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Posts from the ‘Lemons’ Category

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham


Oh, March…you don’t really belong to winter…and yet you’re not a full-fledged spring month either.  Sigh…

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I start craving all things spring.  Ramps, fiddleheads, greens, onions and asparagus, but there is one vegetable in particular that I look forward to the most.  Spring peas.  I think my devotion to the fresh-from-the-garden-spring-peas comes from disliking all peas that were placed in front of me before sometime in my mid-twenties…and is most likely related to the fact that 99% of those were of the frozen or canned variety.

Here’s a revelation.  This Spring Pea soup can be enjoyed any time of year.  Let me say that again, you can enjoy the delightful crisp and sweet taste of spring peas any time you feel like it.  Herein lies the genius of this Spanish Pea Soup with crispy ham and the Barefoot Contessa!  So even if it is still dumping snow in your neck of the woods…it can be springtime in your mouth!

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham

Good olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 pounds frozen peas, such as Bird’s Eye Sweet Garden
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto

In a deep (8 x 5-inch) heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until coarsely pureed, season to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp.

Reheat the soup and serve in shallow bowls with a slice of crispy ham on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve hot.

The ham is an integral part of this dish…a nice salty and crunchy complement to the sweet peas.  We opted to serve some crusty bread alongside and we couldn’t resist yet another Barefoot Contessa recipe for Garlic Roasted Cauliflower to make the dinner a bit heartier.

This is so simple, quick and fresh that it makes a perfect weeknight meal, and leftovers are wonderful, even served cold for lunch with a dollop of creme fraiche and of course the drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt!

What is your favorite spring craving?

 

 

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake


Prompted to bring a dessert over to a friend’s house for a small potluck dinner, I began scheming to find a dessert that was not overly sweet, involved a bundt pan (the husband’s been asking for of a bundt-something-or-other), and brought out the best of late summer (no pumpkin or other quintessential fall ingredients involved).

Thank you Interwebs…and Martha Stewart!

I stumbled upon her recipe for Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake and it seemed perfect!  A buttery, citrus cake with the added brightness of ginger.  I am definitely adding this one to my recipe box, it was quick, a bit intriguing with the crystallized ginger and had just the right amount of sweetness.  Don’t you just hate it when Martha is…well, Martha?

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake (via marthastewart.com)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in lemon juice.
  2. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in three parts and sour cream in two, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until incorporated (do not overmix). Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes (if cake browns too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil). Let cake cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. (To store, wrap cake in plastic, and keep at room temperature, up to 3 days.) Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

As previously mentioned, we carted this bundt over to our friends and let it cool a bit more before dusting with powdered sugar (as Martha suggests), and unfortunately ended up with no pictures of the sliced cake as it disappeared quite quickly.

I just love how bundt cakes get that lovely dark crust on the outside and hide their fluffy cake texture inside.  I think I’ll be making this again soon!

Chicken Piccata


This is pure comfort food for me.

Chicken Piccata was a standard in our household when I was growing up.  Although for a while it was referred to Tonkatsu Chicken as my brothers and I preferred to dip our chicken in Tonkatsu sauce (basically a Japanese Worcestershire sauce) rather than squeezing fresh lemon over the top.  

I digress.  This is such a simple dish…and very easy to make on a weeknight as well.  Although I don’t have a crowd to feed…it was always a crowd-pleaser.  The chicken breasts I used were humongous…I probably should have cut each one in half once I had pounded them and saved half of the meat for another meal.  But it did make for some great leftovers, so I can’t complain.

Chicken Piccata

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1-2 cups of breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
2 lemons (1 sliced and 1 juiced with seeds removed)
1-2 tbsp. capers
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
2-4 tbsp. of butter
½ cup of white wine

First, place 1 chicken breast in a gallon size ziplock bag and using a meat pounder or rolling-pin, pound each breast until it is about ¼ to ½ inch thick.  This helps tenderize the meat and will help it to cook evenly and much faster.  Next, open a bottle of wine…pour yourself a glass and leave some to help deglaze the pan.

Next, ready your breading set-up.  Shallow bowls or plates with a lip on them, or even cake pans can work really well for this.

I was gifted these a few years ago and LOVE them.  They link together so you avoid the drippy egg all over the counter and they help maximize your workspace as they fit together tightly unlike round plates or bowls would.  When breading, remember wet sticks to dry and dry sticks to wet.  So start with the flour, the next pan should have the eggs lightly beaten and the last pan is for the breadcrumbs and don’t forget to season at each step.  I heavily season the chicken breast before the flour dredge and I usually season the egg with salt and pepper as well.

