lemon juice

Okay. They say cardoon’s flavor and texture resembles artichokes. I like artichokes, a lot. But as everyone knows, they’re technically difficult to prepare. So many sharp rough leaves to remove before you get to the flavorful choke. Well, in that sense, cardoon isn’t too different, either. Cardoons don’t grow chokes. Instead you have to remove the leaves and thorns, peel the stalks, remove the stringy fiber from them, then boil the tough buggers for some 30 minutes before you’re ready to begin!

But I’m brave in the kitchen so I finally decided to endure the cardoon challenge.

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

Frankly, I have yet to decide if it was worth it. This is loads of work for a somehow mediocre flavored end result. Cardoon and artichoke plants look alike: both gorgeous with spindly long stalks and silvery green leaves. I have to agree cardoon does taste slightly like artichokes but the texture isn’t quite right, sort of like crunchy and watery celery stalks or maybe chayote. I love both celery and chayote but since I was primed for artichokes, this was a tragic disappointment.

I followed this recipe to clean and parboil my cardoon.

I started with a whole plant but by the end only ended up with about 2½ cups of the prepared veggie. I cooked them like I do artichoke hearts. This recipe is a variation of the one with mint and anchovy (without the mint since I didn’t have it) and my favorite one with lots of olives.

cardoon plant

cardoon plant

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

2½ cups cooked cardoons
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
2 tbsp capers chopped
½ green olives chopped
2 anchovy fillets
½ to 1 bunch Italian parsley chopped
1½ dry white wine
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half lemon
Black pepper
salt

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a saucepan followed by garlic and anchovies. Cook at low temperature for about a minute or so. Anchovies will dissolve. Bring temp to high then add capers, olives, parsley and cardoon. Toss to combine, add white wine, cover the pan and bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper, squeeze with lemon juice and finally add remaining of olive oil. Serve as a side dish, warm or at room temperature.

{ 3 comments }

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

by Heguiberto on January 17, 2013

This is another great recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. It uses capers! Hurrah!!! How can you go wrong with capers? Salted or brined, these tiny flower buds are alright with me. Yotam writes that caper bushes grow wild around the city of Jerusalem. They’re hardy and you can even find them growing out of cracks in the Wailing Wall (Muro das Lamentações in Portuguese). Isn’t that cool? I’d love to see that someday.

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

The original dish also uses quite a bit of dill too, an herb I sometimes find a bit over powering. I think it has to do with the smell of the lagoons around my home town in Brazil. The grasses that grew around those lagoons exhaled a strange dill scent and I always associate these smells with stagnant water. Alas! I think that I must have been a dog or a wolf in a past life. My sense of smell is powerful; which is good sometimes but as in this case, not too great at others. Anyway this dish is all about beautiful colors, flavors and, yes, aromas!

Pacific cod and caper kebabs

2lbs white boneless fish (I used wild pacific cod fillets)
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
½ cup panko break crumbs
1 large free range egg, beaten
5 tbsp capers in brine, rinsed and chopped
3 whole scallions, chopped fine
½ bunch fresh dill, chopped fine
Juice one large lemon
1½ tsp ground cumin
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying

Cut the fillets into 3 inch pieces, place fish in the food processor and whiz for half a minute. Using a spatula push the fish down. Whiz it again for another half minute.

Transfer to a bowl, add lemon juice and beaten egg. In a separate bowl mix Italian bread crumbs, panko, turmeric, cumin, pepper, chopped capers, scallions, dill and salt together. Incorporate bread crumb mix into to fish using a spatula. Do not over mix.

Wet your hands with a bit of canola oil. Shape fish mixture into patties. Place patties on a wax paper lined tray. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Add some canola oil to a non-stick skillet on medium. Fry patties for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve hot with a side of eggplant baba ghanoush.

