Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Four the Love of Cheese Pizza

Four Cheese Pizza recipe.

Out of curiosity I wanted to know just how much pizza Americans eat. The information is a couple of years old, but according to an article in Food Network Dish, Americans eat over 6,000 slices of pizza over the course of their lifetime (Reiter, Amy FN Dish, News, 2015). 6,000 slices of pizza is difficult to imagine, but for some odd reason I thought it was more, Yet the other surprise is, according to The Pizza Joint, a pizza trivia website, pepperoni is America’s favorite pizza. I would have put money down that the Americans favorite pizza is cheese pizza, especially with extra cheese.

Four Cheese Pizza

In our household, if I bought pepperoni, my sons would devour every crumb of pepperoni pizza, so I should not be surprised at that statistic. Their next favorite is cheese pizza, especially our homemade Four Cheese Pizza. Globs of melted cheese oozing off pizza slices appeals to everyone’s inner cravings. I can just see the scramble to grab the first slice of cheese pizza hot out of the oven with the strings of melted cheese stretching away from the pizza pie. Ah, don’t you just want to scoop up all those stings of melted cheese and layer it on top of your slice?

Four Cheese Pizza recipe

I made this recipe with a blend of mozzarella cheese, Italian Fontina cheese, Asiago Cheese, and Romano Cheese. It is a nice blend of creamy good melting cheeses with harder sharp tasting cheeses for contrast. The mozzarella and fontina cheese get mixed together, then sprinkle a layer of grated Asiago over the top so it stands out. Once the pizza is done baking, I sprinkle finely grated Romano cheese over the top and watch it melt as it hits the hot cheesy surface.

The reason I add the Romano cheese after the pizza is done, is to prevent the Romano cheese from burning. Those crispy burnt layers of cheese taste great in a lasagna, but people like crispy pizza crust, not crispy cheese with their slice.

Four Cheese Pizza recipe.

Putting it together

Just like my post for Pesto Shrimp Pizza, I did not include a pizza dough recipe. If you want to try your hand at making pizza dough, try Jim Lahey’s No Kneed Pizza Dough. Or, try this pizza dough recipe from The Kitchn.  I have yet to test this recipe so please let me know how you like it.

The down side to making pizza dough is, it requires advance planning in order for it to get done in time. Yet there is a reasonable alternative, buy a store made pizza dough. This makes Friday night pizza more doable.

The cheese pizza recipe has a quick tomato sauce with lots of garlic and fresh basil. It is easy to make while you are waiting for the oven to preheat and the dough to come up to room temperature. All that is left to do is grate the cheese. For more detailed information about making pizza and special equipment please read my post for Pesto Shrimp Pizza, (linked above).

An extra cheese pizza lovers delight. Four cheese pizza recipe made with homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Italian fontina cheese, Asiago, and grated Romano cheese.

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Four Cheese Pizza

A delicious cheese pizza made with a blend of mozzarella, Italian Fontina, Asiago, and Romano cheeses. The mozzarella and Fontina cheeses have a creamy base and are good melting cheeses, while the Asiago and Romano cheese provide a sharp contrast and make all the cheeses pop. 

Garnish with fresh basil and red pepper flakes. 

Makes one 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza. For a larger pizza adjust the ingredient proportions as needed.  

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Italian, Italian American
Keyword Cheese pizza, Four cheese Pizza
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Preheating time 1 hour
Total Time 31 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 14.5 oz (411 g) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar
  • 6 leaves basil chiffonade sliced

Cheese Pizza

  • 1 7 oz (200 g) Pizza Dough
  • 3 TB (45 ml) Tomato Sauce
  • 3 oz (75 g) grated low moisture mozzarella
  • 2 oz (50 g) grated Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1 oz (25 g) grated Asiago cheese
  • ½ oz (15 g) grated Romano cheese
  • Fresh Basil leaves for garnish

Instructions

Prep

  1. One hour before you want to bake the pizza, preheat the oven to 500°F 250°C/ Gas mark 8
  2. If you are using a pizza steel or stone, place it on a rack according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  3. Place the pizza dough on the counter and rest for one hour before baking.
  4. Mix together the grated mozzarella and Fontina cheese and set aside. Keep the Asiago and Romano cheeses separate. 

Make the tomato sauce

  1. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds and remove the core over the strainer. Place the tomato halves into another bowl. Press out the juices from the seeds and core pieces in the strainer. Pour the tomato juice in the bowl with the tomatoes and blend with an immersion blender or add to a blender. Process until smooth.
  2. In a 2 quart sauce pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and heat until shy of smoking. Add the minced garlic to the sauce pan, aiming away from the hot spot in your pan. Cook for a minute then add the puréed tomatoes. Turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for one two minutes. Add the salt sugar and half the basil then simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining fresh basil. This can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for two days.

