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Posts Tagged ‘Lemon’

I love the farmer’s market and I’m lucky to live in a town with a great one. It’s such fun to bike downtown and spend a leisurely morning browsing through all the fresh produce and wonderful specialty artisan foods offered by the vendors. All that beautiful food is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate!

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Among other treasures, I found some beautiful english peas when I was shopping there recently. Impulsively, I bought a pound, without a plan. Once I got home, I spent the rest of the afternoon leafing through cookbooks, looking for inspiration, and, of course, shelling the peas.

Lucky for me, I had some great help. Morgan helped me release all those sweet orbs from their pods, even though it was tricky sometimes. For future reference, a pound of english peas yields about 2 cups of shelled peas.

I decided to make a fresh pea risotto, with a hint of lemon, and just a bit of salty ham (or proscuitto, if you care to upgrade). It was a good choice, as it highlighted the sweet grassy flavor of the peas without overwhelming them, and still was filling and satisfying as a main dish for supper.

If you find some of these beauties at the market, spare some for this lovely meal.

Spring Pea Risotto

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups arborial rice

4 1/2 – 5 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade, but good store-bought will do)

1/2 cup white wine

1 large shallot, diced fine

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup fresh peas

One lemon, zest and juice

An ounce or two of ham, or proscuitto, if you have it

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chives and/or mint, chopped fine  (You could use any or all of these, I had all 3 in my herb garden.)

Directions:

In a saucepan, bring chicken stock to simmer and keep on the back burner while you work on the risotto.

In another saucepan, sauté the shallots in the olive oil for a minute, then add the rice.  Stir, and let the rice cook over medium high for another minute or two, being careful not to burn.  Add the white wine, and stir until it is mostly absorbed.

Ladleful by ladleful, add the stock to the rice, each time cooking and stirring gently, as it is absorbed.  Keep the risotto covered in a film of stock, so it does not dry out.  It’s not necessary to stand at the stove stirring constantly, but don’t walk away from the pot for long.  Total time from the first ladleful to the rice being done is 18-20 minutes.  At the half-way point, throw in the peas and ham or proscuitto.  When you are getting close to the end of the cooking, and you’ve used up most of your stock, add the zest and juice from the lemon. When you taste the risotto at this point, the rice should be still slightly chewy, and possess a lovely creaminess. Add the parmesan, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to your taste.

I served this with steamed asparagus and a glass of chilled, crisp sauvignon blanc.


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I recently had really good food on an airplane.

Really.

Well, to be honest, I bought it at the airport, and ate it on the airplane.  Unless you fly first class, you don’t get real meals from the airlines anymore.  Which is just as well, when you can buy yummy things like this and eat them in flight.  I remember what they used to serve, and, believe me, this is a big, big improvement.  In fact, I liked it so much, I tried to memorize the list of ingredients to recreate the dish at home.  Here’s my best approximation…

It starts with couscous, but you could up the nutritional content and make this with quinoa or millet or even brown rice, and it would be higher in fiber and virtue.  But the original was made with couscous, so I started there.  Cook the couscous as you normally would (1 cup dry couscous to 1 1/2 cups boiling water), but add curry powder or curry paste (my favorite) to the water.  Add chopped vegetables, diced dried apricots, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped fresh herbs.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss a few cashews on top for crunch.  And sit down to a fabulous light lunch, with plenty of leg room to spare.

Curried Couscous Salad with Apricots and Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients:

3 cups dry couscous

4 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry paste, or curry powder, to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Olive oil for drizzling on top

Directions:

Place dry couscous in a shallow casserole or 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with boiling water, which you have added the salt, oil and curry paste (or powder).  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  While you allow this to come to room temperature, diced and chop the celery, pepper, apricots, shallots and herbs.  Add these and garbanzo beans to the cooled couscous, tossing gently to combine.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

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Lemon Bars, two ways

Lemon bars are a classic cookie, and often show up at bake sales and coffee shops. But I am frequently disappointed, and perhaps because I’ve been spoiled. Too often, I’ve bit into one, hoping for that contrast of sweet and sour, creamy and crisp, only to get a mouthful of limp and pasty. Yuck.

In my opinion, a good lemon bar depends on an outstanding, lemony topping on a cookie crust that is buttery and just firm enough to support the layer of lemon curd on top.  And this recipe, from the incomparable Rose Levy Berenbaum, never fails to deliver. Once you try her lemon curd topped shortbread, you’ll never go back.

Even though I know better than to tamper with perfection, I recently experimented with a gluten-free version, with very good success. Since gluten is what makes a tough cookie tough, traditional shortbread recipes try to minimize it. So, making a shortbread cookie base with gluten-free flours seemed like a natural, and was almost as good as the original.