{ 3 comments }

Our old friend David went to Seattle last year and brought us a little tin filled with the aromatic Turkish powder, baharat, from that city’s famous Public Market. I have been shy about using it. Frankly, I thought the spice mix was for meat dishes only. So I’d sort of side-lined it to the back of the spice cabinet, that is until I read Yotam Ottolenghi uses baharat in a tabbouleh recipe from his new book, Jerusalem.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

So I did a little research. Turns out, baharat is a mélange of allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamonn, cloves, coriander, cumin, chili pepper and nutmeg. It has a wonderful scent.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

½ cup bulgur
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine, rinsed in running cold water
Juice of 3 lemons or more
3 large bunches of Italian parsley, washed, drained and chopped fine
5 leaves of escarole, washed, drained and chopped fine
2 bunches mint, rinsed, dried and chopped fine
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baharat mix
1/3 to ½ cup first cold press, top quality, arbequina olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rinse bulgur in a strainer. Add to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for ½ hour. Drain and squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add tomatoes, shallot, parsley, mint, escarole, spices, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add lemon juice and about two thirds of the olive oil. Toss again. Let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Just before serving add more olive oil and lemon juice and toss again.

{ 4 comments }

We are still enjoying home-grown zucchini from our prolific community garden plot squash plants. It feels so good just going there to water them. We find new ones growing full swing every time. It seems to happen overnight!

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

This recipe comes from this lovely blog, not without salt (I so wish that I’d come up with that name for our blog!) that I’ve been enjoying reading recently. Really, the dish is very simple and most of the ingredients came directly from our community garden. The flavors are super vibrant!

The recipe calls for grilling the thinly sliced zucchini. Our grill had no gas so instead I seared them in a pan. But this didn’t make the final result any less delicious.

This is perfect for a tapas style meal, or served as a side dish.

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

3 zucchini, sliced thinly
Arbequina olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of a whole lemon

Place a non stick skillet on stove top and bring temperature to high. Meanwhile put sliced zucchinis in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat using your hands. Lay zucchini slices on hot surface in a single layer and pan grill it for about a minute or so on each side. Remove from pan, repeat process with remainder. While zucchini slices are still warm add herbs, zest, lemon juice more salt and pepper and olive oil to taste. Toss to combine. There you have a tasty and elegant side dish to enjoy!

If there are any leftovers make a sandwich with it the following day like I did. All you need is to have a nice piece of fresh crusty bread and stuff it with some of the grilled zucchini, chévre and a drizzle of a good olive oil.

{ 4 comments }

We’ve been blessed with lemons recently. Earlier in the month Kristen harvested her Meyer lemon trees and surprised us with a huge bag of fruit. We’ve been using them essentially every day but I still have a good amount in the fridge. A couple of weeks ago we went for a BBQ at a friend-of-a-friend, Maja’s house in the Oakland Hills. She had a stunning Eureka lemon tree laden with aromatic goodness. She let I harvest a large bagful. Thank you, darling! Then last week, our neighbor, Ann, left us another bag of lemons. It was hanging on our front door knob. She lives in a condo in town but has what sounds like a marvelous house on the California Central Coast. These lovelies were Lisbon.

lemon coconut triple layer cake

lemon coconut triple layer cake

In this cake I used lemons with the Oakland terroir from Maja’s backyard. I like to improv with food, but when it comes to baking I just try to follow instructions as much as I can. This recipe comes from the 1997 Joy. Cheers to the Joy, which to me remains the best, no frills cook book ever!

This recipe is a pain in the b*** to make. It takes forever. Plus the kitchen gets very, very messy. One thing I wanted to do differently was to use freshly grated coconut in the frosting, just like we do in Brazil. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it so I stuck to the dried unsweetened.

I was impressed with the lemon curd. I had no idea how easy it was to make and how delicious it turned out to be. I also didn’t know that it was made with eggs: a lot of them. Living and learning.

lemon coconut triple layer cake

for the cake:

3½ cups of cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ lb butter room temperature
1 & 2/3 cups sugar
8 egg whites from large eggs
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup additional sugar

Pre-heat oven to 375F.