Next, put your pan on the heat and add some olive oil and a pat of butter…the oil has a higher smoke point and the butter helps things to brown nicely.  Once the pan is hot, gently lay the first chicken breast down.  I turn the heat up a bit at this point because as soon as you add your chicken, the pan will cool quite a bit.  If there’s room (don’t crowd the pan), add in the second chicken breast.  I turn the oven on warm (150-180º F) so I’ve got a warm place to hold the chicken while I make the sauce.

Turn the chicken breasts once the bottom side is browned handling them gently as you want to breading to stay on the chicken.  Remove the chicken from the pan once it is cooked through and the second side is browned as well – place on a plate in the oven.

Now it’s time for the sauce.  If there is a ton of oil in the pan, run a paper towel around to remove some of it without wiping up the little brown bits.  Next, throw in half of your lemon slices and some of the capers, and cook a bit as you want them to break down.  Remove the pan from the heat, and add the white wine to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to get all the delicious browned bits up and incorporated into the sauce.  Add in the juice from 1 lemon, a dash of salt and pepper let all the liquids combine.  Before two much of the sauce has evaporated, add small and very cold chunks of butter to the pan and stir them in completely before adding the next chunk.  This is called mounting the sauce with butter.  The cold butter emulsifies and thickens the sauce.  Just before serving add in the rest of the capers, another few slices of lemon and the chopped parsley.  Plate the chicken, top with lemon and drizzle the sauce over and serve it with rice.

C’est Parfait!

Panna Cotta – Under Construction! {a little help over here…please!}


Okay readers.  Clearly, I am in need of your help, your collective knowledge and wisdom, your trial and error experience with the seemingly simple (any-idiot-should-be-able-to-make-it) Italian dessert – panna cotta.

Don’t get excited…I did not make this one…

{via}

I made this one.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a perfect panna cotta is not supposed to look like this…

Seriously…I’ve searched and searched for clues as to why it separated…and I can find none.  I repeat…NONE!  I followed the recipe exactly.

Okay not e-x-a-c-t-l-y…but very close.  Instead of using vanilla, I used Meyer lemons as the flavoring, the juice and some of the zest.  I bloomed the gelatin and heated the milk, stirred it altogether to make sure it was good and mixed…I poured it into little ramekins and let it cool a bit and then put them in the fridge.

(and what’s worse…I served them to my in-laws who were visiting…who were more than polite and delved right in as if eating gelatinized milk with a weird-looking yellowish layer on top was nothing other than sheer delight – luckily they are good-humored individuals!)

It tasted fine as well…but the bi-level layering and the yellowish top layer was a bit hard to get past.

So what happened, huh?

Attempt number two is happening this afternoon…but, if that one doesn’t turn out.  I may have to throw in the panna cotta towel.

{I’m counting on you, readers, to pull me out of panna cotta hell and tell me what went wrong!  Puh-lease!}

oh…and Happy Mother’s Day!

—– UPDATE—–

I made a second batch yesterday afternoon using a Mark Bittman recipe for Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta.  The process varied quite a bit, and I was sure it would work out this time.  Many have thought that my issue may have been caused by the acid in the lemon juice – but yesterday’s recipe contained no lemon at all!  I was feeling very confident and pulled one out of the fridge after dinner and dug my spoon in…only to find that once again…full separation.

At this point, panna cotta and I are in a fight…a big one, and currently, I’m holding a big grudge.  We’ll have to talk it over at some point but I think right now I need some space!  GEEZ!

So I now request your help once again…or I’m going to start email-stalking Bittman himself until he discovers the error of my ways!

Help!

2011 Meals in Review | part one


As I’m a bit behind these days, I noticed while perusing my photos from the past year in search of a couple photos for a new year’s card to send out, how many delicious moments we had in 2011.  What follows is not only what we made, but what we enjoyed! 

The delicious moments of 2011…


January

Rosemary Sea Salt Dinner Rolls (recipe credit: Pioneer Woman)

Creamy Pheasant and Wild Rice Soup

Orechiette with Pheasant, Bacon and Spinach

Butternut Squash, Shallot and Goat Cheese Pizza

Pot Roast…good the first time, better the second…

Cumin-scented Butternut Squash with Onions and Wild Rice

Pot Roast Ravioli

Homemade Fettuccini

Boboli’s done right…!  (yes, you are correct…that is an egg cracked on top peeking out from underneath the arugula and parm!

 

February

yummm…pancakes

Delicate Scrambled Eggs with Truffle Salt

A Birthday dinner at Bouchon

Cod Brandade with Tomato Confit and Fried Sage Leaves

Frisée aux Lardons et Oeuf Poché

Croque Madame

Back at home…Cheese Soufflé

Lump Crab Cakes

Valentine’s Day Cheese Fondue

Tempura and Cold Soba Noodles

Baby Artichoke Gratin (recipe credit: latimes.com)

 

March

Fancied-Up Burgers

Seared Scallops with Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Welsh Rarebit

 

April

April brought with it a trip to Vienna for Woody’s work…

Käsekrainer – near perfect street food

Beef Tartare with all the appropriate accoutrements

Veal Medallions

Finally in the homeland…a full plate of spätzle just for me!

