Preserved Lemons

Lemons1smMy backyard has a Meyer lemon tree, I find this one of the greatest perks of my place. When first introduced to preserved lemons, I really didn’t know what to do with them, as they are not a common place occurrence in the American cuisine. As I became acquainted with Moroccan food, I came to realize that you can use preserved lemons in just about anything. Roast chicken, braised meat, and sauteed vegetables just to begin. I’ll follow shortly with some of my favorite recipes after these are finished, in this post I wanted to share the process of preserving lemons. I have a fondness for just about anything citrus. I often joke that I died of scurvy in a past life.

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Start by scrubbing the lemons with a clean kitchen brush to remove any dirt, and dry them on a clean dish towel. I find that the most complicated process of preserving lemons, is sterilizing the jars. The first time doing this, I dumped hot water all over my bare feet and had scalding water rush down my arms. I was moving too quickly, and when I used the tongs to grab the jars out of the pot, the water rushed down them and onto my feet and arms. If you take your time, however I’m sure you will be safe from harm.

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Thoroughly wash the jars, lids, and rings with warm soapy water. While doing that bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using tongs, gently place 2 jars at a time, depending on the size of the pot, and boil for 5 minutes. You want the jars to be completely submersed in water. Very carefully lift the now sterilized jar out of the pot of boiling water, and air dry.

Cut a lemon in quarters without cutting all the way through, leaving the lemon connected  on one end. Put one tablespoon of kosher salt into each sliced lemon and place in the jar. Fill the jar full of however many lemons will fit, and screw the lid on tightly. Store the jar for three weeks to a month before using. Once opened, only use a clean utensil to remove the lemon sections, and refrigerate.

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Appetizer for a dinner party

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One of my favorite things in life, is throwing a dinner party for a small group of friends. While I know the thought of planning a menu, shopping for all the different ingredients, followed by the hours of cooking, sounds like a nightmare to some. For me however, it’s as relaxing as watching Downton Abbey. The funny part to me, is that I really don’t like cooking for just myself. When alone I turn into a bachelor, making my meals as quickly as possible, generally eating homemade burritos for days on end, and save the weekends for baking, knowing that whatever I make will be greatly enjoyed by my coworkers. On my off time, which I don’t have much of due to the nature of the business I work in, I can loose myself for hours looking through cookbooks, Pinterest, and other food blogs. Planning, making notes of what I want to try, slowly chipping away at my list of dishes to make. I am happy to say that this dish is now among the top of my favorite quick appetizers to make. It’s perfect for a group of people to enjoy over wine.

When I went over to my Rabbi’s house for Shabbat dinner a few months ago, his wife made the most amazing dinner for us all. Since then, this has been one of my favorite dishes to make. I had previously had all three parts of this appetizer, but never together, I was surprised at how well all the different flavors went together. Salad prep sm

Israeli Salad

  • 6 tomatoes on the vine
  • 3 Persian cucumbers
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Finely dice the onion, cucumbers, bell pepper, and parsley and place into a large bowl. Mix in the olive oil, salt, and lemon juice and mix well.

Hummus Dish

  • 1 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 tbs. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Peal and julienne the yellow onion. For a great tutorial of how to check out this link. In a large pan, heat up olive oil over medium high heat for about 30 seconds then add the onions, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until you have the first hint of char on the onions. Add the ground beef browning before reducing the heat to medium low while you continue to thoroughly cook the meat. Add the turmeric and curry powder and stir to fully incorporate.

I really liked displaying this on a round platter, serve with warm pita on the side.

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Morning Scones

sones 1sm This holiday season felt like it arrived so quickly. Shortly before I went home to Seattle, to spend time with my family, it merely felt like any other week. Work is busy, as usual for this time of year, and it was too easy simply focusing on the task at hand. Having some time off to relax, and spend time with my family is just what I needed. I have both of my parents, grandparents up there, all of my siblings were in town, and some of my best friends as well. My days were a mix of driving from my dads house to my moms, over to a friends, then repeat for 5 days. I loved every minute of it. Nothing makes me happier than a loud house filled with my brothers, and sisters.

