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Friday
Feb252011

PRESERVED LEMONS.



I have my favorite dozen-ish ingredients that I use most frequently when I cook. They are ingredients that make me feel safe. I am confident in how to use them well, they are good for me while also being flavorful and to this point, I feel like they compose my 'style'. This truth has never really bothered me until I signed a contract to develop one hundred original recipes for a cookbook, and realized that I would need to deviate from my go-to's for the sake of variety. I committed to this project, because I want to be better. So though lemons are clearly in my top twelve, preserving them was something new to me, so I think that counts as a step forward. Or maybe a half step, which is still that right direction.

I know there have been a LOT of lemons around here lately, but citrus is tough to beat right now, so let's be honest, there is likely more to come. I'm not typically one to say "you must make this!", but we will likely use these preserved lemons in a few recipes throughout the coming months, and I'd love it if you would play along. You could toss them in here, or in any of these:

Quinoa with Asparagus and Preserved Lemon Dressing

Bulgar and Chickpeas with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Israeli Couscous with Butternut and Preserved Lemon

Green Garlic and Preserved Lemon Hummus

PRESERVED LEMONS //
I read about this method in a cookbook at the bookstore, and have no clue what the title was. It's pretty free form, so I don't believe anyone will be insulted by the lack of credit given. Thank you for your help, mystery book. These are not precise measurements, as all lemons are different sizes. From what I can tell, as long as there is salt, lemons and plenty of juice in the jar, you're off to a good start.

7-ish Meyer Lemons
1 Cup Fine Grain Sea Salt
1 Tbsp. Natural Cane Sugar
2 tsp. Whole Peppercorns

1. Sanitize a large, wide mouth mason jar.
2. If buying store bought lemons, scrub them really well to get off any wax - the rind is what you'll be eating in the end so give them some elbow grease. If you have a lemon tree, then you're fine. Unless, of course, you use wax and harsh fertilizer :/
3. Cut the largest of the lemons in half and poke out the seeds. This is the one you'll be using for juice.
4. Remove the ends of the remaining lemons, and cut them in quarters.
5. Put about 1/4 cup of the salt at the bottom of the jar. Smush in four of the lemon quarters, you don't need to be gentle, we want a bit of juice to squish out. Follow them by about a tablespoon of salt. Try to let it touch the flesh of each slice. Squeeze a bit of the lemon you're using for juice and then repeat with remaining lemons and salt.
6. About midway in the jar, sprinkle the sugar in with the salt, and continue the layering.
7. When you get close to the top, smush everything down a bit. Make sure no more than an inch or two of the lemon slices are above the meniscus. Add in the peppercorns. Over the next 2-3 days, enough juice should be extracted to cover them. If not, add a bit more yourself.
8. Allow the jar to sit a few days at room temp, and then store them in the fridge. They are probably fine at room temperature, but I'm cautious. Turn them upside down every now and then to keep things moving.
9. They are ready to use in cooking after about a month, but will keep in the fridge up to 6 months.
To use, rinse the lemon of it's salty brine, and scoop away the flesh. Use the preserved peels to put on fish, in grain salads or on top of a panna cotta.

Wednesday
Feb162011

SUNNY EGGS + MUSTARD-CREAMED CHARD



I still have not really come to terms with the major increase in my grocery bill since I am now feeding a grown man. What I passed off as dinner while living on my own, doesn't cut it anymore. Budget friendly it was, filling for a hungry man it is not. This is not a complaint; I am having so much fun experimenting and having dinner conversation about what could be different: why do you always sneak kale into everything? quinoa does not count as a starch (I disagree), more salt, a little burnt... it's fun, and I'm learning.

Lately, breakfast has been 'our thing'. Hugh makes great coffee and I make something quick for breakfast. Note that his coffee process takes about 15-20 minutes start to finish, so I have time to do more than pour a bowl of cereal. Enough time to make this breakfast panini again, or yum these are my favorite. At some point society told us that in the mornings you get up and go and you kick your feet up at the end of the day. I think taking that little luxury in the morning, is worth working later into the evening. Breakfast lovers, you feel me?

I saw this recipe in the recent Bon Appetite and changed it up just a tad to use the chard I had in the fridge. Contrary to the title, it is not overly mustardy by any means. You could save time by just having toast as opposed to the breadcrumbs, but they are what give the dish character - tiny bits of crunch in each bite. And let us not forget the option of breakfast for dinner, because anything with breadcrumbs certainly can pass for either.

SUNNY EGGS + MUSTARD CREAMED CHARD // Serves 2
Adapted from Bon Appetite

The magazine wrote the recipe with one egg, but I need two to constitute a meal. I realize we already have slightly creamy greens here, but a few grates of fresh parmesan would be a welcomed addition.

