Lemon essence

Happy citrus season.

When I was a ten or eleven-years-old, I wanted to start a restaurant called Lemon Essence. Everything on the menu would involve lemon. I can still picture the list of food that I would serve that I wrote in my adolescent handwriting on a small Clinique pamphlet. Lemon rice, lemon pasta, lemon chicken, lemon pie, lemon bars, lemonade. Inspired by a recent trip to Hawaii, the restaurant would be a giant screen porch illuminated by tiki torches.

I remember making my signature lemon pasta dish for my friend Meagan. I think we were at our friend Laura’s house. I sauteed garlic in butter and added flour (making a roux) and then added lots of fresh squeezed lemon juice and served the sauce over linguine. I think Meagan’s exact words when she ate it were “it hurts!” Not everyone loved the acidic sourness of the lemons as much as me.

I wonder if my fascination with lemons started when we visited our family friends, Bumps and Frannie, who lived in the hills above Berkeley. We took the train to visit them when I was four and eight-years-old. Bumps and Frannie had a lemon tree growing in their courtyard and the air around their home was citrus-scented.

I now have zero desire to open a restaurant, but I still love lemons. So does my sister who recommends this recipe for lentil soup (she doubled the amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice.) I am including two recipes for lemon-y salads. The first one comes from Bon Appetit and was one was served at a recent gathering of Wisconsin Whisk-ers. I think I ate the entire bowl. With shredded kale and brussel sprouts, it reminds of a really healthly caesar salad.

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The second recipe is for a dressing made with meyer lemon and heavy cream. I’ve written about these two ingredients before. I made this dressing for a salad for Christmas last year and it was so good.

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Kale and Brussel Sprouts Salad

From Bon Appetit

Ingredients

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (about 1 1/2 lb. total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Directions

Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
Measure 1/2 cup oil into a cup. Spoon 1 Tbsp. oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.

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Meyer Lemon Cream Salad Dressing

From Sunset Magazine

Ingredients

2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
About 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
About 1/8 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

Put shallot, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in oil, then whisk in 1/2 tsp. more salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, and the cream. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like. Stir before using.
Make ahead: Up to 3 days, chilled.

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Lemons + greens = love.

 

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Dirt made your brunch

Today I found out some exciting news! This summer I will be spending 12 hours a week working at a local organic farm in exchange for a full share of produce, herbs and flowers. I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt.

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I also recently discovered my new (only) favorite farming blog, so the timing is pretty great. Let’s celebrate with a healthy brunch, shall we?

Fresh off an eleven and a half day cleanse (I couldn’t let National Pizza Week go by without celebrating last Friday night) I made this dish for brunch on Saturday (and again on Sunday). It is the perfect thing for a reformed vegetarian diet that will be heavier on the avocados and lighter on the cheese. With a hot cup of black coffee on the side (it was only warm water and lemon juice for 12 mornings), it tasted like spring.

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Garlicky Kale Toast with Avocado and Fried Egg

From Dishing Up the Dirt

  • Two large slices of a good quality baguette
  • 2 eggs (organic free range if possible)
  • 1 large bunch kale, stems removed and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small ripe avocado, pit removed
  • 1 TBS olive oil plus 1 tsp for drizzling
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add kale and sauté for about 5 more minute or until kale is tender and bright green.
  2. Meanwhile, poach two eggs in boiling water for 4 minutes (you could also fry two eggs instead*)
  3. Toast two slices of baguette
  4. Spread a little avocado onto each slice of bread. Top with kale and poached egg. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

*Having never poached an egg, I fried the eggs in a little coconut oil

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Cheers.

 

 

You are my sunshine

The cats are panting, the tea is sunning itself in a tall green jar, and all I want to be doing is jumping into this Iowa lake over and over and over.

It’s officially summer. And it’s officially too hot to cook. Thanks to an inspired vegetarian dinner party that my sister put together for friends a couple of summers ago I now have the solution for hot summer nights. And it is as fun to say as it is to make: Gazpacho.

