lemon zest

I know I should have bought a smaller container of Greek yogurt in the first place…

We don’t normally eat yogurt by itself. In fact, we usually only have it at home when a recipe calls for it. Like Ottolenghi’s Greek yogurt baba ghanoush. But that scrumptious dish only required two tablespoons. What to do with the rest??

Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes, of course!

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

The day before I made these pancakes NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special report on Smitten Kitchen during our morning breakfast ritual. Not about pancakes, the story spoke about how that now famous blogger turns out beautiful dishes in her tiny Manhattan kitchen (That sounds so familiar! Do you think that she got the idea from Julie Powell? Just a thought…)

Obviously, Deb Perelman was also promoting her new cookbook over the radio. Congratulations, Deb! She prepared latkes for Lynn Neary during the story—so not pancakes exactly but bear with me here. The following day I googled blueberry yogurt pancakes and one of Deb’s entries came up first.

So influenced by the morning news and Google’s high ranking, I decided to give the recipe a try. I didn’t have all the ingredients that she calls for. Here’s my adapted version of Smitten Kitchen’s dish.

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

1 large egg plus one egg white
1 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
2 to 4 tablespoons soy milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup (62 grams) whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
Some butter to grease the skillet

Sift together sugar, salt, flour, baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl add egg, egg white, soy milk, lemon zest, vanilla extract. Whisk to combine then whisk in yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add a bit more soy milk if batter seems too thick.

Place two non-stick skillets on stovetop over medium. Melt a bit of butter in each pan. Add one small ladle full of batter to each pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, sprinkle some blueberries on top, flip and cook for about 3 minutes more on other side. Continue in that way until batter used up.

Serve with butter, maple syrup and a good cup of freshly brewed black coffee.

{ 3 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 }

Spring is racing by and asparagus are plentiful right now here in sunny Northern California. But it won’t last. This is the time of year when this beautiful vegetable tastes best. It is true that nowadays one can buy any vegetable or fruit basically whenever but the difference is in taste and in the size of the carbon footprint. I am always dubious about veggies that arrive at my table following intercontinental flights. They’re often as flavorful as cardboard. I’m not impressed. We’re better off eating seasonal and local ingredients as much as possible.

roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

Speaking of local I’m thinking of planting some asparagus in our community garden plot. The reason I didn’t before is that our last plot was a bit too small. Asparagus plants take about two years to produce and you can’t rotate crops in the area where they’re grown. A couple of the other community gardeners have them growing in their plots. It’s cool to watch the spears shooting out from the ground in springtime. Left alone, they grow into big wispy bushes: very interesting and even decorative. If I do it now, maybe in a couple years I can make this salad again with asparagus grown on Potrero Hill, just a few blocks away. Now that’s very local!

This recipe is so good that it can’t wait. I like the combination of legume and vegetable here. The flavors that the Meyer lemon, sesame oil and mint impart to the dish are singular: smoky, herby and slightly tart. You can serve this dish either warm or at room temperature as a main dish with a green salad or as a side dish to go with anything really. I’ve adapted it from asparagus recipes.

key ingredients for roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

key ingredients for roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint

2 bunches of asparagus, rinsed, dried, each spear cut into 3 pieces
3½ cups prepared chickpeas, drained (canned is okay)
4 tbsp olive oil
¾ tbsp toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt to taste
~ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Several fresh mint leaves, chopped
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.

Place asparagus, chick peas, sesame and olive oils, salt and black pepper in a bowl and toss to combine. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and toss. Position rack closer to grill, return to oven and continue roasting for an additional 5-8 minutes. This will allow for some of the chickpeas and asparagus pieces to brown. Remove from oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Toss in lemon juice, lemon zest , mint and serve!

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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 }

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.

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Ah Martha… Her recipes are almost always infallible! I’ve made this tuna burger many times. The recipe’s from Martha Stewart Living a few years ago. It is really good. The original version calls for yellowfin tuna, but my fish market only had ahi this time. Also, Martha served hers with a Napa cabbage coleslaw. I tried the slaw before but didn’t care for it. Instead I served it with heirloom tomatoes, grilled onion and eggplant, with mayo on the side. I stuck with the brioche bun, naturally, though these were store-bought, and I’m not yet pleased. Perhaps next time I’ll make my own rolls?

