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Posts from the ‘Lemon’ Category

pasta that stands out in a crowd

Several years ago, three of us went to a newly-opened restaurant here in Portland by the name of Fin. Great name for a (primarily) fish restaurant, no? One plate after another was brought to us, bearing exquisite-tasting and exotic-looking creations, works of culinary art, in very small portions…each with just a few bites to share. We saw one on this tasting menu using “Squid Ink Pasta” and our eyebrows went up and our eyes grew wide and we looked at each other with question marks across our foreheads that read, “Dare we?” We did! And what a good move that turned out to be!

About a year later, Fin closed its doors…lost its lease, through no fault of its owners…the landlord just wanted another and quite different use for the property. We have so many very good restaurants in Portland, but we were sad to see Fin go.

How I’d like to thank them for first introducing us to this intoxicatingly delicious, love at first bite, pasta. The one thing I know to do is to share the good noodle news with you’s!

This wasn’t the way it was prepared for us the first night we dined at Fin, but I’ve been thinking of preparing it like this for quite some time. And, turns out, it was as good as a very good food dream can be.

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Before we get to the recipe, a word about the pasta. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? Pasta as black as winter’s midnight! It still has the tooth-feel of a good spaghetti or fettucini noodle, but with a certain inexplicable velvety silkiness. Don’t think for a minute that I mean slippery like an eel! I mean smooth (and please, when you say it, say it slowly, drawing out those oo’s!) It tastes a bit of the sea, a little briny, but not salty. It will cost you a little more, and it may be hard for some of you to find, depending on your markets nearby, but it’ll be worth the hunt and worth a few extra dollars (only a few!) for a meal…this…this..indescribably good.  (If you have trouble locating the pasta locally, you can order from Amazon. There are several names and sizes to choose from.  Here’s one Italian brand I like a lot –  the  link here.)

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I recently discovered a wonderful article in Cooks Illustrated on how to prepare (perfect, yes I’ll use the word) shrimp under the broiler. Being thus equipped, it was a cinch to put these two together. You’d have done it too…

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Shrimp & Squid-Ink Pasta with Lemon & Basil

This all comes together pretty quickly…once you get those rascally shrimp clean and deveined. But be sure to leave the shells and tails on…lots of good flavor in those shells, and they share it with the shrimp as they cook. (Though of course you’re permitted to take them off before you eat.) The cleaned & butterflied shrimp are then dropped into a brine for 15 minutes before cooking. That will give you plenty of time to gather the rest of your dinner.

Garlicky Roasted Shrimp

( serves 4 to 6 )

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Salt - ¼ cup

 Shell-on Jumbo Shrimp - 2 pounds (16-20 per lb)

Unsalted Butter – 4 Tablespoons

Vegetable Oil -¼ cup

Garlic – 6 cloves, minced

Red Pepper Flakes – ½ teaspoon

Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon

Fresh Parsley - 2 Tablespoons minced

Garnish: Lemon Wedges

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Dissolve salt in 1 quart cold water in a large container. (It will take you some long minutes to prepare the shrimp so I wouldn’t add to the brine until you’ve got them all done so they’re all flavored equally.)

Using kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife, cut through the shell and devein but do not remove the shell. Using a paring knife, continue to cut the shrimp ½-inch deep, taking care not to cut in half completely. (See Illustration.)

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Submerge the shrimp in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and pre-heat the broiler. Combine melted butter, oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and pepper in a large bowl. Remove shrimp from brine, pat dry with paper towels then add shrimp, along with the parsley, to the butter mixture. Toss well, making sure that the butter mixture gets into the interior of the shrimp. Arrange on a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet.

Broil until shrimp are opaque and shells are beginning to brown on the top side, 2 to 4 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through the broiling. Then flip shrimp over and continue to broil until second side is opaque and shells are beginning to brown, another 2 to 4 minutes, rotating halfway through. (Very doubtful this will require anything close to 8 minutes total time!)

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You may think now to plop these beauties onto pasta – and how lucky! That’s the very thing I’m recommending!

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the pasta!

