix warm up too much.
  2. In a nonstick pan cook a small amount to check and see if it has enough salt. You can adjust if needed.
  3. With your hand roll the mix into little meat balls about ½ ounce each. The mix will be a little soft but will firm up as they cook.
  4. Depending on the size of the pan you have you can cook the meat balls in batches. Put a small amount in oil in the pan and when it is at a medium heat add the meat balls. Cook moving them around until they are cooked through (165f). Try not to overcook as the turkey is lean and will dry out quickly.
  5. Serve them with the lettuce for cups, the slaw as a topping, and any other toppings you can think of. I like sautéed hot chilies or roasted peppers.

 

 

 

 

Chasing the “Hummus Ghost”

 

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Years ago my wife and I moved from our relatively miserable neighborhood (actually downright dangerous) to our first “nice” house.  Granted we were in Michigan, not Texas, so the standards of “nice” were clearly different,  As we all know, Texas is the supreme state and is difficult to be rated against.  Specifically Allen, Texas (where the dew falls first from Heaven). I digress….

So we end up in Dearborn, Michigan, a wonderful city.  I was working at the Ritz – Carlton Hotel, all was good.  We loved Dearborn, because it was close to work and . . . . the food! We ate hummus, baba ganoush, shawarma, and falafel almost daily. To us it was as normal as pasta or burritos, and was so flavorful and multidimensional, we ate it often!   We had no idea how special this little area of the world was!  Since Dearborn we have lived in Miami, New York City, Allen TX, Las Vegas, Houston, and back to Allen TX.  I had never even come close to having Middle Eastern food as good as in the “Dearborn Days.”  Not even close!  There was a particular restaurant called “La Shish” that was a real stand out.  Their hummus was legendary, the best I have ever had.  Creamy and rich with a depth of flavor that I could never achieve in a hummus.  It was addictive. One of the great culinary achievements!

For years I tried to get close to that hummus, searching hummus recipes high and low.  I looked in professional cooking books, home style cooking books, text books from culinary schools, the internet . . . you name it.  Never found it. I made hummus hundreds of times, and it was always good, unless you compare it to “La Shish”.    About two years ago I hired a younger cook named Rashid.  He is a Lebanese guy with some good experience.  Of course on my mind right away, hummus.  For 15 years I had been chasing the “hummus” ghost.  I asked him if he knew how to make a great hummus.  Rashid says “I ran the best Lebanese restaurant in DC.  I make the good hummus.”  I was intrigued.  When he said he needed three days . . . I was really intrigued.

Rashid “made the good hummus.”  I could close my eyes and think I was back in Dearborn.  The “hummus ghost” . . . I had it in my sights.

In Rashid’s hummus the devil is in the details.  The chickpeas are soaked in water and baking soda overnight.  Then they are cooked at a slow gentle simmer, for 6 or 7 hours, in the same water they soaked in.  The cooking should be stopped when the water is at the level of the chickpeas, and the chickpeas are very tender.  The chickpeas are cooled in that liquid, which will gel like a classic, well-made stock (Rashid chilled his overnight).  The liquid and the chickpeas are pureed together with tahini, garlic and lemon.  The puree must be very smooth!

Lebanese Hummus

Makes 1.5 quarts

Ingredients

½ quart dried chickpeas

¾ tablespoon baking soda

3 quarts water

3 ounces tahini (Lebanese if you can find it)

