December – Gifts From the Kitchen

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

This year I am having fun making many of the gifts I am giving during the holidays. As well, it is wonderful to have something ready for hostess gifts when invited to a party. Wrap any of these in a pretty tea towel for a personalized gift.

Here are some ideas, most have been posted on my blog over the past few years.

II didn’t realize I had so many recipes for lemons! Skip past this section if they are not available to you. But, if you are lucky enough to a backyard lemon tree (or don’t know what to do with ALL THOSE LEMONS), here are some options, make:

Meyer Lemon Confit

Confit Meyer Lemons in Olive Oil

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices (would work with regular organic lemons, wash and maybe add more sugar as Meyers are sweet):

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

Meyer Lemon Indian Spiced Pickle

What about preserved lemons? Use some holiday spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in the preserving process.

Preserved Lemons 

Preserved lemons

There is Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Just the thing for Christmas tea.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Toast and Tea

There is Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux. This is an Italian sweet and sour preserved lemon recipe, wonderful blended with olive oil for a lemony salad or roasted vegetable dressing.

Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux,
Preserved Lemons

And lastly Lemon-Lime Curd, amazing on any kind of holiday bread or toast. You could also make this all lemon curd or even all lime curd. Panettone anyone?

Lemon Curd

Lemon Lime Curd

What about homemade applesauce? Apples are readily available in many areas. Add a few cranberries to the simmering apples to color them pink or red. Homemade applesauce is so much better than any commercial one you can purchase.

Gala Applesauce

Consider a pretty crock of cheddar beer dip or spread. Use a sharp cheddar and one that is the darkest orange for the best color (I used a white sharp cheddar which wasn’t as pretty).

Cheddar-Beer Dip

Or a jar of homemade mustard, there are two recipes on my blog. Choose the one that fits your schedule. Here is the second for hot and sweet mustard, it’s quick and easy.

Hot and Sweet Mustard

Give it in a pretty container for a special treat.

What about spice mixes? Most of the commercial spices are full of sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want to put in your food.

A popular mix with my friends is the Fennel Spice from Michael Chiarello. Although it is easy, I find most folks would rather receive a jar than make it themselves. I have given it many times in the past and it is always a much appreciated gift. He also has an excellent toasted chili spice. I use it to coat port tenderloin (or a slow cooked shoulder of pork) before I cook it sous vide. It’s also great on grilled chicken. For a vegetarian or vegan option it is wonderful coating slices or wedges of sweet potatoes.

Fennel Spice Before Being Blended – Can’t you just smell those fennel and coriander?

Pork Tenderloin Coated with Vinegar Then Coated with Toasted Spice Rub

There are other bloggers who have amazing spice mixes, Mollie from the Frugal Housewife has a delicious “smokin’ Chipotle Taco Seasoning‘. Any Mexican food fan would love a jar. She has a number of other spice mixes and blends, all of which don’t contain any preservatives or additives you don’t want to feed your family. Plus, they taste better than commercial blends. The Foodbod is another source of various spice blends, focused on vegetarian cooking. She is also the queen of sourdough. She sells her own starter on her bread website, which is full of tips and instructions.

You’ll also find a number of spice mixes on my Pinterest page.

December – Hot and Sweet Mustard

December – Hot and Sweet Mustard

Are you looking for an easy homemade gift idea for someone who likes spicy and hot foods? Look no further. This recipe originally came from my mother and was labeled fondue mustard. Do you remember those days in the 60’s and 70’s when beef fondue was all the rage. Yep, that was the source. But, I find this mustard is wonderful at any time. It’s great as a horseradish replacement with roast beef, fantastic with pot roast or beef brisket or beef stew. Sometimes you just need a little bit of a flavor boost. And believe me, you will want to use this in judiciously.

I like to give these in pretty jars as gifts, the jars themselves are part of it. I happened across these lovely handmade jars by a friend of a friend, Patricia Lorenz. Each one is a work of art, never the same.

In themselves they make a unique gift.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz container of Colemans mustard powder
  • 1 cup of wine vinegar (I used my own home brewed but commercial red or white is fine)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 eggs well beaten

Method:

  1. Combine the mustard powder and vinegar in a large jar, mix well. Let stand overnight.
  2. The next day combine the brown sugar, eggs and mustard mixture in a double boiler.
  3. Cook over simmering water until the mixture thickens.

 

  1. Thickened Hot and Sweet Mustard

The mustard will keep several months in the fridge.

Hot and Sweet Mustard – this one is for me

Patricia also made larger jars, I just need to figure out what to put in them to give as gifts.

