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Posts Tagged ‘lemon’

A few years ago I met the most extraordinary Lebanese woman named Diana.  She was living with my in-laws while completing her Master’s Degree in Counseling.  I think she may have secretly been an angel sent straight from heaven; she taught me about Lebanese food and fed it to us in copious amounts, and she consoled our family as we helplessly waited day after day at the hospital, my father-in-law dealing with a devastating illness that nearly claimed his life.   

I relished the time we spent chatting on the sofa for so many reasons, but I found it especially interesting to discuss our different worldviews and the cultural nuances that shaped us both as young, independent, determined women.  For instance, when I hear a rumble of thunder, I think of the spectacular storms that I grew up with in Texas.  Diana wonders where the bombs are falling.  

Apparently Diana cast a spell on us with those meals, because I have been intensely passionate about Lebanese food ever since (and when I say “intensely passionate,” I really mean crazed).  She sent me home with precious little baggies of za’atar, sumac, seven spice and white pepper, but I had high hopes of discovering the exact components of seven spice to simply mix the spices myself.  No such luck.  Between my English and Diana’s mom’s Arabic, we couldn’t get it completely figured out.  Internet research will lead you down varying paths, but the mixture can vary from family to family.  I definitely know that clove, cinnamon, allspice, pepper and nutmeg are the heavy hitters; it gets tricky with the remaining two spices.  Some say ginger and fenugreek, some say caraway and cumin…  I can’t stand to waste a meal not getting it exactly right, so I buy my seven spice from the patient and diligent owner of Leon’s International Bakery and allow it to remain exotic and mysterious. 

The first time I visited Leon’s I arrived armed with my tiny ziploc baggies of Diana’s spices.  I believe I made a memorable impression that day, and not just because I was caught dancing in the aisle to the Arabic music that was playing.  I called the gracious owner of Leon’s over to his spice rack and I held open each little baggie, focusing especially on the seven spice.  “Please smell this,” I said.  He raised an eyebrow and sniffed.  “Please tell me if you are selling exactly this mixture here at your store,” I said.  He assured me that it was likely to be very close.  “This is from Lebanon,” I said.  He nodded.  “I’m very intent on getting this exact mixture because I want to replicate certain dishes – please do sniff again – my bag first and then your spice mixture.”  That blessed man sniffed again, offering his sincere assurance that I would be satisfied.  As I said, “passionately intense.” 

I made my purchases that day, and needless to say, his mixture is the best I’ve tried yet.   During my last visit I was explaining this to him – that I have tried blends from other reputable providers in many U.S. cities, and that his is the absolute best.  “Because it is the original,” he says.  I continued on in my monologue, assuring him that his offerings are unmatched in taste and aroma.  This must qualify me as an expert, because he turned and asked me if I was originally from Lebanon. 

There are so many Lebanese dishes that we eat with great frequency in our home, and I want to share all of them with you.  My favorite dishes call for generous amounts of lemon and garlic and olive oil, astringent sumac for a tangy zip and lots of seven spice for depth and deliciousness.  However, they deserve to be discussed one at a time, so I’m starting with the first dish that Diana served to us – chicken and potatoes.  I haven’t found this exact recipe in the one hundred or so Lebanese cookbooks that I’ve looked through, so I assume that the combo of chicken and potatoes is one that Diana’s mom prefers.  I like that. 

Diana’s way is good enough to have Jon and I pine after it like forlorn lovers, but I recently applied that high heat, miraculous roast chicken method to the recipe, and our lives changed forever.  This post is already exceedingly long, so I’ll spare the finer points of why cooking chicken this way in the oven is really the only way to do it.  You can check the details out in chapter one and chapter two of the fabulous roast chicken saga. 