I’ve paired this pasta with a couple herbs and with lemon, three ways – the tart juice, the bright zest, and the Incomparable Preserved Lemon. (You can omit the preserved lemon if you wish, but I don’t know why you would! : ]  If you still haven’t made your own, you can buy them already prepared. In an upcoming Spreenkle I’ll share a quick trick for making a reasonable facsimile much faster in your freezer – or Google it and you’ll see the method. I still prefer the slower method though.)

Squid-Ink Pasta with Lemon & Basil

( serves 4 with shrimp )

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Squid-Ink spaghetti, fettucini, linguini, capellini (your choice) – 8 ounces

Juice of 1½ – 2 Lemons

Lemon Zest – from the juiced lemons

Preserved Lemon (the rind only, finely-diced) – from ½ lemon – rinsed well, pulp removed

Unsalted Butter - 3 Tablespoons

Extra-virgin Olive Oil – 3 Tablespoons

White Wine - a good Splash

Basil Leaves – 16 medium to large ones

Italian Parsley – 1½ Tablespoons chopped

Salt – to taste

Freshly-ground Pepper – to taste

________ Read more

little lemony tartlets

Spree’s been making messes around here for 2 years now! That deserves something. It’s not a huge anniversary – no reason to go hog-wild. Let’s keep it simple, very simple. That suits Spree best. Jeans, soft sweaters and comfy shoes. Bring a dish of comfort if you like but nothing more. We’ll have lots to eat and drink. We’ll build fires, sit on quilts and wait for Spring to come. We’ll watch the birds eating just outside the windows and we’ll look close at crocus pushing up the dirt. We’ll eat savory popcorn and watch old movies. We’ll tell each other stories and laugh til our sides ache. We’ll roll the rugs back and dance (like the winter-weary but happy fools we are.) We’ll rest our heads on each other’s shoulders and maybe nod off a time or two. And then before you leave for home again, we’ll have little lemony tartlets, so that everyone can have their own, and

Spree will have 2.

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A two-part dessert that’s easy as pie:

Little Lemon Curd Tartlets

In a Gingersnap Crust

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The Curd:

(makes 1 pint)

Lemons - 2 or 3

Sugar - ½ cup

Eggs – 3 – lightly beaten

Unsalted Butter – ½ cup (4 oz/125g)

Optional: Lemon Extract – ½ teaspoon

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Cut the butter into small cubes. Finely grate the zest of one lemon. Set aside and cover. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze enough juice to measure 1/3 cup.

Place a non-reactive, heat-proof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Be certain that the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add the lemon juice, sugar, and eggs (lightly beaten) to the bowl and whisk or stir continuously. Add the butter, a few small cubes at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Continue stirring until all the butter has been incorporated and the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. (10 – 15 minutes)

Pour the curd into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl and stir until the silky lemony pudding has made its way to the bowl below. Stir in the zest (and lemon extract if you like – I do) and then set aside to cool.

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The Crust:

makes 4 tartlet shells

I used a store-bought gingersnaps for this crust – and (weird that I am) I counted them so that I could tell you it will take 20 cookies to make 4 tartlet shells. Of course that will depend on the size of the cookie, but the standard shelf brand in the US measures out that way. But if you have a kitchen scale, it’s a snap.

Gingersnap crumbs – 1¾ cups (5 oz/155g)

Unsalted Butter – 5 Tablespoons

All-purpose Flour – ¼ cup

Optional - Powdered Ginger - ½ teaspoon

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Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and butter four 4½ inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms.

