Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Loaded Nachos

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Who doesn’t love nachos? All that melty cheese, warm beans, salsa, avocado, and crispy chips just taste so good together. Unfortunately, when I order nachos in a restaurant the chips are soggy with rubbery cheese, and half the chips are naked. What is the point of getting nachos when most of the food on the plate are plain chips? It is like ordering a cheese burger and getting one partially covered with cold cheese.

Loaded Nachos, recipe

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

There is an easy solution. When I make nachos, I spread the chips in an even layer on a rimmed sheet pan, then cover each chip with bean spread (or refried beans), avocado, pickled jalapeño, and grated cheese. Once assembled, they bake in the oven until the cheese thoroughly melts. Why bother with this nacho assembly? Because it is just not a pretty sight, watching your family and friends wrestle and compete over the nachos covered in all that Tex-Mex goodness. With this process, no one gets stuck eating naked chips when they wanted the works.

There are several ways you can put these nachos together. One, buy the chips, bean dip or refried beans, and salsa already made, along with a couple of blocks of cheese and a ripe avocado. The only thing left to do is assemble and bake the nachos. Second, you can use a combo of homemade and store-bought items to make these nachos. The third option is, you can go all out and make everything from scratch.

My version is the second option. I made chips from store-bought tortillas and made the salsa verde. Everything else I bought. If you make everything from scratch, your nachos will have more nuance in flavor, especially the beans. However, these days it is easy to source good quality store-bought salsas, beans and chips. Why not take advantage of your resources? Whichever method you choose, buy the best quality ingredients you can afford.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Suggestions for making Nachos:

For my recipe testing, I discovered getting tortilla chips with a deep corn flavor depends on the tortillas you use. If possible, buy freshly made tortillas from a market or restaurant, and make the chips at home. Or, buy chips from a Mexican restaurant. Both options produce the best tasting chips. Nachos require thick chips that won’t break easily and not too salty.  Thicker chips hold up better. If you don’t have a Mexican market or restaurant in your area the store brand I had success with is, Simply Organic Yellow Corn Chips by Tostitos. However, the other corn chips by Tostitos are too thin.

Making your own chips requires some cooking skill, special equipment and deep-frying in 375° F (190°C) oil. You need an instant read thermometer, a 10-inch (25 cm)cast iron skillet, or Dutch Oven, or wok, and a spider strainer. If you do not have all the equipment, please don’t make the chips. Deep frying is tricky business and buying chips a lot safer.

I also provided a recipe for a raw salsa verde made with tomatillos, serrano chilies, onion, garlic and cilantro. The recipe is from Tacos by Alex Stupak, but my method is different. (You can read my cookbook review on Tacos, here.) Instead of using a mortar and pestle, I made the salsa with an immersion blender. It was a breeze and finished in fifteen minutes. Sometimes, tomatillos are hard to find. I found tomatillos at my local Asian vegetable market, but I also saw them at Whole Foods. If you can’t find them substitute with your favorite store-bought salsa verde or red salsa.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Traditionally, nachos are made with refried beans. I used a black bean dip instead. Feel free to use what you like. The beans should be thick and somewhat smooth, so it stays put on each chip. The store brand I used was Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn Salsa. It was a little too thin, but it still worked. Look for a black bean spread or dip. If you prefer using refried beans, just remember refried beans are made with lard, so if you are serving vegetarians or vegans, find or make a vegetarian one. Here are links for home-made refried beans, and vegan refried beans from Serious Eats.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

Helpful Tips Serving Nachos:

  • Serve nachos immediately. If you are entertaining, have all your ingredients made and prepared. After all your guests arrive and settled down, assemble the nachos then bake in the oven. It takes about 5 minutes to assemble and 4 minutes to bake. Serve right away. This isn’t an appetizer which is placed on an hors d’oeuvres table and forgotten about.
  • Pass these appetizers around, or place in the center of a coffee table where everyone is sitting. Nachos are best eaten immediately. The longer they sit the soggier they become.
  • Make sure you grab a couple of nachos for yourself before they disappear. Maybe this is because I am more familiar with the eating habits of teenage boys, college co-eds, and athletes, but appetizers like nachos quickly disappear.
  • For a small cocktail party make one tray at a time. If you want more for later, make another tray just before you want to serve them. My sheet pan fit 24 chips.
  • Don’t forget the pickled jalapeño . A slice of pickled jalapeño on each nacho makes all the difference between good nachos and great nachos. They add some heat, and the acid brightens all the other ingredients.

Loaded Nachos, recipe.

