Recipes @ Cooking with Thyme: Lemon-Thyme Granita, Capellini with Tomatoes, Watercress and Herbs

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cooking with Thyme: Lemon-Thyme Granita, Capellini with Tomatoes, Watercress and Herbs

Have you got time for thyme in your cooking? Use this herb in a frosty Lemon-Thyme Granita and a light, side-dish salad Capellini with Tomatoes, Watercress and Herbs.

If there had to be one utilitarian, all-purpose herb, it would have to be thyme. The herb thyme lends a pungent, lemonlike flavor to any dish you use it in. If you haven't tried thyme in your cooking, there's no reason not to. Grow a patch in your vegetable garden, and then use the leaves in a refreshing, light Lemon-Thyme Granita and a quick-and-delicious side dish, Capellini with Tomatoes, Watercress and Herbs. Have you got time for thyme?


Lemon-Thyme Granita
Makes 10 servings

To avoid last-minute preparations for this dessert, make this frosty confection up to a week in advance of serving.

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 11 sprigs lemon balm (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup lemon-flavored vodka (optional)
  • 10 whole lemons, for shells (optional)
  • Almond extract (optional)
  • Fresh berries, if desired


  1. In a heavy saucepan, bring the water, sugar and 6 sprigs of lemon balm, if using, to a boil over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat; discard the lemon balm and cool syrup over a bowl of ice water until cold.
  2. In a metal bowl, whisk together the syrup, lemon juice, lemon rind, thyme and vodka, if using, and place in the freezer. For faster freezing, pour the mixture into a shallow dish such as a pie plate. Whisk the mixture every 30 minutes until frozen, about 3 to 4 hours.
  3. If using the lemons, remove the ink on the lemons by rubbing with almond extract. Cut off one quarter of each lemon at the stem end. Using a grapefruit knife, cut between the pulp and the pith of each lemon. Remove the pulp with a grapefruit spoon or a melon baller, scraping the shell clean.
  4. Break the frozen mixture into small chunks. Transfer the chunks to a chilled mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy but not melted. Return the mixture quickly to the container used to freeze the mixture. Cover and freeze until the mixture is firm. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
  5. To serve, scrape across the top of the granita with a tablespoon and form the granita into 2-inch balls. (If the mixture is very firm and unable to be formed easily, you may need to let it stand for 5 minutes at room temperature.) Mound the balls in each lemon shell, if desired, or in a serving glass. Garnish with half a sprig of lemon balm, a few sprigs of thyme or a few fresh berries, if desired.

Capellini with Tomatoes, Watercress and Herbs
Makes 4 servings

Watercress leaves add a spicy, peppery taste to this fresh and easy salad. For a lighter flavor, use spinach leaves in place of the arugula and less strong-flavored herbs from the oregano, tarragon and summer savory used here. Serve the salad at room temperature; chill any leftovers.


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups small arugula leaves or torn fresh spinach
  • 1 cup watercress leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped assorted fresh herb leaves, stems removed*, such as thyme, basil, oregano, summer savory, tarragon, and Italian parsley, plus 7 whole leaves of basil
  • 1 pound dried capellini
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium low; add the tomatoes, arugula or spinach, watercress, and chopped herbs. Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  3. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Drop the pasta into the boiling water; stir to keep the pasta from sticking together. Cook until al dente; drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Fry the basil leaves until they begin to curl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leaves to paper towels to drain. Drain the pasta, and transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the vegetables; toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with basil leaves, Parmesan, and lemon wedges.
*Note: The herb leaves are easier to remove from the stems if you plunge the herb bunches briefly into ice water. Shake off the excess water before removing the leaves.

Kitchen Tip
To easily remove the leaves of thyme, first plunge a bunch briefly into ice water, then shake off the excess water. To chop thyme leaves easily, place them in a glass measuring cup and snip them with a pair of kitchen scissors.

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