I have to admit, the first time I remember trying gazpacho I was less than smitten. A bunch of us were celebrating my sister’s upcoming wedding at her friend’s family’s lake house on Pine Lake (one of the thousand Pine Lakes in Wisconsin) and while I have many wonderful memories from that excursion, trying the gazpacho was not one of them. Everything else was magical: A swimming adventure across the lake to jump on someone else’s water trampoline, sitting on the dock at night with my mom and sister and talking about their year spent in Moscow, a sailboat ride with a nalgene full of gin and tonic, singing ‘You are my Sunshine’ around the large wooden dinner table while the setting sun glowed through the tall windows that were cranked open to allow a breeze. And a dessert- so simple, so summer perfection in a bowl- blueberries, sour cream, brown sugar.

But I didn’t give up on gazpacho entirely, and when my sister suggested making it again, I was ready and willing. This time it was love. Here is my sister’s recipe for gazpacho.

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Sena’s Gazpacho

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

1 bottle of Knutson’s Very Veggie Juice
1 T olive oil
1 (or 2- depending on how spicy you like it) jalapenos, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1 clove garlic
1/2 white onion, chopped
Cilantro
Parsley
Salt
Optional: tomatoes, carrots

Directions:

Blend all ingredients, but leave a little chunky (I used my birthday gift- a hand-held blender- and did it right in the pot). Chill for at least an hour. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and a sprig of cilantro, if you like. Enjoy on a hot summer day.

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For our dinner party two summers ago we served it with beergaritas and a black bean taco bar (And dark chocolate and coconut sorbet for dessert? Or I am daydreaming that?) Last night I added a side salad of raw kale with salsa verde. Happy summer.

I was fast asleep until the mariachi band and pirates showed up

Happy Sunday morning. I’ve got a cat on my lap, a mason jar full of blueberry smoothie in my hand and this album on repeat.  It’s a strange January Sunday without the Packers, but we can’t win them all. The good news is we finally got some snow and I have a couple of kale recipes that I have been wanting to share with you. They are really more like suggestions, because I don’t have exact measurements, but they are deliciously simple and I think you will enjoy them. And they both pair kale with parmesan cheese, which is a match made in food heaven.

The first one comes via my friends Martha and Dominic, who had us over for a dinner party a couple of weeks ago. In addition to making a kale salad that I inhaled like it was oxygen, they introduced us to Boggle and a riff on the old Telephone/ Operator game that left me laughing harder than I have in a really long time (it involves drawing pictures and folding the paper and then writing phrases and passing the paper around the circle until ‘Mom said you have to take out the compost’ becomes ‘When you grow an afro, then you can have a dishwasher’ and ‘No Jam sessions, cause you’ll wake up the militants’ morphs into ‘I was fast asleep until the mariachi band and pirates showed up.’)

Whether or not you are a fan of party games, I highly recommend this salad:

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Lemon-soaked Kale Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Clean and dry a bunch of kale and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Marinate the kale in lots of lemon juice (Meyer lemons, if you can get them) and olive oil (allow to sit for several hours, if possible). Right before serving, toss the kale with a pinch of salt, slivered almonds, pomegranate seeds and good shaved parmesan cheese. Devour.

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The second recipe is one that I made up last week when I was craving bean soup, and it turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. I like to call it:

White Bean Soup with Kale, Two Ways

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, chopped

1 or 2 carrots, sliced into rounds

Kale, divided

olive oil

2 cans (15 oz.) of white beans (I used Eden Organic Cannellini and Great Northern Beans)

1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)

Red wine

Water (6-8 cups)

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Seasonings: Thyme, Freshly ground salt and pepper, Red chili flakes

Directions:

Warm the olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) over medium in a heavy soup pot. Add the onions and saute until fragrant (about 3-4) minutes. Add the sliced carrots, some of the kale, and thyme and red chili flakes and saute for a couple of minutes. Add some red wine (the rest of that bottle that has been open too long to drink) and the cans of beans (drained). Add the can of tomatoes with their juice and water (6-8) cups. Cook over medium until it just bubbles and then turn the heat to low, partially cover and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours. 20 minutes before serving, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the rest of the kale on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until the kale is crisp, but not charred (about 8-10 minutes) and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and salt. At this time, check the soup for seasonings and add salt and pepper. To serve the soup, ladle into warm bowls and top with kale crisps, freshly grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with a hunk of good bread (warmed in the oven) and glass of wine. Especially good on a cold, winter evening.