A celebratory meal at Meinl am Graben began with a Veal Carpaccio for Woody

Tortellini with Consommé and Crisped Prosciutto

Honestly…I can hardly remember what exactly this course entailed…but I DO remember that it  was incredibly amazing!

The third course of our prix fixe…again…perfection!

Although I can’t say the name of the place…the fare was delicious

A trip to Vienna without Viennese coffee would be a crime!

Back at home…Pacific Spiny Lobster with Fava Beans and Meyer Lemon

Grilled Cheese Invitational…who says no to that…?

Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes…there were plenty more sandwiches and a lot more cheese, but most disappeared before I could get a shot!

And of course, an annual batch of Deviled Eggs for Easter!

 

May

Fried Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese

Onion & Bacon Tart

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini

Another birthday was cause for a trip to the Los Olivos region, some wine tasting and of course a meal or two…

Bistro Burger

Spring Vegetable Pot Roast

Ebelskivers

Savory Lentil Salad

House guests meant a trip to the Original LA Farmer’s Market and an Oyster Po’ Boy

June

Chicken Garlic Sausage & Swiss Chard Flatbread

Potato Salad – Two Ways

Poppyseed Cake with Strawberries and Mascarpone Frosting

Part two coming soon…

DLW: Fettuccine with Mizithra Cheese and Fresh Dressed Arugula


Very satisfying, very quick and seemingly exquisite.

Fresh fettucine pasta cooked al dente, tossed with butter, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, piled on a plate and topped with plenty of mizithra cheese.  Mizithra is a greek cheese, almost like an aged and dried version of feta.

In a bowl, squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice, sprinkle in salt and grind in some pepper, stir a bit and then add some good olive oil…just before serving, toss in fresh arugula and coat with the dressing, pile high on the plate and top with shaved parmesan.

The bite of the arugula balances out the richness of the buttery pasta.

Enjoy!

Bastille Day & a Little Liberté


Que faites-vous La Fête National? 

Although we were a day late in celebrations…we imbibed with France in mind.  Enter the Lillet-based Liberté cocktailWe’ve been inspired to purchase some eccentric liquors lately (and by we…I mean, the husband!) and have been mixing many a summer cocktail.  Bastille Day or the day the French stormed the Bastille prison and sparked the French Revolution seemed reason enough to celebrate! Recipe courtesy of The Kitchn.

Lillet is an aperitif wine containing 85% Bordeaux wines and 15% macerated liquors.  It is also considered a tonic wine as it does contain quinine from one of the liquors included in the blend.  It has strong citrus  and floral notes!

Liberté Cocktail (by Nicole Cloutier and Jacqueline Patterson for Lillet, used with permission)
makes one cocktail

3 ounces Lillet Blanc
1 ounce Hendrick’s gin
2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters (we used Urban Moonshine’s Organic Citrus Bitters)
garnish: orange peel

Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a thin slice of orange peel, twisted over the drink to release its essential oils.  (No oranges on hand, but thank goodness we have a Meyer lemon tree…the peel worked perfectly!)

We served our early summer evening cocktails with smoked salmon and caper spread from our favorite South Pas restaurant and market.

C’est Parfait!

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini


I love me some summer, and all the light fresh summer dishes that appear at potlucks and barbecues this time of year.  However, I have a confession.  I have a love-hate relationship with peas.  Mushy green things were a common side on my plate growing up and I remember many a night when I sat at the table long after everyone else had finished…and all I had to do was eat 3 more bites of peas.  Gross!  Then I grew up (a little) and met fresh english peas…treated with the respect that such a pretty and perfectly petite vegetable deserved.  I loved them.  I convinced myself that they were two entirely different things that shared no common traits.  I’m still wary of pea dishes and always approach them with suspicion.  This little dish is shockingly simple but more than the sum of its parts.

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini

Ingredients:

English peas, shelled
Feta (about 8 oz.)
1-2 tbsp.’s of ½ & ½ or milk
Fresh mint
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Baguette or crostini toasts
Sea salt for finishing

Start by blanching the peas in heavily salted boiling water for no more than 2-3 minutes.  Before you toss the peas into the pot, prepare a bowl of ice water and place it in the sink.  When the time is up, remove the peas and pour into a colander and then immediately submerge them in the bowl of ice water.  This will shock those little peas and keep them from overcooking and it sets the bright, fresh green color.  Once they have completely cooled, go ahead and drain the peas.

