It’s the time of year again when things begin to ripen faster than you can eat them, but there are still not enough to think about canning or cooking down and freezing. So what to do?
I had a bunch of cilantro and two tomatoes which were rushing to ruin and decided I needed to do something so I didn’t end up composting them. You can do this with any leafy herb, such as the basil, parsley, cilantro and veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.
I added the tomatoes and cilantro into my blender, covered with water and blended together well. I froze them in 8 oz portions, as that is the amount I would use in soup or sauce. Ice cube trays are an option, too, but that size is better for when you’re freezing intense herbs, like basil, by itself, where you would only use a tablespoon or so in a recipe.
I also zest all my oranges, lemons and limes and freeze them in a thin and flat layer in ziplock bags. Then I break off whatever amount called for in a recipe.
Herbs can also be packed in oil (click here) as JeffreyW did with his basil pictured above and tomatoes can be flash frozen whole, as JeffreyW did with the batch pictured at the top and detailed here, green and red peppers can be seeded and cut up into large pieces and frozen in the same manner.
There are many more ways to preserve fresh from the garden produce and I’ll try and remember to document as I go along this summer. Until then….
I bought a bottle of sour orange juice so I could more closely replicate the mojo marinade needed for a proper roast pork Cubano sandwich. I haven’t done that yet, but a recipe for mojo marinated roast chicken caught my eye. A mojo sauce is mostly olive oil with garlic, citrus, and oregano. I used fresh oregano instead of dried in mine. The lemon and lime juices in the recipe are intended to get to the sour/bitter taste profile of the sour orange juice when sour orange isn’t available and regular orange juice is substituted. Lacking a rotisserie on my grill I used the beer can roaster gadget with good result.A recipe for Cuban style black beans and rice worked well and fit the general theme of the plate. I have no Idea if broccoli plays much part in the Cuban diet but I like it so I steamed some florets and gave them a squeeze of lemon. I picked the green pepper and a couple of sweet banana peppers from my container garden to make the bean dish. The addition of a splash of red wine vinegar to the beans right before serving them really made the dish. I never would have thought to do that but it works!
We watched an episode on The Food Network where a New Orleans joint offers a dish called Shrimp Magazine – named for the street where the restaurant is sited. I watched the chef prepare the dish on the video a few times and figured I had it down. A few days pass and I am less sure but I forge ahead. The only recipe a search turned up looked close but seemed a little off from my memory. The chef dredged the shrimp in seasoned flour and sauteed them in butter, turning once to brown both sides and then started adding all the rest of the ingredients: Artichoke hearts, diced ham, tons of garlic, lemon zest and juice, grated Parmesan, green onions, chopped basil, white wine, and salt and pepper – serving it all over angel hair pasta. I went with kale instead of artichoke hearts and didn’t add the basil.
I knew the shrimp wouldn’t like being with the kale as it cooked down so I removed it to a dish as soon as it was done and only added it back to the pan with the cooked pasta to toss prior to plating. I used white wine to help break down the kale and added lemon juice and zest along with salt and pepper. I minced at least six cloves of garlic, using some with the shrimp as it cooked, the rest after the shrimp were removed, along with a bit of olive oil.
Everything worked pretty well although I wish the ham had a better dice, I chopped some thin sliced ham that helped the flavor but did nothing for texture. I think next time I may use crispy bacon lardons. Mmm… bacon!
Oh, and I need a better name for it.
Not much to this dish. We had the butterbeans and cornbread leftover from the other day. A quick saute of some kale in bacon grease and chicken stock and this was a done thing. We cooked a half dozen slices of bacon and set them aside to drain, then added a couple of minced garlic cloves and a little diced onion to the fat, gave them a minute to flavor the pan, and then dumped in the kale. Separate the tough stems and rough chop or tear the leaves. I tossed the greens a little to coat them with the bacon and then added a half cup of chicken stock and covered the pan. Let the kale tenderize in the steam for five minutes then uncover and toss until the liquids evaporates. I ladled the warmed over beans onto a bed of the kale and crumbled the crisp bacon and the cornbread over them. I squeezed a lemon into the kale to add a bright note but that is optional.