In a food processor, combine the gingersnap crumbs and flour; drop in the butter. Pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture begins to clump together. (It’s unlikely, but is dependent on your brand of snap – if the mixture is too “dusty” and doesn’t cling together, add another pat of butter.) Remove the mixture from the processor, divide into 4 equal parts, and press into the pans –  first onto the bottom and secondly up the sides. Read more

creamy carrot soup & preserved lemons

On a winter’s afternoon, weeks still before Christmas, a good friend Carolyn and I came together in my kitchen. We’d amassed on the counter several bags of organic lemons, sea salt, a few herbs and spices, and a collection of pretty jars.  We washed, sliced and stuffed the lemons with salt. We packed them tight into their jars. Then tighter still. We dropped bay leaves and pink peppercorns and allspice berries in behind them, and then squeezed juice enough from other lemons to cover them. We talked about what we’d do with them and who we’d give them to as gifts for Christmas. In six weeks they’d be ready. Carolyn hadn’t tasted them before, so she could hardly wait.CarrotSoup-1Some time – too long ago – I posted on how to preserve lemons. I (kind of) promised that I’d share recipes that used these indescribably delectable “preserves”. (In all truth, though, you don’t really need a recipe in order to use them. You can strew them on a salad or in the salad’s vinaigrette; or in with roasted or steamed vegetables; make a simple sauce sort of extraordinary; add them to stews or soups; flavor grilled or poached fish with them. I reach for them several times a week, at least!) Over the next couple months I’ll share a good handful of really good recipes. One of them will be from my friend Carolyn who invented it on the spot (she does that sort of thing, and created herself a beautiful shrimp dinner in about 15 minutes.) She told me about it and I made it and we loved it. (Expect to see more from Ottolenghi too.)

This one today is from Mike – Mike, married to my daughter, is a good good cook. They received a jar of Preserved Lemons for Christmas. One day my girl and I were on an outing and she raved about the dinner Mike had made the other night. By that afternoon, I was texting Mike…

He generously shares his soup:

Creamy Carrot Soup with Preserved Lemons

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 -3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil

 2 cloves of garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons finely minced ginger root

 2 cups chicken stock (or good vegetable stock)

2 Tablespoons dry sherry or white wine

8 to 10 medium carrots, sliced thinly

1 to 2 sections of preserved lemon, diced finely (See NOTE)

1 to 1¼ cups milk (from whole milk to 1% to your preferred milk alternative)

Salt & Pepper (white if you have it) to taste

NOTE on preserved lemons. By “sections” we mean quarters of lemon. After soaking in a briny liquid for 6 weeks, the flesh of the lemon has given over much of its juice to the jar. The rinds of the lemon have softened, and in a way quite impossible to describe, have mellowed, given up their acidic bite and become more roundly-flavored, very lemony still, but not mouth-puckeringly so. To use them, you remove the flesh (either discard it or toss it back in the jar) and use only the rind, which you rinse well first and then (generally) finely dice. If you cook with it, it will impart its lemony-ness to the dish but in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. If you use it fresh, without cooking first, you get little lemony bursts.

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If you don’t want to make them yourself, you can find them in many markets. That said, they’re easy and (we think) fun to make…especially with a friend.

CarrotSoup-3 Read more

lemon-roasted potatoes & Jerusalem artichokes with bay & garlic

Who played loose with the facts and came up with  the name “Jerusalem Artichoke”? It’s neither artichoke nor does it hail from Jerusalem. They look somewhat like ginger root on the outside, all knobby, more like a small potato when you cut them open. Texture more like water chestnut, crisp and crunchy when raw. Flavor, sweeter than a potato, far more flavor than a water chestnut. And when paired with potatoes, scrumptious!

If you can’t find these little tubers, use all potatoes instead. You might try pairing reds and Yukon golds for extra color on your plate.

I’ve roasted them together here, in good olive oil, slices and juice of lemon, aromatic bay leaves and garlic. (Did you know how very well lemon goes with potatoes? In light of how delicious, it’s surprising how well-kept a secret that is.)

To the nearly finished potatoes, you could add halved cherry tomatoes, or Kalamata olives. You could increase the garlic to 4 cloves if you and your love agree to eat them together. You could add dried mint or oregano. You have options, depending on which direction you’d like to take your meal. But here’s a very delicious beginning…

Lemon-Roasted Potatoes & Jerusalem Artichokes with Bay & Garlic

(about 4 servings)

  • 1 pound (500 g) Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 pound (500 g) Jerusalem Artichokes
  • 2 lemons, washed, then sliced in ¼-inch slices (seeds removed)
  • 2 Tablespoons very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 bay leaves (fresh, if possible – if they’re more than a year old, they’ll have little flavor left)
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, crushed (but not chopped)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Optional additions: dried mint or oregano, cherry tomatoes halved, Kalamata olives, more garlic.

