sea salt

Steven’s co-worker owns a rental property in the Central Valley. The small apartment building sits on a big chunk of land which her husband planted with fruit trees. A few months ago she gave us bags and bags of citrus. Now that we’re nearly in summer, we’ve entered the stone fruit season. Thus far, she’s given us some cherries, plums, apricots. I don’t even know if cherries qualify as stone fruit. Are they berries? Anyway over the past week we got two bags of sour plums from her garden. The first batch I devoured in no time after dinner. Yum! The second one Steven wanted me to bake into something. So, ta-da: sour plum upside-down cake.

sour plum upside-down cake

sour plum upside-down cake

Sour plums tend to be a little sweet in the middle but sour near the skin and close to the pit. I love taking a bite of a plum and tasting all these flavors. Well with this cake, despite the sugar caramel coating the bottom of the pan, the sour flavor came out in FULL! We loved it: perfect with some tea or a cuppa coffee. We ate this entire cake in a couple of days for breakfast.

sour plum upside-down cake

~2 lbs sour plums, skin on, pitted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup soy or almond milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
Cast iron pan (12 inches diameter, 2 inches deep)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Add one cup of sugar along with one tablespoon of water to cast iron pan over medium heat on your stovetop. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar melts and acquires a nice caramel color. If some sugar sticks to the wooden spoon scrape it off and let it melt until all lumps are gone. Spread the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat to cool down if caramel starts to burn. You just want a caramel color, not a smoking ruin. Cooking to long will make the flavor bitter. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, put remainder of the sugar, then eggs, salt and vanilla. Whisk it to combine. Add oil, soy milk, flour and whisk it again to combine. Lastly incorporate baking powder into the batter.

At this point, although still warm your caramel may be hardened and stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan. Worry not! Spread the butter until all melted over caramel and sides of the pan. Add sour plum, along with juices if any and spread the fruit evenly over the bottom of the pan. Gently top with the batter. Bake about 35 minutes. Check for doneness via inserting a tooth pick in the center. If it comes out clean then baking is done, if not then you know what you have to do.

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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.

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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.

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The humongous bag of Meyer lemons our friend Kristen gave us in early April lasted for more than a month. I just love how aromatic Meyer lemon juice and zest are. Sometimes I just enjoy eating them whole, skin and all. When I saw this recipe for pickled Meyer lemons on Just Homemade, I knew what to do with the remaining 8 lemons in the fridge.

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

Preserved lemons are super simple to make and work beautifully as an added flavor to stews, couscous, pilafs, grilled fish and the list goes on. Rely on them to add another dimension of flavor. If you haven’t yet tasted preserved lemon, then what are you waiting for?

I’ve never had pickled Meyer lemons before so this was exciting!! The original recipe calls for chili pepper powder. However because I’m wild about chili powder and spices, I got creative. I used three kinds plus added some nigella seeds to the pickle. I sort of respected the overall proportion of chili dictated by the original recipe.

Indian inspired Meyer lemon pickle

8 Meyer lemons, lightly scrubbed with a sponge, rinsed, dried, quartered and seeded
4 tbsp sea salt (or less)
3 tbsp gochugaru pepper flakes
¾ tbsp pasilla pepper powder
¾ tbsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
2 tbsp fenugreek powder
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Couple of pinches asafetida

Glass jar cleaned and thoroughly dried
Parchment paper, cut to fit the top of the jar

step one, preserving the lemons:

lemon quarters and salt ready to cure

lemon quarters and salt ready to cure

Begin by adding ¾ tbsp salt to the bottom of glass jar. Partially squeeze the juice of a few lemon quarters. Arrange these partially squeezed quarters at the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat process until done. Place parchment paper on top of the jar and cover with lid. Give it a good shake so salt dissolves and juices permeate lemons. Let stand at room temperature for about 5 days. Shake the jar every day to ensure juices percolate through the lemon pieces.

….on the 4th or 5th day, step 2:

Heat a skillet on high. Add fenugreek seeds and barely warm them through. This process will bring the aromas out. Don’t toast or burn it. It will be too bitter. I burned mine the first time around so had to re-do this part. Transfer to a grinder and whiz it to pulverize. Set aside.

Return pan to the heat; add oil followed by the mustard seeds and cook until seeds begin to pop. Remove from heat. Add asafetida and let cool completely to room temperature.

Add chili peppers, nigella seeds, and ground fenugreek to a stainless steel bowl. Mix to combine. Empty the jar of lemons with the liquid over the spices. Mix to combine. Add cooled combo of popped mustard, asafetida and oil to the lemons and toss to combine.

Return lemons to the jar with the entire thick sauce. Cover and refrigerate. Use as a condiment or serve it as a side dish. This is salty so use it parsimoniously. Once we finish this batch I am going to experiment with it to make a less salty version.

We enjoyed this delicious pickled Meyer lemon last Monday with a basmati pilaf Steven made like this one.

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