Saturday, March 27, 2010

Matzoh Rant

We eat a lot of matzoh during the week of Passover.  A lot of it.  That's because we can't eat bread or anything made with regular flour or anything leavened (which eliminates baking powder or baking soda).  No wheat products.  Period.

I know you're probably thinking this is no big deal.

But wait - no bread?  No cereal?  (What the heck do you eat for breakfast?  You can't eat eggs every day unless you want to kill yourself).  NO BEER????

Okay, so matzoh isn't a substitute for beer.  But it stands in for cereal and matzoh meal (yuck) stands in for flour in a pinch.  And then there is the vast quantity of matzoh you have to consume at your Passover Seder, or in our case, two Passover Seders.  By the end of the week, you are sick of the stuff.

If you've never had the pleasure, matzohs are large, flat, dry (very dry) crackers.  Let me repeat that:  VERY DRY.  We eat them at our Passover Seder with harosses (a yummy mixture of apples, nuts and cheap Manischewitz sweet wine) and that killer horseradish I told you about in the last post.  It sounds bizarre, but it's actually good.  Of course, I guess that horseradish would kill the taste of anything.

And another thing.  No one agrees on how to spell it.  Matzo?  Matzoh?  Matzah?  I'm sticking to "matzoh" and I don't care if that's politically correct or not!

But here's the dirty little secret no one will tell the uninitiated.  If you eat too much matzoh, you will never have to visit the bathroom again.  Ever. 

To quote my friend Dick, that's all I'm sayin'.....

So in the spirit of matzoh overload I offer up my recipe for Matzoh Toffee.  Try it, you'll like it!


1 box matzoh (about 15 pieces)
2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups sliced almonds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 12-oz. bags good quality chocolate chips, melted

Line two baking sheets (I used half sheet pans) with matzoh, cutting to fit as necessary.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter, sugar and salt over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Keep cooking until large bubbles form, then cook for 1 minute longer.  Remove from heat and pour mixture over matzoh, dividing evenly.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet.  Add almonds and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until almonds are just golden.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Spread melted chocolate over the cooled caramel mixture on matzohs.  Sprinkle evenly with almonds and let matzoh sit for at least 30 minutes.

Break into pieces.  Try not to eat the bits that fall away.

Yield:  enough for two Seders

Note:  this will not be pretty.  Some of the matzoh will separate from the caramel layer, but who cares?  Just piece it back together and no one will know the difference.  Also, the 1 tablespoon of salt sounds like A LOT in the almonds, but it works.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Passover Hell

If you are Jewish, you understand the gefilte fish at Passover thing.  A necessary evil.

But, if you are like me, you also have your standards and you refuse to eat fish from a jar.

A conundrum.

It therefore means you have to make your own gefilte fish.  Horseradish, too.

Oy veh.

So here we go.  You're coming with me on my "Passover Hell" journey.  By the time we finish this, you guys are gonna wish I was still blogging about Meyer lemons. 

Here's what I don't get about Passover food.  It's heavy.  Really heavy.  It coincides with the beginning of spring when we all want to lighten up our menus and escape from the soups and stews of winter.  It shows up when I don't want to eat brisket, gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup!

Alright, I had to say that.

Guess we have to start with gefilte fish, which starts with fish stock.  Yuck.  You really don't want the recipe, do you?  All it does is stink up your house as you simmer it for several hours.  Unfortunately you need it so you can poach your fish balls in it (yeah, that's what gefilte fish really is).  In my case, I used 10 pounds of whole tilapia which I simmered with onions, carrots, celery root, whole peppercorns and cinnamon sticks.  I'm surprised every cat in the neighborhood didn't come sniffing around my house the day I made it.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I made it last week and put it in the freezer).

I'll thaw it out tomorrow and make the fish balls on Sunday.  Stay tuned for that exciting event.

Haha, here's what happened when I made the stock last week.  I had two huge stockpots simmering on the stove.  When the stuff was finally done, I carefully strained it into containers and threw the solids in my kitchen trash can (lined with a 13-gallon garbage bag).  It was around 9pm, we had finished dinner and cleaning up had commenced.  Henry offered to take the bag out to our big trash can in the garage.

