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Posts tagged ‘lemon’

this little light…..& shortbread cookies

for those of us who live north of the equator, we’re only 4  days from the darkest day of the year. But for many among us, it felt as though last Friday must surely have been that day.

. . .

in this hurting world

don’t think that for one moment

your light goes unnoticed.

don’t think for an instant that your light,

just now, is too dim to shine for anyone.

. . .

don’t believe that what we face

is either too big or too complicated,

or that our little light

is powerless

in the creeping shadow of it.

. . .

in this hurting world, the one thing,

the one thing, we can each do

is let our own light shine.

whatever shape or brilliance your candle,

it is exactly what the world needs…

this shimmering little light

that is yours alone

to share.

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LemonShortbread&Light-7-2________

Sometimes, when it feels like sadness might overtake us,

we bake.

something so small.

An unseen part of us knows though that an ancient comfort

is resident in our kitchens. When hope seems dim, or our candle flickers,

and we really haven’t much of a clue where to put our sorrow,

we can always bake cookies to share.

____

LemonShortbread&Light-11

______________________

these little shortbreads are aromatic and truly lovely. if you already know and love lavender in the kitchen, go for the full teaspoon. if you’re trying for the first time, you might start with the smaller amount. but if you don’t have lavender at all, it can be omitted. or try replacing it with ¼ to a scant ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, very finely minced. (Culinary lavender is easily obtained on-line.)

however, if chocolate is your flavor, a recipe for chocolate shortbread follows.

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Lemon Lavender Shortbread

___

½ cup butter at room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar (unsifted)

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

¾ to 1 teaspoon culinary lavender  (see above) 

¼ teaspoon lemon extract

1 cup flour

___

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Drop the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Mince very finely the zest of lemon and the lavender and add them to the powdered sugar. Add the lemon extract.  Stir to mix; then add to the butter and cream together. Work in the flour, scraping the bowl as you go.  Once the dough has mostly come together, remove to an unfloured board and knead  until nice and smooth.

Either spray with non-stick vegetable spray or brush a thin layer of vegetable oil on the bottom and sides of your pan. Firmly press the dough into the pan. (I used a clay pan with Scottish thistle imprinted on it, but an 8-inch round cake pan or 9-inch pie tin will work just fine!) Prick the entire surface with a fork and bake at 325°F (165°C) for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set the timer and allow the shortbread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. (If it doesn’t release right away, tap one edge of the pan.) Cut the shortbread into 8 pieces while still warm.

( to print lemon lavender recipe, click. )

LemonShortbread&Light-12

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wednesday vegetables thursday

It was bound to happen.

Set an intention, make an appointment, pledge a promise, cross your heart.

But perhaps you’ve noticed –

life isn’t always a respecter of such things…and really, why should it be?

Life is bigger (& thankfully, more mysterious) than that.

But had I been able to keep my appointment with you to bring vegetables on Wednesday,

this is what I would have brought.

You would have really liked it I think…

Spinach with Chickpeas

serves 6

(more delicious by far than the photo can say)

2 pounds fresh spinach

Chickpeas (one 14 oz. can)

4 – 6 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ teaspoon ground coriander

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Pepper

Optional: Juice of 1 lemon

Optional, but wildly delicious: chopped preserved lemon

 Wash the spinach, removing only the thick long stems if there are any. Drain excess moisture from the leaves.

In the largest wok or sauté pan you have, add the olive oil.  Turn heat to medium. When oil begins to shimmer warm, drop in the chopped garlic and ground coriander. Stir until the aromas rise. Without adding any additional water, pack in the spinach leaves, place a lid on the pan and reduce temperature to low. Read more

Roasted Whole Chicken on the Grill

This dinner all started with kumquats – even though, in the end, it had absolutely nothing to do with kumquats. Now that I think longer about it, this dinner actually started with going out to lunch and trying to avoid a parking ticket.

Maybe it’s just me…but sometimes I like to figure out exactly how I came to be where I am from where I’d just been. It’s often an odd, circuitous path to trace –  kind of like that “six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon” thing, if you know what I mean. Have you ever taken a long road trip with someone and after some lively conversation, there’s a period of prolonged but comfortable silence?  You think what you’re doing is watching the road or taking in all this amazing scenery, when actually, for some mysterious span of time, you’ve not been where you are at all, and suddenly out of your mouth comes something completely random and seemingly related to nothing. Do you ever then try to figure out (or even explain) how you came to be thinking that particular disjointed nonsensical thought? Well, this night’s dinner happened something like that.

Kumquats - having nothing to do with dinner

My husband and I have kind of a “custom” of going out to lunch on Saturdays. We’ll run a few errands and then pass the ball back and forth until one of us finally makes up our mind about where we’d like to eat, and then we sit across from one another talking about the week, news, politics…or sometimes something even more scintillating (if you can imagine!) We love our Saturdays together. Last week, we were following our usual practice and decided on a great little spot for lunch. We started to park in the lot across from the restaurant but realized it was designated for patrons of a grocery store. We parked there anyway –  but felt quite legal about it because we’d just drop into the market first, and then walk across the street for lunch. We had no real reason to be grocery shopping, other than ticket avoidance, but there we were.

