Candied Lemon Peel

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When I was young, my mother often made candied citrus fruit – usually grapefruit and orange. I didn’t quite have the palate for these at first, and couldn’t grasp the concept that is was okay to eat the peels! But as I got older I became more fond of them.

Recently I realized that I’ve never made any kind of candied citrus, so I thought I’d make a small batch. I typically see these during the holidays; they make such pretty gifts, especially partially dipped in dark chocolate.

But instead I thought I’d make candied lemon peel for a fun summer treat, perhaps chopping them up to add to home-made granola. And just to say I’ve made them!

Here’s what I did, based on this recipe from Epicurious.

Candied Lemon Peel
Printable recipe below

3 large lemons
4 cups white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Place rack on rimmed baking sheet.

Cut ends of each lemon. Score each one lengthwise in quarters, butting just through peel, and not the flesh. Carefully pull off each peel quarter in 1 piece.


Cut each quarter lengthwise into 1/4” wide strips. Cook peel in saucepan of boiling water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour peel into a colander. Rinse.

Bring 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar completely. Add drained lemon peel to saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lemon peel is very soft and looks translucent, about 40 minutes.

Using fork, transfer lemon peel, 2 or 3 strips at a time, to prepared rack. Separate strips and arrange on rack. Let peel drain 15 minutes.

Sprinkle peel generously with sugar.

Turn strips over and sprinkle second side generously with sugar. I used white sugar, above left, and raw sugar, above right. Let dry uncovered overnight.

Candied lemon peel can be made up to 1 week ahead.

Keep refrigerated.


Attention! Do not throw away that wonderful lemon-infused simple syrup! Store it to use in cocktails! No filter, it’s really that pretty!

And, use the peeled lemons in a lemon dressing. I added olive oil, parsley, garlic, and salt to the blended lemons based on my whole lemon dressing recipe.

Turns out there was little difference between the white granulated sugar and the raw sugar. I’d personally just stick with white.
 

 

Chicken Shawarma

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After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!


Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.


To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.


You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.


Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.


I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

Pickled Shrimp

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Would you ever think to name a restaurant based on your childhood nickname? Well Gabrielle “Prune” Hamilton did exactly that. She is chef-owner of Prune, the restaurant, which has been successful since its opening in 1999. The cookbook, Prune, was published in 2014.

I enjoyed reading the recipes in Prune; they all seem unique in some way. But one recipe that grabbed my attention, was pickled shrimp. This was definitely a new one for me.

When I serve a shrimp appetizer, I typically serve it marinated in a garlic-infused olive oil, an oil blended with herbs, or both!

Ms. Hamilton’s recipe has you cooking the raw shrimp in a spice and herb boil, followed by a 24-hour pickling. I just had to make it.

Pickled shrimp
Printable recipe below

2 pounds shrimp in shell

Boil
10 bay leaves
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 piece cinnamon stick
1 cup kosher salt
6 branches fresh thyme
1 unpeeled head of garlic
8 cups cold water

Pickle
1 cup paper-thin sliced lemons
1 cup paper-thin sliced red onion
1 cup thin-slivered garlic
1 cup inner celery leaves
3 tablespoons celery seeds
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
12 fresh bay leaves
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 cups rice wine vinegar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt, Pepper

Peel the shrimp, devein, and leave the tails on. Oops, I forgot to leave the tails on.

Combine the boil ingredients in a large stockpot with cold water and bring to a boil.

Add the shrimp and cook for just a minute or two until the flesh turns pink. You can pull one out and test if it’s finished before you pull out the whole batch.

Remove the shrimp with a spider. Ice down the shrimp to get them to stop cooking, but don’t let them soak in the melted ice after they are cooled or you will waterlog them and undo all that nice seasoning.

Combine all the pickle ingredients, rub the fresh bay leaves between your hands to open them up a bit, toss with the cooled shrimp, and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. (I only had dried bay leaves.)

Let recover to almost room temperature before serving. To plate, place 4-5 shrimp and a little of all of the goodies, in a neat jumble, in a small, shallow bowl.