You know what's coming.

Stubborn bitch that I am (who, me?) I ignored his offer and lugged it out there myself.  It was heavier than I expected, but I wasn't about to ask for help.  I heaved it up into the big green trash can, didn't quite make it, the bag hit the side of the can, split apart AND DUMPED THAT FISH GORE, GUTS AND BONES ALL OVER THE GARAGE FLOOR.  My language at that moment cannot be repeated here.

Poor Henry.  He immediately came out, opened the garage door to let out the smell and began cleaning up my colossal mess.  He deserves a medal.  Especially since I lost it and started laughing hysterically at the whole thing.  I mean, what else can you do?  It was actually pretty funny.  I think he wanted to kill me, though.

The good news is we dumped enough Clorox around so there is no residual odor.  Well, except for the Clorox....

On to horseradish.  Fresh, that is.  No jarred stuff for me on this one either.  Let me tell you though, this is not for the faint of heart.  It will pretty much take your head off and it makes wasabi look like cream of wheat. 


1/2 pound fresh horseradish root, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
Pinch of salt

Place about 1/4 cup or so of the peeled, fresh horseradish in food processor.  Pulse until horseradish is ground, then add rest of horseradish in small handfuls.  Add vinegar and water and blend until mixture is ground up with no lumps remaining.  Add salt (to taste).

Be very careful when you remove the top to the food processor after grinding the horseradish.  Trust me, the fumes will bring you to your knees.  I had no eye make-up left after my experience with it. 

This is probably enough horseradish to kill everyone
at both Seders

Yield:  about 1 cup.  Use it judiciously.  It's lethal.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meyer Lemons, Round 3

Budino.  It sounds fancy, but it's not.  I'll bet your mom made it for you back in the day.  It's really nothing more than a "pudding" that bakes up in two layers, one with texture and one with something less than that, which ends up giving you something like a (no brainer) souffle with sauce.  Your mom probably called it "Lemon Pudding Cake." 

You can bake it up in a chocolate version as well (if you need a recipe, let me know).  Even the Buckhead Diner here in Atlanta had it on their dessert menu.

However, in the interest of using up the rest of those Meyer lemons, I baked up a batch of the lemon version last night.

Oh.  My.  It was simple, deceptively light and I ate the whole thing!  (Well, one entire serving, which is much, much more than I will ever allow myself).  My silly iPhone photo doesn't do it justice at all.  Sorry.

Just make it.

MEYER LEMON BUDINO  (or Lemon Sponge Pudding, for the rest of us)

1/4  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons regular lemon juice
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest
3 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 35-degrees.  Grease a 2 quart baking dish or 6 individual ramekins.

Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  In another bowl, whisk milk, lemon juices, lemon zest and egg yolks.  Add melted butter and whisk to blend.  Stir into flour mixture and combine until smooth and well-blended.

Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  Fold gently into flour and egg mixture.  Spoon into prepared baking dish(es). 

Place into a water bath (bain marie) and bake for 40 minutes until puffed and just golden.  Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Yield:  6 servings

Okay, I'm done now with the Meyer lemons.  I promise.  And don't discard this recipe if you can't find them - regular lemons will do just fine. 

Chocolate, anyone? 

You gotta love this.  My old "retro" hand mixer, which I used to whip the egg whites.
My former father-in-law gave it to me back in the 70's.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oops, I did it again.....

Bought more Meyer lemons, that is.  Saw them again in Whole Paycheck Foods and couldn't resist.  The devil made me do it!

Now what?  They don't last long.  Not like ordinary run-of-the-mill lemons.  You can keep these guys for five days or so, but then they start to rot and get soggy.  No, no, no!  These are not to be wasted.

I unearthed a recipe for Meyer Lemon Ricotta Cookies.  It sounded interesting, especially since I happened to have a container of whole milk ricotta in my fridge that was begging to be used before the expiration date (I have no idea why I bought it in the first place).  Alrighty then.

But first, I need to digress (oh no, here she goes again.  Shut up, Liz and just get to the recipe).  Uh-uh.  You need to hear this.