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I hope you enjoy these recipes. To mis-quote Richard Gere from “Pretty Woman:” ‘I’m high on kale, can’t you tell?’ Cheers.

Sake hammered

Okay, so I didn’t get hammered on sake last night. But while eating at what is probably my new favorite restaurant in Madison, Umami, Dan and I decided that sake hammered would be a good name for a band. Or, at the very least, a post (considerably better, said Dan, than my original name for it, U-yum-i).

If you haven’t been to Umami yet, I think you should go. The dumplings with smoked tofu and boky choy are delightful and cooked to perfection and last night we splurged and also had the special- vegetarian buns, a spin on their popular pork buns. The spongy ‘mantou’ (steamed) buns were filled with hoisin sauce, pickled cucumbers and crisp tofu (“the best ever” said Dan-the-meat-eater). I hope these find their way on to the permanent menu. This was all before the main entree, a bowl of veggie ramen that is the epitome of comfort food. I don’t know how they make the earthy mushroom/ seawood broth, but I could eat it morning, noon and night (with a spicy bomb on the side). Interestingly enough, the locally-made (3 blocks away) ramen comes from RP’s pasta where I once worked as a waitress when there was still a restaurant associated with the pasta factory. It’s also home to one of my favorite moments in waitressing history when one of the cooks, fed up with habitually being yelled at by another cook, washed his hands at the sink, declared “No more work,” and walked out the door as I stood by, cheering him on for fulfilling one of my waitressing fantasies. It was brillant. While the restaurant end at RP’s had its issues, they produce wonderful pastas and the fresh ramen noodles employed by Umami are delectable (to think that I once thought ramen came in a brown and orange package with a packet of msg powder… I’m glad my definition has changed).

In addition to the consistenly-delicious food at Umami, I love the ambiance.

Sit in the bar area and pretend you are on vacation. Somewhere where the word ‘recall’ still means, “Hey Dan, do you recall the time B.J. Raji intercepted that ball during the playoff game against the Bears, ran it back for a touchdown and then shook his buns in the endzone?”

In other awesome news, tonight I disovered that one of my furry roomates, we’ll call him ‘Tuff Puff,’ loves kale. This came to my attention during dinner when he dug his claws into my leg as he swiped a piece of the nutrition-packed leafy green that had fallen on my lap and then devoured it (pepper flakes and all). Also, yesterday Dan came home with a bunch of new (to us) records, including Van Morrison, The Band and this one:

And finally, I made the peanut sauce from this, one of my new favorite blogs, tonight again for dinner and oh yum, is it tasty. I hope your week is off to as banner of a start… Cheers.

Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar on Urbanspoon

Tips for winning the summer

When Mr. Obama gave his state of the union speech last winter he discussed winning the future. I love this. I mean, who doesn’t want to win the future? It reminds me of the time that I was an archery instructor (?!) at a summer camp and a young man named LaTroy declared in a boastful voice: “I won archery.” You know what LaTroy? You did. So let’s win obscure things today, shall we? Here are a few tips for winning the summer.

Tip #1: Enjoy a delicious lunch. One with cheese, sauteed kale and a sliced tomato with sea salt. Yumtown. Population: you.

Tip #2: Avoid swimmer’s itch… I lost at this one.

Tip #3: When the temperature hits the 90s, chop four inches off of your hair.

Tip #3 part 2: Go to Thorps on Atwood for said haircut. They give you a can of pbr upon your arrival.

Tip #4: Sit close to the fridge.

Tip #5: Meet up with some friends and enjoy a tall glass of iced tea from Mermaid Cafe.

Tip#6: Take a road trip. And if you find yourself on Highway 20 in eastern Iowa on a Sunday morning, take the exit near Dyersville and visit the field of dreams before anyone else arrives. Run the bases. Yell, “Go the distance” at a father and son playing catch as you flee the parking lot.

Tip #7: Make beergaritas. My sister and I made them for the first time last summer after our cousin told us about them. Delicious.

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Beergaritas

Ingredients:

1 can frozen limeade

1 1/2 cans pbr

1 limeade can full of tequila

2 limeade cans full of club soda (or Squirt)

Directions:

Mix ingredients in a pitcher. Serve over ice. Cheers to winning stuff.

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Bonus points if you see fireflies tonight… Happy July.