Tag Archives: Lemon

Shaved Asparagus and Pecorino Romano Salad

size matters

It’s Spring, so that means it’s officially time for asparagus even though it seems there is rarely a time that it isn’t available at the grocery store.  It’s probably one of our favorite vegetables,  so often in the “green & healthy” rotation around here for one meal or another if the price isn’t too crazy.  Most often, I saute it simply in olive oil with onion or shallots, a bit of garlic and lemon zest.  We bake it, grill it, enjoy it in soup, frittatas, omelettes, salads, and more often without hollandaise than with it.

As much as I pride myself on knowing quite a bit about the vegetables I enjoy, I was surprised to find out even more.

Ten Things:  Did you know that:

#1  asparagus is grown in the US states of Washington, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey and California (which grows 80% of the nearly 200 million lbs. of the US crop). Otherwise, it’s grown extensively in Mexico, Peru, and China.

#2  it can grow as much as 10″ in 24 hours and that size does matter (the thicker the spear, the better the quality). The writer takes no responsibility for any connections the reader might make which are of a sexual nature.  *snort*

3#  asparagus contains glutathione (GSH) which happens to be the most powerful detoxifier in the body.

#4  the average American eats between 1-2 lbs. of asparagus per year as compared to 18.5 lbs. tomatoes.

#5  ancient Greeks and Romans thought asparagus might relieve a toothache or prevent a bee sting.

#6  asparagus contains rutin, a bioflavonoid vital to capillary strength and increasing circulation in the lower limbs.

#7  asparagus is a super source of folacin which helps not only with the duplication of cells, but growth and repair.

#8   it is a member of the lily family.

#9  after the asparagus harvest, the spears grow into ferns with red berries.

#10 asparagus is better suited to be grown locally more than any other vegetable.

Have you ever tried asparagus raw?  It’s my new favorite way to eat it.

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Mixed Berry Shortcakes with Lemon Mascarpone Cream

I suppose you could convince me there is a dessert that typifies summer more than shortcake, and you might be able to string me along for a while before I came to my senses to explain delicately that, at least to me,  not much else can compete.

My shortcake memories go back years, but they always begin the same:  with a biscuit.  Not a slice of angel food cake, or pound cake.  A lowly biscuit.  One that, if you’re me,  would normally be found on a plate filled with beans, rice, and coleslaw.  That kind of biscuit.  The one that not much else can compare to when it comes to soaking up juice and binding everything together, whether it’s dessert or not.

Sure, I’ve tried a variety of recipes, combinations of flavors and ingredients, but in the end I’m only truly satisfied with that slightly salty bite of biscuit and the tart sweetness of fresh berries tempered by the richness of cream.  It’s fabulous.

Recently, my husband surprised me with Thomas Keller’s latest book, ad hoc at home.  He’d heard that the man himself would be visiting a local Williams-Sonoma so decided to wait on his lunch hour in a rather lengthy line to get Keller’s signature for me.  Not only was I touched by the gesture, I couldn’t wait to dig into the recipes.

You know what it’s like to get a new cookbook.  You leaf through the pages, savoring each possibility, wondering what might measure up to your expectations without killing yourself on the first attempt:  buttermilk fried chicken…rubbed and glazed pork spareribs…iceberg lettuce slices…No, it was the buttermilk biscuits that got my attention first.  I have to admit I did go back to the iceberg lettuce slices (you have to try his Blue Cheese Dressing), but the biscuits are what I first settled down to make knowing instantly they were destined for berry shortcakes.

Think about it.  They’re perfect for the picnic of all summer picnics — July 4th.  You make them the day before, cool them completely before sealing their crispy freshness away so you can split them and then dollop on some cream and berries that have had a chance to sit for a while to develop a lovely, syrupy juice.

There is an art to this if you want to take some time with it, and if you’d like to consider another ingredient you may never have tried before which is perfect with berries, try mascarpone.  I’m partial to mascarpone, so when I saw that Keller included it in a recipe for peaches and cream, I had to try it giving it my own spin, of course.

If you’re thinking that it may not travel well, think again.  With a few recycled jars filled and kept in an ice chest, you’ll be able to turn out the perfect summer dessert for your July 4th holiday, courtesy of inspiration from Thomas Keller, of course.

133/365:  Autograph

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Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Chiffon Pie

Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Chiffon Pie

In the months before my youngest was born, my mother suggested to my husband and I that she live with us to care for the baby after I returned to work.  We’d been looking for a larger house since my two older boys were on the verge of their teen years, and adding a third child meant room to stretch would be important for us all.  She knew I wasn’t looking forward to leaving the baby with a caregiver, and was growing tired of her own job, the hours it required, and the physical pain it caused her.  My husband is a far more easy going person than I could ever be, so he agreed and we changed the focus of our search to a home with four or five bedrooms instead of three.

We happened on to the perfect house one day by misreading the directions I’d written down.  An open house was just concluding and the realtors were preparing to leave.  We thought it looked perfect from the outside, but as soon as we entered — all heading in different directions — we were convinced.  It had only one owner in its 40 year history and was unique in so many ways.  Tucked into a hillside on a half acre shaped like a slice of pie, it faced east and overlooked the mature trees in the valley.  The back property hadn’t been cared for in years, but was a wealth of possibilities;  apricot, plum, tangerine, orange, grapefruit, loquat, and nut trees filled the space. It was perfect.