We like Chicken Marsala so much that we made a variant of it tonight. This has boneless skinless thighs dredged in seasoned flour and then browned in olive oil. Remove the chicken and deglaze with the Marsala wine, scrape the bottom with a flat wooden spatula to break the nice browned bits up. Add a cup and a half of chicken stock to it and bring to a simmer. Add the browned chicken back and cover. I used butter kneaded with flour to thicken the gravy before serving. The couscous was from a box mix, this one was flavored with dried mushrooms. I squeezed lemon juice over my chicken and liked it well enough, optional.
We don’t eat much couscous, but it is being stocked regularly and we may step up the pace. I see from the Wiki that we had the instant variety which is quick and easy. I may browse the International Grocery next town over for the regular stuff.
Something about frigid temps makes me crave sweets. So when I was thinking about tonight’s recipes, that is what I was drawn to and lemon themed recipes rose to the top. I suppose because it brings with it a reminder of warmer climates. Which is where I am headed later in the month. Beach weather. I’ll be the pale, wind swept one by the eucalyptus tree.
One of my favorite tangy, sweet desserts is Sour Cream Lemon Poppyseeed Cake, yum, recipe here.
Since next week bring with it the ultimate date night, I thought it would be a good idea to include some special sweets: Valentine’s Day Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies, recipe here and Valentine’s Chocolates, recipes here.
Which is a good time to let you know there will be no recipe exchange next Friday. Do you have Valentine’s plans? Do you go out or stay home and cook? Or do you ignore it all together? (You should probably make sure your romantic partner is on board with that, if that’s your plan. Right?) And during these cold, cold days, what do you like to cook?
And finally, tonight’s featured recipe (pictured at top):
Lemon Coconut Layer Cake
I have a friend who loves coconut cream pie. I’m not a big fan, so I’ve never made one. But when I saw a photo of a coconut-lemon cake, I thought she might like it, so I gave it a whirl. The original cake was 6-layers, I just couldn’t fathom that, so I reduced it to a 4-layer cake. Layering is easier to do if you use pie pans instead of cake pans. This eliminates the need to cut each cake in half to achieve thin, even layers. This cake works best if made the night before. Refrigerate so the lemon filling stays firm. And shredded coconut covers any number of baking sins.
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup butter
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 13 oz coconut milk
- 3 eggs, separated
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch pie pans
Cream the butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until very light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, blending well.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the coconut milk, and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and beat to thoroughly combine.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then gently fold into the cake batter. Divide evenly and pour into the pans, spreading to the edges. Bake until a toothpick inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Loosen and invert onto racks to cool completely.
Lemon cream filling:
- 2 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon butter
Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter in the top of a double boiler set over, but not touching, boiling water. Cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 5 or 6 minutes. Cool thoroughly before spreading on the cake layers.
Okay, so all the recipes for lemon filling wanted a double-boiler. I started with one, but after 5 minutes of stirring and not thickening, I changed over to a saucepan and whisked it for 5 minutes while it boiled and thickened and had no issues with it burning or sticking. High altitude may have been the reason for my original troubles. Water boils at a lower temperature here, so the double boiler may not have offered enough heat to thicken the sauce.
Butter Cream Frosting:
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 6 tbsp butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 2 cups shredded coconut
With a mixer, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.
To assemble: Place first layer on cake plate, bottom side up, spread with a third of the lemon filling, sprinkle with coconut, place next layer, bottom side up, repeat and again with the third layer. Place fourth layer, top side up. Frost and garnish with more shredded coconut.
That’s it for this week. On Monday the full dinner menu and shopping list will post and it will be a Valentine’s dinner if you need ideas. Happy Valentine’s Day! – TaMara