Assemble the pizza

  1. When it is time to bake your pizza, sprinkle some flour over a pizza peel and set aside. Or, place a piece of parchment paper over a rimmed sheet pan large enough to hold a 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza. Lightly spay with cooking oil on the parchment paper. 

  2. Flour your work surface and your hands and pour the pizza dough onto your surface. Press down on the dough with your fingertips and shape into a circle. Drape the dough over the tops of both hands, shaped in a loose fist. Let gravity and your thumbs stretch out the pizza dough to a 10-inch (25.5 cm) circle. Use your thumbs to stretch out the edge and rotate the dough around. Do not pull out from the center of the dough.

  3. Place the dough on the prepared pizza peel or sheet pan. Check to make sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel by shaking the peel back and forth. If it is sticking add more flour to the peel. If you have any holes, patch them up so the topping does not ooze out while baking.
  4. Spread the tomato sauce in an even layer over the pizza dough, leaving an inch border around the pizza. Check to make sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel. Sprinkle all the cheeses, except the Romano cheese, over the tomato sauce in an even layer. Shake the peel back and forth to make sure it is not sticking to the peel.

  5. Bring the pizza on the peel over to the oven and aim toward the back of the baking stone or steel. (If you are using a sheet pan, just place it on the rack and bake). Slide the peel towards you and shake off the pizza so it slides onto the baking stone or steel.

  6. Bake for 6 minutes, or until the pizza is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Half way through baking, turn the pizza from front to back for even baking.
  7. Remove the pizza from the oven by using a spatula to slide it onto a pizza peel. Slide the pizza onto a cutting board or pizza pan. Sprinkle the Romano cheese and remaining fresh basil leaves over the pizza and serve immediately.

Four Cheese Pizza. An extra cheese pizza lovers delight. Four cheese pizza recipe made with homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Italian fontina cheese, Asiago, and grated Romano cheese.

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

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu Ideas

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu with recipe links.

There is nothing like getting together with friends and family for a day into night BBQ. The warmer temperatures and longer days just invite people to relax and hang outside. I put together a delicious BBQ Menu designed for ease of preparation,  seasonal produce, diet flexibility, and just good eats. When preparing a BBQ menu, the first thing to evaluate is know your guests’ dietary restrictions, if any. Don’t put any of your guests in the position where they must bring their own food. A courteous host will design a menu around their inspiration and friends and family food restrictions. In my case no matter if I am entertaining friends or family, I always need food for vegetarian, sometimes vegan, and gluten free diets. The whole menu does not have to include all the restrictions, but having at least one selection per course for any specialized diet is greatly appreciated.

Food allergies are taken more seriously than when I was growing up and there are times when people have so many food allergies and restrictions they opt to bring their own food. No one wants to put anyone out or feel like they are needing a special meal just for them. As a courtesy describe your menu to your friend or family member and inform them of your menu. If you are making something they can eat, let them know.

Summer BBQ Menu

Beer   Wine   Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita

Appetizers

Muhammarra   Grilled Shrimp Cocktail   Pickled Deviled Eggs

Main Course

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Cold Sesame Noodles

Grilled Asparagus

3 Bean Salad

Dessert

Double Coconut Pie

Gluten Free Strawberry Tart

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

 

Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno, recipe.

BBQ Menu: Drinks

Serving a selection of wine and beer and non-alcoholic beverages is all anyone expects at a backyard party. However, these days people are very particular about the type of wine and beer they like to drink. Most likely your guests will bring a beverage they like and willing to share.

For beer, offer a variety like a lager, IPA, and Saison. This variety should cover most people’s taste preference. You know you guests best, if the only beer your guests drink is Corona, then that is all you need. For me, I am surrounded beer aficionados, so the more diverse selection the happier they are.

My summer wine selection usually includes, red, white and rosé wines. Here again, people are particular about what wine they like to drink and based on my experience two types of white wines are necessary. There are two distinct white wine camps, those who only drink chardonnay and those who do not drink Chardonnay period. A choice of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will round out the white wine selection nicely. Another option is offer White Bordeaux. It is a dry white wine and should appeal to both white wine camps.

For red wine, Merlot pairs nicely with the steak and is not as heavy as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, I found during the summer a lighter, dry red wine like Cotes de Rhone is another all-purpose red wine choice.