Let me instead tell you about how the potatoes and will soak up this heady blend of spices, and will cook to perfection doused in lemon and garlic.  The chicken will be succulent and juicy and flavorful and silky and fabulous.  The olive oil and spices and lemon and garlic will meld together in the baking dish to form the most glorious sauce that has ever graced a silly little potato or a humble piece of chicken.  Your house will smell glorious.  Your life will change.  You may cry tears of joy.  And while you belly dance your way through the kitchen to drink the remaining olive oil directly from the baking dish, you too can be transformed into an honorary Phoenician, changed forever by Diana’s chicken and potatoes. 

chicken and potatoes – serves four or two really hungry and over indulgent people

  • one bone in skin on chicken cut into pieces, or two bone in skin on breasts, or several bone in skin on thighs – decide based on the number of people that you are serving
  • three to six russet potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch medallions
  • four or five cloves of garlic, grated with a microplane zester or smashed to a paste in a mortar and pestle
  • two or more lemons, juiced
  • two heaping tbsps of Lebanese seven spice
  • one heaping tbsp of allspice
  • one heaping tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 heaping tsp of ground white pepper
  • kosher salt to taste, about one tsp
  • a generous amount of olive oil
  1. mix all of the spices and salt together in a small bowl, and add enough olive oil so that the spices and oil together form a thick, soupy mix – you don’t really want a paste, but you also don’t want a soup – you want a well stirred homogenous mixture
  2. grate the peeled garlic into another small bowl, and juice the lemons into the same bowl – whisk together
  3. put your chicken in a large glass baking dish, cover the chicken with the spice and oil mixture – be sure and generously coat the chicken, making sure to put plenty of the mix under the skin – then, carefully spoon a small amount of the lemon and garlic mixture UNDER the chicken skin, taking care to keep any of the lemon and garlic mixture from getting on the top of the chicken skin
  4. place the chicken on the very top shelf of a five hundred degree oven, and bake for fifteen minutes
  5. meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into half inch medallions
  6. cover the potatoes with cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil – simmer for ten minutes and then drain
  7. when the chicken has baked for fifteen minutes, pull the pan out of the oven and add the potatoes, covering them generously with the remaining oil and spice mixture – give the entire pan a few extra glugs of olive oil – be generous
  8. bake the chicken and potatoes for an additional fifteen minutes
  9. pull the chicken and potatoes out and pour over the lemon and garlic mixture, and bake for five more minutes
  10. remove from the oven and serve, with the olive oil sauce poured over the chicken and potatoes

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see the foamy white goodness on the salmon?  that's hot butter

see the foamy white goodness on the salmon? that's hot butter

I think I may have mentioned this already, but salmon isn’t really my favorite fish.  It’s just so salmony.  So it’s funny that we eat it about once a week in our house.  Clarification: I don’t care for it as much when other people fix it, I love it when I prepare it myself.  Is that snooty?

The thing about salmon is that it’s so affordable and a cinch to prepare, extremely good for your body and a very sustainable fish.  All of these things appeal to my sensibilities.  Also, I have found some ways to make salmon taste creamy, not salmony. 

Imagine a plumpy, flaky, juicy little piece of pink fish, covered in a delicious blackened crust – onions, garlic, paprika and cayenne all come together to create a smoky depth of flavor – a little lemon and thyme add brightness and keep things interesting.  Imagine drizzling a little bit of browned butter on the fish – it sizzles on the crust – buttery magic is happening.  Now imagine yourself taking the perfect bite of creamy fish – the crunch of the crust is so toothsome – the soft richness of the salmon is a perfect contrast.  I mean really, imagine this.  You too can be so passionately dramatic about a fish that you’re not even sure you like.  Indeed, that is how spectacular this recipe is.  I’m getting worked up just thinking about it (even with a belly full of the best homemade pizza that has come from my kitchen to date)…    

Furthering the greatness of this dish is the fact that I can throw it on my indoor grill with some asparagus and call it a night.  Jon and I split a large, skinned filet between the two of us but you could get wild and have an entire filet to yourself – just increase the amount of the spice mixture.  Speaking of wild, Sockeye and other non-farmed varieties of salmon are abundantly available right now – there are no excuses to not to have a euphoric salmon experience this week.

blackened salmon with a brown butter drizzle       

  • one large, skinned salmon filet cut in half
  • two tbsp of onion (red, white, yellow – use what you’ve got), finely minced
  • two cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • a heaping tsp of paprika, maybe a little more
  • a heaping tsp of dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper, or more if you like heat
  • 1/4 tsp of smoked pimenton or smoked paprika (if you don’t have this on hand just omit it – it’s just a bonus)
  • a very generous pinch of kosher salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • a very generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, probably a few tbsps
  • half of a lemon
  • a tbsp or so of butter
  1. combine the onion, garlic, cayenne, paprika, thyme, salt, pepper and lemon in a small bowl and add enough olive oil to form a nice wet paste (just for fun, take a big whiff of the mix – it will be aromatic and wonderful)
  2. cover one side of each piece of salmon with some of the spice mixture, and place spiced side down onto a well oiled grill pan or skillet on medium heat
  3. add the remaining spice mixture to the exposed side of the salmon
  4. cook the salmon for three to four minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the filet (be gentle when you’re turning the fish over so that the crust stays with the fish)
  5. in the last few minutes of cook time, melt some butter over medium heat, swirling gently until is begins to brown
  6. plate the salmon and drizzle the hot butter immediately over each fillet – serve with another squeeze of lemon and thank God for the privilege of food and taste buds

