Monday, April 22, 2013

Easy Lemon Confit

Lemons halfway through the first boil.

Lemon confit was not my first choice for this weekend's project. I really wanted to make rhubarb compote. But after the excitement of finding rhubarb at the farmers market last week, it was not to be found at any of the three markets we checked.

Meyer lemons

Instead, Lisa suggested this confit, something she has made a few times in the past. I had never tasted it, but one forkful was enough to convince me. It is tangy, slightly sweet, spicy and fragrant. Lisa liked to mix with with chopped fresh celery or parsley and serve it with grilled asparagus. She also suggests spooning it into an avocado or eating it with roast chicken. I imagine that it would also be great with grilled fish or as the base of a pasta sauce. Obviously, it can also serve as a salt-free substitute for preserved lemons. 

Lime thyme

Pickled Lemon Confit  

Note: This recipe involves very little active work, but the process of boiling and then cooling the lemons takes time. As always, we made a few changes to the printed recipe: We substituted meyer lemons for Eureka, lime thyme for regular thyme, as I had it growing in my garden and also dried red peppers from a CSA box, for the jalapenos. We also made a second batch minus the dried peppers to share with chile averse family.

from The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky

  • 10 lemons, halved and seeded (We used meyer lemons as they were available in a friend's yard)
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 jalapeno chiles (We substituted 2 dried red peppers)
  • 10 sprigs thyme (We used lime thyme from my garden)
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and cool. Repeat, boiling and cooling 4 or 5 times, until the lemons are almost translucent. We cooled the lemons for about 40 minutes each time. Place the lemons in a glass jar and cover with the confit liquid. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Ready to jar.
My half of our two batches.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake

 When K was younger, she was my assistant in the kitchen. She liked to measure, cream butter and sugar and always, lick the bowl or beater. Eventually though, she decided that she wanted to try baking on her own. Muffins and cookies became her own projects. We would choose a recipe together and I would be banished from the kitchen. At first, a yell would come from the kitchen every few minutes: "Is the butter fluffy enough?" "Can you help me separate the eggs?" "Does the frosting look ready to you?" "Can you put the pan in the oven?" "Can you test to see if it is done?" 

Cakes though, remained a joint project. But at some point this year, she decided that she could do them on her own as well. She would choose a recipe, or more often, come up with an idea. My job was to purchase any missing ingredients from a list she provided and to let her work on her own. Except, it turns out, when it comes time to cut the cake into layers. That she says "is still too hard for me to do yet. Yet." 

Here is what she has to say about her Easter Cake. "I decided I wanted something with strawberries. So I based it off of the same recipe as I used for the St. Patrick's Day cake, from one of the cakes we tested for Caitlin

First up, I cut strawberries and mixed them with sugar, so they would be juicy and sweet.
Then I made the cake. It was a basic yellow cake. I did use vanilla paste and vanilla salt, but beyond that I followed the recipe.
After the cake was done, we let it cool completely, overnight. I did not want to wait. 
On Easter day, I made whipped cream. I added the juice from the strawberries, to make the cream sweet and turn it kind of pink. Then Mama cut the cake into two layers for me. 
I put the strawberries on top of the bottom layer. Once the top was on, I frosted it with the whipped cream. I put a couple of whole strawberries on for decoration. It was really good."

For the cake: There are a lot of good basic cake recipes available and most bakers have a favorite. The recipe that K used, from Modern Art Desserts by Caitlin Freeman, can be found here. Her modifications to it were to use vanilla paste rather than extract, to sub vanilla salt for plain salt and to bake in a 9-inch pan.

Simple Strawberry Filling
Many strawberry compotes use lemon, K opted not to include it. 

5 cups fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1/2 cup sugar

Cut the strawberries in half, or quartered if they are especially big.
Combine them with the sugar and toss with your hands to incorporate.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, until the strawberries soften and are swimming in a good amount of juice.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To use: drain the juice from the strawberries, reserving both. 

Strawberry Whipped Cream
1 pint whipping cream
Juice from the cut strawberries

In a mixer whip your cream until it forms soft peaks. Add your strawberry juice and continue whipping until well combined.