The great peace keeper is Rosé. Both red and white wine drinkers enjoy a dry rosé. So, if you do not have the white or red wine they prefer, rosé to the rescue. It is a refreshing wine and perfect for summer.

For fun, offer a signature cocktail like Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno. You get two drinks in one with this recipe. The raspberry hibiscus juice is excellent in a cocktail and a non-alcoholic beverage mixed with seltzer or ginger ale.

BBQ Menu: The Beginning

No BBQ menu is complete without a good selection of appetizers. Chances are, your guests will arrive hungry anticipating a night of eating and drinking. Appetizers give people something to do other than drink, plus they set the mood of your party. Also, it is my experience people love appetizers or nibbly foods, sometimes more than the main dinner selection. Some people like to help and pass around a tray of appetizers because it gets them connected to everyone at the party.

Three recipes, Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

BBQ Menu: Appetizers

Depending on the amount of people determines how many appetizers you need. For a party with 8 people, I usually have three appetizers. Having more than 2 appetizer selections gives people choices for their meal, it looks welcoming and people feel like they are going to be well fed. When there is a small selection of food, people feel self-conscious about eating, because no one wants to be the guy who eats more than their fair share, and like I mentioned earlier people are usually hungry as soon as they arrive to a BBQ. Even if you have a larger party, 3 appetizers are a nice selection but make enough of each for two appetizer stations.

Variety is the name of the game. People love chips and dip of any variety. Serve with a vegetable crudité, and chips and crackers. All my dips published in this blog are some of my favorites and picking one is like choosing which of your children is your favorite. They are all my favorite. For a small party, I would select one dip, for a larger party I make two or three dips depending on the other appetizers.

 

Muhammarra is a delicious roasted red pepper dip from Syria. It is a vegan dip, but not gluten free. You can easily eliminate the crackers and add more walnuts for a gluten free option. Next to guacamole, Muhammarra is one of my favorites.

No one can resist shrimp cocktail and this roasted shrimp cocktail with Sriracha horseradish cocktail sauce is a definite crowd pleaser.  As long as you got your grill going, grill the shrimp over indirect heat instead of roasting them.

If it is not super hot outside people love Deviled Eggs and the Cornichon Pickle Deviled Eggs will pair nicely with the rest of the menu.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

BBQ Menu: Main Course

I went traditional with this BBQ menu and selected a meat entrée because this flank steak is easy to prepare and cooks up quickly.  My recipe for Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak is an oldie but goodie and one I use regularly. The marinade is also delicious for pork tenderloin. The photographs may need updating but the steak has a sweet, salty and smoky flavor that is timeless. With grilled sherry marinated flank steak, you can make all sorts of crowd pleasing main entrées. Serve it as is, make into a steak salad, or make tacos or steak fajitas. Additionally, any leftovers make the best steak sandwich.

Very few people don’t like grilled asparagus and it pairs well with this flank steak. On several occasions I discovered grilled asparagus is the only prepare some people will eat asparagus. As long as you got the grill going, you might as well grill up some vegetables. You can serve the grilled asparagus as is or have an orange mayonnaise dressing on the side. If you have vegetarians at your party be considerate and grill the asparagus before you grill the flank steak.

I often find a green salad is not the most popular food item at buffets and barbecues. My theory is people pile their plates with the main food selection with the best intention of returning for salad. But chances are they go back for seconds and forgo the salad. However, no one will miss the leafy green salad as long as there a couple of vegetable dish selections. For a leafy green salad substitute, I enjoy this 3 Bean Salad, made with two types of string beans, kidney beans and a lemon ginger vinaigrette.  Not only is it a delicious salad, it provides some protein for vegan and vegetarian guests.

For an unexpected side dish, serve Cold Sesame Noodles instead of potato salad. Cold sesame noodles also give your vegetarian guests some more protein with the 3 bean salad. If you need a gluten free side dish, make the cold sesame noodles with your favorite gluten free pasta, or Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

BBQ Menu: Dessert

For a small party one dessert is plenty, but if you are having more than 8 guests, then offer a selection of desserts. I prefer desserts that can easily be made in advance and maintain their vibrant appearance and taste. Unless I make a sheet cake, like Pioneer Woman’s, Best chocolate Sheet Cake, I do not bake cakes for barbecues. Pies, cookies, brownies, crisps, or make your own ice cream sundaes are perfect for a summer BBQ menu. An excellent pie, and gluten free to boot, is Double Coconut Pie or, Gluten free Strawberry Tart made with pistachio cookie crust. The strawberry tart taste best when it is assembled right before serving, but that does not take too much time.