Note: The shrimp will continue to “cook” in the pickle marinade, so take care in the initial blanch to keep them rare; we don’t want to end up with mealy, over cooked shrimp after the pickling.



These shrimp were so good that you can almost see the number of shrimp dwindling as I photographed them!

These shrimp require some time and also a lot of good ingredients, so I recommend making 6-8 pounds of pickled shrimp. Then it’s definitely worth the effort and expense.

Gabrielle’s first book, Blood, Bones, and Butter, was published before her cookbook, in 2012.

It’s an award-winning memoir – the story of Gabrielle’s upbringing, her entrée into the culinary profession, and her reluctance to embrace her hard-earned skills and success in the kitchen. I could not put the book down once I started reading.

 

 

Layered Salmon Spread

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One day I was searching on Epicurious.com and came across a recipe that got my attention. The recipe is “Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.”

The name befuddled me at first, because when I think of layered dips my mind goes directly to Mexican-inspired dips with beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa, and so forth. Although I have presented a Mediterranean version of a layered dip on my blog. But still, smoked salmon?

Furthermore, it’s not lox in this dip – it’s hot-smoked salmon. I was truly curious.

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Before I could put the spread together, I hot-smoked salmon steaks. My Cameron stove-top smoker is so useful for salmon. In fact, it’s primarily why I use it.

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If you want to know how I hot-smoked salmon with this smoker, please refer to the post here.

You can change up the wood you use for the smoke, but it’s essential to not overcook the salmon. Like in the tutorial, I smoked these steaks for 15 minutes, timed from when the smoking begins.

Here is the recipe as I adapted it:

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Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip

2 salmon steaks, seasoned with salt and pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 small cooked beets
2-3 tablespoons creamy horseradish, depending on your taste
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 radishes, trimmed, finely chopped
Drained capers, about 1/3 cup
Chopped green onions
Zest from 1 lemon
Pumpernickel bread

After smoking the salmon, remove it from the skin, flake it, and divide in half. From the beautiful photograph of this spread online, it’s obvious that the salmon was more finely chopped. It’s another option.

Beat together the cream cheese, goat cheese, and butter in a medium bowl; set aside

Make the beet horseradish by combining the beets, horseradish and sour cream in a small blender. The texture should be spreadable.

Have the radishes, capers, and green onions on hand. I had intended on including shallots but I simply forgot.

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This spread could be made in a springform pan lined with plastic wrap and flipped over when ready to be served, but I simply used the 6″ greased form without the bottom to mimic a ring mold. Place the form, if you’re using one, on a serving plate.

Spread half of cream cheese mixture evenly inside the ring mold, smoothing surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the cream cheese with half of the salmon.

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Scatter the radishes and capers over the salmon. Drizzle half of the beet horseradish sauce over the top.

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Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture and salmon. I poured the remaining beet horseradish sauce over the salmon.

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Scatter on more radishes and capers.

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Sprinkle the green onions in the middle, and for a little color and zing, I added lemon zest.

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Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, simply slide the springform mold up. I would suggest leaving the spread at room temperature for at least one hour before serving.

The layered spread is absolutely vibrant.

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I served with the spread with pumpernickel triangles. Bagel crisps or pita chips would also be good.

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The spread can be made the morning of, but I wouldn’t make it the day before serving.

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Grilled salmon would work just as well as hot-smoked.

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Note: In the original recipe, the feta-cream cheese and the beet horseradish were all blended together, which made the spread very pretty, but I wanted more actual layers, so I kept those elements separate.

Mintade

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Many years ago when I was planning my daughter’s wedding day, with the anticipation of having lots people in the house, I wanted to have a refreshing drink available as an alternative to water. And an alternative to booze as well, in order to prevent any potential mishaps. Maybe I’ve watched too many viral videos of drunken wedding parties!

The small evening wedding was at our house, so it was a busy day. I was smart enough to have a casual bridesmaid lunch catered, which really freed up my time. My first instinct, of course, was to do it all myself. Fortunately I changed my mind. The one thing I really wanted on that special day was to thoroughly enjoy it.

I did make individual granola-yogurt parfaits for anyone wanting an easy breakfast. And I served coffee, bottled waters, plus some champagne later in the day, but like I mentioned, I wanted something extra to offer as a non-alcoholic drink.

