I once made a rather complicated appetizer for a friend's wedding shower. "What did you put in this that makes it taste so good " she asked. "Thyme," I told her. There were chuckles all around at the double meaning but knowing looks at the truth of it: Pulling the leaves off fresh thyme sprigs can be painstaking ― when the branching stems are twiggy, you can't strip the main stalk bare in one clean sweep. Tearing off the leaves is easier if the thyme is dry; whirl it in a salad spinner or pat it dry after you rinse it.
This distinctive pungent, earthy herb is worth the labor. We've found that it sets off slightly sweet dishes as well as the more familiar savory partners like poultry. Executive chef Robbie Lewis of Jardinière in San Francisco puts thyme into a beautiful salad of nectarines and prosciutto, which we've adapted here. It makes a great light lunch or, in smaller portions, a first course for a special dinner.