Sunday, February 24, 2013

Preserved Lemons

A good friend of ours, who is an amazing home chef, gave us a jar of preserved lemons last year as a gift when she came to one of our home dinners. Since then I'd dipped into the jar whenever a recipe called for it, finally running out of the lemons last month. Since we have a lemon tree that needed to have its fruit thinned out this was a perfect time to get around to making some my own self.
The recipes I came across while looking for one I liked were all fairly similar except for one I saw on Joanne Weir's excellent new teaching show, Cooking Confidence, on PBS. Since she says that she learned how to make it in Morocco and as hers applies a bit of extra flavor as well, I thought I'd use her recipe.
Out of the recipes I found in my library only one recommended sterilizing the jars prior to using them. I figured that extra step couldn't hurt so I added it here.

Just what I could fit into the bowl - there's plenty more out there

Sterilizing the jars

Partially quartered lemon

Added flavorings

Sealed... with a kiss :-*

4-5 lemons or whatever the jar will hold
Juice of another 5-7 lemons or however much is needed
several coriander seeds
several black peppercorns
stick of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup kosher salt

If you are so inclined, sterilize the mason jar by filling it with boiling water, letting it sit for 10 minutes, then emptying it.
Add about 1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt into the jar, then drop in a few coriander seeds and peppercorns.
Partially quarter each lemon by cutting from the stem end down almost to the opposite end without severing it, leaving it just intact so that the lemon does not fully separate. Turn the lemon 90 degrees and add another perpendicular cut, again almost but not quite to the end. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of salt into the interior of the cut lemon. Place the lemon into the jar and push it down. Do the same with however many more lemons you can push likewise into the jar allowing their juices to spill out into the jar. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and any remaining coriander and peppercorns. Pour as much of the lemon juice into the jar that is needed to completely cover the lemons.
Screw the cap on tightly, put the jar into a cool dark corner, and allow the lemons to pickle for at least a month before using, turning the jar every so often, about once a week, during the month to distribute the contents a bit.
Once the lemons have pickled, I keep it in the frig but I understand that the lemons can keep up to year in or out of the refrigerator.
If you try this, let me know how it turns out for you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stovetop Pork Chops with Onions and Peppers

This is a delicious yet very simple preparation of pork chops that a beginning cook can use for a meal. This basic stove top cooking of pork chops applies searing of the meat at the beginning, a longer, slower cooking with the pan covered and some liquid added, and added flavoring to the cooking liquid at the end that pairs well with the meat. I used the basic approach described in Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, a book which I highly recommend to all home cooks, both those beginning and those with plenty of experience.

Seasoned meat in the pan to sear

After adding the broth and flavoring

Co-stars onions and peppers

Cooking the vegetables in the liquid remaining from the chops

Final prep with meat smothered in the veggies with herbs

2 large pork chops, rib or loin
Fresh-cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 large onion, sliced thinly into half-moons
1 large red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into strips
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup chicken broth (or water)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Season the chops well with the salt and black pepper. Heat a medium skillet over a medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the chops to cook about 2 minutes per side. Add the crushed garlic into the pan to cook for about 30 seconds then add the wine. Let the wine reduce to half, about 1-2 minutes, then add 1/2 cup of the broth. When the broth starts to simmer, bring the heat down to low and cover, allowing the chops to cook about 20-25 minutes or until they start to firm. Meanwhile heat an oven to low, about 170F.
You want to avoid overcooking or undercooking the chops but it can be a bit tricky to get it right until you've done it more than a few times. Ideally the internal temperature should be about 145F but with practice you'll be able to tell just how firm that will feel by hand. When you cut into them they should be just pink, not red, not gray.
When the meat is ready, remove to an oven-proof plate, cover with foil and put into the warmed oven. With the liquid and oil still in the pan from the chops, bring the heat up to medium and add the onion slices and pepper strips. Stir frequently and cook until they are quite soft and starting to get a good browning. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth and cook until the broth is reduced to almost nothing. Turn the heat off, bring the chops out of the oven and into a serving platter, smother with the onion and pepper, and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top to serve.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Andouille Sausage and Greens

When I stopped by the Local Butcher in Berkeley to pick up my most recent Siren SeaSA seafood drop, the Andouille sausage that I noticed sitting in the counter got me thinking for another dinner, especially with Mardi Gras just around the corner. I found the base for this recipe in a Southern cooking site that looked like it would be a good fit for a weeknight meal.

Mix of mustard greens and kale

Pounded garlic

Sautéing the diced onion

Adding the sliced sausage

Starting to add the greens to the mix

Just after first adding the greens

1 bunch kale
1 bunch mustard greens
2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other vegetable) oil
1 onion, diced
4 Andouille sausage
3 cloves garlic - minced, crushed, or pounded in a mortar
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (recipe for the one I used follows)
1 - 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Juice of 1 lemon

Cajun Seasoning:
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon hot pimentón
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
Combine well in a bowl and store leftover in a small bottle for later use.

I needed to parboil the sausage for a few minutes in simmering water to pre-cook it and in order to be able to slice it. You may or may not have to do this.
Slice the sausage into 2-inch pieces and set aside.
Pull open each bunch of greens and wash well. Slice the leaves off of the stems and discard the stems (or save them to make something delicious with those too). Tear or chop the leaves into smaller pieces.
In a Dutch oven over medium heat, add the grapeseed oil. When hot, add the onion to cook for a couple of minutes then add the sliced sausages. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausages have browned. Add the garlic and the Cajun seasoning and stir to combine. Add the greens and mix as well, then the broth. Bring to a simmer then cover to cook for about 25-30 minutes until the greens are quite soft, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon juice towards the end and stir to combine.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Herb-Crusted Black Cod with Olive-Lemon Chard

It's that time of the bi-week where we get our Siren SeaSA drop. This time we came close to getting herring but were just as happy to get black cod fillets again. Time for a new method of preparing them. I based this one on an Epicurious recipe. I didn't quite agree with the amounts so putting the ones I used here. YMMV.

Simmering the lemon to soften it for the chard sauce

Whole coriander and cumin seeds

Toasting the seeds in my trusty small iron skillet

toasted and ...

... pounded

Cod fillets

Dusting the fillets

Finishing up the fillets on the heat

Lots of chard leaves

Prepared lemon

Lemon mixed with the pitted olives

1 lemon
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons sea salt 
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 6-ounce pieces skin-on black cod fillets
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 large bunches Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds total), ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
2 tablespoons oil-cured black olives, pitted, chopped

Place the lemon in a small saucepan adding water just to cover. Place a small heatproof bowl filled with water inside the saucepan on top of the lemon to keep it submerged. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer cooking until the lemon is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Drain, then cut the lemon in half to cool.
Scoop out the pulp from both lemon halves with a spoon and press it through a coarse-mesh sieve over a small bowl making sure to also clean the bottom of the sieve into the bowl. Discard whatever seeds and/or solids remains in the sieve. Finely chop the peel to also add to the pulp. Set aside.
Toast the whole coriander and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, until slightly darkened and fragrant, making sure not to burn them.
Pound the coriander and cumin seeds with the salt and peppercorns in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. Rub the spice mixture onto all sides of the fillets. 
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat then place the fillets skin side down in the skillet. Cook until browned and crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Turn then cook until just opaque in the center and the fish starts to flake, about 2-4 minutes more.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is translucent and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chard by the handful, tossing and allowing it to wilt slightly between additions. Cover the skillet and cook, tossing occasionally, until all of the chard is tender, 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
Mix olives and reserved lemon mixture into chard. Season with salt, pepper, and more crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve fish with chard.