½ ounce garlic

¾ ounce lemon juice

¼ ounce kosher salt

  1. In container large enough to hold the 1st three ingredients, combine the dried chickpeas, baking soda and water.  Cover and allow to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, in a thick bottomed pot dump the chickpeas and water in to simmer, do not drain, simmer in the same water it soaked in.  Bring to a light boil then turn down to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer for 6 or 7 hours.  The simmering time will vary greatly depending on the size of you pot, specifically the width because of increased evaporation.  I have had great luck simmering between 5 to 7 hours.
  3. The cooking should be stopped when the liquid is level with the chickpeas.  Do not drain!  Cool in the liquid.
  4. When very cool the liquid will gel like a well-made stock.  You will be pureeing chickpeas and this liquid in the final step of the recipe.
  5. In a food processor (you may need to do in a few batches.  It’s ok, just stir all of the batches together well at the end) puree the chickpeas (and the gelled liquid) with the remaining ingredients.  Here is the final detail . . .  it must be velvety smooth.  You may have to puree in your food processor for 5 or 10 minutes, scraping the sides every so often.
  6. Adjust seasoning a bit if necessary, although you should not need to.
  7. Cool down and store in your refrigerator.  It will last for 5 days but you won’t need to worry about that, it will be gone well before the expiration date.

Thyme Remembered,

Jason

 

 

 

Kale, Chicken and Spinach Soup

 

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Kale is a “super green.”  It is nutritious, flavorful and easy to use.  I find myself using kale in juices, quick sautés, in salads and on pizzas. I do love kale.  In hour house kale is a very controversial product.  My wife and kids hate it and I, as you know, love it.  I never tire of sneaking kale into recipes to see if they notice.   Good times indeed.  Approximately 80% of the time they don’t even notice and love what they are eating, even with the dreaded kale.  That is not the case with this soup, I love it, but for them it was an epic fail . . . it’s loaded with delicious, nutritious, dreaded and feared Kale!

This is a very simple but flavorful soup that is loaded with good stuff.  It has enough substance to it that it can be a meal.  It would also be a fantastic accompaniment to a salad or sandwich, or an elegant and healthy first course.

I made the chicken stock (which you can see in an earlier post) and turned it directly into this soup.  I was able to get some of the leftover meat off the leg bones in the stock and add it to the soup (the dark meat stays nice and moist after the long cooking).

The method for making this soup is very simple.  I do not sauté and caramelize any of the vegetables.  I simply heat the stock and add the ingredients in a straightforward time line.  The reason I can get such a flavorful soup so easily is the homemade stock.  Simple things done well.

Kale, Spinach and Chicken Soup

Makes about 2 quarts

Ingredients

1.5 quarts of good homemade chicken stock

2 carrots, diced (about 2 ½ ounces)

2 stalks celery, diced (about 2 ½ ounces)

1 onion, diced (about 7 ounces)

10 leaves kale, rough chopped (about 4 ounces)

3 cloves garlic, chopped (3/4 ounce)

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme

2 ounces baby spinach

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

 

1.       In a sauce pot, large enough to hold all ingredients, heat the chicken stock.

2.       Add all ingredients except the kale, spinach, thyme and lemon.  Simmer for ½ hour.  Add  some salt and pepper and taste the soup.  It should be getting very flavorful and rich.

3.       Add the kale and spinach, simmer for 15 more minutes.

4.       Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon.

Thyme Out,

Jason

 

Gravlax for the New Year

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Happy New Year let’s cure some salmon!

I for one can’t believe that 2013 is behind us. I hope all of you had an amazing year and can remember 2013 fondly.  In 2014, I wish you happiness, prosperity, friendship and great times with family, and a year of great food!

I want to start the year off with a classic.  Gravlax are a traditional Scandinavian dish that makes a fantastic treat at breakfast or an elegant appetizer later in the day.  In our family this one is a breakfast classic.  My oldest son and wife consider this to be the ultimate breakfast food – “Lox and Bagels”.

At one time, smoking and curing were among the only ways to preserve the food without refrigerators and freezers.  What caning was to preserving the harvest of vegetables and fruits, smoking and curing was to preserve the precious catch.  Some of the finest things you will have the pleasure of tasting were developed through the process of preserving meats – What would the world be without genoa salami, Iberico ham, Prosciutto de Parma, Spanish chorizo, or duck confit?

