My Little Meyer Lemon Tree

D&D_1112

My Little Meyer

My little Meyer lemon tree. I’ve had it for 8 years now in a pot and it is the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of Meyer lemon trees, but this is my best crop ever  –  3 Meyer lemons. I am way too excited. Yes, this is kind of sad.

The first time I had Meyer lemons I really did not have any idea what they were – same thing happened with blood oranges, but that is a different story entirely. There was a little farm stand in Tallahassee not far from my place on Thomasville Road. These lemons were amazing. I had already been making lemon curd – Thank you Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts (had this book for donkey years), but I knew this would take it to something much more elevated (even if I did not know that word at the time – which I did not).  Although I never had fresh eggs like Martha did – just check out the book – it does make a difference. Meyer Lemon is a heritage Citrus × meyeri, and is a citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin. That’s what I like to think since I grew up very near where the real mandarin oranges are from – Mandarin, Florida (Jacksonville) – yep. A very beautiful little area.

So I ordered this “tree” online for $20 and it was barely a seedling, but I baby it year after year.  And I do love the smell of orange blossoms – which is what Meyer lemon blossoms smell like. It is such a nice thing in the late winter. It gets dark so early you just grasp at straws at this point. Even for us in Florida.

Meyer lemons are probably the best part of the winter. My wonderful mother-in-law has a friend that has a real grown up tree, just a neighborhood away and I always score a few Meyer lemons from her. So super. I kind if cherish them in a way, which make me hesitate to use them and that’s a bad thing.

So I shall makes some plans and Meyer lemon curd will be in the works before you know it.

Shortbread Chocolate Squares

D&D_1148

Spiffy Shortbread bars with chocolate and pecans

You know I have to do a chocolate thing now and again. And this sort of sounded like a bit of riff on a blondie with some toppings. It is obvious, at least to me to try it, but I’m not sure about its original name. But what the hell is in a name after all?

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 ozs semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) Ghirardelli is always preferred.
1 cups chopped pecans, toasted – Local Renfroe’s pecans are always best.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan in parchment and spray with cooking spray – just in case. Thank you William-Sonoma.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. Gradually mix in flour until just mixed. The dough will be stiff. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through – this is required – I do it whether it is called for or not – kind of OCD that way. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the crust. Return pan to the oven for a minute or two. Remove and using an offset spatula spread the chocolate over the surface. Sprinkle the nuts across evenly.

Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into small squares – very small because they are rich. And excellent.

Source: Epicurious, but adapted.

Notes: these were called toffee squares, but to my mind really don’t taste much like toffee. Even though there is a cup of brown sugar in the crust. They are kind of a shortbread crust with chocolate and nuts on top. There is nothing wrong with that, by the way.

Tomato Soup with spinach and mozzarella 

It is finally getting soup weather around here, after a very warm Christmas. This is a new recipe to me, but I love tomato bisque. And to me this qualifies – because you blend everything up with an immersion blender. One of my favorite tools that I got for like $15 at an Ace Hardware in Chapel Hill — how strange is that? Yep kind of strange for sure, but I do get a good bit of use out of it.D&D_1140

1 – 28 ozs can whole San Marzano tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbs olive oil
8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 ribs of celery, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bay leaf, from Turkey if possible, just saying
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar

In a stock pot (or just a big pot), heat olive oil, add the chopped shallots and celery, sauté until translucent. Add sun-dried tomatoes and bay leaf and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes. With the pan moderately hot add just a bit of water, a Tbs or so, and steam the vegetables with the lid on the pot for a minute or two. Then add garlic and sauté until soft – do not let garlic get too far past barely golden. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano, and sauté a minute more. Maybe a smidgen of tomato paste here would not go amiss. Just let it get some caramelization. Always a good thing.

Add the tomatoes, and crush with spoon or spatula. Cook down for a few minutes on medium.  Add vegetable stock and cook for a few minutes more. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or more if you have more time – which you will have if you are simultaneous baking cookies. Remove bay leaf – key point. Purée with an immersion blender. Add 2 – 3 tsp balsamic vinegar, stir in and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. At this point you can refrigerate the soup for later. For me, tomato soup is like spaghetti sauce, it is always better after a couple of days. Make it on a Sunday, eat it on a Tuesday – yeah – not having to cook after work – woo hoo!