Nothing beats these fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel, and they can easily fit in to make your own brownie sundaes. Just add the caramel sauce after you top off with the ice cream. But if you want a cold and refreshing dessert, Lemon Mousse or Yogurt Panna Cotta are excellent options for a small backyard parties.

Party Success

All these recipes were published to feed an average size family, yet they can easily scale up to feed any number of number of people. If I am only serving one main entrée selection, I figure on 6 oz (175 g) per person for the main entrée. A 6 oz (175 g) serving is a normal sized dinner portion. If you have a lot of food in your buffet and a second entrée, figure on 4 oz (150 g) of meat or fish per person. A half cup (125 ml) per person is a good portion size for any salad, vegetable or grain side dish.

The key to a fun and relaxed backyard BBQ is don’t fret it. Do as much as you can in advance and let people help when offered. Once the appetizers are made, the only food you need to time is the flank steak, everything else can be made in advance. Keep any cold food chilled before serving. There is nothing on the vegetables dishes you need to worry about going bad, except if you serve the orange mayonnaise.

Summer parties are less formal, and people enjoy making a dish to share. The main point of your get together is just that, a gathering of friends and family for a relaxing evening of good food, and fun. There is nothing wrong with asking people to help. Know your talents and limits, if dessert is not your forte, ask friends to bring dessert or buy it. Or, maybe you love making dessert but can’t swing the appetizers or salad, ask for help. Honestly, most people enjoy bringing a contribution because it makes them feel they are part of the party’s success. As much as you do not want to be alone in the kitchen, your guests want to visit with you as well, so ask for help when you need it.

Here is to a summer full of lots of parties and barbecues. Enjoy!

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

Spring Spinach Frittata with Ricotta

Spring spinach frittata with ricotta and recipe

Are you a sweet or savory breakfast person? If you are like me, someone who finds it difficult to choose between the two, frittatas are a wonderful choice and a healthy(ish) alternative to quiche. Because frittatas lack an all butter pastry crust, heavy cream and extra cheese, they are not as rich as quiche, Plus they are much easier to make. What this means is, you can serve up a savory frittata as a main course and include all the pastries or coffee cake you crave. Sweet and savory satisfaction without the guilt, (kind-of). I created this spinach frittata with the dual purpose of making something elegant and savory to serve for breakfast or brunch that also leaves room for something sweet, like The Best Damn Lemon Cake or Apple Muffin with Lemon Glaze.

Ricotta and Spinach Frittata and recipe.

Spinach Frittata Inspiration

My spinach frittata recipe combines two ideas from my favorite egg dishes. The first idea is from Deborah Madison’s  cookbook, In My Kitchen.  She adds saffron to her Swiss Chard Flan recipe, giving the custard an exotic floral nuance that I love. Saffron compliments custards and leafy green vegetables nicely, so I decided to use it instead of freshly grated nutmeg for some extra elegance in the frittata. I love saffron and don’t mind spending the extra money to buy it. However, if you rather not use saffron, add some freshly grated nutmeg directly into the egg mixture. Fresh basil or mint provides a brighter and fresher tasting substitution for saffron, and it pairs very nicely with the spinach frittata.

The second idea is the addition of fresh ricotta, whipped smooth and spooned on top of the spinach frittata. The first time I tasted a ricotta topped frittata is when I made Joshua McFadden’s Red Pepper, Potato, Prosciutto Frittata with Ricotta from his cookbook, Six Seasons. The ricotta transformed an ordinary western omelet into a very special occasion. The ricotta gets soft and warm baked with the frittata and you want every bite filled with this light creaminess. I totally got hooked on ricotta topped frittatas and now want to add ricotta cheese to just about everything.

It pays to buy the freshly made ricotta cheese, there is a big difference in taste. Usually you can find good quality ricotta near the deli department at your grocery. Or make a small batch of ricotta cheese. It takes a lot less time than you think and tastes like real milk.

Julienne Leeks

Making a frittata is fairly straight forward and quick. The only challenging part in this recipe is to julienne the leeks. For a change I decided to julienne slice the white and light green parts of the leek instead of cutting them into circles or half-moons.  It doesn’t really matter how they are prepared as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked till soft and translucent. The julienned leek disappears into the spinach and eggs but adds lovely sweet onion background flavor.

To julienne the leeks, cut the leek in half lengthwise then clean between the layers. Then cut across the leek dividing it into chunks the size of your desired length, mine where about an inch and a half (3.5 cm). Then slice the portioned leeks, lengthwise in very thin strips, mine were about 1/16-1/8 of an inch (about 2-3 mm).  Because you won’t see the leeks you do not have to worry about being precise like you would for julienned carrots in a vegetable sauté, so don’t fret about it.