If you've been reading this blog, or if you know me personally, you're aware that I recently traveled to Cambodia.  I saw and experienced a lot (land mine victims, orphaned children due to AIDS, women rescued from brothels, extreme poverty, etc.) and came back determined to do something to help.

That "something" means raising money to send promising young Cambodian adults to college.  I think it's the best way to effect positive change.  More about this later.

There are amazing people in my life.  One of them is Mark Cohen, who graciously offered to help me with my mission.  He is wildly creative, a bit off-the-wall, very savvy and he gets it.  He has an fabulous wife and two of the most engaging kids I know.  Henry and I adore them.  They live on our street.  Here's the link to Mark's company:   He  is graciously donating his time and resources to create the tools I need to raise money for this endeavor.  I am humbled by this.

Okay, so I do have a point here.

Mark won't let me pay him, but he is willing to accept desserts.  He doesn't know what he's in for.  Hello, what a great excuse to bake and get the results the hell out of my house before I eat them.  Get ready for the onslaught of recipes that will soon be showing up on this blog!

For now though, here's the recipe for the Meyer lemon cookies.  They are almost cake-like in texture, tender to the bite and not overly sweet.  You can't taste the ricotta, but it gives these treats a richness and depth of taste that makes it impossible to eat just one.  Believe me.


For the cookies:
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher)
2 large eggs
16-oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
3 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
2 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze:
3 cups confectioner's sugar
3-4 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

Preheat oven to 35-degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or use a Silpat).  In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth.  Add sugar and salt; beat on high speed for 5 minutes, scraping down bowl several times until mixture is light and fluffy.  Add eggs, ricotta, lemon extract, zest and one tablespoon of the Meyer lemon juice (reserve rest for glaze).  Combine on medium speed until blended.  Add 1 cup of the flour and baking powder.  Beat on low speed until just combined.  Add remaining flour and repeat.  Do not overbeat.

Remove dough to a large piece of plastic wrap.  Wrap well and place in refrigerator overnight (or place in freezer until well-chilled but not frozen).  Use a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop (or use a spoon) to scoop out dough.  Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Chill or freeze until ready to bake.

Place balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges just start to brown and cookies are puffed in center and slightly golden.  Do not overbake.  Remove to a cooling rack.  When completely cool, drizzle with glaze and decorate with sanding sugar or dragees if desired.

To prepare the glaze, place confectioner's sugar and half of the Meyer lemon juice in a bowl.  Whisk well to combine, adding more lemon juice if needed.  Whisk until smooth and glaze just drips off the spoon, but still holds it's shape.  Spoon over cooled cookies.

Yield:  about 40 cookies.  Note:  these keep well unbaked in the freezer for 6 months.  They can go directly from freezer to oven but may require a slightly longer baking time.

Stay tuned.  I still have some Meyer lemons left!  Next up?  I'm thinking Meyer Lemon Budino......

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gougeres on Steroids

Gougere (pronounced goo-zhaire) sounds exotic, but it's really nothing more than a cheese puff.   Easy to make too, and you end up with beautiful puffs of flaky pastry, hollow in the center and meltingly wonderful in your mouth.  Serve them to your friends with cocktails and you will impress the hell out of them.

I recently saw Ina Garten (oh yes, my food maven) make them on the Food Network.  Filed it away in my head as to something I should make someday then promptly forgot about it.

Until we went to Float-a-Way Cafe recently for dinner.  (I've mentioned the place before, so no need to elaborate other than  Gougeres were on the menu.  I ordered them.

They showed up, golden brown and crisp to the bite.  Okay, just like Ina's.  But unlike hers, when you bit into these, they had this wonderful goey, melting, tangy cheesiness inside, so much so that it dripped all over the plate and on the front of Henry's shirt.  We're talking pure heaven in this little sphere of pastry.  These were gougeres amped up to a whole new level.

I needed to recreate this in my own kitchen.  Never mind that I could have called my friends at the restaurant and asked for the recipe.  This was mine to conquer!