Toppings, etc

3 cups fresh spinach, washed, and dried
1 small shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar*
Fresh mozzarella cut into small pieces

Sauté shallots and garlic in a Tbs of olive oil. Add spinach and toss to wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Add the spinach mix and mozzarella to the soup.

There will be a next time for my modified version of this recipe because for the soup, this is all pantry food – one of my favorite things – make dinner out of something I have just sitting around. My previous favorite tomato soup was good, but I had to get tomato juice – which I NEVER have on hand. This seems to fix that issue.

* I think next time I will make a balsamic vinegar syrup. I have had this on soups in one of my favorite restaurants (yes, that’s you Jaco’s) and I’ve seen that is dead simple to make. But in this case I think it will lend a depth to the soup.

I won’t rant about Jaco’s too much, but if your restaurant can make excellent soup – which Jaco’s does – and that means you’ve gotten certain things right. I do need to tell you all more about this place. It is excellent.
Original source: yes-more please.com/2014/03/caprese-tomato-spinach-soup/ – Although I did make  a few modifications – that seems to be a recurring theme.

Thing of the Year 2015 – Get it Right spatula

I have suffered through many a bad spatula (haven’t we all?) in my time in the kitchen. But never again! At the end of 2014 the New York Times had a gift guide for Food. In which they had some strange things on their list  – Macaron purse?, Whisk necklace?, although a baking steel which I already have – is totally practical for pizza. So as I am checking out the list I found the holy-friggin’- grail of spatulas. No, I am not kidding. I may be the biggest Get it Right fan, um, ever. I purchased my first spatula in December of 2014 –  yellow – one of my favorite colors, and have added to the collection all of 2015. And as I add them, I get rid 0f all the inferior spatulas that I have – there were many. Sad, but true.

D&D_1118.jpg

Best Spatulas EVER – Get it Right

It is kind of amazing when you do not realize that you are dealing with an inferior product until you get one that is damn-near perfect. Yes, I spend $15 for a spatula, but the first one (yellow) convinced me, and these spatulas are awesome! And there is no shipping — if you spend more than $10.00 –  that’s a deal!

Let me expand on the concept. These are pharmaceutical grade silicone (“Because we love you.” love it!) unibody food-safe silicone, dishwasher-safe spatulas. They are BPA free (I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing – right?), and heat proof to 464 degrees (wish I knew how to make the cute little degree symbol). And to me, the “ultimate size” fits my kind-of small hands. They really just work for me on all sorts of levels.

So at first I just added to the “lemon” one with “lime” and “orange” and then it got colder and I went “black.” Then this winter wasn’t (to start with) too horrible, but rainy, so I added “grey” and a hopeful “teal blue.”  I really need a red one and I would love if there was a Navy blue one (anyone listening??). We will not talk about the “bacon” ones. Who was smoking something that night? Just asking.

I love that there is so much science in the way these are made and you can read more (and probably understand more than I do) at the Geek Out page. Pretty cool, even if I don’t quite get it. All I know is I love these spatulas – that seems like hyperbole, but I do not say this lightly. They are now a fixture in my kitchen. I hope to encourage others to give them a try. They are so totally worth it.

Get it Right – can I come and hang out with you guys? (I know no science, but do love excellent design). I have ideas. Or maybe we can have beer or two. Just a thought.

 

 

 

Sun-dried tomato pesto palmier

Palmier – Also called palm leaves, this crispy delicacy is puff pastry dough that is sprinkled with granulated sugar, folded and rolled several times, then cut into thin strips. After baking, these golden brown, caramelized pastries are served with coffee or tea or as a dessert accompaniment. Food Lover’s Companion, p. 437.

Well, this is not a sweet palmier, not by any stretch of the imagination, although I would like to make a sweet version one day. I saw Ina Garten make a version of this and decided I would use my sun-dried tomato pesto in her methodology.

D&D_1130

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Palmiers

1/4 cup walnuts, pulverized in the food processor
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, not oil packed, but hydrated it some hot water
1 bunch basil, washed, dried, and torn roughly
about 1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in the fridge*
1 egg, mixed with a Tbs of water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whir up walnuts in food processor. You could use pine nuts, but walnuts make an excellent pesto, in my opinion.  Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and pulse a few times. Add basil and Parmesan and pulse to combine all ingredients. Add the olive oil until the paste is smooth. Set aside. Or refrigerate until ready to bake, just remove in time to make sure this will be room temperature before spreading on pastry.