These scones are perfect for a weekend family breakfast. Very few ingredients, simple to make, and taste amazing fresh from the oven still warm. I feel that most scones are dry and heavy, which is why I normally opt for more of a decadent breakfast pastry. These however are light and fluffy.

Morning Scones

I originally found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Orangette, which I slightly adapted. In the latest version, I’ve been adding orange zest dried cranberries, which can be purchased from Trader Joe’s. You can feel free to leave them out, or add any type of nut or dried fruit that you would like.

Recipe

  •  2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbs. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries with orange zest
  • 1-1 1/2 heavy cream
  • 2 tbs. melted butter

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl and stir with a fork to blend. Add the cranberries and stir. Slowly add in the heavy cream, until the ingredients are just combined. If the dough is still a little dry add some more cream, the dough should just hold together.scones2sm

 

Place the dough on a lightly floured work area and kneed for 1 minute.

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Pat the dough into a square using the palm of your hand until it is half an inch thick. It will feel like you are making the scones too thin, but they puff up considerably in the oven, so trust this process. Cut the dough into 12 squares, and brush all sides with the melted butter.

scones4smBake the scones for about 15 minutes, or until they just begin turning golden brown. Cool slightly and enjoy.

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Pumpkin Thumbprint Cookies

Thumbprint Cookies 2-smHoliday cookies, it’s a thing people, time to get on board. This are pretty delicious. Although truth be told, the best way to eat these, is to fully submerse them in the pumpkin caramel sauce, but I can’t show pictures of that hideous scene. That was reserved for those special few people who watched me devour a few of these bad boys covered in pumpkin caramel, while I was hovered over the kitchen sink. It was a sight to be seen.

I love reading Joy The Baker. If you haven’t seen her blog before, go to her website immediately. One of my few regrets in life, is that I didn’t stalk her when she still lived in Los Angeles, c’est la vie. I have been following her food blog since its very early years. She posted these a bit before Thanksgiving,  and I knew right away that I had to make them. I think these are perfect for your holiday cookie list, if you are into that sort of thing. Also great with coffee or tea in the afternoon. Or you can just skip the cookie, and go straight for the pumpkin caramel sauce, a plethora of options out there really.

Joy shows the best photo demonstration of the entire process which I followed, and did not alter the recipe in any way.

Recipe: Joy The Baker

Chickpea squash curry

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I’ve been noticing a theme with my most recent recipes that I’ve posted. For some reason this year I have been squash obsessed. Squash, in one form or another, has been sneaking it’s way into just about every home cooked meal that I’ve been making. This one is a winner, and perfect if you still have turkey leftovers. Although I’m not sure I should condone eating turkey leftovers this late in the game.

Parsley-smThis recipe is delicious and perfect for a Sunday dinner, as most of my meals are. It’s the one time of the week when I can relax and really spend time in the kitchen. My weekdays mostly consist of leaving work late, gym time, quick dinner, and before I know it, it’s 11pm.

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Recipe

  • 1 package of drumsticks, or which ever chicken part you would like to use. If you are still brave enough for using your leftover turkey, more power to you.
  • 1 15oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 12oz can of chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 small butternut squash peeled and cubed. About 2 cups
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs. curry power
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

This winter I have become a master of the gourds. Splitting a butternut squash or pumpkin is no easy feat so be careful. Peel and dice the squash, and dice the yellow onion. In a large pot, heat the olive oil, and add the diced onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent. Next add the diced butternut squash, and sliced mushrooms, and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper and stir thoroughly to incorporate. Add the crushed tomatoes, and rinsed chickpeas. Cook on medium heat until it starts to bubble, then reduce the temperature to low and continue to cook for an hour to incorporate all of the flavors together. If you are in more of a hurry, just cook until the squash is cooked all of the way through. Serve with quinoa, or brown rice and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Pumpkin Pie

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Pumpkin pie is my favorite of the Thanksgiving desserts. However for me, my favorite time to eat it is for breakfast the following morning. I believe that pumpkin pie is so delicious, that it should be showcased on its own with a hot cup of coffee. Can you tell I’m ready for the long weekend already? Work has been so busy, as it always is this time of year. It’s the end of the year push for advertising. My life right now consists of two very different extremes. Crazy days at the office working on the myriad of commercials we’re bidding on, then quiet days on the weekend with pie, testing out different recipes.