And I did.  Or at least I created a reasonable facsimile, after some trial and error.  I knew I didn't want a simple gougere with a hollow center.  I wanted it to have that same melting, cheesy goodness as the one(s) I had at Float-a-Way.  I just wasn't sure how to achieve it. 

I perused my (thousands of ) cookbooks.  Thomas Keller had a recipe.  So did Ina Gartnen, Martha Stewart, Alice Waters and Shirley Corriher.  Most of the recipes were basically the same but slightly different in minor ways.  I was tempted by Keller's recipe, but it called for using only water, while Ina's called for whole milk.  I opted for the whole milk version, tempered by Shirley's added flavors.

So I baked them.  They were good, but hollow in the centers, no oozing cheesy goodness.  Now what?

I started by letting them cool and removing the tops from a few of them.  Added some grated gruyere, replaced the tops and baked again for three minutes.  They came out warm with melted cheese which just sat there as one solid layer on the bottom layer of the gougere.  Uh, no.

Henry, who is no food expert, suggested brie.  I scoffed at that, saying it didn't have enough taste.  But then I thought about it.  Hmm - it has the right "meltingness" just not the right taste.  What about Camembert?

Ka-ching!  That's what I did and it worked.  Beautifully.  Henry said it was better than the ones we had in the restaurant (well, he always says that).  Guess I should allow he's a better food expert than I give him credit for sometimes!

Here's the recipe.  It's not as daunting as you might think.  If I can do it, anyone can.  You can eat these immediately or freeze them (unfilled) and use them later.  They are the perfect hors d'oeuvre and now that I have perfected the recipe, my freezer will never be without them.

GOUGERES (adapted from Ina Garten's "Barefoot in Paris" and Shirley Corriher's "Bakewise")

1 cup whole milk
4 oz. unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used 1/8 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 cup all- purpose unbleached flour
4 eggs (I used extra-large) at room temperature
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
8 oz. soft cheese of choice, such as Camembert, Brie, Blue Costello or Saga Blue

Preheat oven to 425-degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

In a saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, mustard and cayenne pepper over medium heat until butter melts.  Add the flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture comes together.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Your objective is to dry out the dough as much as possible.

Remove the dough to the bowl of a food processor.  Add the eggs, one at a time then add Gruyere and Reggiano and pulse until eggs are incorporated and dough is smooth. Do not over-process.

Spoon some of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain round tip.  (If you don't have a pastry bag, or if you are terrified by the thought of one, then spoon your dough into a ZipLoc bag and make a small cut on one of the corners.  Make sure top is closed and pipe out dough as described next).

Pipe the dough in mounds, about 1-inch wide and 3/4-inch high onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.  With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff.  Brush lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with remaining Gruyere. 

Bake for 12 minutes, or until just golden.  (You want them to be fully baked, but not overly browned as you will be baking them again).

Remove from oven and cool slightly.  Carefully remove the top third of each puff, leaving a small part attached if possible, like a hinged lid.  At this point, you can continue on with the recipe or cool completely and freeze puffs for later use.

Cut cheese into 1/2-inch chunks.  Place a chunk into the cavity of each gougere, then return to oven and bake for an additional 3 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Serve immediately.

Yield:  about 40 puffs

If you are using them when frozen, follow the same procedure as above.  Do not thaw puffs first - they can go directly from the freezer to the oven.  Of course the danger of this is that they are readily available to you at any time - not so good for the "diet."  Oh well.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Enough for Company

Here are two dishes worthy of company.  Weeknight meals around here are usually pretty basic (remember the concept of slopping the hogs as I've mentioned before) but I stepped it up this week.  (Uh-oh, Henry, look out - what do I want this time?  Another trip to Cambodia?  A trip to Costa Rica with my friend Cynthia so we can get face lifts?)  Haha, I wouldn't turn down either one!


Henry says he would eat cardboard if it had capers on it.  No wonder he likes this!