Do you want more salmon?  How about favorite spring salmon on peas with lemon brodetto or salmon with citrus pesto? Mmmmm….

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tasty and wonderful

tasty and wonderful

The last time I was in Israel I arrived in Tel Aviv at dawn.  I left Athens for Israel at one in the morning, and it took many hours of travel before I finally reached Tiberias, my first stop on the journey.  Tiberias is a beautiful little city that occupies a short stretch of the coast along the Sea of Galilee.  There are small and winding stone alleys, a lively beach scene, elegant boutique hotels and crumbling, ancient minarets left over from the Ottomans.  Ignore the young teenagers carrying machine guns; it’s a charming town.  Tiberias is particularly special to me because it is where I met my husband.  I can easily conjure the colorful, swirling, exhilarating memories of the night that we met, so you can imagine how excited I was to return with him three years later.

However, our reunion with this cherished city was not the picture of romance that I envisioned.  We were tired, confused, starving.  We had been up for hours.  We were hangry (a unique physical/emotional state brought on by low blood sugar; hunger+angry=hangry).  People that know me know about hangry.  Hanger must be attended to.  We ended up at a small place called Little Tiberias.  We ate quite a few dishes that day, but I only remember the fried cauliflower.  Is it terrible to say that my memories of the fried cauliflower run alongside my memories of meeting Jon? 

off the coast of tiberias

off the coast of tiberias

I don’t know if I have ever loved a vegetable the way that I loved that cauliflower.  It could have been because I was starving but I’m pretty sure its because it was out of this world.  It was tender and crispy all at the same time, warm and smothered with garlic and olive oil and lemon and coriander leaves.  My mouth is watering as I write this.  My passion for this cauliflower was so intense that the chef came out and shared the recipe with me, which basically consisted of “loads and loads of garlic” and “tons of lemon and olive oil” and “good white cauliflower dropped in a lot of hot oil.” 

Cauliflower is an underused vegetable, pushed aside all together or covered in fake, melted cheese.  Yuck.  I have always enjoyed its earthy flavor and prefer it  roasted in the oven with lemon or nutmeg or paprika, but ever since that day I really love my pretend Little Tiberias version.  I don’t technically fry the cauliflower (although I’d like to try one day) and I swapped the coriander leaves for arugula, but it still tastes delicious and reminds me of Israel and love and beach and sunshine.  I also added a little bit of paprika – no idea why.  The cauliflower gets nice and browned and lemony and garlicky – the wilted arugula a perfect complement.  Please try this immediately and tell me all about it or share one of your favorite ways to prepare cauliflower!    

lemony garlicky cauliflower and wilted arugula (and love)

  • one head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
  • four or five cloves of garlic, chopped
  • one large or two small lemons (meyers are best)
  • one generous handful of arugula
  • one teaspoon of paprika
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. heat a very generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the cauliflower, cooking for a few minutes untouched until they begin to brown
  2. add the paprika, salt and pepper and give the florets a turn or a shake to encourage nice browing on their opposite sides
  3. once cauliflower is browning nicely, squeeze half of a lemon over the florets, add a splash of water, reduce heat to medium and cover, cooking for about 8 more minutes or until cauliflower is tender (be sure and check temperture level and add a little water as necessary to keep from burning)
  4. in the meantime, whisk the rest of the lemon with some extra virgin olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper to create a simple vinaigrette
  5. in the last few minutes of cooking, add the chopped garlic to the cauliflower and stir, watching carefully so that the garlic doesn’t burn
  6. when cauliflower is finished, toss it with the arugula and the vinaigrette

I like to serve this will something simple like chicken or salmon or steak.

