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October 4, 2009

Thyme (Recipe: herbed cheese spread) {vegetarian}

Herbed cheese spread

New England, famous for its exuberant display of Fall foliage, seldom disappoints us.

Here in the southern part of the region, the leaves are just beginning to turn, mostly to yellow, but I see an occasional bright red or orange sugar maple along the roads from my house to anywhere. Right outside the window nearest to my desk, the dogwood's leaves have a bit of a purplish tinge today.

My garden senses the change of season, too. The tomato plant should win an award for tenacity, as it continues to produce lovely little green tomatoes that hang on the vine just long enough, it seems, for the deer, or rabbits, or woodchuck to discover them.

In the herb beds, some plants linger while others have begun to fade away. Parsley: gone to seed. Sage: still lively, waiting to be called upon for Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. Rosemary: surprisingly vibrant, though not much left.

And thyme. There's always thyme, hanging on well into winter, when I dig down through the snow to grab a few sprigs for my cooking.

If I could grow just one herb in my garden, or in a pot on my windowsill, I would choose thyme. Not because it's used to treat wounds or cure hangovers. Not even because Titania, Queen of the Fairies, slept in a bed of thyme, though that does sound lovely.

Thyme from my garden

A bushy evergreen native to the Mediterranean region, thyme's woodsy flavor also combines well with potatoes, onions, mushrooms, eggs and beef.

In my garden, I grow English thyme and a variegated lemon thyme. The lemon thyme is particularly lovely with chicken and fish, and in mayonnaise-free French potato salad.

Often I'll dry my own thyme, in a screen Ted made for me a few summers ago. When that supply runs out, I buy thyme leaf from Penzeys, in one-pound bags. I put some in a recycled jam jar that I keep on the spice rack; the rest stays fresh in the freezer, for up to six months. (Spices that get a bit older are still perfectly fine to use, but you might have to increase the quantity in your recipe just a bit to get the same zing as you would from very fresh spices.)

Herbed cheese spread and bread

Herbed cheese spread

This is a good make-ahead spread for crackers, pitas or celery sticks, or a quick make-it-in-five-minutes snack for a football party. It's a lot more economical than buying the little boxes of boursin in the supermarket. Makes approximately 2-1/2 cups; can be frozen.

Ingredients

8 oz whipped butter
16 oz cream cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp each basil, dill weed, black pepper, thyme

Directions

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor fitted with metal blade. Transfer to a bowl or container, and let sit in the refrigerator for two hours or more before serving, to allow the flavors to combine.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Goat cheese and basil bruschetta
Cheese phyllo triangles
Frittata with broccoli and garden herbs
Honey roasted beets with orange and thyme

Comments

Thyme is my favorite too! Alas, I couldn't manage to grow it this year....I'm not sure what happened.

Yum, I love herbed cream cheese. I am glad you are not one of those people who says to throw it all out after 6 months - could you imagine the cost! I am with you, just toast hard spices or use more of the powdered or herbs, to taste. Beats throwing out 150 spices every 6 months!
I love that blue cup/bowl - it is lovely!

Mmmm... lovely. Makes me wish I didn't sport the black thumb in the family. ;)

I hate saying goodbye to the fresh herbs! Yesterday I trimmed most of my herbs, and I cut off a generous quantity of thyme and rosemary and put them in ziploc bags in the freezer. I do agree that thyme is one of the best herbs of all. This sounds wonderful, perfect on crackers or crispy pita bread!

Yum!

Paz

The combination of fresh thyme, butter and cream cheese got me hooked with the photo!

Ooo that looks so good!

Thyme is my favorite herb. I use it in everything.

Oh my, that sounds so delicious!

Oh this sounds delicious! I love fresh thyme too. I attempted to grow some this year but it didn't work as planned and it was the first casualty of my little herb garden. Hopefully next year I will have better luck. In the meantime I'll have to pick some up at the grocery store to try this dip.

The leaes are changing here too! Love the thyme in this, I'm making it!

Thyme is my "go to" herb. I can't have enough of it. Lucky for me it grows in my greenhouse year round.
I'm so sorry I missed you in SF and hope we can meet soon!
- Christine

Julia, Deseree: Even with all the thyme plants, I didn't get much harvest this year compared with last. The early-season month of rain seemed to do everything in. However, I'll replace any plants in the spring that don't survive the winter, and I'll try, try again.

Natashya, it breaks my heart to throw out herbs. I always mean to be more organized and date the jars when I buy something new, but smelling and tasting are still the best tests. And the little blue bowl was made by my friend Bob (www.rfp.com), who is a wonderful potter who lets me raid the studio for bowls and plates.

Michelle, I have a bit of a black thumb, too, but herbs are generally easier to grow than veggies, so I started an herb garden here 8 years ago and have had some success with it.

Kalyn, growing my own herbs has spoiled me for life. It's so hard to go to the supermarket in the winter to buy herbs, to see the sad excuse for fresh herbs and the high prices.

Paz, TW, Ari, Crystal: If you'd seen my husband eating this with a spoon, straight from the bowl, you'd know how delicious it is!

Pam, Noble Pig: Thyme is my favorite-above-all herb. I use it in scrambled eggs, with roasted potatoes and tomatoes, and in beef stew. And in anything else I can think of.

Christine, I'm sorry I missed you too (darn those airlines....). Next time I'm on the West Coast, I'd love to visit and see your garden!

The one thing I miss about living in the Toronto area is the fall colours, but a spread like this would cure me of my homesickness.

I love thyme. You'd never know it, though, from the number of thyme plants I have managed to kill over the years. Basil usually grows just fine, though (believe it or not) I have managed to kill mint plants as well. Sigh. Fresh herbs are *so* tasty!

Such an easy & delightful spread---definitely one I can put to good use! I grew 5 varieties of thyme this year (all in containers) and I'm happy to say all the plants grew well (as I don't seem to have the green thumb I once did). I love being able to walk out onto the deck and snip fresh sprigs while I'm cooking.

oooooooooooooooo yumma lumma !!!!!!!!!!

Bellini Valli, I would definitely miss the changing of the leaves in Fall.

Sandra, this was just not a good year for herbs, at least not in the northeast. Maybe next year!

Sandie, I'm absolutely addicted to having an herb garden. Often it's the herbs that inspire my cooking.

Cozy Kitchen, amen to that!

Bread, please! I have some nice tasting herbed cheese spread in here!

I love the idea of mixing butter with cream cheese. Mmmm....indulgence!

Looks delicious! I love thyme and have been using it more and more!

YAY for thyme! Did ya know a mere tablespoon dry (2T fresh) has a third of your daily need for iron? Or that its main constitutent, thymol, is the active ingredient in Listerine?

A-MAZ-ING right?

hmmm... looks so yummy :)

Thyme is my absolute favorite herb, but I didn't know it was full of iron! I love to make cheese spreads and often use goat cheese with grated lemon, lots of fresh ground black pepper, and whatever fresh herb I have. Since I always have cream cheese and butter, though, and adore boursin, I'm trying yours! I left my thyme growing crazily in Colorado, but have none right now in St. Paul...though chives, rosemary, and tons of cherry tomatoes made it through the summer without much rain! Luckily Penzey's is right down the street.
I, too, like the blue--very pretty.

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