Any suggestions?

November – A Glut of Lemons

November – A Glut of Lemons

I am enjoying a glut of Meyer lemons from the container tree on my deck. This is a common situation in California when many homes have backyard trees. I hate to waste them and am always looking for new ways to preserve the bounty. These lemons are small (probably because the tree is root bound…it has been in the same half wine barrel for 5 years) but very numerous. And the tree is in flower again (Meyer lemon trees will produce almost all year-long) I want to send the tree’s energy to the new maturing lemons, so I harvested most of them. Starting in March I will trim out the middle branches to let in more light and fertilize it. But I don’t necessarily want to encourage a lot of new growth right now in case we get a freeze.

Meyer Lemons

The next question is always, what to do with them? They won’t last forever. I already have several jars of salted preserved lemons in the pantry, so I didn’t want to do that again. I use them for salad dressing instead of vinegar but there are still a lot left in the bowl.

So, I decided to do something new and make lemon confit with some of them, candy a few, and with the rest make an Indian Lemon Fermented Pickle. I’ve made a version of the lemon pickle before, but this one looked easier and a little different.

You don’t have to use Meyer lemons for these recipes, regular grocery store lemons will work as well. However, try to buy organic ones without the wax coating. If you don’t have any choice, be sure and scrub them well in warm water to remove the wax.

All three of these would make good holiday gifting.

Meyer Lemon Confit

Wash and dry your lemons (as many as you want), slice them about 1/4 inch thick and remove any seeds, add them to a saucepan. Cover with olive oil and bring to a slow simmer. Turn down the heat (you should only see a bubble rise now and then) and simmer them on the low heat for 60 to 90 minutes. Cool and put them in clean jars, cover with the lemon olive oil. You can use the lemon infused oil in salads or for finishing vegetables, pulse the slices with the oil to make a lovely super lemony salad dressing, top fish or chicken with the slices before baking, marinate fish or chicken with chopped lemons and the oil, a multitude of uses.

Lemons slowly cooking in olive oil

 

Confit Meyer Lemons in Olive Oil

These are some turkey legs that I will sous vide for turkey confit.

Flavoring for Turkey, Lemon Confit, Rosemary, Thyme and Sage Leaves

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

  • Slice several Meyer lemons thinly, removing any seeds.
  • Combine 1 cup of water with 1 cup of cane sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil.
  • Add the lemon slices and turn down the heat to a slow simmer.
  • Simmer until the edges turn translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove to a parchment or wax paper lined pan and allow to cool.
  • Refrigerate.

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

And the uses are numerous! Use them to sweeten your tea, add them to muffins when baking, top a lemon tea cake with a few slices, and what about adding a slice to your cocktail? It makes an amazing lemon drop. The lemon syrup can be strained and used in cocktails, glaze a chicken or fish, make a version of lemonade with mineral or soda water…

A couple of years ago I made fermented Meyer lemon pickles with Indian 5-spices. I wanted something slightly simpler this year. I found the recipe for Spiced Indian Fermented Pickles on the blog Fermenting for Foodies. 

Indian Spiced Lemon Pickle

Spiced Indian Fermented Meyer Lemon Pickle

  • 1 lb. of lemons
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek powder or 1/2 tsp whole seeds (see note 1)
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
  1. Wash the lemons well, removing any wax coating if necessary.
  2. Add them to a saucepan with the turmeric and cover with water. Slowly bring to a boil and simmer for 8 minutes.
  3. Drain well and allow to cool, then cut each lemon into 6-8 wedges, depending on size. Remove any seeds. Do this over a bowl as they may be very juicy.
  4. Sprinkle the lemons with salt and pack into a sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid. A 1 quart canning jar is perfect.
  5. Allow to ferment at room temperature for a week, turning the jar over every day.
  6. After a week (a few days extra won’t hurt), toast the spices.
  7. Add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds to a dry skillet (I use a small cast iron one) and heat until you start to smell the spices and they turn slightly brown. Add the chili powder to the skillet and toss together. Remove from the heat immediately (the chili powder will easily burn).
  8. Once cool, grind the spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  9. Put the lemons in a bowl, add the spices and toss to mix.
  10. Add them back into the fermenting jar and cover with the oil.
  11. Store in the fridge. They will keep for 6 months.

Note 1: If you are using fenugreek powder, add it with the chili powder.

Serve with rice and yogurt or with any food that needs a flavor boost.

