Friday, April 24, 2009

what can you do with meyer lemons?

answer....everything. i just noticed that i have been posting a lot of recipes/stories about meyer lemons...pasta...limoncello...cake... you name it. i was a bit worried that this was overkill...i mean. ..what if readers don't like lemons? but i have realized that i am writing the way i try to cook...using fresh, seasonal, local, organic/sustainably grown ingredients...and i cannot get more local than fruit grown in my garden! my lemon tree has been fruiting since december...and i continue to look for ways to use up the bounty.


i use lemons in everything...a bit of lemon juice and zest amps up the flavor in baking, vegetable dishes, fish, chicken, pasta, salads, fresh fruit, tea...i keep a pitcher of water with sliced lemons in the fridge...you name it...i even make massive batches of meyer lemon marmalade for sale on our website....
our good friends richard and caitlin came to dinner on wednesday. i had tons of work to do that day, so i wanted an extremely easy menu...i made a simple pasta with almonds, garlic and peas (will give recipe in another post), roasted asparagus...and a meyer lemon marmalade cake with a strawberry/balsamic sauce for dessert....the pasta and asparagus were hits...and the cake won rave reviews. as i told you last time...my family and friends all "grade" my recipes by using the word bloggable...they are so used to me writing about everything we eat that it has become their shorthand...one bite of cake and they all said..."bloggable!" richard went for seconds...and asked if he could take some home. (for me, this is the ultimate compliment...think it goes back to my italian mom....i feel really, really happy when my friends and family enjoy my food....fyi...caitlin emailed me the following day letting me know the cake was just as good the next morning with coffee for breakfast :)
so...here is the recipe for the cake...full disclosure as to how it was developed...i make meyer lemon marmalade all the time...i have an easy (but really labor intensive) recipe that is usually foolproof. i made multiple batches one day and...for some unknown reason...one batch did not set. now i make it exactly the same way every time...the recipe only uses lemons and sugar...nothing else...so i am baffled as to what happened. but, since i love experimenting, i decided i wanted to create recipes using the unset marmalade (is that even a term?). i thought a vanilla bundt cake drizzled with the marmalade would be nice...well, it rocks. .but since i cannot give you a recipe for that, i substituted a meyer lemon simple syrup with a few spoonfuls of correctly made marmalade...works just as well...but..if you happen to be making jam and screw it up...here is an option for your creation....and a new expression"when life gives you runny marmalade...make cake?"

i wrote about my vegan chocolate cake earlier this year and it has become one of the most popular sites from a search engine perspective...i love this cake which i adapted from one published in the moosewood cookbook. i used the same basic recipe for this vanilla cake...just tweaked the ingredients around to remove the chocolate. i love the way it turned out...think it will become my go-to summer cake used with many different types of summer fruit...and, best of all...it is super simple...can be mixed with a wooden spoon, so no mixer to clean...and the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar used makes it a bit healthier...so a bit more guilt free...please let me know what you think...


meyer lemon marmalade cake (just happens to be vegan)
(with strawberry/balsamic sauce)

for the cake
3 2/3 cups organic unbleached flour
2 cups sugar (organic will really make a difference)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp alum free baking powder
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract (i use tahitian vanilla)

meyer lemon marmalade syrup
2 cups organic sugar
zest from 1 meyer lemon, plus 3/4 cup fresh meyer lemon juice
2 cups water
2 tbsp meyer lemon marmalade

combine sugar, zest, and 2 cups water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has completely dissolved. bring to a boil. turn off heat and allow syrup to come to room temperature (keep in saucepan). when completely cool, pour though strainer into small bowl(throw away strainer contents) . stir in meyer lemon juice and marmalade.

strawberry/balsamic sauce
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries
1 1/2 tbsp organic brown sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
handful of fresh mint for garnish, rough chop
(i use this sauce all summer on cakes, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, fresh fruit. .etc. feel free to substitute other berries..whatever you like)

wash, stem and puree 2 cups of the strawberries in a blender or food processor. add the brown sugar, orange zest, pepper and balsamic vinegar and puree until almost smooth. pour into serving bowl. slice the remaining 1/2 cup berries and add to bowl. taste and add a bit more sugar if needed...total amount will depend on how sweet your berries are..

step 1...make cake
preheat oven to 350 degrees. oil and flour a bundt pan and set aside. combine the water, e.v.o.o., vinegar and vanilla in a large bowl. in a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients...do not skip the sifting, you want all the small lumps removed... add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. (do not over-mix). bake in preheated oven approx. 45 min-1 hour. start checking at 45 minutes...when a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean...the cake is finished. remove from oven and place on rack. let cool for 10 minutes.