You could substitute the arugula for cilantro, a cousin to the coriander leaves that they use at Little Tiberias.  I don’t use cilantro because I hate it, which goes to show just how good the version in Israel was!

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i love these peopleI’ve just returned from a beach trip with my husband’s family.  We had a really lovely time.  Really.  I can only think of one teensy complaint about the week (okay, two if I include the fact that my head is still peeling ): Jon’s family does not place any value in eating well.  Allow me to paint the picture for you by highlighting some of the most memorable concoctions; buttered pop tarts, cheesy poofs (which would have been dipped in sour cream had it been available), and coffee sweetened with ice cream, artificial creamer AND sugar.  This is no joke.  This is real. 

At the beginning of the trip I’m simply thinking of a nicely crusted piece of salmon or some flavorful chicken –  by the end of the trip I am so desperate for a vegetable that I’m considering a handful of grass or that piece of seaweed I saw lying listlessly next to my beach towel.  The reasons that we don’t just cook our own food at the beach condo are too complex to discuss, and I really don’t want to be obnoxiously pushy about the fact that we like to eat food and nourish our bodies.  Already we are introduced as such, “This  is my brother Jon and his wife Amanda.  They’re healthy.”  The second sentence is said in a more hushed, foreboding tone, kind of like when you’re announcing a family member that is a little slow, or, I don’t know, terminally ill. 

The most amazing thing is that all of these wonderful family members that I truly adore do not weigh four hundred pounds.  Miraculously they are all slim, trim and stunning; either a small miracle or a testimony to the influence of good genes.   

I’m telling you all of this just so that you understand my desperate desire to eat something that grew from a seed and sprouted through the earth, something that was plucked from a vine or was once covered in dirt.  These are my thoughts as I’m wandering through the market on Sunday, loving every minute of my reclaimed freedom of food choice.  I planned to overload the menu with veg, while as usual, be thrifty and use all of my purchased ingredients.  I knew I would have some extra arugula and decided to just grab a small assortment of vegetables to grill up and serve on top of the remaining greens.  I’m so fortunate to be able to buy individual vegetables as opposed to a pre-packaged bunch; this is the beauty of the farmer’s market.  So, I selected a zucchini, a summer squash, a few portabello mushroom caps and a red onion.  Remembering the balsamic that I just brought back from Italy and a jar of roasted red peppers in my fridge, I think that this will be so easy to throw on the grill, taste amazing, and feed the screaming veggie monster that had yet to be satisfied. 

I just finished my lunch, and what I thought was going to be a very simple preparation of grilled veggies on some

beautiful grilled veggie goodness

beautiful grilled veggie goodness

left over greens (I’ve done this before, you know), turned out to be a symphony of tangy, warm, toasty, flavorful, satisfying goodness.  Oh yes.  And to think that I was also eating on the cheap and nourishing my deprived body?!  There is a God who loves me. 

I’ve thrown this little menagerie together before, but a few minor tweaks really made it special.  For starters, I used arugula instead of spinach.  If you think arugula is bitter or strong or just plain gross, erase this notion from your brain immediately.  Toss those greens in some lemon and good quality olive oil, get over it and enjoy.  Pair them with something complementary like red onion or soppressata or cauliflower or tomato sauce.  But I digress; the arugula that I tossed in lemon and olive oil as a bed for my grilled vegetables elevated the flavors of each vegetable, as did the pairing of lemon with the balsamic that I poured over my vegetables.  (It also probably didn’t hurt that I used some balsamic from Italy…).  What really added panache though was a little side bowl of whole milk ricotta cheese that I mixed with a smidge of grated fresh garlic and salt and pepper.  Oooooooohhhh, a little bit of arugula, some portabello, a piece of onion and a little dollop of that pillowy cool ricotta, scented with the fresh garlic – heaven!  Or maybe a little bit of arugula with some roasted red pepper and a piece of summer squash, and another little schmear of that glorious ricotta – perfection!  The sweetness of the vinegar, the balancing sour of the lemon, the roasty flavor of the vegetables, the assertive flavor of our darling arugula, and the crown of that beautiful ricotta – a revelation!  Each bite was chosen for a new combination of flavors, each one announced as the best so far.  