Wash the potatoes and put them whole into a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce temperature to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes then pour the pot’s contents into a colander. When potatoes have cooled enough to handle, cut them in half or quarters, depending on their size.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the Jerusalem artichokes. Peel their skins and cut in approximately 2-inch pieces (5 cm). Don’t worry if you can’t remove all the peel. It won’t matter in the end at all.

Read more

olive oil & red grape cake

If I were to name my sweet weakness, cake wouldn’t be it. Once every blue moon though comes a cake with that certain something that causes my knees to wobble and my will to crumble. Enter this cake.

Generally cakes tend to be a bit sweet for me, sugar muscling out every other taste sensation. This cake is sweet enough to be called a cake, but doesn’t overpower the palate with sugar. My own sweet weakness is for fruit desserts and most cakes are rather wussy in the fruit department. This cake is deliciously fragrant with citrus, both lemon and orange, and has purply bursts of fresh grape. Many cakes are made of more than a dozen ingredients. This has 8 very simple ones. There’s only 1 cup of flour in this 9-inch cake. The lightness and golden color come from eggs. The exquisite richness, from a fruity olive oil (to name another weakness.) This is a fine-textured, delicately scented, out-of-the-ordinary cake quite perfect for finishing a meal.  And if sweet tea-time be your weakness, could I suggest…

Citrusy Olive Oil & Red Grape Cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup (155 g) sugar, with more for sprinkling
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, more for brushing*
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup (125 g, 5 ounces) cake flour sifted
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces (250 g) seedless red grapes

You’ll need a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. 

* I recommend a light or sweet & fruity sort – avoid the pungent peppery kind you might love dipping your bread in.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Rub the springform pan with a little olive oil, and line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.

Grate the zest from the lemon and orange, and then juice the lemon. (One means of getting more juice from the lemon is to roll it back & forth on the counter first, applying medium pressure with the palm of your hand. Or put the lemon in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds to help release the juices. Slice in half and juice.)

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick, pale and ribbony. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice and the zest of both the lemon and the orange. Add the flour, and stir to combine.

Beat the egg whites with the salt ’til stiff peaks form, then gently fold them into the lemony batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Plunk in half of the grapes, fairly evenly throughout the batter. (These will sink to the bottom.)

Read more

french lemon tart

a sweet/tart tart for your sweetheart?

Sicily, the biggest of my littles, and I have been enjoying baking dates together since her birthday more than a year ago. We finished up our “series” last night with a lemon tart. Sicily’s pretty crazy about anything lemon, and so am I, which resulted in a pretty clear winner for our final project.

It all begins with the best of lemons. Carefully chosen organic lemons for this tart, especially since we’d be using some of the peel for zesting.

We start with a 9-inch tart pan, fill it with a very buttery cookie-like shell, bake it; pour in a glossy, lemony yellow, sweet-tart custard, spun through with spoonfuls of satiny crème fraîche. Can’t you just imagine? If you’re with me so far, top with a slightly sweetened dollop of freshly-whipped and vanillaed-cream…because sometimes that’s just the stuff love’s made of…

Pastry Shell

For this you’ll need a 9-inch tart pan and several cups of dried beans and parchment paper. The beans keep the shell stable during the initial baking time. I keep mine in a jar, mixed odds and ends of beans, reserved just for this purpose.

  • 1½ cups flour (185 g)
  • ½ cup (110 g) OR ¾ cup (170 g) cold butter, cut into pieces (see NOTE on the Pastry)
  • ¼ cup sugar (55 g)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (optional)

NOTE on the Pastry: Two options are given for the quantity of butter to be used. The lesser amount will result in a shortbread-like pastry that rolls out cooperatively and forms nice smooth sides. The option using more butter results  in a much more fragile and delicate crust (one that absolutely melts in the mouth) but is more difficult to handle and will need to be patched in places and pressed into the pan.  (Sicily loves butter.) :)

Mix the flour and butter with your fingers, or in the food processor, until it resembles fine crumbs. Mix in the sugar. Using your fingers, now blend in the two egg yolks and vanilla (if using) just long enough for it to come together into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk about 5 or 6 inches across. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. (If overnight, allow it to sit on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes before rolling.)

