Saturday, August 30, 2014

An Experiment - Preserved Meyer Lemons

Until this morning, I had never attempted to preserve my own lemons. Despite the fact that I love their taste whenever I have them in Moroccan cuisine. So when I looked at the dozens of Meyer Lemons drooping off the tree in our yard, I thought it was high time to try my hand at preserving them.

I used Mark Bittman's recipe from his How to Cook Everything book. I've found this book to be extremely handy, especially for basic recipes. The thing I like best about it, is that he gives you so many ideas for variations. I highly recommend the book. I'm also curious to pick up his other book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, as I'm always looking for new ways to dress up veggies around here.

While these cure on my counter and in the fridge for the next few weeks, I'll be looking for recipes to try them out in. I've got a roasted chickpea salad with harissa and arugula on the list, a chicken and olive dish, and a preserved lemon vinaigrette I found on NPR.

So, if you find yourself faced with a couple pounds of lemons, here is what Mark Bittman suggests you do. It was so easy, took about 20 minutes total. I'll report back on how they turn out.

Preserved Lemons
Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything

3lbs lemons, preferably unwaxed, quartered lengthwise (I used Meyer Lemons)
3/4 cups kosher salt (I used a little bit more than this -- probably more like a cup)
Half 3-inch cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves
1 star anise
2-3 black peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf

Fill a clean quart-sized jar with a tight fitting lid with boiling water and soak its lid in boiling water too. Let the water sit while you cut the lemons, then dump the water out.

Sprinkle a 1/4 inch deep layer of salt across the bottom of the jar. Nestle a layer of quartered lemons into the bottom of the jar, sprinkle liberally with salt, then repeat, adding the spices and bay leaf as you go. Stop when the jar is about three-quarters full and squeeze the remaining lemons into the jar -- seed and all -- so that the fruit is completely submerged in the lemon juice and salt brine. (If you don't have enough lemons on hand, top lemons off with freshly squeezed juice no later than the following day.)

Set the jar on the counter and vigorously shake it once a day for 7-10 days -- during this time it will start to bubble a little and the dried spices will swell back to their original size.

Put the jar in the refrigerator and let the lemons continue to cure for another week before using. The lemons will keep for at least 2 months in the refrigerator.

When they have cured, unscrew the lid. After a moment, they should smell sweet and citrusy -- an ammonia smell means they've gone wrong somewhere along the line.

To use in stews, blanch the quartered lemons in unsalted boiling water for 10 seconds, just long enough to leach out a little of the salt. For salads or quick-cooked dishes, scrape the flesh away from the peel, discard the flesh, and blanch the peel in unsalted boiling water as above.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Green Peach Salad with Red Chilies, Basil, Mint and Lime

I know. It's been awhile. I was inspired to come back when I realized how many recipes I have stored in my bookmarks bar. It would be nice to start including them here so they're all in one place. And hopefully, you'll see something you'd like to try. I'm going to make an effort to start posting more often. Say, more than once a year. I tried Wordpress for awhile, but I'm just not feeling it. So back to blogger for awhile until I figure it all out.

There's no time like summer for cooking. Or rather, for not cooking, since summer produce is best served by throwing things together raw with very little preparation. Those are the best kinds of recipes. This is one that I've made the last couple of years now. It's a Melissa Clark recipe that I've tweaked only slightly with the addition of mint and red chili. I like the pair it with seared pork chops that I can finish up in the oven or even on the grill. The combination of pork and fruit is a common one that can be used all year round -- but this is a spicy variation on that theme.

Green Peach Salad with Red Chilies, Basil, Mint and Lime
Adapted from Melissa Clark's Cook This Now

1/2 tsp lime zest
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound green peaches (2 large or 4 small) pitted and thinly sliced (this is a great use for a mandolin slicer if you have one)
1 tbsp chopped red chili (I used a red thai chili)
2 1/2 tbsp thinly sliced basil leaves
1 tbsp thinly sliced mint leaves

In a bowl, whisk together lime zest, juice, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil. Add peaches, chili, basil and mint, and toss to combine.