Did I mention that this was also easy as pie?  You could really go overboard and throw in some toasted flat bread or pour the greens and veggies over a nice little serving of quinoa or couscous.  You could toss in some fresh herbs, like basil or thyme.  You could grill some chicken alongside your veggies. (And speaking of grilling, you also must get one of those cast iron grill pans that go over two burners.  It will change your life.  It makes all of this so simple and quick to cook and clean.) 

little ricotta cloud

little ricotta cloud

If I sound bossy here I do apologize; maybe it’s because I just spent a week trying to avoid buttered preservatives and sugar encapsulated in trans fat, forbidden to indulge my omnivorous desires for real food.  This is hard for me.  It makes me sassy when I’m back in control. 

The recipe below is for two; very easy to adjust for any number of people.  I do hope that you will recreate this meal immediately and enjoy every single unique bite as Jon and I just did.  While you savor each little flavor explosion, meditate on the fact that you are capable of making this fabulous food, that your body is singing a chorus for all of this lovely veg, and that most likely what you put on your grill cost less that a box of cheesy poofs or a gallon of ice cream.  Glory!

delicious grilled veggie and arugula salad with pillowy garlic scented ricotta

  • one zucchini, sliced into half inch rounds
  • two summer squash, sliced into half inch rounds
  • one medium red onion, peeled and quartered
  • two portobello mushroom caps, sliced into manageable chunks
  • a few good quality jarred roasted red peppers
  • a few generous handfuls of arugula, rinsed and dried
  • one lemon
  • about a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • one half clove of garlic, grated or pushed through a press
  • a few tablespoons of whole milk ricotta
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. toss squash, zucchini, shrooms and peppers in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper, and add them to a well oiled grill pan over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness
  2. meanwhile, toss the arugula with a dressing of salt and pepper, the juice of a fresh lemon and olive oil; lay on a platter or places
  3. add garlic to the ricotta and season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside in a little serving bowl
  4. top the arugula with the finished vegetables and gently toss so that arugula slightly wilts; serve with the ricotta on the side and enjoy every bite

You could really use any kind of mediterranean style vegetables that you like, including eggplants or artichoke hearts – this is a great way to use any left over vegetables.

While the ricotta cheese is a fantastic companion to the salad, parmesan or goat cheese or any other cheese may be a great accompaniment; I happened to have some extra ricotta in the fridge – get creative and use what you’ve got!

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lemony herby honest chicken - eat immediately

lemony herby honest chicken - eat immediately

We ate some wonderful roasted chicken breast tonight.  I sit and write this full and content – pleased with the unique satisfaction that comes from a full belly of something comforting and savory.

I have been traveling so much lately and have been yearning for something simple and delicious, cooked in my own kitchen.  Sunday is market day, and I wandered the crowded aisles thrilled to be shopping for a week’s worth of meals.  I love the energy of the market; today the produce was as abundant as the shoppers, diverse and overflowing.  I passed some beautiful parsnips and springy baby vidalias and the thought of a simple roasted chicken came to mind – one dish in the oven emanating lovely fragrance throughout my home – minimal dishes – snuggly time with my husband and my Bill Bryson book – yes, please. 

This impromptu, market-inspired dish is so simple it’s ridiculous.  Chicken, parsnips, carrots, baby vidalias – all very rustic and honest ingredients.  An elegant little sauce elevates the beautiful flavors of the vegetables with just enough sweet, tangy, herby goodness to keep things interesting.  The chicken will be perfect; juicy, succulent and tender with crispy skin.  A hit of balsamic vinegar in the last ten minutes of cooking adds a subtle sweetness and extra layer of flavor that takes this humble dish to the next level. 

It may seem unusual to cook everything on the very top shelf of the oven at such a high temperature – don’t deviate!  This and a generous amount of olive oil is the secret to delicious oven-roasted chicken breast.  (Stay tuned for chapter two of fabulous roasted chicken breast.)  I prepared just one skin on, bone in chicken breast to split between two hungry people, but you could go for as many as you like.  The recipe below is for one chicken breast – adjust the amount of chicken and veggies according to your taste and serving size. 