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Roll out on a floured surface. (A bench scrape or long off-set spatula will help you to “unlock” it from the board if it gets stuck.) Roll it to a diameter of 2½ inches beyond the size of your tart pan.

Gently fold in half, place in tart pan, then unfold and press in place. Trim the top “waste” and make repairs where necessary. Chill for 30 minutes. (Important to do this.) Then line the chilled crust with parchment paper cut to several inches larger than pan. Fill to brimming with dried beans. Read more

A slower, lemony breakfast

On a Saturday or Sunday morning, it’s such a delight to slow down the pace a little. Putzing a bit in the kitchen, and then savoring an extra cup of coffee or tea, with a plate of  tender, lofty, lemony cakes is one sure way to do it. Maybe a game of Scrabble with your honey, and you’re home free. Not all (and maybe not many) will want to go the extra step of making their own ricotta, but I promise, it’s only slightly more complicated than boiling milk. If you want to give it a try, I’ve included some instructions that you can access by clicking on the “CONTINUED…” link below. But using a good quality store-bought ricotta will do just fine. The photos here show these cakes virtually unadorned, and they’re simply, delicately delicious that way. (A pat of soft butter, a good squeeze of lemon, a dusting of powdered sugar. A fork.) But you can also serve them with a Blueberry Sauce (recipe below) or a berry syrup, or (can we possibly wait?) heaping spoons of slightly sweetened and sliced Oregon strawberries (I’m sorry – they’re simply the best on earth.) I enjoy maple syrup, but it’s not what I’d put with these. They’re much better complimented by fruit. You’ll see.

 

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

  • 9 ounces of ricotta cheese (1 cup + 2 Tbl.)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. fine salt
  • Extra fresh lemon for serving, or fresh fruit or berry syrup of your choice

Get ready: Turn your oven to 200°F and put your breakfast plates in to keep warm. Turn your griddle on to medium high. Then just before ladling out the batter for your cakes, brush the griddle with a little bit of neutral oil (such as canola or grapeseed.)

The batter: Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into a medium-size bowl, and the whites into a small one. Whisk the whites until frothy. (It’s not necessary to form peaks of them, but do get them white and full of air.) Mix the egg yolks with the ricotta cheese, milk, lemon juice and vanilla extract. In a separate small bowl sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir in the lemon zest. Mix the wet and dry ingredients until just blended. (Don’t over-mix or your tender little cakes will turn tough and mean.) Then gently fold in the frothy whites until blended.

Griddle: Spoon out the batter onto your greased griddle.  It’s best for these if you keep the size small – say, around 3 inches diameter. You may find it works best if you spoon out a little and spread it slightly so that it’s not too very thick. (Around 1/4″ inch or so.) That way, they’ll be golden brown outside and cooked fully inside. Do a test run of several cakes to see if you’re happy, and then go to town! Like all pancakes, they’re of course best straight from the griddle, but you can keep a stack of them warm in your oven under a towel for a short time without harm.

Serve: As I mentioned above, they’re perfectly flavored to my taste with just a little more lemon juice, some melting butter and a dusting of powdered sugar. But the Blueberry Lemon Sauce here is a very nice accompaniment too! Come summer though, these cakes will lose top-billing to the strawberries that will gorgeously smother them.

for a printer-friendly version of the pancakes, click here

Spree’s Lemony Blueberry Sauce

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (I love the little ones for this)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3 T. water
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1 t. lemon zest

Put the water, lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the frozen blueberries and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Add fresh blueberries and lemon zest and simmer for about another 3 minutes. Serve warm.

for a printer-friendly version of the blueberry sauce, click here

To make your own ricotta cheese, please click on the “read more” link below…

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