I was going to post a different recipe for this pie, but it wasn’t right. I roasted a butternut squash, and pureed it turning it into a fall squash pie. While my co-workers loved it, there was something just a little off to me, and I knew I could do better. This time I went back to my tried and true recipe. Organic canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, and a mixture of spices. Simple, traditional, and delicious. Crust by Martha Stewart, because Martha just knows.

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Recipe

Pie Crust by Martha Stewart

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup iced water

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, and sugar. Quickly dice the butter into pea sized cubes and put the butter into the flour. You want to move fast to keep the butter as cold as possible. With your hands, breakdown the small cubes of butter until the flour butter mixture resembles coarse meal. Next put in the iced water, 1 tbs. at a time, using a fork to combine. The amount of ice water depends mostly on environmental factors, such as the humidity and temperature of where you live. Use just enough until the dough comes together. Next dump onto the counter top and combine into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. After the dough has chilled, lightly flour your work area, and top of your dough. Roll out, rotating frequently, and adding a light dusting of flour when needed to keep from sticking. Place rolled out pie dough into your pie dish decorating the edges as you like. Put the pie crust in the freezer while you make your filling.

  • 1 15oz. can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 12oz can of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl combine the sugar and spices. Next mix in the canned pumpkin puree and mix to fully incorporate. Shake the can of evaporated milk thoroughly before slowly mixing into your pumpkin sugar mixture. In a small bowl beat the eggs and stir it into your pumpkin mixture. Take our your chilled pie crust and carefully pour it into your crust. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the baking temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 40-50 minutes. Test the center of the pie by inserting a knife into the center of the pie and it should remain clean when you remove it. Or you can jiggle the pie slightly, and it should remain firm. Cool for 2 hours on a wire rack and enjoy.

Dad’s yam side dish

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I was trying to think of a more clever name for this incredibly delicious Thanksgiving side dish that my dad makes, but really it’s just a series of memories that come to mind. This reminds me of childhood, of fall in the northwest, crisp fall weather, and epic movie days with my sisters over Thanksgiving weekend. My dad makes the best Thanksgiving dinner, and this side dish, while very simple, is always a family favorite.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been adding squash to just about ever dinner I’ve been making. After having this side dish I know that this is going to be a regular rotating as well, there is no need to only try it with your Thanksgiving meal.

Recipe

I left the skin on with this version and I really liked it. In a medium sized pot, heat over medium heat then add 2 tbs of butter, and diced yams. Cover and cook while stirring frequently for about 20 minutes until the yams are fully broken down, and the consistency of mash potatoes. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Sugar is optional as the yams themselves are quite sweet. You can also substitute the butter for olive oil. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do.

  • 4 yams
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Fall Squash Soup

 

IMG_3904This last Sunday I was in my happy place. I spent the day relaxing in the kitchen making whatever came to mind. In this case it was a comforting fall soup, and roasted chicken with preserved lemons, and olives. I only have pictures of the soup, but the chicken was so delicious that I have every intention of making it again soon.

After a hot summer, I have always loved the changing of seasons. Now that I live in LA, it’s nice to know that come fall, we still get that cool crisp air first thing in the morning at an night when the sun goes down. As everyone knows we’ve been in the middle of a terrible drought. Last Friday it finally rained down here, and I woke up early Saturday morning to the sound of rain outside of my window. Made me really homesick for the Northwest. This much needed rain made for the most beautiful crisp weather over the weekend.

I’ve made variations of this soup for the last decade or so. My mom introduced me to butternut squash soup, and we’ve made it together more times than I can count. Her version, which I’ve adopted, you add apple, pears, and chili pepper for a little kick. Feel free to use whatever squash you happen to have. In this version I had half of a small pumpkin which was roasting in the oven so it didn’t make in the picture.

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Recipe

  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 small pumpkin
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 ripe pear
  • 1 apple
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. turmeric
  • 1 tbs. fresh ginger minced
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees roast the pumpkin until a fork easily pierces the skin.