Unfold puff pastry sheet on a slightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin to roll the pastry 13 x 13 inch square. Using a small offset spatula, spread the pesto to the edges. Fold the sides of the dough on two side to half way to the center, the fold again so both sides meet in the middle. Finally, fold one half over the other. But don’t press them together too much.

Slice the dough into 3/8 inch and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 6 minutes, then turn the palmier over and rotate the baking sheet and bake 5 more minutes. Rest on a paper towel and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: After doing this the first time, I don’t think I will roll the puff pastry quite that thin. I think a 12 x 12 inch square will work. I also think the pesto really needs to be much thiner so the rolls have more space to puff up. Maybe I was a bit gun-shy about adding too much olive oil. Probably.

Of course, I love my sun-dried tomato pesto, but I always do. I cannot believe I have yet to post my sun-dried tomato pesto torte  – it is highly requested and I often make them for friends just to have at home for dinner – yes, dinner, and that works for me. Put it on the list.

These tasted pretty good, but I was not happy with the puff pastry. Need to figure out what I should do differently. That said, there was left over pesto that I plan to put on pasta with lots of olive oil.

*I left the puff pastry in the fridge for a couple of days, and to be honest, it was the easiest time I have ever had with puff pastry (Not sure why, but wow – it made me feel like pro for some reason), though I did put it back in the fridge after rolling it out and before putting the pesto on.

Butter Cookies

I am a huge fan of butter cookies. They are simple, but they really need to

D&D_1122

Butter Cookies – with raw sugar

be done well. It is this alchemy of butter, sugar, flour, and a smidge of salt. Simple is best in this case – if you ask me, but the ratio and baking time/temp have to be spot on.

A butter cookie, a well made butter cookie, is excellent with tea. I guess that’s why the English do butter cookies so well. I’m guessing both things are in their DNA. Speculation on my part, but …

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp heavy cream
3 Tbs turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour and salt over a piece of waxed paper

Beat sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches until batter just comes together. Gather clumps together on a lightly floured board and kneed a time or two until smooth and in a 1 1/4 inch log – two logs is easier. Chill in plastic for at least an hour.

Cut chilled log into 1/4 inch slices and place about 1/2 in apart on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle a good bit of turbinado sugar on top.

Bake cookies for 12 – 15 minutes, turning half way through until edges are pale golden. Cool on sheet for a couple of minutes and then move to a wire rack.

Dough logs can be chilled for up to three days.

16 April 2006 – Easter w/ W&J vvv – 1/2 w/added lemon juice/zest from 1/2 lemon

17 December 2006 vvv – SR loves these

24 December 2007

21 December 2008 – juice of 1/2 lemon

6 January 2016 – made dough, as is,  and put in fridge, baked on 8 January 2016

This time a year ago-ish – apple turnovers –  https://deftanddaft.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/apple-turnovers-chausson-aux-pommes-apple-slippers/

IMG_0365

Butter Usage – by month (December 2015)

2 December – 16 Tbs Rugelach – this dough works …

8 December – 4 Tbs – Rugelach filling – but the filling does not.

11 December – 4 Tbs – Rugelach filling – again did not – annoying – total failure – should really do a better job of reading the comments.

12 December – 8 Tbs – Banana Nut Bread – competition

14 December – 8 Tbs – Brownie Cookie

17 December – 8 Tbs – Glazed Lemon Cookies

19 December – 16 Tbs – Butterscotch Blondies

20 December – 4 Tbs – Everyday Orzo – yes. Again.

20 December – 12 Tbs – Lime Sugar Cookies

D&D_1074

Lime Sugar Cookies – pretty damn amazing.

23 December – 2 Tbs – Cheddar-Stuffed Mushrooms

23 December  – 13.5 Tbs – Sunday Sweet Potatoes

23 December – 16 Tbs – Walnut/Pecan Tassies

25 December – 1 Tbs – Toasted Banana Nut Bread

26 December – 12 Tbs – Sweet Potato Biscuits

29 December – 8 Tbs – The Browniest Cookies See Above.

30 December – 13 Tbs – Chess Tart

Total 145.5 Tbs = 18.1875 sticks = 4.5468875 pounds

Not my best month this year, but a damn good month by any measure.

I’m a bit frightened by what the total for the year will be if this is any indication. I may not keep up with this again, or maybe I’ll add keeping up with eggs too in 2016. Again, slightly frightening. But what the hell – makes for an excellent recap in an odd sort of way.