Thursday, December 24, 2009

When life gives you Meyer lemons........

I've written before about my beloved Meyer lemon tree that I keep at the wine shack. I love the fact that I am able to grow citrus in our decidedly non-citrus friendly climate. The smug satisfaction I get from vexing mother nature's natural tendencies is quite satisfying. Plus it fills the store with a head spinning citrus blossom smell when it is in full bloom. Best of all this time of year it provides a bounty of wonderfully scented little Meyer lemons for getting creative with.
This year with the first harvest I decided to do some preserved Meyer lemons for future braising needs. I found this recipe that in the Gourmet cookbook that is ridiculously easy. If you are not so fortunate to have your own tree then this is the season to get to your local market to grab these yellow orbs while they are in season. My next few lemons are going into a Meyer lemon marmalade, and I hope to have enough leftover to make a few of these sublimely fragrant Pear Brandy &Meyer Lemon Sidecars and maybe even a batch of this other wordly Meyer Lemon Risotto!
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Preserved Meyer Lemons
from the Gourmet Cookbook

Preserving a Meyer lemon captures its glorious perfume. We’ve adapted cookbook author Paula Wolfert’s quick method, our favorite, and made it even faster by blanching the lemons first. The rind of a preserved lemon is a common ingredient in Moroccan dishes; we also love it in all kinds of soups, stews, and salads and as a low-fat alternative to olives. Save the pulp for Bloody Marys or anything else enlivened by a little lemon juice and salt.

Yield: Makes 48 pieces
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 5 days

ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3 pounds Meyer lemons (10 to 12)
2/3 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Special equipment: 6-cup jar with tight-fitting lid












method:
Blanch 6 lemons in boiling water 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut lemons into 8 wedges each and discard seeds. Toss with salt in a bowl and pack into jar.
Squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to measure 1 cup. Add enough juice to cover lemons and cover jar with lid. Let stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, 5 days. Add oil and chill.
Cooks' note: Preserved lemons keep, chilled, up to 1 year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Smart food: Pistachio-crusted Halibut with spicy yogurt sauce

It's funny how one's priorities and eating habits change when you're expecting a kid. Suddenly my natural inclination for bacon-cheeseburgers and tater tots has to take a back seat to the idea that when you are in your 3rd trimester of pregnancy the developmental benefits of fish are somehow greater than the benefits, both spiritually and developmentally, of cured pork products (personally I'm waiting more scientific research on this subject). Supposedly those fishy omega-3's lead to greater brain development. Hey, if w eating a piece of fish now leads junior later in life to better analyze and explain the differences and merits of bone-in versus boneless rib eye steaks, then I have to get with that parenting program. Besides, we'll have plenty of time to share bacon in the future!!
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Pistachio-crusted Halibut with spicy yogurt sauce
adapted from epicurious
serves 4

This was delicious and incredibly easy and fast to put together. A great last minute meal. Make sure the skillet is fully heated before putting fish in to help prevent sticking.- bb


ingredients:
for halibut:
4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) pieces skinless halibut fillet (about 6 ounces each)
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped
3 tablespoons cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

for spicy yogurt sauce:
1 cup thick Greek yogurt (8 ounces)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced (3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

method:
Put fish in a shallow baking dish, pour milk over it, and chill, covered, turning over once, 30 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together pistachios and cornmeal in a shallow bowl.

Remove fish from milk, letting excess drip off. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper, then dredge lightly in cornmeal-pistachio mixture. Transfer to a clean plate as coated.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté fish, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.

While fish cooks, stir together all ingredients for spicy yogurt.

Serve fish with spicy yogurt on the side.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bar exam: the Aviation Cocktail

Geez, has it been THAT long since my last post? It's not like I've been going hungry for the last three weeks. Call it a little blog vacation. And as you'll see here I have most assuredly NOT been going thirsty. Especially in this season of good cheer. Hence my need to share with you your new favorite cocktail!
Knowing that you are more than likely going to be entertaining others, or at the very least be entertained, this season then it might behoove you to have a new cocktail trick up your sleeves. In this case new being more "new to you", because the Aviation Cocktail is a classic dating back to the early 20th century. Confusion about this cocktail has been brought about with the appearance on bars around the country of House Spirits' (of Portland, Or.) Aviation gin. I've seen cocktails purportedly called the Aviation around town that have nothing to do with the original classic but DO contain Aviation gin. A little creative mixology from the House Spirits boys have not done any favors to the original. So what is it about the Aviation Cocktail that should have you running to your nearest liquor store for the one ingredient you don't have (that essential piece being maraschino liqueur. You DO have gin and lemon juice, don't you??) Like so many of the classics it is the Aviation's simplicity that gives it its charm, not to mention drinkability. Gin, lemon juice, and the aforementioned maraschino liqueur. That's it. If you're a gin lover I promise this will become a regular bar staple. It is so fresh and bright, with a perfect bitter edge that makes it go down far too easily. I wouldn't use Aviation gin in this one because it's intense herbal flavors would overpower the perfect balance that a gin like Tanqueray (my choice for this drink) or Plymouth give this little bit of cocktail history.
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Aviation Cocktail
makes 1 cocktail

ingredients:
ice
1 1/2 ounces dry gin
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
Twist of lemon for garnish

method:
Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add next three ingredients and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into cocktail glass, garnish with lemon, and relive cocktail history.

NOTE: I found that straining the lemon juice after squeezing to get rid of as much pulp as possible is essential to an attractive beverage. You can see from the photo a few bits of lemon still floating in the glass.- bb