Next, get the feta, drain it and place it in a medium size mixing bowl.  I used half of a 16 oz. package.  Using a fork, mush up the feta and slowly add the ½ & ½ or milk.  Mix it up until it is a nice consistency for spreading on toasts, err on the side of keeping it a little thicker than you think.  First zest the lemon and then slice in half and squeeze all the juice out into a bowl or measuring cup.  Add in a tbsp. of lemon juice, a tsp. of the lemon zest, a sprinkling of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  This is a taste-as-you-go-recipe…so keep tasting and adding ingredients as needed.  You want a creamy spreadable feta with a floral lemon notes from the zest and a bit of zing from the juice.  The black pepper can be a prominent flavor as well.

Let the spread chill in the fridge for a bit.  Now grab the cooled peas and throw them in a bowl.  Take 5-10 mint leaves and stack them on top of one another, starting on the long side, roll them up like they are a yoga mat and then slice them very thinly.  Poof!  Chiffonade!  Sprinkle the mint into the peas, add some salt and maybe just a touch of lemon juice.  We brought these over to a barbecue…so I packaged everything separately and built the crostini on location…no one likes a soggy crostini.  Oh…did I mention the crostini/toasts…yeah, make them.  (Slice baguette thinly, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then put in a 375º oven for 4-6 minutes – watch them carefully…you want them to dry out a bit and get just barely toasty, remove from oven, flip them over, repeat the drizzling and sprinkling and toss them back in the oven for another few minutes…maybe only 3 – cool completely and store in airtight bags.  Voilá…Crostini!)

Time to assemble the toasts:  spread on lovely layer of feta, place the peas over the top, add a little lemon zest, a little mint and finish with some flaky sea salt.

The other parts of this barbecue are SO worth mentioning…we grilled some white salmon that marinated in 3 mustards, tarragon, olive oil and a little vinegar. we’ve been lucky enough to cook some white king salmon once before!

It’s hard to make asparagus better than when it is lightly oiled and thrown on the grill!

This is Juno, the sweetest Doberman we’ve ever met…she makes our Cleo dog look like a miniature breed.  They are good friends and neither one of them minded when they got to nibble on a little of the cooked salmon skin!

We used some foil under the salmon as we could not bear the thought of losing even the slightest morsel to the slots on the grill.

We finished the salmon with more fresh tarragon and some fresh lemon.  And if you look really closely in the upper right hand corner of the photo…you’ll see some delicious sautéed fennel!  Unfortunately…no other photos are available of the complete dinner since I must have been on a trampoline when I took them – they were THAT blurry!

Sometimes, enjoying the meal with friends, while it is actually hot, is more important than getting the perfect shot!

Bon Appétit!

Meyer Lemon Limoncello!


Because who can say no lemons and alcohol?  I mean, really????

Back in late winter, we had more lemons than we could think of things to do with them.  Until some friends of ours, mentioned that they make their own limoncello, and that it was quite a simple process.

Remember all those lemons!

We used our microplane and grated the rind off of A LOT of lemons and then you put that in alcohol.  We went with vodka.  Next, you let it sit in a cool, dark place for a couple of months.  Yep, just let it sit there.  Give the jar a shake every so often, this helps distribute the essential oils from the peel and zest.

Last week, it had been a few more than a couple months…probably at least 6 months…I decided it was time.

The time had come to strain the peels out from the vodka.  A few recipes I looked at recommended using cheesecloth, I substituted a coffee filter and fine strainer which worked well.  In the meantime, I made a simple syrup – with equal parts water and sugar…and simmering until the sugar has dissolved.  Let the simple syrup cool completely.

Once cool, add the simple syrup (ratio of 1:1) to the infused vodka, and pour into clean bottles or jars that will seal tightly.  Make sure to leave some head space if you plan on putting the mixture in the freezer.  The alcohol content should keep it from freezing solid, but it will still expand.

To take it one step further…you can make a limoncello crema by adding milk to the mixture.  I first mixed the vodka with the simple syrup and then added milk to the mixture as well before bottling it.  So the ratio is probably 1:3 milk to vodka/syrup.  Again, leave plenty of head space in the crema bottles, as this mixture will expand a bit more than the simple limoncello.

Once bottled, place in freezer.  You’ll want to let this mellow and marry for at least two weeks before tasting.  Typically, limoncello is enjoyed post-meal, ice-cold and in small doses.  You may need to let it sit on the counter for five minutes to make sure it is defrosted enough to pour smoothly.

Disclaimer:  We have yet to taste this fabulous creation…but we expect nothing but greatness.  Also, I may have just read a book which mentions that Meyer lemons should not be used for limoncello as they are not tart enough…oops!  We’ll find out soon enough.  All things considered…I highly recommend Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It – an amazing book that I am eager to make more recipes from.

Have you made your own limoncello before?  Tips, thoughts, ideas…???!!!  Comment below.  I foresee many more endeavors into the makings of limoncello!

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