Both recipes start with homemade lemon curd, which is cooked on the stove and then poured over the baked shortbread base. This is what distinguishes quality lemon bars from the inferior types, which rely in adding flour to the lemon topping and having it thicken in the oven.

I usually double the lemon curd recipe, to have extra on hand, because this stuff is just so good. It’s great on scones for breakfast or tea-time, or, as my British friend Michael confesses, just spread on toast. Personally, I like to just lick it off a spoon. Makes me pucker up just thinking about it…

adapted from Rose’s Christmas Cookies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Prepare 8″x8″ baking pan, by lining with an 8″ x 16″ piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. (This makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan without breaking.)

Traditional shortbread base:

Ingredients:

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (6.25 oz.)

Alternative Gluten-free shortbread base:

Ingredients:

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 cup rice flour

Directions for either shortbread base:

Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes, wrap and refrigerate.

In a food processor with the metal blade, process the sugars for 1 minute or so, until the sugar is very fine. Add the butter and pulse in until the sugar disappears. Add the flour and pulse in until there are a lot of little moist crumbly pieces and no dry flour particles remain.

Dump the mixture into a plastic bag and press it together. Remove the dough from the bag and knead it lightly until it holds together.

Pat the dough into the prepared pan. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the top is pale golden (do not brown).

While the shortbread is baking, prepare the Lemon Curd.

Lemon Curd

Makes 1 cup, enough for one 8″x8″ pan of lemon bars

Ingredients:

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

3 fl. ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 or 3 lemons)

Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

pinch of salt

Directions:

In a heavy noncorrodible saucepan, beat the yolks and sugar until well blended. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, except the lemon zest. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to thickly coat a wooden spoon, but still liquid enough to pour. The mixture will change from translucent to opaque and begin to take on a yellow color. It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle. Whenever steam appears, remove briefly from heat, stirring constantly, to keep from boiling. When the curd has thickened, pour at once through a strainer into a heat-proof bowl or Pyrex measuring cup. Press with the back of a spoon until only coarse residue remains. Discard the residue. Stir in the lemon zest.

If using to top lemon bars, pour over shortbread crust at this point. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Return pan to oven and bake for additional 10 minutes.

Cool the lemon curd topped shortbread completely in the pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes to set the lemon curd completely before cutting into bars. Place some powdered sugar in a strainer and tap the strainer to sprinkle a thick, even coating, entirely covering the lemon.

Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the pastry on the 2 sides without the aluminum foil. Use the foil to life out the lemon curd covered shortbread onto a cutting surface. Use a long, sharp knife to cut the shortbread into even pieces. Wipe the blade after each cut.

The powdered sugar will start to be absorbed into the lemon curd after several hours, but it can be reapplied before serving. Or, better yet, don’t sprinkle them with sugar until shortly before you are ready to serve.

Keeps up to 3 weeks, refrigerated.

Note: If saving the lemon curd for other uses, pour into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. The curd will continue to thicken while it chills. Store it in the refrigerator. It will keep quite a while, but the flavor will dull a bit after three weeks. Mine never lasts that long.

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Lemon Pudding Cake

Photo from Food Network

I love lemon curd and I love cheesecake.  Both of those treats, however, don’t often fit into my diet these days.  So, I was delighted to find this recipe.  It satisfies my longing for both of those, at a fraction of the calories and fat.  On top of that, it is super easy, and make a beautiful presentation, served with fresh berries.  This is a delicious light dessert, perfect for Spring, or anytime you get that lemon craving…

Adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence

Ingredients:

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, separated

2/3 cup reduced fat buttermilk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter and lightly sugar 4 ramekins (about 1-cup size).

In a mixer, beat egg whites until you get stiff peaks.  Set aside.  In separate mixing bowl, add egg yolks, buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and sift in flour, sugar and salt and mix until combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the other mixture. Divide batter evenly amongst ramekins then bake in a water bath. [Set ramekins in a roasting tray and fill tray with water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.]

Bake for 60 minutes or until the top springs back when gently pressed and the cakes have a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool slightly, then carefully invert onto a plate.

Serve with fresh berries.

Nutritional information, estimated per serving:

Calories:  224, Fat: 4.4 grams  (Saturated Fat:  1.9 grams), Cholesterol:  111 mg, Protein:  5.4 grams, Sodium:  233 grams, Carbohydrate:  42 grams, Fiber:  0.4 g, Sugar:  35.4 grams, Calcium:  64.7 grams

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