You need 3 round non-stick cake pans lined with parchment paper at the bottom

Using a large stainless steel bowl beat butter until creamy. Add 1 & 2/3 cups of sugar, mixing it gradually. Continue beating for about 5 minutes. Mix will turn light in color and texture.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix milk and vanilla together. Add sifted flour alternating with milk mix in 2-3 phases to beaten butter. The dough will be thick. Set aside

Add egg whites and cream of tartar to another stainless steel bowl. Beat on medium speed until it turns to a snow white color and gets relatively thick. Increase speed to high and gradually add 1/3 cup sugar. Fold about 1/3 of the mixture onto cake batter. After it is mixed in, fold in the rest.

Divide batter equally among pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness via inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake. Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Invert cakes, peel parchment paper off. Turn them back up and let cool completely.

for the lemon curd:

3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Pinch salt
½ cup strained lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp vanilla

Prepare a double boiler so that the water’s simmering when you begin this part.

Put eggs, sugar and zest in a stainless steel bowl and whisk until it turns into a light yellow color. Add lemon juice, butter and place bowl on top of double boiler. Whisk non-stop until butter has melted and mixture thickens. Allow it to cook for few seconds more after thickened. Remove from heat and strain to remove zest. Mix with vanilla. Refrigerate.

for the “7 minute” frosting:

5 tbsp water
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1½ cups sugar
2 whites from large eggs at room temperature
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup grated dried unsweetened coconut

You need the double boiler for this.

Place water, cream of tartar, sugar, egg whites and corn syrup on double boiler and beat non-stop on medium speed until temperature reaches about 140F. Once it reached that temperature increase speed to high and beat for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, fold in vanilla and grated coconut. Let cool a little.

to assemble the cake:

I used a cake stand for a more impressive presentation. Whatever dish you use, start by placing a dollop of lemon curd in the center of it to help cake remain in place. Place the first layer of cake on top. Ice the top of the layer with lemon curd. Repeat with the next layer. I added a bit too much curd to mine and the cake started sliding! To “fix” the sliding I added a bamboo skewer to increase stability. Add final layer of cake then frost it entirely.

{ 3 comments }

My salad dressings are always made the same way, with lemon, olive oil and salt. Sometimes I add a new thing here and there, but usually I stick with plain-and-simple. When we eat out, I often enjoy Caesar salad. I think Zuni Café here in San Francisco makes a tasty one. I remember that theirs is a little zippier than those at other restaurants. Somehow that sparkle of acidity makes me feel guilt-free as I always imagine it has less dairy. Ha, ha! I’m sure that I’m being delusional here.

Romaine and oak lettuce salad in zippy improv Caesar dressing

Romaine and oak lettuce salad in zippy improv Caesar dressing

Anyway, I left work the other day ready to make my own Caesar only to discover that we didn’t have all the ingredients I thought I needed. A couple of months ago we went to see an improv comedy show in Freemont with our friends Amie and Whitney. With improv theatre, there is no script and the actors react to one another’s speeches on the fly. It’s very creative and can be exciting. You never know what’s going to happen next, until it does. Very Zen, improv. Even the background music was improv, played by a friend of Amie and Whitney. Very cool!

Well then, this Caesar dressing is our improv show and my kitchen is the stage.

I didn’t have anchovies so I replaced them with fish sauce. I didn’t have regular mayo so I used vegan mayo. After adding all the ingredients I realized I needed more umami flavor so I added some miso paste to it. The zippiness comes from the amount of lemon. I used the juice of 2 large fruit. Don’t skimp on the lemon. Definitely use more if yours are tiny or not juicy. And don’t bother with bottled lemon juice.

key ingredients for zippy improv Caesar dressing

key ingredients for zippy improv Caesar dressing

zippy improv Caesar dressing

2 tbsp vegan mayo
1 tsp red miso paste
1 tsp fish sauce
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 large juicy lemons

for the salad:

Romaine and Oak lettuces rinsed, dried and leaves tore into bite size (enough for 2 large portions)
Authentic Parmesan cheese to be grated at the table

Place all ingredients for salad dressing in a bowl and whisk to combine. Let rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes for flavors to marry. Place lettuces in a large bowl. Pour half of the dressing over, toss and taste it. Add more dressing or just serve it on the side at the table. Plate salad and grate parmesan cheese over top. If you leave the Parmesan out, which is fine, you will have a dairy free Caesar salad dressing.