step 2
turnout cake from bundt pan onto serving plate. using a toothpick, poke a number of holes in cake top. using a large spoon, drizzle meyer lemon marmalade syrup onto cake top, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups in total. cake should look really moist...not soggy. allow to cool completely. garnish cake with large pieces of lemon peel from the marmalade (i just use a fork to strain out from the syrup mixture)
step 3

to serve, slice cake and plate...either spoon strawberry/balsamic sauce around cake...or serve plain and pass sauce separately. top serving with sprinkle of mint...as my friend richard says.."the mint is key...it wakes up the entire mouth"



today, the lemon trees are covered with blossoms...and the entire yard is perfumed with the beautiful scent...so i am going to spend some time outdoors relaxing and enjoying the flowers...because...in mere moments (just a slight exaggeration)...those flowers will become meyer lemons...and the cooking, baking, juicing will begin... again....


do you have favorite lemon recipes?...please send them my way...either as a direct email or posted in the comments section of this story...


best,
diane



diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™

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Monday, April 13, 2009

fresh or canned?

regular readers of this blog are probably thinking..."of course she is going to say fresh. she is a broken record regarding fresh, organic or sustainably farmed, local when possible, best quality ingredients. canned, i don't think so". most of the time you would be correct. canned vegetables?...no way. canned fruit?...never. i just do not like the taste, texture, color or additives. but i do make an exception when it comes to canned beans.now, i admit, i find a big pot of fresh beans simmering away on the store very comforting...soaking the dried beans, rinsing, draining and then cooking with vegetables and seasonings is pretty easy...but can take a lot of time....when i am looking for a fast, easy and delicious menu option, canned beans is a perfect solution.

how about canned white beans whirled in the food processor with lots of garlic, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice spread on hot bruschetta? or canned kidney beans tossed in a romaine salad with chopped red onions, chopped tomatoes, sliced kalamata olives, cheddar cheese and crumbled tortilla chips for a fast taco salad...for this i use half vinaigrette and half prepared salsa for my salad dressing. maybe white beans sauteed with onions, garlic, fresh rosemary, sea salt and e.v.o.o. mixed into hot pasta, served with plenty of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano? i cannot tell you how often i heat up canned refried beans, add grated cheese, chopped onions and salsa and wrap up in a tortilla for a fast burrito....i could go on and on...and i often post recipes using beans...sometimes calling for the homemade version..but almost always canned beans work as the fast, easy substitute.happily, organic canned beans are available everywhere...from whole foods, to trader joe's, to the everyday supermarket...and i find the organic versions really do taste better...so today... in honor of canned beans...i thought i would share one of my favorite recipes...just in time for the start of barbecue season...although they are delicious year round...so...introducing...baked beans, my waythe framework for this recipe originally came from the moosewood cafe...i made it for years. then one day i wanted to make the regular recipe but did not have many of the ingredients on hand...and was too lazy to go to the store...i experimented with what i had in my pantry with a "mole" sauce as inspiration. the recipe went from kind of a jamaican jerk...to a mexican barbecue mole...."what??"" trust me...this is delicious...and i only make "my" version these days...we spent easter last sunday at my friend ann's home for an afternoon barbecue. i was asked to make a vegetarian side dish...my bean recipe seemed to be the perfect choice. happily, everyone at the party agreed...they told me the recipe was so good that it was "bloggable"...so...blog...here ya go...(one last thing...i am addicted to chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce...so one more canned item to add to the list!!) baked beans, my way
(do not be put off by the long list of ingredients...once you chop and measure everything, the dish goes together quickly & easily..and, if you can...organic/suistainably grown local ingredients really do make the difference)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup light manzanilla sherry

2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup smokey barbecue sauce (homemade or best quality bottled)

1 chipotle chile, finely chopped

1 tbsp adobo sauce (from the canned chipotles)

1 tbsp best quality unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup water

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

2 tbsp brown sugar
4 15 oz cans organic beans (or 6 cups homemade cooked beans) rinsed and drained **see note

preheat oven to 325 degrees. add olive oil to large pot. add onions and ginger and cook over medium flame until onions are soft and translucent..approx 4-5 minutes. add the garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon and sea salt. stir to combine. cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.

uncover and add sherry, mustard, barbecue sauce, chipotle, adobo sauce, cocoa powder and water. stir to combine, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
add peanut butter and brown sugar to pot, stir well and cook uncovered over low heat for 5 minutes. at this point the sauce is ready. if you like sauce with texture, skip this next step. if you want a smooth sauce you can either transfer to a blender and puree or run through the smallest holes of a food mill...or do what i do and use an immersion blender. (i strongly vote for the immersion blender choice as i am not a fan of pouring hot liquids in blenders...to me, a disaster waiting to happen!!)
place the beans in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. pour all the sauce over the beans. cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. remove from the oven and let sit (covered) for 20 minutes. serve immediately...
**note, you can use any combination of canned beans...i usually use 2 cans kidney and two cans either small red or white...but pick your favorites..as long as you use whole beans you are good to go...**


where do you stand on the canned food debate? do you use canned items? which ones? why or why not? please share your thoughts in the comments section of this post...and your favorite bean recipes...fresh or canned!!


have a good week!

best,
diane


diane padoven
founder/president
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™
please sign up for our company mailing list on the sidebar of this blog