 

More appetizers: Crispy Potato Skins with Cheese and Pickled Jalapeno, Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

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Loaded Nachos

Everyone loves nachos with lots of melted cheese and fixings. To make sure every person gets a chip loaded with all the nacho goodness, I have assembled and baked the chips in a single layer. With this recipe, you decide if you want to purchase all the ingredients or make the salsas and chips from scratch. If you rather not make your own tortilla chips buy restaurant style, or thick tortilla chips that are not too salty. The thicker chips stay crisp and won't break as easily. Serve immediately with creme fraiche and salsa verde.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American, Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Tortilla chips

  • 3 cups (675 ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 6 fresh corn tortillas or thick cut, restaurant style store- bought tortilla chips
  • Kosher salt

Nachos

  • 4 oz (125 g) cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz (125 g) pepper jack cheese
  • 24 tortilla chips homemade or store bought
  • 16 oz 453 g jar bean dip or refried beans
  • 1-2 ripe avocados
  • 24 - 48 slices of pickled jalapeno peppers
  • Creme fraiche plus some milk for thinning
  • Salsa verde

Salsa Verde (or store-bought salsa verde)

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3-4 tomatillos about 5 oz (150 g)
  • 2 serrano chilies
  • ½ white onion minced
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 handful of cilantro minced

Instructions

Tortilla Chips

  1. In a cast iron skillet, Dutch Oven, or wok, add the oil and heat until the oil temperature reaches 375°F (190°C). Stack the tortilla chips and cut them into quarters. When the oil is hot, add a few chips to the oil and cook until starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the chips over to the other side and finish cooking. Use a mesh spoon, or spider and remove the chips from the oil and place on paper towels to dry. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt over the chips while they are warm. Continue until all chips are fried.

Nachos

  1. Pre heat the oven to 425°F ( 218°C) with the rack in the middle position. Line a large rimmed sheet pan (18" x 13" / 46 cm x 33 cm) with aluminum foil. Set aside.
  2. Prepare your garnishes of creme fraiche and salsa verde
  3. Add the creme fraiche, or sour cream, to a small bowl and add the milk a tablespoon at a time and stir. Continue to add just enough milk so the creme fraiche will easily drizzle over the nachos. You do not want it too diluted, but the creme fraiche drizzles easier when it is slightly thinned out. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until ready.
  4. If you are making the tomatillo salsa do so now before you bake the nachos. See recipe below.
  5. Grate the cheeses using the large holes of a box grater, or food processor. Place the grated cheese in a medium size mixing bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.
  6. Arrange the tortilla chips in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  7. Spoon a tablespoon of bean dip over the center of each chip, spread it out into an even layer.
  8. Slice an avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Thinly slice each avocado half lengthwise and scoop out the slices with a spoon. Arrange one slice of avocado over each chip covered with the beans. Depending on the size of your avocado, you might need to cut each slice in half to fit on the chips. I was able to get enough slices from one avocado.
  9. Place one slice of pickled jalapeno on each chip, then cover them with grated cheese .
  10. Place the sheet pan with the chips in the oven and bake until all the cheese has fully melted, about 4 minutes.
  11. Immediately place the nachos on a serving platter and serve with the creme fraiche and salsa verde. You can drizzle the salsa verde and creme fraiche over the nachos and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro, or you can serve the creme fraiche and salsa verde on the side.

Salsa Verde

  1. Peel and mince the garlic. Sprinkle the garlic with the salt and use the side of your chef's knife to make a pulp with the garlic. Move the knife back and forth pressing the side of the blade on the garlic and salt until the garlic turns into a smooth pulpy consistency. Add the garlic pulp to the bowl of a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.
  2. Husk, wash and dice the tomatillos. Place the tomatillos in the bowl with the garlic.
  3. Add the minced onion.
  4. Cut the Serrano peppers in half lengthwise and cut off the stem. If you want a milder salsa, remove the seeds and the white pith. They contain most of the heat, especially the pith. Mince the serrano chilies and add them to the bowl with the tomatillos. Add the honey and process all the ingredients until you get a smooth salsa, or to your desired consistency. Stir in the minced cilantro and pour the salsa into a small serving bowl.
  5. Serve immediately or cover with a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Homemade salsa is best used the same day it is made. If several hours pass before serving, hold off from adding the cilantro until just before serving.
Nutrition Facts
Loaded Nachos
Amount Per Serving (4 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Loaded Nachos with black beans, avocado, pickled jalapeno slices and grated cheese.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Airy Salmon Mousse

Airy Salmon Mousse, recipe.

When I look through some of my older cookbooks, like Gourmet Volumes 1 and 2, or Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, I often wonder if people still eat the same way. Some foods in these books just seem dated. Like aspic. Does anyone make aspic filled with fish or meats anymore? Yet, there are those recipes that remain as classics and stand the test of time. It is my belief that salmon mousse is a classic appetizer. No matter what decade or age, salmon mousse continues to appeal to our taste buds and senses. It is fresh and light tasting with an elegant creamy texture. In my experience over the past 30 or so years, it is one of those appetizers that people just adore.