fabulous roasted chicken breast and honest veggies with a lemony, herby sauce

  • bone in, skin on chicken breast
  • four medium parsnips, peeled and cut into two inch pieces, larger pieces halved length wise
  • four skinny carrots, peeled and cut into two inch pieces, larger pieces halved length wise
  • one bunch of baby vidalias (about three), bulbs halved and green parts cut into three inch pieces (if you can’t find baby vidalias, substitute with a regular sweet onion and a bunch of green onions)
  • 1 heaping tsp each of dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, basil and marjoram (use fresh if you have them – just be sure and keep it diverse!)
  • zest and juice of one lemon (use a meyer if you have it)
  • a couple tbsp of butter, melted (omit if you’re feeling skinny)
  • three to four tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • generous splash of balsamic vinegar
  • generous tsp of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  1. mix herbs, salt and pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, melted butter and olive oil in a small bowl – the mixture should think but not pasty – easily pourable
  2. place all chopped veggies and chicken breast(s) in a large, glass baking dish or similar
  3. gently separate the skin from the chicken breast, carefully cutting so as not to detach skin from breast, and generously rub some of the herb mixture all over the chicken (make sure to rub plenty under the skin)
  4. pour the rest of the lemony, herby sauce all over the veggies and toss
  5. generously drizzle more extra virgin olive oil over the entire dish and season again with a little more salt and pepper
  6. place uncovered in a 500 degree oven on the very top rack and roast for 20 minutes
  7. remove from oven and splash some balsamic vinegar on the vegetables only
  8. return to oven and roast for 10 minutes more

Serve with all of the pan juices poured over the chicken and vegetables, and also with some crusty bread to soak up the amazing juices.

Be sure and roast with the skin on, even if you don’t plan to eat it.  This will help to keep the chicken moist and flavorful and cannot be omitted. 

If you have a little extra time, why not do a quick salt water brine for your chicken breast a few hours before cooking?

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So I realize that brussel sprouts are at the very tail end of their season (and I may be really stretching it), but I still see them bright and peppy on their stalks at the market so I feel justified in this post. 

my favorite cafe in the namesake city of the brussel sprout

my favorite cafe in the namesake city of the brussel sprout

Like the city of their namesake, brussel sprouts are terribly underrated; they have such an unfortunate reputation of being stinky and plain.  In fact, these little runts of the cabbage family may be the mascot for the rejected vegetable team, elevated by veggie haters as the chief offender and reason to shun vegetables.  Maybe this is true if you boil all of the flavor out of them and dump them on a plate with a little table salt (a tragedy); however, a properly cooked brussel sprout paired with some punchy ingredients and a little bit of love can yield something very, very tasty. 

Brussel sprouts are sweet, earthy, maybe even a little floral – pancetta and garlic beautifully complement these aspects of their flavor.  They are great vehicles of flavor – crispy edges with soft centers – pungent sauce or olive oil hidden in the leaves – their own essence assertive enough to not be lost in the mix.  These tiny crucifers are not only too delicious to be avoided, but they are packed with vitamins and phytonutrients that provide all sorts of lovely benefits to your body (cancer prevention, clear skin, boosted immune function, etc.). 

My husband and I most often enjoy them prepared in the fashion I’ll outline below; you could serve them alongside a simple chicken or pork, or you can eat them as the main with some crusty bread, as we often do.  I have

brussel sprouts with pancetta

brussel sprouts with pancetta

experimented with this classic pairing multiple times with many variations; I like them best in the way that I’m sharing.  The pancetta is very toothsome; crispy but also pleasantly chewy.  The saltiness of the pancetta combined with the garlic and caramelization of the brussel sprouts, the small amount of wine or broth that deglazes the pan, a tiny squeeze of lemon – all of this combines in glorious goodness.  You could also cut some sprouts in half and roast them in the oven.  Toss them with some olive oil, salt and pepper and they will brown very nicely.  A simple, warm sauce of mustard, white wine or white wine vinegar, thyme and a generous sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese makes an elegant and versatile side. 

Perhaps you have written off the brussel sprout; if so, I ask you to give the humble veggie another chance.  If I haven’t done enough to convince you, maybe my husband’s unabashed passion will: “They’re my absolute favorite vegetable,” he says, “and they’re named after my favorite city.”  That’s a one-two punch for the brussel sprout.