4 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (more about this later)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup dry white wine (I used Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc or "swill" as we call it around here)
2 cups chicken stock (yup, I used the stuff in a box - at least it was organic, free-range)
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Place one chicken breast on a sheet of waxed paper.  Cover with another sheet of waxed paper.  Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound it out, so you have a 1/4-inch cutlet.  Set aside on a baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining breasts then season well with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over high heat.  When pan is hot, add 2 of the cutlets and cook until browned and golden on one side, about 5 minutes.  It is ready to turn when it no longer sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Turn and brown the other side, about 3 minutes more.  Set aside on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining olive oil and chicken breasts.  Do not wash out saute pan.

Cover chicken with foil and place in a 200-degree oven to keep warm. 

Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and wine to the skillet.  Stir to loosen all of the browned bits on the bottom and cook until mixture bubbles and starts to reduce.  Add chicken stock and continue to cook over high heat until mixture reduces by half, about 6 minutes or so.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add capers and butter and continue to cook until butter melts.  Taste to adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

Transfer chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet.  To serve, place one chicken breast on serving plate and nap with sauce and capers.  Sprinkle with Italian parsley if using (I didn't because I didn't have any).

Serves 2 - 4, depending upon how hungry your hogs are.

The next recipe doesn't even pretend to be good for you, but oh, it's really good.  It would impress the hell out of your dinner guests should you decide you are willing to clean your house and actually invite some people over.  It does require the purchase of truffle butter (which isn't exactly cheap) but is a whole lot cheaper than fresh truffles and the cost evens out when you figure a little goes a long way and you're not serving meat to your guests anyhow.  (Hey, I can rationalize ANYTHING).

PASTA WITH TRUFFLE BUTTER  (from Ina Garten's "Back to Basics')

I am not a fan of truffle oil.  But truffle butter is another thing entirely.  Try it, you'll like it!

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 oz. white truffle butter (the container I purchased was 2 oz. and I used half.  It's potent!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. fettucine or pasta of choice (I used farfalle because it's what I had on hand)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 oz. Parmigianno Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  In a large saute pan, heat cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.  Add the truffle butter, salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to low.  Add truffle butter and stir until it melts.  Keep warm over very low heat.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente (I really don't need to tell you how to cook pasta here, do I?)  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.  Add it to the cream mixture and toss to blend.  Add as much of the reserved pasta water as needed so pasta is creamy.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper or truffle butter as needed.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and garnish with the chives and shaved Reggiano.  Serve immediately.

Serves 2-3 or 4-5 as a side dish or appetizer

Okay, so here's the postcript about salt and pepper. 

As far as I'm concerned, both are crucial to most recipes (unless you are baking - then pepper, not so much).  I keep mine in small ceramic dishes, so I can sprinkle it on by "feel" as opposed from shaking it from a salt cellar or grinding it from a pepper mill.  I think you get a lot more control that way.  If you work in a restaurant, that's how it's done.

But of course, you want freshly ground pepper, so here's the solution.  Grind it up yourself in a coffee grinder, pour it into your ceramic dish and there you go.  Freshly ground black pepper at your fingertips!

Okay, I'm done now.  Here's to slopping the hogs ... or not.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Maybe I Need to Get a Life

There are some things that should probably remain private.  Like, if you give yourself a Brazilian (ouch) or google your mother. 

But hey, we're friends here, so I will come clean.  YES, I GOOGLED MY MOM.  Arrrrggghhhhh, did I really just tell you that?

I'll set the scenario for you.  It was around 11pm and I was sort of tired, but still  hyped up from a busy day and a brutal TurboKick class.  I wasn't ready to climb into bed, so I hung out at my computer for awhile, trying to make myself tired.  C'mon, tell me you haven't done the same thing.

Nothing interesting or new on Facebook.  Nothing going on in the news.  Any blogs I follow were already posted.  I'd snoop around on my kids' Facebook profiles, but they were smart enough not to friend me.  I don't want anything too intense.  What to do?  Oh, why not google my mom?

I've no earthly idea what possessed me.  I mean, the woman is in her eighties and doesn't use a computer.  What was I thinking?

What I wasn't thinking was that she would show up on the first hit.  In a video, no less.  On Science Nation.  WTF????????????????????