Airy Salmon Mousse, recipe

This is a classic recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. By coincidence, this book was first published during a transitional time for me in my early 20’s. I just graduated from college and started living full-time in New York City. With eager and innocent expectations, I was ready to explore many frontiers and cooking was one of them. As a result, this cookbook taught me about foods from all over the world, with new and exciting bold flavors. Illustrated with fun drawings and a causal style, The Silver Palate Cookbook encouraged a relaxed and festive attitude towards cooking and entertaining. It inspired me to experiment, but most of all to cook. I felt like I graduated from an apprenticeship with the Joy of Cooking into a Master’s program with The Silver Palate.

For more fun appetizers try: Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecake

Roast Shrimp Cocktail with Sriracha Aioli Cocktail Sauce

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon and Crispy Pitas

Cheese and Herb Chive Bread

Airy Salmon Mousse, recipe.

What I love about this salmon mousse recipe is the fresh salmon flavor. It is creamy without any heaviness, which is often the case with classic French inspired foods. You can serve this as a first course in ramekins or a stylized plating. Also, it is delicious as a spread served in a bowl, or shaped in a decorative mold. Generously spread the mousse on dark pumpernickel cocktail bread, toast, water crackers, cucumbers or endive. No matter how you serve salmon mousse, it has a sophisticated presentation and eating experience. There is no need to go crazy with decorative piping in fancy pastry. I prefer serving the mousse as an appetizer spread. People can help themselves and often keep coming back to the plate for more. Where ever the salmon mousse is set, that location becomes a gathering spot for feasting and interaction.

Salmon mousse happens to be one of my favorites appetizers. It is perfect for New Year’s Eve or any special occasion.

Airy Salmon Mousse, recipe

Happy New Year’s Everyone.

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Airy Salmon Mousse

Airy and fresh salmon mousse is a throwback appetizer recipe from The Silver Palate. It is a perfect appetizer for cocktail parties and special occasions, as well as a first course for an elegant dinner party. This classic appetizer stands the test of time and is a real crowd pleaser. Over the years I have made this with both canned salmon and poached salmon. Both options taste perfectly fine. The only challenge is sifting through the canned salmon picking out the bones. Buying canned salmon is very economical, but you will spend more time making it because of the bones. Plan ahead. Make this mousse the day before you need it, or in the early morning the day you need it. It requires a minimum of 4 hours chilling time in the refrigerator. Because there is uncooked onion in the mousse, the onion becomes sharper the older the mousse gets. Salmon mousse is best served within 24 hours of making it, but will last a couple of days in the refrigerator. Keep chilled until it is time to serve it.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes
Servings 12
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup 60 ml cold water
  • 1/4 cup 60 ml boiling water
  • 1/2 cup 125 ml mayonnaise
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TB finely grated onion
  • Dash of Tabasco
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 TB minced fresh dill
  • 2 cups 500 ml / 305 g / 11 oz finely flaked poached salmon, or finely flaked canned salmon with the bones removed
  • 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the gelatin in cold water to soften. Add the boiling water and gently whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Add in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, grated onion, Tabasco, paprika, and fresh dill. Whisk into the gelatin until completely combined and smooth. Cover and cool in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. The mixture will look thicker and starting to gel.
  3. In a medium size bowl whip the heavy cream until peaks form when you lift the beaters out of the cream. Set aside.
  4. Fold the finely flaked salmon into the gelatin mixture.
  5. Carefully fold in the whipped cream until evenly incorporated.
  6. Pour the mousse into individual ramekins (if you are serving them as a first course) or a 4- 6 cup (1 L - 1.5 L) bowl or mold.
  7. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. Serve chilled with water crackers, on toast crackers, pumpernickel cocktail bread, or sliced cucumber rounds.
Nutrition Facts
Airy Salmon Mousse
Amount Per Serving (4 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Airy Salmon Mousse recipe. A delicious classic appetizer for a special occasion.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas for Late Summer and Fall

Just because the days are getting shorter doesn’t mean we need to hunker down and stay inside. This time of year, the nights are cooler but the sun is still warm and shining. Even with the cooler temperatures, one can still feel the warmth of the sun on their back and soak in all the rays. Sit back on a picnic blanket with friends and family and close your eyes to the sun and relax. A late summer/early fall picnic is a wonderful way to enjoy the season. Gathered here is a collection of easy picnic food ideas and recipes to inspire you for your next outing.

Easy picnic food ideas and recipes.