Check out this video for a live example of how to julienne leeks. In this video he discards the root end of the leek. I do not discard it and julienne cut the root as best I can.

Spinach Frittata

Coming up with a name for this spinach frittata was challenging. With all the special ingredients, it could easily have a name that takes longer to say then it does to cook. Yet the mood of this frittata is all about spring and representing new life and the warming of the earth and air. Fresh farm eggs give the vegetables its foundation with a salty bite of Romano cheese. Young spring spinach and leeks provide a sense of newness to the frittata which in turn is gets grounded from the floral but earthy notes from the stamens of spring crocuses, otherwise known as saffron. Warm, creamy fresh ricotta tie all the flavors together for a sunny “Good morning” greeting. All that goodness is invigorating but not filling leaving plenty of room for pastries or dessert.

Frittatas are delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. For a spectacular Mother’s Day brunch (or any brunch), serve the spinach frittata with your favorite sides like sausage, bacon, green salad, fruit salad and your favorite pastries.

Ricotta Spinach Frittata with recipe.

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Ricotta Spinach Frittata

An elegant frittata recipe for the times when you want a special breakfast or brunch that is also easy to make. It is a lighter and healthier substitute for quiche.  

Course Breakfast, Brunch, Light Supper, Lunch, Vegetarian
Cuisine Italian American
Keyword Frittata, Spinach Frittata
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 pinch of saffron 1 TB boiling water
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup 24 g finely grated real Romano cheese
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1 leek about 6 oz (187 g) Pale green and white parts only
  • 5 oz 142 g spinach cleaned, and stems removed
  • ½ cup 117 g real ricotta cheese

Instructions

Prepare your ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

  2. Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add 1 TB of just shy of boiling water to the saffron. Set aside and let the saffron steep.

  3. In a medium size bowl, mix the eggs together with a fork until there are no egg whites visible in the mix. Add the Romano cheese and mix again until combined. Set aside.

  4. Thoroughly clean and julienne slice the white and pale green parts of the leek, about an inch and a half in length and about 1/16 of an inch wide. See blog post for a video demonstration. 

  5. In a small bowl, whip the ricotta with a pinch of Kosher salt and a few grounds of black pepper until smooth. A fork works nicely for this job. Set aside. 

  6. Place an 8-inch (20cm) skillet, preferably a non-stick skillet with an oven-proof handle, on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the olive oil and heat up. Add the sliced leeks and turn down the heat to medium then sauté until soft, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the prepared spinach, in batches, and cook down until completely wilted and soft, about 5 minutes. 

  7. Meanwhile, pour the saffron and water to the eggs, making sure you get every last drop and all saffron threads, and whisk together with a fork.

Make the Frittata

  1. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the spinach and leeks. Tilt the pan to make sure the egg mixture is evenly distributed across the whole skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let the eggs cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes.

  2. Run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen the eggs. Pull the eggs toward the center with the spatula creating pockets for uncooked runny eggs to fill up. Repeat this step going around the circumference of the frittata. Continue to gently cook the frittata until there is a thin liquid layer on top of the frittata. 

  3. Drop spoonfuls of whipped ricotta cheese around the frittata, about 6-8 spoonfuls. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until it is solid all the way through, about 6 minutes. You may need to place the frittata under the broiler to brown the top. It is not necessary, only if you want browning on the top. If you do, watch the frittata carefully because it should only take a few minutes.  

  4. Remove from the oven and run the frittata around the edge of the skillet, then slide the frittata  on to a serving plate. 

  5. Frittata is best eaten warm the same day it is made. 

< div style =”display:none;”>Ricotta Spinach Frittata. Spring spinach frittata recipe with leeks, saffron and ricotta. An elegant frittata recipe and a great healthy substitute for quiche. Perfect for any meal of the day.,

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

A Family Favorite, Guacamole!!

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite foods, ever. I loved it since I was a child and have never stopped. My love affair with guacamole comes from an even greater appreciation for avocados. They are on my desert island list of food that I can’t live without. It is just so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. Avocados remind me of California and eating them is one way I stay connected to my home town.