Of course I watched it, then called her immediately.  At that late hour.  I was laughing so hard I was barely coherent.  Then I sent the link to several family members (including her grandsons) with the statement "Mom.  Online.  In a video, no less.  Sometimes she scares the hell out of me."

Here's the link.  It's a hoot.  If you don't know her, she's the second one interviewed, the one talking about arthritis in her hands.  Haha, she may look sweet and unassuming but trust me, she's one feisty lady!

I cracked up when I saw they were drinking coffee.  Are you kidding me?  These are the ladies who drink wine - copious amounts of it - even if they have to smuggle it into their bingo games because they live in an apartment community run by a religious organization.  I've said it here before - Go Mom!

I've also told you she's a good cook.  Here's her recipe for what she calls Fudge Pie.  It's simple, basic and well, pedestrian.  It's also delicious, ridiculously easy and a good weapon to have in your recipe arsenal if you need to make dessert on five minutes notice. 


4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk to blend.  Add egg yolks, one at a time.  Mix in flour, salt and vanilla.

Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks and fold into chocolate mixture.  Pour into a buttered 9-inch glass pie plate.  Bake in oven preheated to 350-degrees for 25 minutes.

Serves 8

This is good on its own, but I personally think it's better if you serve it warm with some good vanilla ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce.  You could also add a dollop of fresh whipped cream if you really want to take it over the top.


1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place sugar in a heavy saucepan and add water.  Swirl pan to combine but do not stir.  Cook over medium-high heat until sugar is combined and mixture starts to bubble.  Continue to cook, watching constantly, until mixture turns golden brown, swirling pan occasionally.  Remove from heat when caramel is golden but not too dark (it will continue to cook after you take it off the heat).  Slowly add cream and stand back (mixture will bubble up and sputter) then add salt and vanilla.  Place over medium heat if needed to smooth out and melt any lumps.

Yield:  approximately 1 cup

Oh, and about that Brazilian?  Well, I'm not sayin'..........

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Technical Difficulties

It was recently brought to my attention that those of you who have signed up as Followers of my blog (bless you!) are not getting notifications about new blog posts.  Sorry about that!

For now, I will send out an email to any of you who want to receive updates when new blog entries are posted.  If you want to be included, just leave me a message in the comment section below or shoot me an email. 

Thanks and have a great weekend!  I'm already working on the next post.....

I Heart Meyer Lemons

Have you ever tasted or cooked with a Meyer lemon?  If so, then you are probably like me and snap them up whenever they're available (which isn't often enough).  If you haven't, keep an eye out for them and grab a few when you have the chance.  You won't be disappointed.

What is a Meyer lemon exactly?  Well, it looks like a regular lemon, except that it's more orange in color and has a smooth, thin skin.  It originated in China and is probably a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange.  You can read more about it here:

What I like about it is the taste.  It's less acidic than a regular lemon, sweeter and very aromatic.  It's wonderful to cook or bake with and it lends itself well to making incredible desserts.  No wonder why, when I stumbled across them at Whole Paycheck Foods the other day, I snatched up a bagful of them right on the spot, without any idea as to what I was going to do with them.

And then I remembered a friend's birthday was coming up.

I once made an orange semolina cake that I'd drizzled with orange syrup.  "Hmm," I thought.  "Maybe that could work with Meyer lemons."  I decided that the earthiness of the semolina might overpower the sublety of the lemons however, so maybe not.  Instead, I settled on a sour cream poundcake, figuring that the tanginess of the sour cream might compensate for the lack of acidity of the Meyer lemon.  And because you can never have too much of a good thing, I decided to infuse the cake with Meyer lemon syrup and garnish it with candied Meyer lemon peel.

Here's what I came up with:

This is what it looks like when I sit down to write a recipe.  Not pretty.
Hope I can decipher and write it out for you without mistakes!

MEYER LEMON POUND CAKE  (with Meyer Lemon Syrup and Candied Peel)

For the cake:
3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher)
6 eggs, room temperature
4 T. Meyer lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice, strained (from the 4 lemons above)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325-degrees.  Butter and flour a tube (angel food cake) pan.  Sift together flour and baking soda; set aside.