I had come across a recipe for Mintade, and in my mind I said it like it was a French word, with a short “a” sound. Which now seems really dumb on my part. It was meant so be pronounced like lemonade, or limeade. Duh. In any case, the recipe sounded perfect for the occasion.

Another alternative could have been a fruit and cucumber water, similar to what’s served at spas, but I wasn’t sure if that kind of water would be enjoyed by everybody.

This ade is a refreshing combination of citrus juices mixed with lots of mint. It’s very simple to make. It’s also very pretty. You can either serve this ade chilled or room temperature. The original recipe calls for water added to the fruit juices, but I added sparkling water. If you also use sparkling water, serve the ade in smaller pitchers so it doesn’t go flat.

Mintade

Mint leaves, torn
Approximately 1 tablespoon white sugar
Grapefruits, preferably pink
Oranges
Limes
Lemons
Grenadine, optional
Sparkling water, chilled

Place the torn mint leaves in a pitcher, preferably a glass one.


Sprinkle the sugar over the mint leaves and muddle for about one minute. Keep in mind that this drink is called mint ade, not citrus ade. The mint is a very integral part.

Begin juicing all of the fruit.


Add the juice, through a strainer, to the pitcher.

I used 4 grapefruits, 4 oranges, 2 lemons, and 6 limes, to approximately 1 cup packed mint leaves.

If you have the time, Cover the pitcher tightly and chill overnight in the refrigerator to better infuse the mint.

Add some grenadine to taste/ I used approximately 2 ounces. This was not in the original recipe, but I don’t like adding cup fulls of white sugar to drinks. That’s the only problem I have with mojitos. So the grenadine adds some sweetness and a little color as well. But it’s completely optional.


To finish, pour the sparkling water into the pitcher, an equal amount as there is juice.

Serve immediately, using a filtered lid to keep the mint from getting into the glasses. There’s nothing worse than mint in your teeth!

note: If necessary, depending on the occasion, the mintade would be wonderful with a slug of vodka, rum, or tequila! And instead of sparkling water, you could always add Prosecco!

Lemon Pudding Cake

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Rarely have I made dessert for my family, unless it’s a special occasion. I have nothing against desserts, but to me, they’re not part of a daily meal plan. I believe everyday food should be nourishing, so I save cakes and pies for celebrations.

However, when I was a private cook for a family, I made a lot of desserts. These desserts weren’t necessarily fancy; my people just felt like a meal wasn’t complete without dessert. So that’s when I bought a lot of dessert cookbooks.

Before I owned the book Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax, I’d never heard of a pudding cake. But after I made one, I was hooked.

What is it you might ask? Well, it is a pudding-y cake. That probably doesn’t help much. You prepare a cake batter that is very thin and cook it in a bain marie. I’ve also made some pudding cakes where the recipe states that you pour boiling water into the batter before baking.

Now a pudding cake isn’t something I’d prepare for a fancy meal, because it’s essentially a softer gooeyer version of a brownie. It’s pretty enough, but more preferable for a casual get together or late night snack. Trust me. I’ve made a chocolate pudding cake….

So here’s Richard Sax’s recipe. And by the way, although this book was published in 1994, it is so full of fascinating information from the author who was definitely an authority on desserts. I just discovered that a newer version, complete with a James Beard award, was printed in 2001.

Lemon Pudding Cake
serves 4

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with a rack in the center. Butter a 1-to 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish, such as a 9-inch oval gratin dish or an 8-inch square baking dish; set aside.

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In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice; pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at high-high speed until they form soft peaks. Fold a little of the egg whites into the lemon mixture; gently fold in the remainder.
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Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish. Place the baking dish in a slightly larger roasting pan; set on the center rack of the oven. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

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Bake until the surface of the pudding is lightly golden, about 35 minutes. (The bottom layer will still be quite liquid.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

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Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

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You can tell how tender this cake is, and see the pudding-like layer on the bottom.

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I serve this pudding cake with a few blackberries and some powdered sugar. It would definitely benefit from some slightly sweetened whipped cream as well.

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