brussel sprouts with pancetta

serves 2 generously

  • 20 or so small brussel sprouts, trimmed of bottom “stem” and outer leaves plucked
  • quarter inch slab of pancetta, diced into small cubes
  • a few cloves of garlic, very coarsely chopped
  • generous splash of chicken broth, white wine or vermouth
  • little squeeze of lemon (optional and a little something extra)
  • little bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. trim the brussel sprouts and blanch them for about three minutes in boiling water, draining and transferring to an ice bath
  2. cut the blanched brussel sprouts in half – meanwhile, crisp the pancetta in a skillet over medium high heat
  3. when pancetta begins to crisp, add the brussel sprouts cut side down and cook for 3 to 4 minutes (turn the heat down if they are browning too much or too fast)
  4. check to make sure that brussel sprouts are browning nicely, then turn over to brown on the other side, maybe 2 minutes more
  5. deglaze the pan with a little white wine, vermouth or chicken broth, then add the garlic to the pan
  6. toss and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring gently to combine flavors and prevent garlic from burning
  7. squeeze with a bit of lemon, serve, and repent of your aversion to brussel sprouts

Look for brussel sprouts of a similar size, with crisp compact heads and intact leaves.  Some of the leaves will come off during cooking; don’t worry – these will crisp up and become delicious.

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My Mom was inspired from my post about trout almandine and prepared a letter and a few recipes for the blog.  I am delighted to share them!  However, the main ingredient is a bit of a stretch for me personally.  I am still steadfast in my goal be a tad more adventurous in the meat department, but turtle?  I like turtle.  We had a little turtle that visited our backyard regularly, and I took pictures of her.  How can I eat turtle?  Turtles are cute; thus nullifying their qualification as food (see my previous post on this matter).  Nonetheless, the recipe deserves to be shared.  Please note that Mom (aka Mimi) has shared some of her own notes following the recipes.  Enjoy!

From Paula:

Your blog about your “meat issues” reminded me of when I first moved to New Orleans from Southern California – talk about meat shock! Nothing was the same, the types of seafood and meat were totally different, and the way to cook everything was totally different, even the way people talked was totally different…I had a lot to learn.

I worked in a high rise office on Poydras Street and would go out to lunch with groups of “natives” who thought it was their sacred duty to introduce me to the cuisine of the Crescent City. Some days I was happier with the introduction than others. (We will not discuss my first look at a boiled out crab carcass in my first bowl of seafood gumbo. Your dad was there, he saw the horror on my face! It produced reoccurring nightmares for years. It’s a good thing Turtle Soup isn’t made from those teensy little turtles they used to sell at the pet store…talk about finding an unwelcome shell in your soup…but I digress.)

Anyway, one of the things best things I was introduced to during that time was Turtle Soup, a New Orleans specialty. I first had it at Galatoire’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.  Back in the day, you had to wait in line outside the restaurant for a table. I remember that it was a windy fall day and I had to hold my dress down to keep it from blowing over my head! Once we were inside I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this truly elegant restaurant and nervous about whether I could afford to eat here.

One of the guys in the group (the late, great Frank Fetter) decided that he was going to order for me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was pretty panicked about it and told him that if he was going to order then he was going to pay! I didn’t have the money for food experimentation at one of the most expensive restaurants in town! Well, he took me up on it and I was stuck with his choices…in hindsight, it was one of the best moves I ever made because it introduced me to two of my most favorite dishes ever, Turtle Soup and Shrimp Remoulade. Frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the meal because I was so entranced by these two dishes.

For years after, at every restaurant in New Orleans that served it, I ordered Turtle Soup. Every recipe was different – thickness, clarity of broth, ingredients – the only constants were turtle meat, sherry and chopped hard boiled eggs. Some stirred the eggs and sherry into the soup, some garnished the soup with the eggs chopped fine and served the sherry on the side in an elegant cruet. My eventual favorite ended up being the Turtle Soup from Commander’s Palace. As for the shrimp, no one ever topped that first Shrimp Remoulade from Galatoire’s. Here are the recipes from both restaurants for my favorite soup and favorite shrimp dish. I have not altered these recipes in any way, why mess with perfection?

 

Shrimp Remoulade – recipe and comments from Galatoires.com 

 

Shrimp Rémoulade is in every New Orleans girl’s arsenal of favored dishes for relaxed entertaining. Serve this simple dish on elegant china and its fit for a king- Mardi Gras or otherwise. This is our most popular dish and most frequently requested recipe. Bonus for the home cook: The sauce is definitely best made a day in advance and refrigerated, then all that’s left to do is toss in the shrimp and plate and serve. It’s a snap to make, yet it’s always impressive.

