Preserved Lemons: A Connector to Another World

My good friends Richard Bonomo and Marla Hazan, whose ancestors are Sephardic Jews from exotic, far-away lands like Turkey, Spain, and Morocco, always have a jar of preserved lemons in their kitchen, for flavoring stews, soups, salads, sauces, marinades and dressings. 

I am working on a 5th edition of Cooking for Dummies with my co-author Bryan Miller, and for a chapter on international cuisines we are exploring and explaining some of the ingredients and techniques used in Mediterranean cooking. Lemons, both fresh and preserved with salt, are as ubiquitous as olive oil and tomatoes throughout the entire Mediterranean world.

I set out this last weekend to preserve some lemons myself and to also borrow some from Richard and Marla so I could add them to the Chicken and Green Olive Tagine I created for Cooking for Dummies V. I don’t know if it’s just me, (I admit to being a bit quirky), but when I make a dish like preserved lemons, the process pleasantly carries me back and connects me to a culture and kitchen practices that are tried and true and centuries old.  I become a little Moroccan, a little Turkish, a little Mediterranean.   

Preserved Lemons

4 medium, thick-skinned lemons

About 6 tablespoons (not iodized) salt

Juice of 4 lemons, or more if needed

1.) Scrub the lemons well. Using a sharp knife slice the lemons into quarters, stopping about ½-inch from one end to leave the quarters attached to the fruit.

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Pack about 1 tablespoon of salt into the center of each cut lemon.

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Place them in a one-quart, wide-mouth mason jar, fitted with a lid, and press them down so they fit snuggly.

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2.) Sprinkle them with one additional tablespoon of salt. Add the lemon juice and press them gently into the juice as much as possible. Cover the jar and let set 3 to 4 days, turning the jar over a couple of times a day, during which time they will soften and release their juice.

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3.) Press them down again and add 1 more tablespoon salt and additional juice, if necessary to completely cover. Close the jar and let set for at least one month, turning the jar over every few days to redistribute the salt and juices. Before using, remove and discard the pulp, then rinse the rind well. A harmless white mold may appear on the fruit; simply rinse it off before cutting up and using the peel. After opening, preserved lemons will keep up to a year, without refrigerating. The pickling juices can be used to make salad dressings or marinades for vegetable salads.

Tip: Cut up the juiced lemon rinds, and if you have a rose garden compost them into the soil around the roots of the plant. Roses love the acidity of lemon peel.

Originally posted 2014-03-24 14:56:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Enjoying The Recipe Testing Process

Tips, recipes, notes, stories for and about professional recipe testers in The Cook’s Cook, an online food magazine published by Denise Landis. 

http://thecookscook.com/the-cook-tests/enjoying-the-recipe-testing-process/

Originally posted 2014-04-01 13:50:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Easy Pad Thai with Shrimp

Hey there bacon lovers! 

If every once in a great while you enjoy eating a meal that’s long on flavor and short on bacon, let me recommend making Pad Thai with Shrimp. 

Often made and sold by Thai food vendors on the street, Pad Thai is easily made at home. The most difficult part is shopping for the Asian ingredients like Tamarind Pasta, chile sauce, or Asian rice noodles. Luckily, because the world has become a much smaller place, all of these ingredients are commonly found in any good size American supermarket in the Asian or International food aisle. 

Be sure to do all the measuring and chopping of ingredients before you are ready to cook. After that, the Pad Thai is assembled quickly in one large skillet on top of the stove.  

Shrimp Pad Thai

Ingredients:

8 ounces thin rice stick noodles

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste

1/3 cup warm water

3 Tablespoons fish sauce

3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons red chili sauce (or ½ teaspoon red cayenne pepper)

4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 garlic cloves, minced (5 teaspoons)

1 small chili pepper, seeded and minced (2 tablespoons)

5 scallions, both white and green parts, sliced thinly on a diagonal

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups bean sprouts

1/3 cup finely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

Lime Wedges for serving

 Directions:

1.) Soak the Rice Noodles: Cover the rice noodles with very hot tap water in a large bowl; soak until softened, but not fully tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The noodles should be soft enough to bend easily, but still firm and slightly under cooked as they will finish cooking later in the skillet.) Drain and set the noodles aside.

2.) Make the Pad Thai Sauce: Add the tamarind past and the 1/3-cup warm water to a small bowl and stir to combine. Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, red chili sauce (or cayenne pepper) and 1 tablespoon of the oil; set the sauce aside.