Cream butter, sugar and salt in electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes, scraping down bowl occasionally.  Turn mixer to low and beat in eggs, one at a time.  Scrape bowl, increase speed to medium and blend well.  Add lemon zest and lemon juice and combine well on medium-low speed.

Add vanilla extract and sour cream.  Mix on medium-low speed until combined.  Mixture will look curdled.

Add flour mixture in two batches, combining briefly on low speed until just combined.  Finish blending by hand, using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Smooth evenly and run a knife through batter in a circle, about 1-inch from the center tube.  Rap pan sharply on countertop once, then place in preheated oven.

Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes.  If cakes tester comes out clean, cake is done.  If not, continue baking until tester comes out clean (my cake took 1 hour 45 minutes).  Remove to a rack and cool 20 minutes.  Run a spatuala around sides of pan to loosen and remove that part of the pan (not the bottom portion with the tube).  Allow cake to cool for another 45-60 minutes then remove bottom portion of pan.  Place on a cake round set over a rack with a pan underneath to catch syrup.  Use a skewer to poke holes all over top of cake.

Slowly spoon warm syrup all over cake, allowing it to be absorbed into cake.  Garnish with candied lemon peel.

For the Syrup and Candied Zest:
2 Meyer lemons
3/4 cup granulated sugar plus more for coating

Use a vegetable peeler to remove zest from lemons in long strips.  Set aside.  Juice lemons, strain and measure then add water to equal 1 cup.  Place in a saucepan and add the 3/4 cup sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

When sugar is dissolved, add the reserved lemon strips and let cook for 1 minute.  Remove to a rack and let dry (they will be sticky).  Reserve the syrup for basting the cooled cake.

When strips have cooled, dredge in granulated sugar to completely coat.  Place on rack to dry again, then slice crosswise into thin slivers. Coat again in sugar and let dry.  Use to garnish cake.

Serves 12-16. 

Looks pretty good!
Too bad I gave it away and didn't get to eat any of it. 
I consumed enough of the batter and crumbs from the pan to vouch for it though!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Warm Food on a Cold Night

Remember what I said in the last blog about spring?  Well, FUGEDABOUTIT!  It snowed here today and it is freakin' cold.  Even I (the Hot Flash Queen) can't seem to get warm.

So did I need a better excuse to stay home and test recipes all day?  Umm - maybe not.

I thought about hanging out in my pj's (well, for me that would be an oversized T-shirt), but I couldn't quite bring myself to do that.  I compromised.  Did not wash my hair, did put on make-up (why, Liz?), put on a pair of jeans instead of my beloved ripped up chef's pants, opted for a pair of warm socks instead of shoes and did not wear a bra.  Enough info?

I then proceeded to spend the better part of the day in my kitchen.  All the while listening to an audio version of  "The Help." 

I'll post later about the Meyer lemon cake I made.  For now, you need to know about the lentil gratin.  SO GOOD.  It (along with a bottle of inexpensive, but decent red wine) was exactly the comfort food we needed.


2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
5 carrots, cut into small dice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
6 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 1/2 cups green lentils
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 T. red wine vinegar
1/4 t. crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 cup Panko crumbs (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 t. kosher salt
1 T extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add carrots, thyme and salt and pepper (be VERY generous) to taste.  Reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook for 10 minutes or until carrots are barely tender.

Add bay leaves and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add lentils, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until lentils are almost done, about 30 minutes.

What you are looking for here are lentils that are almost done, but still "soupy."  (The reason for this is because when you add the breadcrumb topping before baking, it will soak up all of the liquid and leave the lentils dry.  So make sure your lentils have enough leftover liquid before baking).

Once you get to that point, remove the bay leaves and stir the parsley, mustard, vinegar and red pepper into lentils.  Taste to adjust seasonings and turn into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Reggiano and salt in a small bowl.  Stir to blend, then add olive oil and stir again.  Sprinkle over lentils.

Bake for 30 minutes until just warmed through and top is browned.  Do not overbake.

Yield:  at least 10 servings.

Just remember to save enough for those of us who would happily eat this for breakfast the next day.