For most of my lifetime, I have made guacamole and never look at it as a recipe, but something that is fluid and develops into a moment depending on place and time. There is a foundation to build on, but each time I add or omit an ingredient whenever I see fit. Over the years, my guacamole recipe is the one food that people always ask me, “What is my secret for making delicious guacamole?” My answer is not one they expect or want to hear but, I feel like I am stating the obvious. The secret to good guacamole is, making it with perfectly ripe avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole reicpe

Ripe Avocados make the Best Guacamole

Ultimately, guacamole is only going to taste as good as the avocados you make it with. So, it pays to learn how to identify when they are ripe. It is rare to find them ripe at the market so, it is important to let your avocados ripen to that sweet spot at home. Too hard and the flesh will look pale in and taste bland. Too soft, and the avocado gets gray veins and has bruises on the flesh and tastes over ripe.

The sweet spot is when there is some firmness in the body, but also has some yield when you press on the north and south poles of the avocado. It is like Goldilocks, looking for the right chair to sit in. One that is not too hard, or not too soft. Just right. With experience it gets easier to identify that perfect state of ripeness and learn which store sells the best avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

Living in New York, avocados travel long distances to reach our markets and usually are as hard as a granite counter top. Typically, when I buy avocados I let them rest on my window sill for 2 days before I use them. On occasion, they need more time, sometimes less. First, remove them from any bag, even the mesh bag, but especially a plastic one. Then place them in an area where they will get some sun and air circulation. Never put avocado in the refrigerator unless they are cut open. Check them daily and handle them carefully so they do not bruise.

My kitchen windows do not get a lot of direct sunlight, and two to three days usually is enough time. If your kitchen streams with sunshine all day, your avocados may take less time. None of the tricks, like putting them in a paper bag to quickly ripen avocados, work.  Time, warm air and sunlight are essential for ripening avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe

When your avocados are ripe, begin making guacamole with the foundation ingredients, avocados, garlic, lime juice, pinch of salt, and minced cilantro. As you make guacamole remember this rule, start with less and add more if needed. It is a lot easier to add seasoning then take away. My preference for guacamole is create a nice balance of all the ingredients to enhance the flavor of the avocados without any one flavor coming on too strong. There are other traditional ingredients in guacamole like white onion or chopped tomatoes, but I prefer a smoother guacamole. Plus, I am not a big fan of raw onions. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped white onions or tomatoes if you wish.

Once you get the foundation mixed together, taste and assess what the guacamole needs if anything. With perfect avocados it doesn’t take much to make good guacamole. Sometimes, the avocados lack some flavor and need some boosting. The easiest way to boost up the flavor is by adding a tablespoon of salsa, either tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa. Also, a small spoonful of mayonnaise helps make the guacamole creamy. Even a scant amount of Dijon mustard can offer the right amount of tang when the guacamole needs some acid to brighten it up. However, be careful not to add too much because you don’t want to taste the mustard or mayonnaise, these flavors should be in the background.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

Extra Tidd-Bits for Boosting Guacamole Flavor

Just like adding a spoonful of salsa to your guacamole, you can achieve the same effect, if not better if you roast a tomatillo, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and garlic then add them to the guacamole. Personally, I love adding these roasted vegetables to guacamole, especially the garlic. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, and the harsh bite disappears. These roasted vegetables bring a slight tangy smokiness to the guacamole that just fits, like bacon and eggs.

Learn how to roast tomatillos and chili peppers by reading, Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce or White Chicken Chili.

A couple of years ago, I discovered how fresh fruit like strawberries is delicious with guacamole. Either serve strawberries on the side or chop some up and mix in the dip. You may need to add more salt and adjust the other seasoning, so taste and build the flavor as you go.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

How Many Avocados?

3 avocados are a good place to start. It should make enough guacamole for 5-6 people. However, if your family is like my family it will disappear in less than 5 minutes and you will feel like you did not make enough. Avocados are expensive, at least in NY, so buy as many as is within reason. The most avocados I ever used to make guacamole are 6-7 avocados. It was for a decent size party of 15 or more people. However, if there are several appetizers in addition to the guacamole, there is no need to make so much.

Keep in mind, guacamole does not keep well. No matter how much lime juice is in the guacamole, eventually it turns gray from being exposed to the air. The oxidation also effects the flavor. Guacamole is a dip to serve right away and at room temperature.

Need more appetizers for your party? Try, Roasted Shrimp with Sriracha Cocktail Sauce and Deviled Eggs.

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Family Favorite Guacamole

The secret to delicious guacamole is using perfectly ripe avocados. Avocados are ripe when they are still firm but there is some give in the top and bottom of the fruit. I find it is best to buy avocados a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on a sunny windowsill. 

This is a foundation recipe to build your guacamole as you make it. Adjust any amount of your preferred seasonings to enhance the flavor of your avocados.  

