Archive | December, 2011

Preserved Lemons

6 Dec

So, seeing as how we are almost through the first week of December, I suppose we should start thinking about gifts eh? I feel like whatever festive day you call your own, a present or two will always come in handy during these beautiful months of winter. For the past few years I have attempted to make something exciting and special to disperse amongst those who are close. One year I bound books, another year my Ma and I went on a gingersnap/seed brittle bake-off. Most recently, we sent out small batches of homemade Olalliberry Jam and Roasted Hazelnut Butter. I find that it’s a fantastic way to be creative while spreading the holiday love, and in my eyes the nicest little gift you could give as it comes straight from the heart (and usually the kitchen).

If we have ever cooked together you probably know that I am obsessed with fresh lemon juice. In my opinion, almost everything is better with a little hit of citrus. At Olympic, I feel like our chef Erin runs with the same model. We use preserved lemons in almost a quarter of our dishes if not more. These lemons, traditionally used in Moroccan/Mediterranean cooking are basically cured in their own juices with the addition of a large amount of salt. They’ve appeared on our menu served with everything from Brussel Sprouts with Creamy Preserved Lemon Dressing to Spaghetti with Dungeness Crab and Parsley. Many times they are simply chopped fine and mixed with fresh herbs to be used as a garnish. They are an amazing addition to many different types of dishes as their intensity adds a unique flavor that really can’t be mimicked. They are like a kaffir lime leaf or a vanilla bean, nothing competes with the real deal. Do take note that a little goes a long way, so familiarize yourself before using a heavy hand.

Packed in small mason jars, these would make an amazing gift for any friend that loves good food or experimenting with new ingredients.

They take about 10 lemons, a box of salt and 15 minutes of prep time, but they have to sit for about three weeks before they are ready for eating. I know you can do quick preserved lemons as well, but this method is for the old school version.

Here she is.

Makes about 1 quart, but you can disperse them into whatever sized jars you please.

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 medium lemons, scrubbed clean, (get Meyer lemons if you can)
  • 3/4-1 cup kosher salt
  • extra fresh lemon juice
  • optional ingredients: bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, etc.
  • sterilized mason jars

Directions:

  • Place 2-tablespoons salt on the bottom of your jar. If you are using smaller jars, use less.
  • To prepare the lemons, cut off about 1/4 inch off one end. From there, cut the lemons in half like you would an onion before you chop it, going almost all the way to but not through the other end. Do the same once more to create four separate wedges of lemon, all attached to the same root if you will.
  • Open and generously sprinkle salt all over the inside and outside of each lemon. Really use your fingers, salting each one thoroughly. Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and rises to the top. They should be very compact and covered with juice. Add more if necessary.
  • Top with a couple additional tablespoons of salt and add whichever optional ingredients you desire.
  • Seal the jar using boiling water and let sit at room temperature for a couple of days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Then, put it in the refrigerator and let it sit for at about 3 weeks. Flip occasionally until lemon rinds soften.
  • When you are ready to use the lemons, remove the quantity you plan to use and rinse it lightly with water. You can use the rinds and pulp, but remove the seeds. Some people only use the rinds, so taste for yourself and decide what you like best. When adding to your dish, chop very fine like you would garlic.
  • Hand out to loved ones or store in the fridge for up to six months and enjoy!

Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Caraway

3 Dec

You will have to bare with me for these next two weeks as school has officially hit its peak. All I can say is please know that I’m thinking of you all and that I would much rather be cooking. Sadly, cooking doesn’t help my GPA (yet).

Two days ago I had to scrape the ice off my windshield with a spatula. That same morning I also wore Ugg boots in public, which I feel says a great deal about how cold it was outside, no offense to the ‘outside-the-home Ugg lovers’ out there. In my eyes, nothing warms a frigid day quite like a good old bowl of hearty soup. A quick batch of split pea seemed like just the fix.

I should put it out there that split pea soup is kind of a big deal in our family. It is definitely one of those dishes that instantly brings me back in time, back to the days of teenage sisters and my sweet high top Fila’s with purple laces. I am going to go out on a limb and say that split pea soup is probably one of the most satisfying, healthy and affordable meals on the planet, not to mention super quick. Put those things together with a crock pot and you are in serious business. If you don’t have a crock pot, a medium sized pot will do just fine. Note that you can swap ingredients however you please. If you prefer a ham hock, skip the bacon and if you don’t eat meat, leave it out.

Alright, here we go.

Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Caraway

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 slices bacon, cut into medium pieces
  • 1- yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly minced
  • 1-1/2 cups split peas
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped into medium rounds
  • 2-bay leaves
  • 3-tablespoons or more caraway seeds
  • +/- 1 tablespoon red chili flake
  • pinch of paprika
  • generous amount of salt (soup takes A LOT of salt)
  • good pinch black pepper
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • 4-cups stock (I use chicken)
  • 4-cups water

Directions:

Crock Pot: In a large pan, cook bacon for 1 minute over medium heat. If you are not using bacon, use olive oil or butter to coat the pan. Add onion and garlic and cook until onions are translucent and bacon is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the mix to your crock pot. Then, add everything else, modifying as you like. Cook over low heat for a couple of hours, or high heat for about an hour and a half.  The soup should be on the thicker side once it’s finished. Taste and season, adding more spice/salt/acid as needed.

If you are using a soup pot, saute the first 3 ingredients first, then add the rest all at once. Cook covered over medium/low heat for about an hour and a half.

Serve with buttered toast and enjoy!