The year we moved in, the winter rains were especially heavy.  Slowly, the parched hillside turned green and bulbs planted years before began to push through layers of fallen leaves.  Sprigs of grape vines and berry bushes also appeared.  Saturday mornings before sunrise, the baby would wake earlier than I wanted, but it allowed us both some time alone.  With a bottle in his hands and coffee in one of mine, we’d walk up the hill in the early quiet of the day to see what new surprise we might find, finally growing after so many years of neglect. I loved that house.

Our trees often produced more than we could enjoy, so after freezer jam had been made, berries frozen, juice made, and sweets baked, we’d pack it up and set it down by the street with a “Free” sign.  It rarely took long for passers by to stop and help themselves to the produce, emptying the buckets we’d carry back up the hill to fill again.

Now, I have to depend on the market for most of what we used to give away, but I have learned recently of many organizations involved in gleaning urban fruit for a variety of purposes.  Whether it’s to gather and donate to those in need, or pluck and enjoy to keep it from rotting on the ground, interest in urban fruit foraging is gathering momentum as we all begin to think more responsibly about food.

I was gifted a big bag of Meyer lemons not too long ago, so had to pair them with the blackberries showing up at the market.  The berries will never compare with those we picked on our hill, but until I find them growing wild in San Diego, I’ll have to be tolerant — or do without.

But then, there is this pie…

76/365:  Blackberries

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Blueberry Lemon Scones

This past Christmas, my husband’s sister had the idea to surprise their parents with a trip to England.  For as long as I’ve known my dear father-in-law, he’s wanted to travel there, so it took little effort to consider cashing in our points, and settling in to plan.  It’s been several years since our first trip there, and it remains the only place where I’ve vacationed that I didn’t want to leave.  Although we barely saw London that trip, we did manage to cover about 750 miles driving through Devonshire, Wales, and the Cotswolds.  My husband’s white-knuckled grip never completely adjusted to the need to drive on the opposite side of the road, but we did find maneuvering the roundabouts hilarious after a time, rarely missing a turn off when one was called for.  Although it was equally terrifying to be the navigator on the trip at times, I was more likely to enjoy endless views of rolling green hills and quaint villages, each more picturesque than the last.

As much as we think of scones being breakfast fare here, we only had them once on our trip, and not for breakfast.  We happened into a small restaurant just before closing time in Harlech, Wales, after a day of sightseeing and castle exploration.  We had some tiny scones and other treats with the cream tea the staff was kind enough to serve even though they’d clearly finished for the day.  It was a perfect break considering we’d come from Conwy, in Northern Wales,  early that morning, and were headed to Milebrook House near Knighton on the English border, about 100 km away.  It’s funny to think about now, and I refer to it as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but it wasn’t humorous at the time.

Hopefully, the trip I’m planning this time won’t be as hectic.  It should help to have a spry, natty octogenarian with us.

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Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream Filling

Dear Nick Malgieri,

I saw your Ginger Sandwich Cookies filled with lemon cream in a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine and decided I’d give them a try.  Although gingersnaps have never been and will never be a cookie I find myself craving, the lemon filling did catch my attention and I thought that with the ginger, the flavor could be exceptional.

Although that did not disappoint, the molasses, on the other hand, gave me pause because the last time I made cookies that had molasses in them, the results were less than appealing until I bent them into submission after much trial and error.

Now I know I’m far from perfect on most days, but I have had a modest amount of experience cooking and baking with great success — thankfully more times than not.  I also use excellent equipment and so cannot blame poor result on either of those factors.

What I’m left with is a question, and I’m asking it of you since this is your recipe and the photograph chosen to illustrate the intended results looks far different than mine — especially my first batch.Ginglemoncook

  • When baking cookies with molasses, is there something I just don’t understand?  What causes them to spread so?  I know sugar in general causes that, and when using molasses, a smaller quantity is needed, as in this recipe which calls for only 1/4 cup.  Could it be the brand of molasses?  I use Grandma’s which is just about the only kind I’ve ever used, and the jar I used for this batch was opened recently.
  • Although keeping a very close eye on the Ginger Sandwich cookies during the required bake time, I realized I needed to remove them from the oven only half way through the expected 20-minute baking time, and even then, the cookies were far too done.  Actually, burnt.
  • I prefer to use convection settings for everything except for recipes with a high quantity of egg, so am used to reducing the heat and cooking time to compensate for that choice. However, because of the previous results, I chose not to use convection heat for this recipe.  On the second batch, again, with only 7 minutes of the baking time elapsed, I had to remove the cookies.

Mr. Malgieri, I know that often, baking is an adventure, and I accept that most of the time.  Because I’m used to reading recipes, I can usually spot one that I think could be problematic, and with this recipe, the cooking time did get my attention.  Cookies rarely bake that long.  Nevertheless, I proceeded like the trusting home cook I am.

I will say your ginger cookies are lovely tasting with a nice bite — chewy, with a pleasant tartness from the lemon cream which blends well with the overall sweetness.  Very, very nice.  I just wish I’d done them justice.  So I’m curious and would enjoy trying these again, but detest wasting food so need some direction.

Did Food & Wine misprint the recipe?  Or am I just someone who should step away from the molasses?

With the utmost respect,

p.s.  They stack very well, though!

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