Mustard and Fenugreek seeds

Indian Spiced Lemon Pickle

I am taking these suggestions to Fiesta Friday #252 to share with Angie and the gang. This weeks co-hosts are Alex @ Turks Who Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul

Be sure to click on the link to read all the interesting posts for holiday food, gifts and crafts. And, add your own link to the party. If you want to be considered for “post of the week” be sure to credit Fiesta Friday, Alex, Zeba and Angie in your post.

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving.

 

May – Spicy Quick Radish Pickles

May – Spicy Quick Radish Pickles

What to do with an abundance of radishes left over from a crudite platter? That was the question that needed addressing this morning. The party was last weekend and those radishes needed a solution, there were simply too many of them to use up before they turned brown. The answer, a quick pickle. They will be wonderful with anything on the BBQ or as a quick snack with sharp cheddar cheese.

I found this recipe on the blog site COOKIE+Kate, it was originally posted in May of 2014. I modified it slightly by the addition of cumin seeds, with which I am slightly obsessed.

She slices the radishes very thinly, it makes the pickling process much faster. I don’t have a mandoline (must be one of the very few things not currently crowding my kitchen) and didn’t want to pull out the big food processor, so mine are not sliced quite so thinly. That’s okay though, I want them to have a definite crunch and don’t intend to use them for a couple of days. These will last several weeks in the fridge. IMG_7546 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large bunch of radishes
  • 3/4 cup of white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon yields quite spicy pickles)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole mustard seeds (optional, I didn’t have any handy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (also my addition)

METHOD:

  1. Prepare the radishes. Cut off the tops and slice into rounds (thin ones will pickle much faster). Pack the radishes into a pint canning jar or larger container if you have more radishes…I had about two bunches and used a quart canning jar.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, optional mustard, cumin and peppercorns to the top of the jar.
  3. For the brine. In a saucepan (non aluminum) combine the vinegar, water, honey or maple syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour the hot liquid over the radishes in the jar and screw on the lid.
  4. Let the mix cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

If you have sliced them very thinly the pickles will be ready to eat in a few hours. They will keep well for several weeks but will gradually loose their crispness after a week or so (depending on how thinly you sliced them). One bunch will make about a pint jar, depending on how large they are. I had enough for  quart canning jar, a bit worse for wear, that had just been removed from the dishwasher.

IMG_7547 2

PS There was left over canning liquid since I doubled the recipe. Not wanting to waste anything, I found half of a large red onion languishing in the produce drawer. I sliced it thinly, packed it into a pint canning jar, and added the pickling liquid on top. Quick pickled onions are amazing on burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches, not to mention anything Mexican.

IMG_7549 2

August – Fruit and Cucumber Salsa

August – Fruit and Cucumber Salsa

I don’t think summer is the season for fancy cooking. It is the time for salads of all kinds, melon and prosciutto, yogurt with fresh fruit and berries, juicy sliced tomatoes, BBQ, veggies on the grill, and chilled wine. The spotlight should be on highlighting the glory of the best local and seasonal ingredients, cooked (or not cooked) with a few fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

That being said, sometimes the food needs a little embellishing. Maybe you are expecting company or it is a special holiday weekend. I want to introduce the idea of a fruit salsa to go with those amazing grilled dishes. We are all familiar with a tomato based salsa but peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and mangos all make excellent salsas. If you live in Hawaii or the tropics, pineapples are also a good choice (I don’t think they are worth eating elsewhere…sorry Dole).

fruit salsa

fruit salsa

Use whatever is freshest and perfectly ripe but not mushy. This is a very loose recipe but I will give some general directions. I think the essentials are sweet, crisp, spicy heat, sharpness, acid, and salt. In the salsa shown above the peaches provide sweet, the cucumber is crisp, the chilis are heat, the onion sharp, and lime juice acid.

Ingredients

  • Fresh fruit, cut into cubes – I used 4 peaches
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled if necessary and cubed to the same size
  • 1 – 2 hot chilis – seeded and cut into small cubes, I used 1 jalapeno and 1 small red chili
  • 1/2 red onion – chopped finely
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • salt to taste

Again this is a very flexible list. If you have a ripe avocado, add it. What about a mix of fruit? Watermelon with tomatoes is a winner. Apples would be good in the fall. Have some fresh basil on hand? Wonderful! Cilantro? Yum! Mint? Oh my! See what I mean?

Notice that there is no oil in this salsa? None is needed. It is a good way to get an extra serving of fruits and vegetables deliciously without any additional fat.

Peach and Cucumber Salsa

Peach and Cucumber Salsa

I am taking this to share at Fiesta Friday #131, hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Su @ Su’s Healthy Living and Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to read the posts and join the party.