When life hands you lemons make tabouli

I’ve just returned from a magical place called Minnesota. It was kind of the perfect family vacation- there was a lake, a sauna, and no phone service. Returning home from vacation is always hard; suddenly to-do lists swarm in your head as you no longer have nothing to do all day but read, wait for happy hour and kayak after loons. This re-entry was particularly unhappy, however, as we came home to some uninvited house guests who had taken up residence on our cats (yes, fleas.) So instead of unpacking the car, grocery shopping, missing the sauna and dealing with laundry, I have spent the last couple of days vacuuming and spraying every surface of the house (and the cats) with lemon water- the home remedy on all of the hippie websites for people like me who refuse to spray mass quantities of chemicals around her home. In good news, I also came home to some ripe cherry tomatoes in my garden, so when I realized the fridge was quite bare today and I was hungry after all of that vacuuming, I whipped up a quick batch of tabouli.

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Tabouli is nice because it is hearty and can make use of a variety of summer produce. Today I relied on a half of a cucumber I found in the vegetable drawer and some mint from my garden, along with the cherry tomatoes. I juiced a lemon and voila! I had something to eat for a late lunch.

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Tabouli with Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:
1 cup bulgur
A couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1 lemon
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
Parsley
Mint
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place one cup bulgur and two cups cold water in a pot and bring to boil. Cover and cook on low until water is absorbed, about 8-10 minutes. Once bulgur has cooled, combine with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and chopped herbs. Squeeze the juice from one lemon and whisk in olive oil. Pour dressing over salad and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Happy Monday, y’all.

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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.

 

May Day

I love May. The magnolia trees are blossoming, summer is on its way and my birthday is in a couple of weeks.

When I woke up Sunday morning I looked outside, saw the sunshine and decided that I wanted to make dinner for some friends whom I hadn’t seen awhile. They said yes. I love improptu, Sunday night dinner parties. A couple of weeks ago when I was in Seattle (it feels like a lifetime ago already) I got to meet one of my writing idols, Ms Molly Wizenberg. I will save the details for a future post, but it was a magical moment that left me buzzing for awhile. In honor of this encounter, I decided to make a meal from her book, A Homeade Life.

There is this French yogurt cake that I had been wanting to make (and when I re-read the description on Sunday afternoon Molly wrote that it is the sort of cake that French grandmothers make on Sunday afternoons. Well, perfect…) and I flipped through the index for a main entree. A spring salad caught my eye. Radishes, check. Cilantro, check. Feta cheese, check. Molly mentioned that she likes to serve this as a light dinner along with a hunk of bread or roasted potatoes. Done.

May Day Dinner Party

First course: White wine, beer, green olives, crackers

Main course: Sliced spring salad with avocado and feta (pages 246-247), Bellingham roasted potatoes (look for this recipe tomorrow), wholewheat sourdough bread, beer

Dessert: French-style yogurt cake with lemon (pages 204-205)

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French-style Yogurt Cake with Lemon

From A Homeade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola

For the syrup:

1/4 cup powered sugar, sifted

1/4 lemon juice

For the icing:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and zest, mixing to just combine. Add the oil and stir to incorporate. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep stirring, and it will come together into a smooth batter. Pour and scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch round cake pan (after buttering, I sometimes line the bottom with a round of wax or parchment paper, and then I butter that too).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan. Combine the syrup ingedients in a small bowl and spoon it gently over the warm cake. The glaze will be thin and will soak in like a syrup. Cool completely.

Combine the icing ingredients. Whisk well to dissolve the sugar completely. Spoon the icing over the cooled cake.

Serve immediately- the icing will be soft and a bit juicy- or wait until the icing has firmed up, about 1 hour. Whichever way you like.

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Happy May.