Picnic food and your spread do not need to be a Martha Stewart event. In addition to serving fresh and delicious food, great picnic food should be easy to transport, have minimal prep work, and keep its freshness over time. You can make it as fancy as you want, but eating outside is a relaxing casual affair, so the food prep should be easy and relaxed too.

In my childhood, the standard picnic food was sandwiches or hot dogs cooked over an open fire. There is a reason these items are still popular. Sandwiches are perfect picnic food. You can make them gourmet, or PB and J, and they do not require plates or utensils to eat them. Wrap them up in parchment or wax paper, then later the paper performs double duty as the “plate”. You can eat half, then cover them up in the wrapping it came in. Then run off for a game of Frisbee.

I included a recipe for grilled chicken sandwiches made on focaccia, with smoked mozzarella, avocado, arugula and basil mayonnaise. Use your favorite bread, but make sure it will last for a couple of hours without getting soaked or smashed.  Smushed sandwiches are never fun to eat so pack your sandwiches carefully.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas and recipes

Grilled chicken sandwiches with smoked mozzarella, avocado, arugula and basil mayonnaise.

What is it about the fresh air that causes people to want to snack on salty food? I don’t know, all I know is I am right there with everyone else chomping down on chips when I play outside, go to the beach or hike. Nibbles or snacks are always great picnic food, but you don’t have to go crazy and buy out the store. I recommend, one item for an appetizer, and one salty crunchy snack, like chips. It is easy to go overboard with the snacks, but they are not the only food items at the picnic. No one will return home hungry.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas and recipes

Muhammara and Artichoke Tapenade

A terrific picnic appetizer is tapenade. Pictured in my picnic photographs is artichoke tapenade, a recipe I made from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. The recipe I used from this book is a little different from the recipe on his website, but it is still delicious and easy to make.

Another great spread or dip is muhammara, roasted red pepper dip. Muhammara is one of my favorite vegetable spreads. Both spreads are gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. Serve either with crusty bread, pita chips, or cut vegetables.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas with recipes

Fruit salad with watermelon, nectarines, herbs, and a spicy lemon honey dressing.

I believe every picnic should include some fruit. Ripe fruit is great picnic food because most fruit is naturally designed for individual servings. Fruit provides a bright and fresh taste to counterpoint the rich sandwiches and salty snacks. It is very refreshing. I am craving watermelon now so I included it for this blog post, but any fruit will suffice. You can either slice the watermelon, cut it up into chunks for easy picking, or make a fruit salad.

For this article, I decided to make a fruit salad made with watermelon, nectarines, mint, basil, with a honey lemon and chili pepper vinaigrette. I love herbs with fruit and adding the bit of hot pepper brings out the sweetness in the fruit. Included in the post is the recipe for this fruit salad. Making a fruit salad requires having serving utensils and plates, or you can bring additional beverage cups to use. Then all you need are utensils.

Dessert should be simple and there are many options. One option is a light unfrosted loaf or single layer cake like gluten-free Nifty cake. This cake is made with oat flour and has a slightly nutty flavor. It is a light sponge cake that everyone will enjoy. For ease of transporting it, make it a single layer cake, (and without the whipped cream frosting as pictured in the recipe), and serve with the watermelon fruit salad.

Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies reicpe

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Easy picnic food ideas and recipes.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Another dessert option is cookies. Children young and old love cookies and they travel well. Kitchen sink oatmeal cookies are perfect for picnics. They are loaded with rolled oats, raisins, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips. They can stand up to the heat of the day without melting and falling apart. Also pictured is, Ginger Molasses Cookies from Flour by Joanne Chang. Joanne is the owner of Flour Bakery in Boston. I love molasses cookies and wanted to test her recipe. In the link from the Boston Globe, her recipe is the second cookie recipe on the first page.

If you plan on bringing beer or wine, also include a non-alcoholic beverage like lemon-cucumber water or strawberry lemonade. Picnics are a time to drink responsibly, so keep your beer and wine on the low alcohol level.

Easy Picnic Food Ideas for Summer and Fall and recipes

Helpful Tips for Prep and Picnic Food :

If you are picnicking with friends, divide and conquer the food preparation. I have found people really like to participate and help.

Tapenade or Muhammara can be prepared the night before your picnic. You can also prepare the chicken and dessert the night before. This leaves making the sandwiches,  fruit salad,  and packing for the morning of. 

Along with your choice of beverage, bring water for drinking and cleaning scrapes or sticky hands. Also paper towels come in handy if something spills. They are light weight  and easy to stuff into a pocket.

Pack everything in a couple of insulated tote bags with ice packs. Keep your load light in case you need to hike to your picnic spot. Also bring a blanket to sit on. 

Don’t forget the trash bag. A lot of places are carry-in / carry-out parks, and often it is hard to find a trash can when you need one.