In a large pot, heat up the olive oil on medium heat, then add the diced fennel, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes until all of the ingredients are soft and cooked through. Add the diced apple, and pear and cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add the salt, pepper, chili powder, turmeric, and minced garlic. Stir well to incorporate the seasoning evenly. Add the 4 cups of vegetable broth and cook on a medium heat for 30 minutes. If you have an immersion blender blend the soup off the heat until it is your desired  consistency. If you do not, blend in batches in the blender. Heat back up on the stove and taste for seasoning. I like to drizzel the soup with olive oil for a little extra flavor and serving aesthetic. Enjoy

Rustic Apple Crumble

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This time of year I could bake apple desserts everyday, this is not even an understatement. The funny thing is that I am not a huge apple eater generally. Occasionally I’ll grab one for a snack, or slice up with peanut butter on the side, but really we’re looking a few times a year tops. When it comes to apple desserts however, and the turn of summer to fall I can go all out.

I’ve been reading Molly Wizenberg’s Orangette food blog since about the very begging of food blogs. If you haven’t visited her site please do, she is a wonderful writer, and her blog is full of both beautiful photos, and amazing recipes. She wrote a few years ago about this apple crisp recipe, from Nigel Slater, that I have been wanting to make ever since originally seeing it. Other apple cakes and pies always seemed to get in the way, and I’m glad that I finally gave this one a chance. My co-workers also loved it.

apple crisp 2Recipe adapted from Nigel Slater

My favorite part of this recipe, which is the first time I have tried this technique, is that you cook the apples, butter, and sugar together for a few minutes to caramelize before baking. I think by doing this it really deepens the overall flavor. Also a note on apples. I like using Granny Smith apples, they don’t break down as much as others when you bake them, and I think the tart flavor complements the sweet, but feel free to use whatever you like best.

For the filling

  • 4 granny smith apples
  • 1/3 cup sugar. I had turbinado sugar on hand.
  • 2 tbs. unsalted butter

For the topping

  • 7 tbs. cold unsalted butter cut into pea sized cubes
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbs Turbinado sugar
  • 1-2 tbs. ice cold water

Peel and core the apples and cut them into 1/2 inch thick slices. Heat up a medium sized sauce pan on medium heat and add the butter until it melts and starts to foam. Add the apples and sugar and stir well to coat the apples. Let the apples cook for about 5 minutes or until the juices thicken into a golden syrup. Place cooked apples and juices into a pie dish.

To make the topping dice the butter into pea sized cubes and put into a medium sized bowl. Use your fingers to incorporate together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Drizzle with the ice water and incorporate together until lumps form. Evenly distribute crumb topping over apples and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top and the dessert bubbles on the sides of the dish.

 

Homemade Ricotta

Listen up people, you’ll want to make this. I have been wanting to make this recipe for a few years, and was really shocked at how easy it is to make homemade ricotta. I’m a firm believer that ricotta goes with just about anything. You can put it on your home made pizza, pasta with red sauce, toast and toppings of all sorts.

There are multiple steps to the process but trust me, it’s very simple.

Recipe

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbs. lemon juice or white wine vinegar. I happened to have limes on hand and it worked great.
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 layers of cheese cloth covering a colander. For me this was an entire package that I purchased at the grocery store that I cut into thirds.

Ricotta 1Line a colander or metal sieve with 3 layers of cheese cloth and set it inside a larger bowl.

Ricotta 2Heat the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy pot on medium heat, until a candy thermometer reaches 190 degrees. Just before the milk rapidly foams up, remove from heat and add 3 tbs. of lemon juice. Or in my case lime juice. Stir once or twice to incorporate the acid with the milk mixture, and let it sit for 5 minutes or until you can see the milk curds form.

Ricotta 3This one is my favorite photo. Looks really appetizing right now doesn’t it?

Ricotta 4Pour the mixture into the cheese cloth lined colander and let it strain for at least a half an hour. I like my ricotta on the wet side, so I let it strain for and hour and a half, but you can strain it up to 3 hours.

Store in an air tight container in the fridge and enjoy.

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