{ 1 comment }

halibut en papilote

by Heguiberto on April 27, 2012

A throw back to the past? Maybe, but the thing is I had never prepared fish this way before using the actual parchment paper. It’s a snap with tin foil, but the result is not as dramatic and pretty. I made this for five people, so reduce or increase your proportions accordingly. The approach is Mediterranean but I did bake the fish steaks over carrot cumin rice which adds an Indian flare. I sort of used Mireille Guiliano’s halibut recipe from French Women Don’t Get Fat.

halibut en papilote

halibut en papilote

We at weirdcombinations were obsessed by Mireille a year or so ago, and she remains a fave. Jasmine met her in San Francsico once, if you can believe it!?! Of course, we loved the classic FWDGF! Who doesn’t really? Did you like the book about food and style over the seasons? I haven’t read the one about work, but Jasmine loved it.

Anyway, back to the fish. We had Jasmine Turner for this splendid Mireille-inspired meal. I forgot to mention it at the time, but I’m sure that she knows all about it by now. Love you, Jasmine!!

a charger with several halibut en papilote

a charger with several halibut en papilote

halibut en papilote

5 pieces of wild caught Pacific halibut
5 pieces of parchment paper, each about 13×26 inches
cumin carrot rice: double this recipe
½ cup dry white wine
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
½ tbsp lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter at room temperature
chili flakes to taste
Kosher salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

Mix salt, butter, tablespoon of olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, black and chili peppers together. Set aside.

Pre heat oven to 375F.

Fold each parchment paper into a 13×13 inch square. Lay one folded paper on top of another. Draw a half heart shape on top, filling as much of the paper as you can, then cut it out to form large paper hearts.

filling my heart shaped piece of parchment paper with carrot cumin basmati rice

filling my heart shaped piece of parchment paper with carrot cumin basmati rice

all set and ready to fold closed

all set and ready to fold closed

Place one heart shaped parchment paper on counter top. Brush with olive oil. Put two scoops of carrot cumin rice in the center, top with a halibut steak, smear some of the herbed butter over, and add a tablespoon of white wine. Inch by inch fold the edge of paper in such way that the folds overlap one another until you get to the “tip” of the half-heart. Twist the tip tightly to seal everything together. Repeat process with remaining portions. Put individual papilotes on baking trays and bake for about 15 minutes. Serve in paper.

{ 3 comments }

classic pan fried mahi-mahi

classic pan fried mahi-mahi

These mahi-mahi steaks were wild caught from Hawaii. I purchased them at Sun Fat in the Mission. Among the many good things about food that arrives at your table super-fresh like this fish is that you don’t need to fuss with it too much to bring out the best flavor. I always go for the classic combo of lemon, salt, olive oil and occasionally a bit of garlic. That’s it. It sounds Greek. Sometimes I grill; sometimes I just cook them on the stove top.

classic pan fried mahi-mahi

3 small, ultra fresh wild caught mahi-mahi steaks
½ tsp lemon zest
Juice of ½ lemon
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
½ garlic clove, mashed
3 thin slices of lemon for garnish

Season fish steaks with salt, pepper, lemon zest and garlic. Rub pieces with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Pour remaining olive oil into a large skillet on high heat. Give pan a good swirl to coat the surface. Put fish steaks in and cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Finish by squeezing lemon juice into pan. Let it sizzle a bit. Transfer to a warm serving dish and decorate with lemon slices.

{ 4 comments }

springtime garden tempeh with snow and garden peas, Kabocha with quinoa and almond butter sauce

April 6, 2012

This recipe was adapted from the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. I didn’t have most of the veggie ingredients so I made do with what was available at home. It turned out as granola as it can be, of course not in any pejorative way, but simply healthy and delicious. The sauce reminded me of […]

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artichoke leek lasagna

April 2, 2012

Is lasagna elegant enough to serve at a dinner party? That is the question that I have been pondering for the past couple weeks. I had invited about six friends over for a Saturday meal, including two, Jocelyn and Devin that we hadn’t seen in months. So I wanted to impress but also not be […]

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