Bring a First-Aid Kit, especially if you are traveling with children. At a minimum bring Band-Aids and an antiseptic lotion. They are easy to carry in your wallet or zip-lock bag to store in your picnic basket.

Bee stings are common at picnics. The general advice is to get the stinger out quickly and apply ice, (or cool pack). Read the link for more bee sting information.

If you are serving alcoholic beverages, please drink responsibly.

Easy picnic food ideas and recipes.

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Easy Picnic Food Ideas for Summer and Fall Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Smoked Mozzarella, Avocado, and Basil Mayonnaise

Included are three recipes that are perfect for an afternoon lunch or light supper picnic. Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Smoked Mozzarella, Avocado and Basil Mayonnaise. The other recipe is the Watermelon and Nectarine Fruit Salad with Spicy Honey Lemon Dressing. It may look like a long list, but there are several food items here for you to make and enjoy. In the notes is my recipe for the basil mayonnaise and a pesto. Use your favorite basil pesto recipe or follow mine, just omit the grated cheese and pinenuts. The prep time varies for each food item. The grilled chicken takes about 20 minutes to cook not counting the overnight marinating and cooling. The sandwiches take about 10 minutes once everything is cooked and prepped. The fruit salad takes about 15 - 20 minutes to make. Depending on how large your bread slices are will determine the amount of chicken, mozzarella and avocado you need to cover your bread slice. I made my sandwiches with focaccia about 4 x 4 inches in size. For the tapenade or dip, and dessert- click on recipe links in blog post. Enjoy your picnic.
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Grilled Chicken - Prepare the day before

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts 1.5 lbs / 750 g
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp of onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp of sweet paprika
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Lemon zest from half a lemon
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

  • 8 slices of good quality bread
  • About 1/2 cup 125 ml basil mayo
  • Grilled chicken sliced thin across the grain
  • About 4 oz 125 g of Smoked Mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1-2 avocados cut into thin slices
  • Arugula

Basil Mayonnaise

  • 1- part mayonnaise
  • 1- part basil sauce*

Watermelon, Nectarine and Basil Salad with Spicy Lemon Honey Dressing

  • 1/4 Seedless watermelon cut into big bite size chunks
  • 3 ripe nectarines sliced into thin wedges
  • Small handful of Fresh Mint leaves
  • Small handful of Fresh Basil leaves
  • About 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp ground chili pepper

Instructions

Grilled Chicken

  1. The day/night before pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness then season both sides of the breasts with the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, dried oregano, and lemon zest. Place the seasoned chicken on a plate or container and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. There should be a light and even coating of seasoning over the chicken breast, but not too heavy. Use your judgement about how much seasoning you want.
  3. Bring the chicken out of the refrigerator and rest on the counter 30 minutes before you want to grill it.
  4. Prepare your grill and proceed as you like, or use a grill pan on the stove top. Heat the pan to medium high.
  5. When the grill or grill pan is hot, add the chicken breasts skin side down at a diagonal to get nice grill marks. Cook for three minutes, then adjust the chicken breasts to the opposite diagonal position and grill for another 3 minutes. Turn over to the other side and repeat. If the chicken is not done cooking move the breasts to an indirect heat source on your grill and cook until done. If using a grill pan, turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until done. About 5 minutes more depending on how big the chicken breasts are. The chicken breasts are done when the juices run clear after being pierced with a fork. Internal temperature is 170°F ( 77°C). Remove from the pan or grill and rest the chicken for 10 -15 minutes. Cool before making sandwiches.

Assemble the Sandwiches

  1. Smear and good coating of the basil mayonnaise (see recipe in notes) on both pieces of bread. Evenly cover one piece of bread with chicken slices, then add one slice of smoked mozzarella, or to cover the chicken if your bread slices are large. Layer the sliced avocado over the mozzarella. Add a small handful of arugula to the top and cover with the top piece of bread. If your sandwiches are large cut in half and wrap in parchment paper or wax paper. Refrigerate until ready to eat or go on your picnic. Pack in an insulated bag with a cool pack or ice to keep cool and fresh for your picnic.

Watermelon Nectarine and Basil Fruit Salad

  1. Mix the fresh lemon juice, honey, and ground chili powder in a small bowl. Keep stirring until the honey is completely dissolved. Taste and add a small pinch of Kosher salt. Set aside.
  2. Add the prepared watermelon and nectarines to a mixing bowl and gently stir to combine. Tear or snip the leaves of the basil and mint and mix together. Add the honey lemon dressing and stir. Taste and add more herbs if needed. Place in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and keep in an insulated bag with cold pack, or refrigerator. The fruit salad is the last thing to make for your picnic, because fruit releases a lot of juice after it is sliced and with dressing.