1/2 Cup Breadcrumbs (made from day old bread, crusts removed)
5 tsp. Dijon Mustard, divided
2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 1 Tbsp.
1/2 tsp. Mustard Seeds
1 Bunch Swiss Chard
1/4 Cup Half and Half
2 Tbsp. Chopped, Fresh Green Herbs (parsely, thyme, oregano, basil...)
4 Eggs
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400'. Bring the eggs out of the fridge. Toss the crumbs with 2 tsp. dijon, 2 tsp. olive oil, mustard seeds and a pinch of salt to coat. Scatter on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast for 6-8 minutes until edges are golden.
2. Remove the stem from the chard and give it a rough chop. Over medium high heat, add enough water to cover the bottom of a skillet. Toss the chard just to wilt it, about 2 minutes. Scrape it into a mesh sieve and press out the moisture.
3. Wipe out the skillet, add the remaining 3 tsp. of mustard, half and half, 1 Tbsp. of the green herbs and the drained chard. Stir everything together, cook about 3 minutes. Season with salt and fresh pepper. Remove from heat.
4. Heat remaining Tbsp. of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Crack eggs in the skillet, with plenty of space between and cook until desired doneness. You may need to do this in two batches if making 2 eggs per person.
5. Divide the chard between two plates and top it with two eggs, breadcrumbs and herbs for garnish.

Thursday
Feb032011

LEMON MERINGUE ICE CREAM PIE + NEWS.



The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte, photographed by Hugh Forte. Hopefully hardcover, matte paper, intriguing images, produce focused, approachable recipes... a book. We're creating one. Exciting and petrifying, right?

I left my big-girl-career-job last March, knowing that it was not my future. I enjoyed the work and the people, but despite the pragmatist in me, I had a hope that maybe I could take a chance at doing what I actually enjoyed. Hugh motivated me to take the leap, and a lot has happened between then and now. Who knew that months later, the opportunity to write a book would find it's way into my inbox? Long story short, there have been months of emails with Ten Speed Press, lots of questions and me seeking advice from a couple people I respect who have published cookbooks of their own.

I love to eat, I find it gratifying to experiment and end up with something good every so often. I believe in encouraging people to eat well by providing practical tools/recipes to fill their bodies with good things (that may include a bit of ice cream pie) and most importantly, to end up at a table, spending time with each other, because eating is an experience and we all need to be fed. This blog has given me space to do that, and I want to be better; I want to keep learning, and to learn more you must be challenged. Through your kind comments telling me that you made something on here and liked it (which p.s., makes my day), or that you enjoyed the pictures, or resonate with something I wrote, I have been inspired and fulfilled. So, even though I didn't think the opportunity to write a book would come about as quickly as it did, and I may not be completely ready for the task, I needed to say yes. We are beyond excited, but because you people are my trusted internet friends, I am scared and intimidated to enter a market that is inundated with so much incredible work.

I am off to a bit of a slow start, but I am at a grocery store or farm stand every other day, so we're on our way. Hugh is my live in taste tester, and so far hasn't complained about the four dozen carrot date muffins I made before I felt the recipe was just right. It's been fun to brainstorm the feeling we want this book to evoke - to dream together.

So I made this lemon meringue ice cream pie in honor of the big news. I love the different layers of flavor and texture here; crunchy to creamy to tangy to pillowy golden meringue. It may not be ice cream weather where you are, but trust me, it doesn't matter. A slice of pie and a thanks to all of you for making our corner of the internet a place to dream big.


LEMON MERINGUE ICE CREAM PIE IN TOASTED PECAN CRUST
Serves 8
Slightly adapted from Jamie's Restaurant in Florida via Bon Appetit

There are a few softening and freezing steps, but overall, this is a very easy pie. If you were in a pinch, store bought lemon curd will work in the layers here. The homemade version can be made ahead of time.

See our Lemon Curd recipe here

Crust//
1 1/2 Cups Finely Chopped Pecans
1/4 Cup Evaporated Cane Juice/Sugar
1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter, melted

3 Cup Good Quality, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Meringue//
3 Large Egg Whites
Pinch of Cream of Tartar
5 Tablespoons Evaporated Cane Juice/Sugar

1. Make the curd according to instructions and chill for a few hours to firm up.
2. Preheat oven to 400'. Mix the pecans, sugar and butter together until moistened. Press the pecan mixture on the bottom and up the sides of a 9'' diameter glass pie dish, the mixture will be crumbly. Bake until the crust is slightly toasted, about 12 minutes. The crust will have slipped down the sides, use the back of a spoon to press it back in to place. Cool and then freeze the crust for 30 minutes.
3. Dollop 1 1/2 Cups of the softened ice cream over the crust, and spread into an even layer. Spread lemon curd over the ice cream and freeze until firm. About 1 1/2 hours. Dollop the remaining ice cream over the lemon curd, and freeze again. You can do this in advance and finish it with meringue when ready to serve.
4. Preheat oven to 500'. To make the meringue, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy, add the pinch of cream of tartar and gradually add the sugar while mixer is running. Beat until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue on top of the pie in an even layer. Place the pie in the oven until meringue is golden in spots, about 3-4 minutes. You could use a butane torch as an alternative if you own one. Cut and serve immediately.