I digress, the point of this post is specifically cured salmon, perhaps the purest and cleanest tasting expression of the fish.  Smoked salmon is great, but lox are simpler, fresher tasting and luckily easier to make.  I uses the best salmon possible.  In this case I used a wild sockeye salmon which has a beautiful red color and great fresh flavor.  Do be careful of previously frozen fish because although it may still taste great, the texture will be affected.  Make sure fresh awesome fish is your priority.

Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.

Gravlax

Serves 3 for breakfast or 8 to 10 for reception

 

Ingredients

1 to 1 ¼ pound fresh salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup salt

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

15 to 20 sprigs of dill

1.       Mix together the salt, sugar, coriander, and white pepper.

2.       In a non-reactive container spread approximately ¼ of the mixture out to the approximate length of the salmon fillet.  Put half the dill down as well.

3.       Lay the salmon fillet on top.  Spread the cure on top of the fish.  On thicker parts of the fish use more of the cure and a little less on thinner parts.

4.       Lay the sprigs of dill across the fish, cover and leave at room temperature for two hours.

5.       Put another dish on top to press the cure into the fish.  If you are using a glass 9 by 13 dish then another of the same dish is ideal to set on top.  It does not need to be very heavy just a light weight to press it down.  Then put in in the refrigerator.

6.       If the salmon is a inch thick or less allow to cure in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.  If the fish is over an inch thick you will need to go 36 hours.

7.       When the curing time is over rinse the fish off under cold running water and dry with a paper towel.

8.       You can now use the Gravlax!  For breakfast slice thin and put on toasted bagels with cream cheese, capers, diced tomato, and if you like paper thin slices of red onion.

 

It is worth noting that slicing paper thin perfect slices is a bit of an art.  Do not be dismayed!  A thin sharp knife works best.  There are long thin knives made for this purpose if you want to invest, however these are not necessary.  I have seen many a fine slice of gravlax done with a sharp chefs knife.

 

Have a good thyme,

 

Jason

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Orange Wings

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It is the time of year for celebrating with friends, watching football games, and having a great time.  There are two types of people in this world:  Those that go to watch the game; and those that go to eat great food, enjoy some drinks and pretend to be interested in the game.  I fall into the latter category, actually I don’t even pretend anymore. I also make no apologies for it.  I will be near the kitchen with the wine, beer (wine actually), and food thank you!

These orange wings are simple and a great crowd pleaser.  A lot of sweet and tangy flavors.

Orange Wings

Ingredients

Makes 3 dozen wings with enough extra sauce for dipping

For the Sauce

¾ cup water

¼ cup orange juice

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy

3 tablespoons lemon

3 tablespoons lime

1 teaspoon chopped ginger

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

Pinch pepper flakes

1 cinnamon sticks

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons orange zest

4 scallions, sliced

2 tablespoons of roasted sesame oil to sauté’

2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water

3 dozen chicken wings

Heat a little sesame oil and sauté the ginger and garlic.  Add all remaining sauce ingredients except corn starch.  Bring to a boil.  Thicken with the cornstarch dissolved with the water (see note below). If it does not appear thick enough you can make a bit more of the mix and tighten it up a bit more.  The consistency of the sauce should be similar to a sweet and sour sauce. A little bit thick so it will stick you your wings. Depending of the flavor of the fruits you can add a little lemon or orange juice to boost the flavor.

Remove cinnamon stick before serving

**To thicken with cornstarch combine the cornstarch in a small amount of cold water.  Slowly pour into boiling liquid while whisking.  If the liquid is not boiling it will not thicken. If you add too much before boiling, could get ugly.

Season your chicken wings with salt and pepper.  Bake or fry them till done (165f) internal temperature with a thermometer.  Should take 15 to 20 minutes in a 375 f oven.  If you are going to fry them set you fryer to 325 and slowly fry them until they are done in the center and crispy.

Toss wings with the sauce and garnish with, sesame seeds, scallions, and orange zest.

Thyme marches on!

Jason