Recipe Notes

To make the basil mayonnaise, I use a 1 - 1 ratio of mayonnaise to basil sauce. The basil sauce is essentially basil pesto without the cheese and pine nuts. Use your favorite pesto recipe without the grated cheese and pinenuts and mix together 3-4 TB of mayonnaise with 3-4 TB basil sauce until combined.

My general basil pesto recipe is 2 cups of basil leaves, 1 cup arugula or spinach leaves, 1 garlic clove - minced, 1 TB lemon juice, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. In a food processor, process the basil, arugula, garlic, lemon juice, and salt until the basil and arugula are finely minced and combined. Use a thin rubber spatula to scrape everything off the sides of the bowl. With the motor running slowly add in the extra virgin olive oil. You might not use the whole amount. I do not want it too oily or runny so I stop adding the olive oil when I reach a smooth and slightly thick consistency. I do this because I store the pesto in a container with an additional layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto.
If you want traditional pesto, add 1/2 cup grated roman cheese and 1/4 cup pinenuts before you add the olive oil, and process until smooth. Then add the olive oil. Pesto is best used the same day it is made, but will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Use can freeze pesto without the nuts and cheese, for up to 3 months. Pour a layer of olive oil over the pesto before freezing.

Where is your favorite place to picnic? Please share in the comment section below.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways

I am just going to pretend that the summer is not fading away, but is in full swing in all its glory. It is difficult to believe that September is a month away when summer squash, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, stone fruit, fresh herbs, and green beans are now ripening at a sprinters pace. This time of year is wonderful, with many sunny days and cooler nights, but I am not ready for fall to be around the corner. I want summer to last, as it is my favorite season.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways, recipe

Over this past month, I wanted to make zucchini fritters. This obsession came out of the blue. Maybe because I always wanted to make them, but never got around to do it. I like all kinds of fritters. They are fun tasting with less filler than cakes. Making fritters is like producing a solo play with just enough supporting acts to hold the production together. For this production zucchini is the star attraction with just the right amount of extra ingredients to keep its shape.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways, recipe.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways, recipe.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways recipe

I never made fritters before, and wanted to make some that are different from the traditional zucchini pancakes I am familiar with.  After some searching, I found a fritter recipe with a southwestern take on a Mediterranean classic, zucchini fritters with cheddar cheese and oregano by Deborah Madison.  This recipe is from her latest cookbook, In My Kitchen, (Ten Speed Press 2017). She is one of my favorite cookbook authors and is a valuable resource for me. If you need a good vegetarian cookbook, anyone of her books are a great choices. I believe she helped change vegetarian cooking from its cardboard tasting roots in the 1970’s, to the lively and fresh cuisine it is today.

Her zucchini fritters are different. Besides using non traditional ingredients, she slices the zucchini into thin coins instead of grating them. They look beautiful and unmistakable for what they are. The zucchini slices are visible and overlap each other to form a cake with flecks of fresh herbs and clusters of crunchy cheese and bread crumbs mixed in.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways recipe.

I found it a little more challenging to shape each pancake, but it is worth the effort. Honestly, I am not sure how Deborah Madison artfully formed her fritters. She did not include instructions describing her process in the recipe. The several times I made them, I did the best I could with what I knew. If the thought of shaping these fritters intimidates you, please put the thought out of your head. This is your meal, shape your fritters anyway you want. Scooping up batter with a spoon and sliding the batter in the skillet works just as well. Yet please take Deborah Madison’s advice, do not apologize if they don’t turn out the way you want. You just made a homemade meal. No apologies are necessary.  They might not look how you hoped, but they will still taste great.

More zucchini recipes: Zucchini Fritatta, Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachios, Marinated Zucchini

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways recipe.

I made some changes to her recipe. First, she uses fresh oregano and a lot of it. It was too much oregano for me, (which is hard to believe because I am always adding more fresh herbs than a recipes calls for). Also oregano can get very bitter, so it is not one of my favorites. I replaced the oregano with basil. I love basil with zucchini and it worked with the cheddar. Feel free to experiment with other herbs you like, and if you love oregano, go for it.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways recipe.

Zucchini Fritter 4 Ways recipe.

Other variations included corn meal and corn flour independently, instead of bread crumbs. I love zucchini and corn together and experimented with corn meal to see how it would taste and work. The corn meal is grittier and does not absorb the liquid as well as bread crumbs and corn flour do. In the photograph above showing zucchini arranged on a slotted spatula, the batter was too thin. To absorb the extra juices, adding more cornmeal would give the batter more heft. Keep experimenting and see how you like it. Each option provided has its merits and I liked the taste of all of them. The breadcrumbs and corn meal had similar textures, and the corn flour made the fritter more pancake like.

Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways
  1. Follow the recipe for Zucchini fritters made with basil, cheddar and breadcrumbs.
  2. Substitute the bread crumbs with the same amount of corn meal or corn flour. (gluten-free option)
  3. Make the recipe but substitute the cheddar cheese with Comté or Emmenthal (Swiss), or Gruyère Cheese. Use bread crumbs with this cheese substitution.
  4. Make a traditional zucchini fritter and substitute the basil with dill, and the cheddar with feta cheese. Add some lemon zest as well.

With all these different variations, you can make zucchini fritters for days and use up your abundant supply of zucchini before the summer is over.

Serve the cheddar basil zucchini fritter as a vegetable side dish, or an appetizer with tomatillo salsa and yogurt. They are also delicious paired with a sauce of parsley and capers.

Zucchini Fritter 4 Ways, recipe.

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Zucchini Fritters 4 Ways

A Mediterranean classic given a Southwest twist. These zucchini fritters are filled with slices of fresh summer squash, cheddar cheese and fresh basil. They are light with a delicate bite of sweet zucchini and fresh herbs. The cheddar cheese is subtle and does not over power the fresh vegetables. For more variations, substitute the bread crumbs with corn meal or corn flour. You can also substitute the cheddar with any cheese, like Swiss, Gruyere or Comte. To make a traditional Mediterranean zucchini fritter, substitute the basil with fresh dill and replace the cheddar cheese with feta cheese. Follow the same steps in the recipe. This recipe is slightly adapted from Deborah Madison recipe in, In My Kitchen, (Ten Speed Press, 2017).
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 9 -10 Zucchini Fritters
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 lb zucchini
  • 1 large shallot thinly sliced
  • Kosher Salt
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs or corn meal, or corn flour
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped basil
  • 3 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 -2 TB olive oil for cooking

Instructions

Prepare the Zucchini.

  1. Evenly and thinly slice the zucchini into coins. If you have a mandoline this will make your job quite easy. No more than a quarter inch. Heat up 1 TB of olive oil in a large 10 or 12-inch skillet. Add the zucchini coins and sliced shallots and a small pinch of Kosher salt to the skillet, then stir to get an even coat of olive oil over the vegetables. Cook the zucchini over medium heat and occasionally stir them in the skillet until the slices are tender, but still have some firmness in them, and starting to look dry. (No liquid in the pan). This could take around 15 minutes depending on how thick your zucchini slices are and how hot your pan is. When done, turn off the heat.
  2. While the zucchini is cooking, chop the herbs and get the batter ready.
  3. Mix the eggs and 1/2 cup bread crumbs (or corn meal if using) until well combined. Add the grated cheese and chopped herbs to the egg mixture and mix. Add the cooked zucchini to the batter and gently stir to combine without breaking up the zucchini slices. Add more bread crumbs or cornmeal if the batter is too wet.

Make the Fritters

  1. Heat 1 TB olive oil in a large skillet
  2. Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet or oven proof plate in the oven.
  3. Test to see if the skillet is hot enough by adding a teaspoonful of the batter to the pan. If the batter immediately sizzles, then the pan is ready. Finish cooking your sample then taste for seasoning. Correct with salt if needed.
  4. Shape and slide one fritter at a time into the skillet. I like the fritters to look somewhat flat with the zucchini slices spread out and overlapping each other. Not mushed up. I scooped up the zucchini batter with a slotted spatula or spoon, then spread out the zucchini slices to make an even pancake. Once formed, slide your arranged fritter into the skillet. I used a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to encourage the fritter to slide off the spatula into the skillet in one piece. For each batch, 3 fritters fit comfortably into a 10-inch skillet. Patiently cook the zucchini fritters on one side for a couple of minutes, until it starts to get golden on the bottom. You want to handle them as little as possible, so flip them one time during the cooking process. With a thin flexible spatula, like a fish spatula, turn the fritter over and cook for a couple of minutes more. Move the finished zucchini fritters to the oven to keep warm. Repeat until all the batter is used.
  5. Serve immediately as an appetizer or side dish with tomatilla salsa and yogurt or creme fraiche. Or, serve with parsley caper sauce.

Recipe Notes

I have made these fritters with bread crumbs, as the original recipe indicates, and also with corn meal and corn flour. The corn meal does not absorb the juices as well as the bread crumbs, but do add a nice texture and subtle flavor. You can add more of the filler if there is extra liquid in the bowl, or just let the juices drain out the bottom of the slotted spatula before you add the fritter to the skillet.
Any of the three options work well. The corn flour will make the fritter more pancake like.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread

Each year as my garden matures, the herb garden expands as well. Slowly, the herb bed has inched deeper into the precious sunny real-estate and has started replacing my lawn. I add one or two more herb plants a year and build my dream herb garden. One herb plant that is thriving is my chive plant. Fortunately, it is not growing out of control, but remains nicely contained in a tall spiky mound.