Martha’s pan-seared tuna burgers

Martha’s pan-seared tuna burgers

Martha’s pan-seared tuna burgers

1¾ lbs fresh ahi tuna steaks
1½ tsps grated fresh garlic
2 tsps grated fresh ginger
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsps Dijon mustard
1½ tbsps canola oil
6 brioche rolls
Olive oil

key ingredients for Martha’s pan-seared tuna burgers

key ingredients for Martha’s pan-seared tuna burgers

Rinse ahi tuna steaks and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut steaks into 2 inch thick chunks. Place them in food processor and blitz it for about ½ minute to grind the tuna. Transfer to a bowl, add garlic, ginger, salt, lemon zest, 1 tbsp canola oil, mustard, black pepper and toss to combine with the help of a spatula. Line a baking tray with foil and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Divide tuna mix into six equal parts and shape them into patties, place them on oiled tray, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Using a non stick skillet, coat the surface with about a half tablespoon of olive oil and another half of canola. Turn to high. Add 3 patties at a time. Cook for 3 minutes on one side, flip them and cook another 3 on the other side (or less if you prefer it a little rare). Repeat process with other 3 patties. Serve on toasted brioche rolls with sides.

{ 4 comments }

camarão com chuchu AKA shrimp with chayote

camarão com chuchu AKA shrimp with chayote

I was feeling like listening to Brazilian music the other day. For some reason, I haven’t been doing that as often lately, and I was missing the cool, soothing sounds of Bossa Nova. I like the old guard, so I set my iTunes for classics from João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Elizete Cardoso, Maysa, Caetano Veloso and other Brazilian singers from the 50’s and 60’s of less international prominence. I was really getting into the groove, that is until a song by Carmen Miranda came on. Wait a minute! Carmen Miranda has nothing to do with Bossa Nova. I happily listened to her sing, but then I moved her to a different folder.

Here’s the song:

In this samba-styled song “Disseram que eu voltei americanizada,” Carmem is criticized by the crowd for returning to Brazil completely Americanized after her stint in Hollywood. She’s accused of forgetting her roots. Here, she argues that though she may have become a bit Americanized, she reassures her fans that she’s never been more Brazilian. As proof, she still likes and sings samba, and enjoys some of its most popular musical instruments, such as the tambourine, or ‘cuíca.’

Believe it or not, the last couple of sentences in the lyrics are about food! She sings that when it comes to food her favorite is camarão com chuchu, or shrimp with chayote. So today I offer this adaptation of Carmen’s favorite dish. The original is more like a stew. You sauté all the ingredients together and serve it over rice. In my version I broiled the shrimp and prepared the chuchu with Brazilian corn flakes, giving the dish a sort of tamale/polenta look, texture and taste. Delish!

prickly chayote or chuchu in Portuguese

prickly chayote or chuchu in Portuguese

chayote interior

chayote interior

There are two kinds of chayote commonly available. One is smooth and the other has sharp bristles on the surface of the skin. Usually I use the smooth, as it tends to be easier to handle. This time, I had the bristly one. If you’re using the later, than you should be very careful and wear gloves to peel the little monsters, or you could get hurt.

camarão com chuchu AKA shrimp with chayote

2 chayotes, peeled, pitted and passed through the mandolin
1 lb shrimp, shelled, deveined, tails on
4 cloves garlic crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp paprika
2 tbsp Italian parsley
¼ tsp cumin
Salt
Black pepper
Crushed red pepper
8 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vegetarian bouillon paste
4 tbsp farinha de milho (Brazilian corn flakes)

Rinse and drain shrimp. Toss shrimp with salt, peppers, Italian parsley, cumin, lemon zest, paprika, 1 tbsp olive oil and the equivalent of 1 garlic clove. Let it marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Turn oven on to broil.

Place 3 tbsp olive oil on a saucepan, add remaining garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add chayote, salt, black pepper, vegetarian bouillon, give it a good stir then cover pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add ½ cup of water and further cook until chayote threads are soft. Incorporate corn flakes stirring to make a thick porridge. You may need to add a bit more water to get the desired consistency. Remove from heat. Set aside, keeping it warm.

Meanwhile place marinated shrimp in a single layer on a baking tray. Drizzle with lemon juice and some olive oil and broil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven.

Place chayote porridge on a serving platter, top with shrimp, drizzle with finishing olive oil and some of the juices from shrimp. Serve with a crisp white wine.

{ 10 comments }

mozzarella di buffala and heirloom tomatoes salad with fennel vinaigrette

July 26, 2011

This is another great recipe from “Plenty.” I’ve had salads like this before but I don’t remember ever having one with fennel seeds. I think they add a distinct touch of licorice flavor to the dish. While shopping for the ingredients make sure that you select the best cheese and that the tomatoes are the […]

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potluck mixed bean salad

February 10, 2011

I frequently make this bean salad when we’ve unexpected company and I need to pull something together last-minute, or to bring to work for potluck. Like most people, the folks with whom I work are meat-oriented. That’s cool, but for potluck can be a challenge for me. I like this salad as it’s simple to […]

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