Friday, January 30, 2009

meyer lemons, preserved

I suppose preserved lemons have never really struck you as a necessary pantry item.
Well, I'm here to tell you that they are.
And when you consider that the especially sweet, perfumey Meyer lemon peaks between November and January, the urgency mounts.
A preserved lemon is essentially a lemon that becomes lusciously soft and salty after going through a brine and being packed in its own juices.
These take about 10 minutes to cure, and they last a whole year in your fridge. That's a year of being able to pull out a tender strip of Meyer lemon peel to dice and toss into whatever your heart desires. Possibilities? Couscous, croque monsieur, fish...the possibilities are endless, really. The pulp of the fruit can be a bit salty, but in certain cases it is perfect when smushed against a sieve to extract that lemony goodness. If you need convincing, come over and I'll share some of my tiny burst of lemony flavor will have you packing your own.

preserved lemons

10 Meyer lemons
2/3 cup coarse salt
olive oil

Blanch 6 lemons in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cut lemons into 4 slices and half to make 8 wedges. Discard any seeds. Toss with salt in a bowl and pack into jar.

Squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to cover lemons and cover jar with lid. Let stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, 5 days. Add oil to cover completely and chill. They'll keep for a year!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

dyi ricotta

I am in the fortunate situation to have lots of milk laying around in my fridge. Way too much to drink. I used to cope with this by making yogurt, but that usually meant pulling out the machine, procuring either a storebought yogurt or some live cultures, and waiting. I usually ended up with more yogurt than I could eat. Then we were back to wasteful square one.

Then walked in this lovely ricotta* revelation. Easy to make at home with ingredients on hand. AND-this is key- worth making even if you must purchase a half-gallon of milk. The possibilities are endless with delicious homemade cheese. Of course, that's only if you can stop yourself from spooning it all straight up. Since a half-gallon only yields 1 1/2 cups, you might seriously consider doubling the recipe if you have plans to actually use this amazing cheese for something other than instant gratification.

fresh ricotta

8 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice

Line a colander with four layers of cheesecloth. Bring milk and salt to simmer over med. high heat. Stir in lemon juice and let simmer until curds form, 1 to 2 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer curds from pan to cloth. Let drain only one minute. Transfer curds to bowl and cover and chill until cold, about three hours.

You can make this up to two days ahead. Yield is 1 1/2 cups of ricotta.
*bon appetit 2009

Friday, January 9, 2009

golden beet salad

Lately I've been on a salad kick. Not green salads, mind you, but wonderfully diverse salads, usually based upon the basic formula of grain + veggie + dressing + delicious extras. These building blocks are pretty foolproof, at least in my vegetable-loving opinion. In this case, it has resulted in an amazing (and gorgeous) beet salad, whose earthy flavor is highlighted by the acidity of the sherry vinegar. And we all know that beet+nut+cheese is a win-win situation.
The other good thing about these salads is they are good warmish, coldish, or at room temperature. So enjoy, whenever. Make it ahead. Go on a picnic. You get the idea.

golden beet salad

2 large yellow beets
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 c olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp diced shallot

Boil beets in water until tender.
Meanwhile, whisk olive oil, and vinegar in small bowl. Add shallots and salt and pepper to taste, whisk until combined.
Let beets cool a while in the cooking liquid. Slip off skins and chop. Toss with rice, nuts, cheese and dressing. Add pepper to taste.