Cheese and Chives Herb Bread

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread recipe

The plant grows without a lot of disturbance because I rarely use fresh chives in my cooking. However, it needed a thinning and removal of all the spent flowers before they spread their seeds. Afterwards, I was left with a large bundle of chives and a new challenge, how to use up all the chives before they go bad. This is the type of challenge I enjoy, and inspires me to look for new ideas.

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread recipe

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread recipe

I wanted to make something different, yet easily prepared and quick to finish. What I dreamed of was a recipe from Season 3 of The Great British Baking Show, Ian’s quick bread with wild garlic. While watching the episode, the smell of the wild garlic and bread traveled across the ocean and through my television, and I have craved it ever since. Unfortunately, I could not find his recipe. Rather, I came upon a recipe, which although is not British in nature, has that oniony-bready fix I was looking for.

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread recipe

This recipe is a savory bread with chives and cheddar cheese by Dorie Greenspan on the website, Serious Eats. It was exactly what I was craving, a savory quick bread to unload my bundle of chives, and give me some immediate satisfaction. I slightly adapted her recipe, and used Gruyère cheese, chives, garlic chives, lemon thyme and nixed the walnuts.

Dorie explains in her recipe; the French refer to just about everything made in a pan as a cake. A loaf such as this, is called, “cake salé” (meaning, salty or savory cake). This is a very light and cake-like bread that is perfect as a snack or appetizer paired with wine, beer or any cocktail. Like cake, it is light and airy in texture, but it is rich in flavor from the cheese and herbs. I also enjoyed this herb bread for lunch as avocado toast with lemon thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread recipe

As Dorie recommends, this is a bread recipe to play around with. Use the dough as your foundation and switch up the cheese and herbs as you wish. A traditional cake salé recipe from France uses Emmentaller, Gruyère, or a mixture with Parmesan. She made her recipe with cheddar cheese and chives for a local US inspired loaf. She also recommends other add-in substitutes like nuts, diced ham, olives, pesto and cooked vegetables.

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread recipe

More appetizer ideas:

Crispy Potato Skins- 2 ways

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon

Asparagus with Orange Mayo

Making this cheese and chive herb bread is an amazing sensory treat. Every time I snipped, spread and stirred the chives, their scent came forward like an herbal wave engulfing the dough. Once in the oven, the smell of the baking herb bread filled my house with comforting aromas of melting cheese, bright onions and baking bread.

I love it when I discover something new and it turns out to be a smash hit. This recipe is so easy, I am sure to make it several times and continue to personalize it. I know something is delicious when every 5 minutes my husband and son kept repeating, “Oh, this is soo good. This is really good”. This is no exaggeration. It was all I could do to keep them from eating the whole loaf.

Cheese and Chive Herb Bread recipe

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Cheesy Herb Bread

A savory quick bread filled with cheese and fresh herbs makes for a wonderful snack or appetizer. This pairs exceptionally well served with chilled wine or cold beer. This recipe is adaptable to suit any mood or taste. Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan or other hard cheeses are great fillers with a variety of fresh herbs. I like chives with lemon thyme, but basil or any combination of herbs will taste great. Anything goes with this bread. The recipe is slightly adapted form Savory Cheddar-Chive Bread by Dorie Greenspan on www.seriouseas.com
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup 268 g All-purpose flour
  • 1 TB Baking powder
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp Kosher salt amount of salt depends on the cheese and other add ins
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground white pepper
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 1/3 cup 75 ml whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz 75 g coarsely grated cheese like Gruyere or cheddar
  • 2 oz 50 g diced cheese like Gruyere or cheddar
  • 1/2 cup 125 ml minced chives or other herbs
  • 1 - 2 TB chopped lemon thyme

Instructions

  1. Set the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas Mark 5, and generously butter a loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until evenly combined.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl add the eggs, then whisk until well combined and somewhat frothy. Add the milk and olive oil and whisk together.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until everything is just combined. You do not want to over work the dough and there is no need for the dough to be thoroughly mixed together. Stir until everything is just mixed, it won't be smooth.
  5. Stir in all the cheese, herbs and any other add ins you have, like chopped walnuts. The dough is thick, but carefully work in the cheese and herbs until evenly distributed. Don't overwork the dough.
  6. Scrape into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The bread is done when it has a golden brown crust, and a cake tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of your pan and remove the bread from the pan. Cool the loaf on the rack until it is at room temperature.
  8. Best eaten the day it is made, but it will keep for a day, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored on the counter.
Nutrition Facts
Cheesy Herb Bread
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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