10 August 2014

Preserved Lemons

Lovely lemons from last summer.
Since we are in the midst of a kitchen renovation, I do not have a range...or a sink...or a counter...just an empty room with some studs and dangling wires.  Food preparation is challenging, to say the least.  My husband, bless his heart, keeps telling me that we must buy prepared foods and use paper plates to make things easier.  After spending about $100 more than usual at the grocery to buy prepared foods and paper goods, I gave up.  I'm too attached to cooking (and money!) to succumb to convenience!

I miss cooking.  Last week, I started some preserved lemons, which are easy to make, even without a kitchen.

Preserved lemons are a condiment often used in Moroccan and other northern African cuisines, as well as some Middle Eastern dishes.  For Americans, the aromatic Moroccan or Tunisian tagine is probably the best-known dish using preserved lemons.  Making the lemons is a two-step process, with a week in between stepsYesterday, I finished the second step and put my jars in a cool spot to rest.  

When using preserved lemons, I rinse very well and use the rind only.

The combination of salty/sour is an acquired taste.  Not to scare you off, but the first nibble I took of a preserved lemon reminded me of a mouthful of Kosher salt with a heavy spritz of Lemon Pledge. 

However, I stayed with it.  With each bite, they tasted better and better, until finally I've begun to crave the unique flavorNow, I add preserved lemons to salads, chicken, lamb, rice...even martinis!  They add an intense, developed lemon flavor to any dish.

Chickpea stew with harissa, chicken, olives, charred shallots, carrots, yellow squash, and preserved lemons.  I am on a no-kitchen roll!

Trust me on this one.  Make a few jars...since they must preserve for at least four weeks before eating, you will have plenty of time to convince yourself to try them.  This recipe has been adapted from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Jerusalem: A Cookbook.

Preserved Lemons (makes 2 pints)

6 lemons (unwaxed; or scrub to remove wax)
juice of six additional lemons
6 tablespoons of Kosher salt
2 sprigs of rosemary
red pepper flakes 
olive oil

Clean and sterilize two wide-mouth pint jars and lids.  Starting at the stem end, cut the lemons lengthwise about 3/4 of the way through.  Turn the lemon one-quarter turn, the cut lengthwise again 3/4 of the way through so the lemons look like this:

See what I mean?

Stuff each lemon with 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt and push into the jars.  Cram as many lemons as you can into each jar (depending on size, about three lemons in each).  Seal the jars, and place in a dark, cool spot for one week.

After one week, take the top off of each jar and push down hard on the lemons, squeezing out as much juice as possible.  Add the juice of the additional six lemons.  Top with a hefty shake of red pepper flakes and a sprig of rosemary.  Top with a thin layer of olive oil.  Seal each jar, and again return them to the dark, cool spot.  Let the lemons preserve for at least 4 weeks*.  Refrigerate after opening.  Before using, rinse lemon well to remove salt.  I prefer to use only the rind (the fleshy part seems a little slimy to me), but some people use the entire lemon.

*The longer the lemons sit, the better they are.  I usually let them go at least 8 weeks before using.  I just opened a jar (for the chickpea stew, above) I made over a year ago, and the lemons are incredible! 

30 July 2014

The Dill Pickle

Dill, cucumbers, garlic, and hot cherry pepper- waiting for the brine

When I was little, I had a cool ride called the Dill Pickle.  Oh, how I loved the Dill Pickle!  When I first learned to ride her, I decided to ride down the hill on Frank Street.  I still remember flying down that hill, flush with the pride of my new-found awesomeness!  Half way down, I realized I had no idea how to stop.  Hardly one to worry about tiny details, I made a split-second decision to use the Ginter's (our neighbors) unpaved driveway as a run-off.  Have you ever driven through the mountains, and seen those runaway truck ramps?  

11 May 2014


Mom with Max, me, and Brenda; Thanksgiving 1974

Although she wasn't big into cooking when we were growing up, my mom did make a delicious scalloped potatoes and ham, which she taught my sister and I how to make.  Sometimes, when my parents went out and we had a babysitter, my mom would let my sister and me make scalloped potatoes for dinner.  The recipe was fairly straightforward, even a kid could make it: slice Idaho potatoes into a shallow dish, add some sliced ham, sprinkle liberally with flour, salt, and pepper; add chunks of sliced butter (as much as you'd like!), and pour whole milk over the top until the potatoes are covered.  Bake in a 400 degree oven until the potatoes are cooked, and the top is brown and bubbly.