Sunday
Jan232011

THE WEDDING.

It really did live up to the hype of being 'the best day of my life'.

True love, whether it comes from a significant other, old friends, new friends or family, is an overwhelming feeling. We had SO many people who poured themselves into this event, there is no way I could have been anything but elated that entire day.

But let's start from the beginning. I have told you before that I am infatuated with Hugh, so my excitement towards actually getting married, put me ahead of the curve from the get go. I had dear friends, and coincidentally professionals, do my make-up and hair. My designer-sister made my dress, as well as the saucy bridesmaids dresses. I felt gorgeous (I think I'm allowed to say that, because it is a testament to my talented sister). She even sewed a patch inside that said "i love you sister". Yes, the heart swelling continues. I've never experienced as much giving and taking of love that I felt that day. I wish you were there, because words are tough.

We wanted a natural but put together look, and it turned out gorgeous. I had the creative juices of my mom and Whitney, to create the perfect ambiance. Hugh and his dad built the arch we stood under, my grandma and aunt sewed pillows, runners and couch covers. The list is long, but there were many hands involved in making it as gorgeous as it was. One of my favorite parts was the 'take a note, leave a note' wall I made instead of having a guest book. Hugh and I wrote notes to every guest, thanking them for coming and reminding them why they were important to us, and there were paper and pens to leave notes in return. It's going to be so neat to read those for years to come.

The dance party never stopped. Everyone had such a great time, that after we left, our friends... and some parents, jumped in the pool with their clothes on. First time in Ace Palm Springs history.


I must give shout out's to our team, because this is certainly not a project you pull off on your own:
- My sister, of Stone Cold Fox, for the dresses.
- James and Sergio for capturing every moment so well, and celebrating with us - we felt so lucky to have you both there.
- Whitney for being a flower and decorator mastermind.
- The man who made this party history, The Flashdance DJ.
- My supportive parents, who remain without a link, but have our utmost gratitude.

Friday
Jan142011

PEAR + BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES



I am gone for one blog post and Hugh goes and raises the bar. Videos and romantic coffee bean pictures... I can't top that, but these pancakes are just lovely.

This past week, we spent some time in Mammoth with some good friends. We don't get to the snow often, but I love the change of scenery. It felt refreshing to freeze for a couple days (but that's not to say that I didn't do my fair share of complaining while the sharp winds and snow hit my face, of course).

I've been snowboarding a good ten years or so, but I can't really say that I go flying down the slopes like a seasoned pro. It has nothing to do with skill, mind you, I totally get the technique, but cautiousness is a personality trait I can't seem to grow out of. I wish I had taken a big spill, just so I could see for myself that, yes, I'll actually survive. This antecdote parellels to other news going on in life - a risk of sorts - but I am saving that for next week :) For some reason, that news just doesn't pair well with pancakes. Speaking of, these are excellent. I have browsed, and am now closely studying Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain , as it is a stunning and inspiring cookbook. I only slightly altered these pancakes by adding some spices and swapping in buttermilk. The pear flavor here is pretty gentle, so make sure you use ripe and fragrant ones. I am an eggs-for-breakfast girl, but my cute barista has requested something on the sweeter side, and I'm not one to contest a whole grain pear pancake.

Enjoy your weekend!

PEAR + BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES // Makes 12
Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

1 Cup Buckwheat Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 Tbsp. Turbinado Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Spice Blend*
3/4 tsp. Sea Salt

2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Large Egg
2 Firm Pears (I used Bosc and Comice)

1/2 Cup Honey
2 oz. (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter

* I have a baking spice blend from Penzey's that has some anise in it that I thought was great here - you could use a bit of cardamom, nutmeg or cinnamon as an alternative. Boyce doesn't mention any spice at all - so up to you.

1. Sift all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, making sure everything is evenly distributed.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk/milk, and butter until combined. If you don't have buttermilk, all milk will be just fine.
3. Peel the pears, and grate them in the large holes of a box grater. Add the pears and their juices to the buttermilk mixture.
4. Gently add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir 'til just combined. It should be fairly thick - Boyce recommends letting it sit for a little while, or overnight in the fridge. If you let it rest, you will need to thin it out with milk, 1 Tbsp. at a time. Adjust to your pancake thickness preference.
5. Melt the honey and 2oz. of butter together, and keep warm to pour over the pancakes later.
6. Heat a cast iron pan, or griddle over medium heat. Add batter in 1/4 cup mounds to the pan, once the tops start to bubble, check that the bottoms are golden brown and flip to the other side. Cook about 5 minutes total.
7. Wipe the pan between batches, and rub a little butter in between.
Serve the pancakes hot from the skillet, with a splash of honey butter on top.