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Tamarind paste adds a pleasant tartness to the Pad Thai sauce, but if you can’t find it you can substitute 2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice mixed with 2 Tablespoons water. It won’t be as authentic, but it’ll do fine.  

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Above are some of the ingredients you’ll need: Tamarind Paste, red chile sauce, fish sauce, peanut or vegetable oil, brown sugar. Fish sauce is made from anchovies, red chile sauce is very hot and garlicky. Both are staples of Asian cooking.

3.) Heat a wok or large 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl the oil in the pan to coat the bottom. When the oil shimmers in the pan, add the shrimp and season with the salt. Cook tossing occasionally until the shrimp are pink and opaque, 1 to 3 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.  

 4.) Add the remaining 1tablespoon oil to the skillet. Set the pan over medium heat and when the oil shimmers, add the garlic, minced chili, and the white and pale green parts of the scallions. (Save the dark green parts to garnish the finished dish.) Cook, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and stirring constantly, about 1 minute, or until the scallions soften slightly.

5.) Add the beaten eggs and stir with a wooden spoon about 20 seconds or until scrambled but still a little moist. Add the softened rice noodles and about 3 tablespoons of the sauce and toss with two wooden spoons (two wide spatulas also work well) just until combined. Use a motion to lift and turn the noodles over in the pan to help coat them in the sauce and cook evenly. (Watch my son Nick demonstrate this technique in my previous post.)

 6.) Pour the remaining sauce over the noodles; increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, tossing constantly by lifting and turning the noodles, for 2 to 3 minutes.

7.) Add the bean sprouts and the cooked shrimp, and continue to cook to 2 to 3 minutes, tossing until the noodles are tender but with a chewy bite. If the pan appears to need liquid before the noodles are tender, stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons water, or more if needed, and scrape up the declicious browned bits on the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon to incorporate them into the liquid.

8.) Portion out onto individual plates, garnishing each with the remaining scallions, a generous sprinkling of nuts and the lime wedges.

Serves 3 to 4

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Variations: If you are a fan of fresh ginger, as I am, add 2 teaspoons to the pan along with the garlic, chilies and scallions.  

Nick and Kristine learn how to toss the Asian noodles in the…

Nick and Kristine learn how to toss the Asian noodles in the tamarind sauce and make a wonderful Shrimp Pad Thai for the very first time. See the post that follows for the recipe. 

Flavor Without Fuss: Bacon, Clams, and Pasta

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Need an idea for dinner tonight, but don’t have much time to fuss around in the kitchen? Then head to a market where you can pick up some Little Neck clams, linguine, and good bacon. With just a few more ingredients, you can assemble a meal as good as any master-chef can make. 

Ingredients

6 to 8 ounces linguine (see recipe note)

2-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 slices thick cut bacon, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, according to taste

1/4 cup white wine or dry white vermouth

18 Little Necks (about 2 pounds), cleaned (see recipe notes)

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Freshly grated black pepper (optional)

Recipe Note: Before you begin, have all your ingredients prepared as instructed above and ready to cook. Ideally, you want to drain the pasta, just as the clams have finished cooking in the skillet sauce.  

To clean clams place them into a large bowl and cover with cool tap water. Let them soak about 20 minutes, to spit out sand and grit. Then brush them individually to remove any surface sand. Always discard any clams that don’t open after full cooking time has passed. 

When I served this dish to my husband, he wanted a little more pasta, so I increased the quantity from 6 to 8 ounces. Either amount works fine. 6 ounces will give you a little more luscious sauce in the final dish. 

Preparation

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a 5 to 6 quart pot. Season lightly with salt. (The clams and bacon will add salt, so use a light touch.) Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before pasta is fully cooked. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. 

As pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to brown evenly. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds more, just until it begins to soften. Add the red pepper flakes, wine or vermouth, and clams.

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Increase the heat to high, cover and cook until the clams open, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the size of clams. As clams open, use tongs to remove them to a bowl. 

Recipe Note: You’ll want to remove the clams as soon as they open so they don’t overcook and toughen. So check them frequently, but be sure to recover the skillet after doing so. Discard any that don’t open after 6 or 7 minutes. 

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After all the clams have been removed, add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring the sauce to a boil. Add the drained pasta to the skillet. Cook over high heat, tossing until the pasta is al dente and has soaked up some of the pan sauce.

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Return the clams and any juices from the bowl to the skillet; sprinkle the parsley, and toss gently to combine. (Add more of the reserved pasta water if the sauce seems dry.)

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Transfer pasta, clams and sauce to two warm bowls and drizzle each equally with the remaining olive oil. Grate black pepper over each serving, if desired. 

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Serves 2