Thyme (Recipe: honey-roasted beets with orange and thyme)
First published in November 2007, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. Sweetened with honey and orange, these beets add a festive blast of red to any Thanksgiving menu. Try the leftovers in a salad with arugula and crumbled blue cheese.
If, on some stormy December day, you look out the window and see a figure hunched over, scarf wrapped around her face, fogged-up red glasses, pink fuzzy gloves, nippers in hand, digging through the snow where she thought she remembered planting thyme last summer, you'll be looking at me.
I love thyme, and it breaks my heart to buy it at the market, when all summer long I enjoy an abundant harvest from my garden. I try to remember to dry some each Fall, in the drying screen my husband Ted made out of an old window frame, but as much as I dry, it's never enough.
So, yes, I would rather forage for frozen thyme in my garden, or buy good-quality dried thyme, than spend a penny on the uninspired, aroma-free, weak-stemmed, overmisted, no-flavor thyme in the grocery store.
The name thyme derives from the Greek work thymon, meaning "to fumigate," and also from thymus, meaning "courage" -- both clues to some of the earliest uses for this herb. Thyme was burned, like sage, to drive away evil spirits -- and, more literally, to drive away evil odors and stinging insects. Some believed that fairies lived in beds of thyme, so many gardeners would plant thyme in the garden.
In the first spring after we moved to this house, I planted both English thyme (the most common desirable culinary thyme, and a mainstay of bouquet garni and herbes de provence) and abundantly-fragrant lemon thyme, and though I haven't seen any fairies, I've seen plenty of happy bees and butterflies feasting on the plants.
When you purchase dried thyme, buy from a vendor that has a lot of turnover, so the herb will be fresh. Good-quality dried leaves are grayish-green, and a package full of stems indicates an inferior quality. Dried thyme, stored in an airtight container (or in the freezer) away from heat and light, will last for up to a year. If a recipe calls for fresh herbs and you only have dried, use half the amount of dried that the recipe suggests: i.e., for 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, substitute 1 tablespoon of dried.
Honey-roasted beets with orange and thyme
4 large beets, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup orange juice, or the juice of 2 oranges
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme leaf
2-3 Tbsp honey or agave nectar, to taste
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place beets in a nonstick roasting pan, and stir in remaining ingredients.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375F, stirring occasionally to keep beets from sticking, for 45 minutes, or until beets pierced with a sharp knife are tender all the way through.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Red rice salad with roasted beets, sun-dried tomatoes, cherries and nuts
Spinach salad with glazed beets and blue cheese
Tomato, beet and basil salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Beet and fennel salad
Red quinoa, beet and pecan salad with pomegranate-orange vinaigrette
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Quinoa salad with roasted beets, chick peas and orange, from Gluten-free Goddess
Beet, orange and five-spice soup, from Soup Chick
Beet salad with feta, orange, and mint, from Leite's Culinaria
Warm beet salad with orange vinaigrette, from The Hungry Mouse
Salt-roasted beets with goat cheese and toasted walnuts, from Alexandra's Kitchen