This is not a recipe to make in advance. Guacamole is best served at room temperature and immediately after it is made. Serve with corn chips or some fruit like strawberries and vegetables such as jicama, carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic peeled and green germ removed
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 tea Kosher Salt
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro
  • 1 roasted jalapeño chili optional
  • 1 medium roasted tomatillo optional

Instructions

  1. Cut each avocado in half by holding the avocado in one hand and with the other hand make a slice with a 6-inch chef's knife though the top of the avocado towards the middle until you reach the pit inside. Rotate your knife around the perimeter of the avocado. Set down the knife and hold the avocado in both hands then twist the avocado halves in opposite directions until they separate. Pull apart the avocado halves. 

  2. Securely hold the avocado with the pit like it is resting in your palm and the pit is facing up. Make sure your fingers are away from the edge of the avocado. Carefully, but firmly, take your chef knife and hit the sharp edge of the blade in the center of the pit until the knife sticks. With the knife blade secure in the pit, twist your knife counter-clockwise to loosen the pit from the flesh. Lift your knife with the pit still attached and remove the pit from the flesh. Whack the side of your knife against the edge of your cutting board, or the rim of a garbage pail, to loosen the pit from the knife and falls off. Repeat until all the avocados are cut in half and pits removed.

  3. Use a soup spoon and scoop out the avocado flesh. Run the spoon around the inside edge of the avocado to loosen it free from the skin. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it into a mixing bowl. Repeat until all the avocados are scooped out. 

  4. Mash the avocados with a fork until all the flesh is mixed together but still chunky. Add lime juice from half a lime. Stir to mix with your fork. 

  5. Mince or press the garlic and place into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch (less than 1/2 a teaspoon), of Kosher salt. and the cilantro to the avocados. Stir to mix. 

  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Too bland add more salt or garlic. Needs more acid add more lime juice or tomatillos or salsa. Start with less and add more if needed.  

  7. Optional Ingredients:

    The roasted tomatillo, process in a food processor first then add it to the guacamole. 

    The chili peppers, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds and white pith according to how spicy you want the guacamole. 

    Instead of the roasted tomatillo or chilies, add a spoonful or salsa verde or tomato salsa.

    For extra creaminess, add a spoonful of mayonnaise. For extra tang, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard. 

    Sliced fresh grape tomatoes for garnish or in the dip. 


  8. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Best eaten immediately with corn chips or cut up vegetables and fruit. 

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

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

Earth Day Friendly Recips

View from Boscebel overlooking the Hudson River. Post about Earth Day with links to recipes.

Sometimes I just get so caught up in my own obligations I forget the time to set aside and pay attention to larger events going on around me. Earth Day is a couple of days away and I totally forgot about it. Besides from paying attention to keeping this planet healthy and clean, my son was born around Earth Day. It should be a day I never forget. Of course, I never forget my son’s birthday but now that my life no longer revolves around the school calendar, these extra-curricular activities are easily forgotten.

Fortunately, there are friendly reminders directing me to the goings on outside my work bubble. Recently, I came upon an article from Fine Cooking  with a list of recipes suitable for Earth Day celebrations and it got me wondering how many recipes on my website could I add to that list. Yet, because my blog includes recipes for all food groups and diets. At a quick glance I found 37 plant-based and environmentally friendly recipes out of 137 recipes on the blog. No dairy, eggs, cheese or animal proteins. If I add my fish recipes there are even more.

Spring Vegetable bounty from the Farmers Market. Earth Day post with recipes.

Earth Day Friendly Foods

What is Earth Day friendly food? Food made from plants that do not deplete our natural resources, pollute the environment, or contribute significantly to our greenhouse gas emissions. That is a tall order to fill because everything we grow, make and consume has an impact on the planet. Fortunately, there are farms that practice sustainable framing techniques with minimal impact on the environments. From my reading, I am a firm believer of buying local products from markets that source their products from local farms and venders, either livestock or plant-based food.

News to Me

From my reading and listening to Mark Bittman talk about food and the environment, I already knew anything related livestock and particularly to cattle, either beef or dairy contributes significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere. However, what I did not know about is rice. According to The Worlds Atlas, rice paddies are the “largest source of methane gas on earth.” Say whhat? Rice? Yes rice. Originally, I thought that distinction belonged to the cattle industry, but I was wrong. Carbon dioxide comes from microorganisms living in the rice paddies. As the world’s population grows, the more rice paddies there are, and hence more methane gas going into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, I also read about how almonds significantly impact the water supply. This piece of information almost made me cry and struck a chord that goes back to my teenage years living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whenever I buy a non-dairy milk, I buy almond milk. Unfortunately, growing almonds requires large amounts of water, and even more water to produce almond milk. (See The World Atlas link for reference). According to The World Atlas, a significant amount of the world’s almonds comes from California. Need I say more? That poor state goes in and out of droughts time and again. These droughts sometimes last for years at time.