The produce aisles always seduce me first, but for my husband, it’s the wine section. So we went our separate ways to meet up later. Weren’t kumquats all done for the season? I thought so, and had said my sad goodbyes – but no! There they were, and they were huge! – well, the biggest I’d ever seen.  I was downright delighted to see them and filled a small bag. My heart soon returned to its normal rhythm, but a little further down the aisle, the cutest little potatoes fanned out, in reds and yellows and purples! And they were smaller than the kumquats! Who ever heard of such a thing? I hadn’t, so I got handfuls of potatoes, simply because they were smaller than kumquats. And then, there was asparagus – now that’s gorgeous! That’ll be so good with those potatoes! I’ll do them together, with lemon and salt on the grill! Ah yes, the grill. Hmmm, I’ve never tried roasting a whole chicken on the grill before. I wonder if I can do that successfully? I think I’m just going to need to find that out!  And that is how I came to be here:

(You are so incredibly patient with me! Are you like this with everyone?)

Roasted Whole Chicken on the Grill

What I love about roasting a whole chicken: It’s far less expensive than buying the individual parts. It’s so straightforward and simple and after the first little bit, largely hands-off. It can be done in so many different and delicious ways…influences of French, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Spanish. Stuffed or not. Surrounded by vegetables of all different types. Sauce or not.  You can cook two at once with almost no additional labor. There’s (almost) always leftovers to turn into another meal. Then there’s the remnants that become a great stock for soups. And my husband loves it. So what’s not to like?

Cooking something on the grill for more than an hour at 400°F+ can only be done successfully using an indirect method. (In other words no coals or gas flames directly beneath the chicken.) So if you know how to cook on your grill using an indirect method, this will be easy! (If you don’t know how, just check the instructions from your grill’s manufacturer, or on line.)

Ingredients

  • 1 whole  chicken (preferably free-range, organic, humanely raised)
  • 2 lemons, 1 cut in half, the other juiced for basting
  • fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary, oregano, marjoram, parsley, sage, etc.)
  • whole garlic cloves, 2 or 3 or more, crushed but not minced
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

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Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce

It’s pitiful to beg, I know, but I’m coming dangerously close to it.  Just look over the recipe below, imagining the pairing of these ingredients, and you’ll want to try this soup. (OK, I want you to, but let’s not quibble.) This is one of those comfort foods, and – I’m fully convinced – a cure for what ails. It’s somehow “creamy” with no cream (thanks to the arborio rice.) It’s full of flavor, while still being gentle and so easy to eat. It’s aromatic (thanks to the generous amount of dill and the perfume of the lemon.) It’s a soup equally good in summer as in winter, so Spring would be the perfect time to prove it to yourself! Take the challenge – try this soup – you will not be disappointed! It’s positively kissable.

At the start of “Citrus Month,”  I promised you a soup from Yaya and Papou’s homeland. This is the one. In Greece, until fairly recently, chickens were considered a great delicacy. Except on important feast days, chicken dishes would have been reserved for children and the sick.  This chicken and rice soup, with an egg and lemon “sauce” stirred in at the last moment, was served as a much-loved, one-pot meal at Christmas.  Nowadays, I’d venture to say you can find this on any Greek restaurant menu – but please let me know if you’ve ever tried one better.

The secret to any good soup is in the stock, and this one is no different. If you’re pressed for time, you could use a pre-roasted chicken and a high-quality, store-bought (or previously prepared homemade) chicken stock – but the gentle, two-hour-long cooking of a whole chicken imparts the most delicate, silken of flavors to this broth. If you need to take the short-cut, about 2-1/2 quarts or so of good stock should prove about right, and the meat from about one-half of the chicken. (In either case, please use a free-range, organically fed bird.)

Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce (Kotopoulo Soupa, Avgolemono)

(makes 4 to 6 main-course servings – or  6 to 8 for first-course)

  • one 3-to-4-pound free-range chicken, quartered, plus 2 pounds chicken backs, necks and/or wings
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves (if your bay leaves are more than a year old, toss them and start new)
  • 10 – 12 peppercorns
  • 2 Tbl. olive oil
  • 5 scallions (white and most of the green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2/3 cup of medium-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4-6 Tbl. freshly-sueezed lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To greatly reduce the fat content of the resulting broth, and how much skimming is required, I like to start by first removing the skin and all visible fat from the quartered chicken. Remove the fat from the backs of the chicken as well. Place the chicken parts in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, carrots, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Cover and simmer for two hours, adding a little more water if needed, until the chicken begins to fall from the bones.

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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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