 

¾ cup chopped celery

¾ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)

½ cup chopped curly parsley

1 cup chopped yellow onion

½ cup ketchup

½ cup tomato purée

½ cup Creole mustard or any coarse, grainy brown mustard

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or to taste

 ¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Spanish hot paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup salad oil

4 dozen jumbo (15 count) shrimp, peeled, boiled, and chilled

1 small head of iceberg lettuce, washed, dried and cut into thin ribbons 

 

Mince the celery, scallions, parsley, and onions in a food processor. Add the ketchup, tomato puree, Creole mustard, horseradish, red wine vinegar, paprika, and Worcestershire. Begin processing again and add the oil in a slow drizzle to emulsify. Stop when the dressing is smooth. Chill for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Correct the seasoning with additional horseradish, if desired after the ingredients have had the opportunity to marry.

In a large mixing bowl, add the sauce to the shrimp and toss gently to coat. Divide the lettuce among 6 chilled salad plates. Divide the shrimp evenly atop the lettuce and serve.

 

Mimi’s Note: The chilled iceberg lettuce ribbons are essential – they taste delicious with the sauce and shrimp bites – it cools the sauce down a bit and compliments the taste of the shrimp.

 

 

Turtle Soup – recipe from CommandersPalace.com

Chef’s Note: We use alligator snapping turtles, which is a farm-raised fresh water species available all year long. Turtle meat usually comes in 2 ½ pound portions. This soup freezes well. Makes 5 servings

Mimi’s Note: Freshwater turtle meat (either snapper or soft shell) is usually available at Asian markets. Both of these meats are legal when purchased from a licensed turtle meat supplier or retailer. Other types of turtle meat may or may not be legal depending on the state you live in. Salt water turtle meat is strictly illegal in the USA. Salt water turtles are highly endangered! Don’t eat them! If you cannot find turtle meat locally, it is available at 1-800-Steaks.com in 1# and 5# quantities, also from marxfoods.com in a 5# bucket. Thaw and cook it all, then refreeze for future use in small portions. Be prepared, turtle meat is pricey!  If you cannot find veal stock locally, veal demi-glace to make the veal stock is available from dartagnan.com and morethangourmet.com. Concassee tomatoes are tomatoes without skin or seeds, it is a process, not a type of tomato!  A great explanation on how to do this is at kitchensavvy.com. By the way, it sounds harder to do than it really is.

1 ½ sticks butter
2 ½ pounds turtle meat, medium dice
2 medium onions, medium dice
6 stalks celery, medium dice
1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
3 bell peppers, medium dice
1 tablespoon dried thyme, ground
1 tablespoon dried oregano, ground
4 bay leaves
2 quarts veal stock
1 cup flour
26 oz. dry sherry (750 ml bottle)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups concassée tomatoes
10 oz fresh spinach, stems removed, washed 3 times, coarsely chopped
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped into large pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup pot over medium to high heat. Brown the meat in the hot butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add onions, celery, garlic, and peppers, stirring constantly, then add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves and sauté for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables have caramelized. Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, periodically skimming away any fat that comes to top.

While stock is simmering, make a roux in a separate pot: Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn the roux. After all the flour has been added, cook for about 3 minutes until the roux smells nutty, is pale in color, and has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until the soup is ready.

Using a whisk, vigorously stir the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumping. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir to prevent sticking on the bottom.

Add the sherry, bring to a boil, and add the hot sauce and the Worcestershire, and simmer, skimming any fat or foam that comes to the top. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes, and return to a simmer. Add the spinach and the chopped egg, bring to simmer, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. This soup freezes well.

Chef’s Note: Caramelize the vegetables and meats thoroughly, by cooking until the natural sugars form a thick dark liquid, to get a nice dark color.
Remember, this soup is like a stew and could be eaten as a main dish. Because of its thickness, prepare it in a heavy pot, and stir frequently to avoid burning.

Mimi’s Note: NEVER use “Cooking Sherry”, it contains a large amount of salt so that it can be sold legally on a regular grocery aisle. Remove the bay leaves; they shouldn’t ever be left in the pot to be accidentally ingested. Also, I like to garnish with a small amount of finely chopped egg with a small green leaf like a celery leaf. Serve with extra sherry on the side to suit individual taste. If serving as a main dish, serve a hot, crispy French baguette with the meal so that everybody can soak up the meaty goodness.

 

 

 

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