While I was growing up in CA during the 70’s there was a terrible drought that lasted a couple of years. 40 years later I can still hear Mom pointing out all the wasted water and ways to reduce our water consumption. Sorry mom, I just did not know. Maybe, If I make almond milk  at home, it will have less of an environmental impact.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Carrot top pesto

Every Day is Earth Day

How do I manage eating environmentally responsibly on an omnivore diet? I buy locally whenever possible and within my budget, especially dairy and eggs. We eat beef maybe once a week at most, however we do eat a lot of chicken. Additionally, I buy fish that is considered a “Best  Choice” or “Good Alternative” from Seafood Watch.

Fortunately, we live in an area that has local dairy farms so buying local milk is easy and affordable. Cows no matter where they live produce methane gas, but I believe there is fewer emissions because the milk does not travel as far. Grass fed cows are also better for the environment. I used to be good about making my yogurt from the local milk. Making yogurt is something that Is easy to fit into your schedule, but yogurt from a half-gallon of milk should get eaten within the week.

We are by no means perfect and have behaviors that would receive a “needs improvement” score on our report card. My pet peeve are plastic shopping bags. We often forget to use our reusable ones. Reducing the number of plastic bags, we recycle and use, is one of my goals for the year.

Additionally, after reading the 10 worst foods for the environment, I realize we should eat more plant-based meals then we already do.

How to Begin

I recommend starting small and work your way into doing more each year. Years ago, the first act I did was not buy water bottles and sports drinks. That action saved me a lot of money and reduced the number of plastic bottles in my recycle bin. I bought water bottles to reuse and bought powdered sports drinks and made the beverage in reusable water bottles. Side bar – My sons were swimmers, and drinks like Gatorade were essential to replenish their electrolytes after a day’s practice. However, I do not recommend the daily consumption of energy drinks for children under the age of 12 and who do not participate in rigorous and daily sports activities. These types of beverages are full of refined sugar and salt, as is all flavored drinks. Studies show a direct relationship between obesity and the liquid form of sugar. 

Buy local whenever possible. Visit your local farmer’s market and buy your produce there. Even if the farmers are not certified organic, they possibly are practicing organic.

Remember the recycle symbol means, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce your waste cutting back on the amount of containers you buy. Reuse containers whenever possible. Recycle by either re-purposing or taking recyclable items to the recycling depot.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, South Indian Style Vegetable Curry

South Indian Style  Vegetable Curry

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Farro with mushrooms and roesmary

Toasted Farro with Mushrooms, add some chickpeas and swiss chard for a complete vegetarian meal

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Apricots

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Rosti, Potato Pancake with mushrooms

Potato pancakes, Rosti

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Fennel with Chickpeas Ratatouille

Fennel Chickpea Ratatouille serve with pasta or polenta

Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Broccoli and Spinach Soup with Mint

Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Puree of Vegetable Soup

Purée of Vegetable Soup

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Kabocha coconut Curry Soup

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Miscellaneous Recipes

EArth Day Friendly Recipes, Parsley Juice

Parsley Juice

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Baked Oatmeal with Apples

Baked Oatmeal, made with non-dairy milk

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Aquafaba Meringue

Aquafaba meringue add whipped coconut milk with berries for a vegan pavlova

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar

Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar

Seafood recipes for those that need something more to eat besides plants

Buy fish that is sustainably farmed or harvested. Seafood Watch has reliable recommendations.

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Seared Fish Tacos with Avocado Mango Salsa

Seared Fish Tacos

Earth Day Friendly Recipe, Oven Baked Sole with herbs

Oven Poached Sole with herbs 

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Cod in Tomato Saffron Broth

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth Buy Pacific Cod or from the Arctic on the east coast

Earth Day Friendly Recipes, Spanish Style Mussels

Spanish Inspired Mussels, without the chorizo

 

This is just a sample of my plant-based and other environmentally friendly recipes on my blog. Most of my vegetable side dishes are plant-based or can easily be adapted by substituting olive oil for butter, non-dairy milk for cow’s milk, and eliminating the cheese in pesto.

Happy Earth Day everyone. Here is to a healthy life and a healthy planet.

 

 

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

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