Thyme For A Change & Strawberry Madeleines

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There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.

–The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

Made popular in Victorian times many flowers have been given meaning and often used to send unspoken messages. For instance, and the obvious, red roses symbolizing love and Forget-me-nots, well, don’t forget me. Did you know Kate Middleton carried sweet William in her bridal bouquet as a symbol of gallantry along with myrtle (love in marriage), lily-of-the-valley (trustworthiness, purity) and ivy (continuity)? It was a meaningful bouquet filled with hopes of a long and happy marriage with her Prince. So far so good there.

As we head into April and my bittersweet (truth and honesty) gardening season I’d like to focus on all the goodness of William’s birthday (April 22) rather than the day (April 16) the Navy Chaplain knocked on the door delivering tragic news. It’s a much needed change. The garden, specifically getting my hands into the dirt, has been a great source of strength, joy and now fun with my grandchildren. Garden therapy is a thing. Plant some seeds.

Thyme is easy to grow and hearty through the winter

If there ever is a plant that reminds me of William it is thyme. Thyme is the symbol of courage and strength. I saw William at his strongest following a season-ending knee injury his senior year in high school. Lacrosse was his thing. Team co-captain with his best friend, Whit, running the game made him feel successful. Imagine the devastating loss, in the first game of the season, when an opposing player clipped him from behind blowing out his knee. In the blink of an eye, it was all over. Not only that, the surgical repair and 9 months of rehab that followed could effectively dismiss him from the Navy. While others would have crumbled, his hard-work at physical therapy and his ability to lead his team while on crutches was nothing more than courageous and inspiring. I know because so many of his teammates told me.

Next week I will share why he is like dill and nasturtiums. I know he’d be so mad if he knew I was comparing him to flowers, but trying to have a good laugh here rather than a good cry. Let’s get to this recipe before I change my mind…

Grow herbs! Herbs are an essential part of the landscape both outside and inside the kitchen. Cost effective, easy to care for, beautiful and delicious if you are not growing herbs I can’t tell you enough how much I want you to. And if you have yet to pair herbs like thyme or basil with strawberries then you are in for a real treat with this recipe.

Madeleines are like little bite-size pound cakes. I just love them with a cup of tea for a mid-afternoon snack. Super easy to make these fresh strawberry infused lovelies also call for freeze-dried strawberries as they punch up the strawberry flavor and color. Crushing freeze-dried fruit into any recipe eliminates the need for artificial colors and flavors. You can find it at Trader Joe’s or near the fresh produce section of your grocery store.

Strawberry Thyme Madeleines

  • Servings: 18
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup (128 g) cake flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries plus additional for garnish

½ chopped fresh strawberries

2 eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled

Powdered sugar, optional

Heat oven to 375F. Place oven rack in middle. Spray madeleine pan with baking spray. In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In small food processor or spice grinder, combine 2 teaspoons sugar, thyme and freeze-dried strawberries; process to a fine powder with bits of thyme. Add strawberries and process to a puree; measure and set aside ¼ cup of puree. In a medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat eggs with remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and pale in color. Add reserved strawberry puree and flour mixture blending just until dry ingredients are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in melted butter until well blended. Spoon or pipe batter into prepared pan just below each rim. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until madeleines spring back with a touch of your finger. Turn out to cool on a rack. Dust with crushed freeze-dried strawberries or powdered sugar.

A New Caprese! It’s the Jam

life on the deck is delicious

life on the deck is delicious with burrata, toasted fennel tomato jam and other assorted goodies

Here is a summery spin on Will’s all-time favorite caprese salad. He loved fresh mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant hand-shredded Italian basil with a drizzle of quality extra-virgin olive oil and the occasional splash of balsamic syrup. Along with a crusty baguette the boy was happy to feast on what he considered one of the world’s best appetizers…..after fried calamari. He had such good taste.

one of my favorites of Will & Cait

one of my favorites of Will & Cait

But you know me. There has to be a new caprese in town. And this one is the jam. Toasted fennel tomato jam….ahhh! Wait till you taste it. With its combination of fresh herbs and spices it might remind you just for a second of your favorite Italian sausage or sweet pizza sauce. It’s the perfect recipe when the garden is overflowing with fresh ripe plum tomatoes or with a beautiful meaty mix of heirlooms from your favorite farmer’s market.

toasted fennel tomato jam

toasted fennel tomato jam

If you only ever make one recipe from my blog this is the one. The jam will last at least 3 weeks refrigerated (honey and vinegar and salt are natural preservatives), but if you are into canning then up to a year if you seal and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

delicious all year long

delicious all year long

Eating this in the winter would certainly make it feel like summer all over again. It makes a great sandwich spread (think BLT or grilled cheese) and perfect with fresh mozzarella or  burrata, basil and crackers. How about on a burger? Oh, yeah!

a new caprese

a new caprese

Toasted Fennel Tomato Jam

34-cup honey

4 pounds tomatoes, cored and cut into 12-inch dice, (14 cups, diced)

14-cup apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground

12 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

12 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

In large non-reactive saucepan, cook the honey over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, for 6 minutes or until it darkens slightly in color. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, salt, fennel, pepper and smoked paprika, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a loose jam consistency, about 2 hours. You will have about 4 cups of jam. Stir in basil. Pour into heat-proof containers. Chill. Makes 4 cups.

And if you like it spicy add a bit of crushed red pepper flakes

fresh oregano on top

fresh oregano on top