Laughing Lemon Recipes
I really like the wholesome, slightly nutty flavor of brown rice…when cooked properly that is!
I’ve always cooked brown rice according to the basic pilaf method. I’ve experimented with cooking the rice on the stove over moderate heat until the rice absorbed all of the water. I’ve tried cooking the rice in the oven, covered with foil. I’ve even tried cooking the rice in a rice cooker. All of these methods mostly ended in disappointment because the rice became clumpy, was under cooked or scorched a bit on the bottom of the pan. But, recently I’ve experimented with my pressure cooker and every time I make the rice it turns out perfectly cooked, steamed to perfection with every grain absorbing just the amount of moisture needed.
I’ve also paid closer attention to purchasing high quality brown rice and storing the rice correctly to avoid any hint of rancidity.
Rhubarb crumble is one of the very first desserts of spring using fresh ingredients. It is so delicious that I think everyone should eat this dessert at the beginning of April. Unfortunately for many, making a crumble is off limits. Gluten is often included in recipes to create the tasty browned flakes. Additionally, butter and eggs are also frequently used to bind everything together and help the browning and crisping of the crumble. But is it really necessary to include gluten and use eggs or dairy products in this recipe?
I set out to create a crumble which has no gluten and is otherwise completely free of eggs and dairy products. The end result is quite satisfying…and I don’t think I will ever attempt to make another crumble with dairy or gluten.
As a variation, add sliced strawberries to this recipe…preferably waiting until the local strawberries appear. I also think I will try apricots, blackberries and apples as the season changes.
I really enjoy the flavors of spring…especially when the young greens emerge from the soil. My favorites are the wild garlic greens of Switzerland called bärlauch, young dandelion greens, wild sorrel or young blood sorrel. All of these greens have tremendous nutritional value, especially in the amount of antioxidants, which are very good to ward off any winter crud lingering in your blood stream.
I always use this type of mixture to create a nice spring salad, but lately I have decided to quickly sauté the greens in a bit of water and coat with oil after they are wilted. This method really enhances their flavor characteristics while minimizing the amount of fat you are consuming.
As for the beans… Well actually you can use any type of starch. I have used roasted potatoes as well as creamy polenta to mix with the wilted greens. I think beans are very nice if you are looking for something completely different. I prefer using fresh beans when they are available. Otherwise, just cook your beans in a pressure cooker as follows.
To cook your beans very easily, begin by soaking the dried beans in cold water with a dash of baking soda for about one hour. The beans will get a bit wrinkly after this treatment, but don’t worry, they will still cook just fine. Place your beans in a pressure cooker and cover with about 4-cm of water. Add a bay leaf to the water, then close the pressure cooker very well. Place the pressure cooker on a burner with high heat. When the pressure hits 2 bars, reduce your temperature to low and maintain pressure for 65 minutes (I find this time works best for most beans). Release the pressure by running cold water over the top of the pressure cooker. Check the consistency of the beans. If you are happy, season them well with salt and remove them from the pressure cooker to cool. If they are underdone, return the pressure cooker to the stove, cover well and bring the pressure back up to 2 bars like before. Maintain this pressure for 10 minutes and then release the pressure again. The beans should now be just about right!
Traditional soda bread recipes should only contain flour, baking soda, salt and sour milk – that’s it! I have seen many recipes that a fat or raisins in the ingredients, but this is actually considered an entirely different recipe called ‘spotted dog’.
Soda bread will often turn out rather heavy, with a gummy texture when using the simple ingredients. I find the interior of the bread becomes more flaky and the crust a bit harder when adding about 20 gr. of olive oil. The added fat will shorten the gluten a bit, which can also be achieved using butter. But, olive oil also hardens the crust during the baking process and butter just creates the flakiness inside.
You can also make this recipe lactose-free by replacing the buttermilk with a mixture of: 180 gr. soy yogurt, 220 gr. rice milk, 5 gr. cream of tartar and 1 Tbl. lemon juice oil).
This recipe makes one large round loaf.
I always seem to get an urge to make something with carrots whenever the first hint of spring emerges from the cold winter soil. This year, carrot soup filled my mind. But, I wanted to make a carrot soup which really represented the taste of carrots stuck firmly in my memory – a distant recollection of pulling carrots out of the ground in the garden I planted.
The idea of caramelizing the carrots seemed like a good place to start, but I didn’t want the roasted notes to overpower the flavor of the carrots. Plus, roasting the carrots in the oven adds to the overall sweetness – something I wanted to avoid. So I settled on a different technique of caramelizing the carrots, which I found in the wonderful book, “The Modernist Cuisine” (also great stuff on the web). After reading the recipe, I was convinced that using the pressure cooker would achieve something different – caramelized carrots without drying them out. But, I wasn’t too thrilled with their recipe because I felt it was more complicated than necessary. I wanted simplicity…and elegance.
I decided to add the ginger to the recipe, which I felt would balance the overall sweetness of the carrots…and after tasting the results, I was pleased with the slight tickling in the throat from the ginger…but the soup still lacked acidity. My response was simple. I felt inspired from a favorite Moroccan style salad of carrots and oranges, so I added the orange juice to just give the soup enough acidity to create a nice balance in the mouth.
I also replaced the butter with olive oil and added a splash of sherry wine (I used an Oloroso). And that was it…the total time in making the soup was about 45 minutes and the results…well, I think this is one of the best soups I have made…or even tasted.
I really enjoy shopping at the market just after winter and before the explosion of fresh ingredients arrive in the heat of spring. I think this period is quite interesting – especially in Switzerland where it is very simple to find products coming from the southern part of Italy. And when I shop…I get inspired to come up with something very fresh and very quick!
During my latest trip to the market, I was inspired by the selection of Italian artichokes, which were both large and small. They are especially good right now and perfect to prepare in so many ways. I elected to use the carciofini (the small ones, which are fully mature, just smaller because they grow on the bottom part of the plant), because they are really tender at the moment. It may seem like you are removing too much of the small artichoke, but in reality, the entire flower is edible. I just remove the outer 1-2 layers and any green bits that remain…as well as those nasty little stickers. I also ran across some delightfully large artichokes with very long stems still attached – a gold mine for those in the know! I really enjoy eating the artichoke marrow which is easily revealed by trimming away the outer part of the stem. The flavor is very similar to the heart and a part of the artichoke which is usually discarded…at least outside of Italy (Italians are always clever in finding the tastiest bits of food).
If you are a fan of Moroccan cuisine like I am, then you have no doubt come across the iconic version of bisteeya, which is traditionally made with chicken or pigeon. The dish is customarily served as a first course offering. It is always eaten with your hands…which is already appealing to me. It is also always consumed hot – just hot enough to slightly irritate your fingertips. Paula Wolfert, in her classic book Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, described the eating experience like this: “To enjoy [bisteeya] Moroccan style, plunge into the burning pastry with the thumb and first two fingers of your right hand and tear out a piece as large or as small as you want. You will burn your fingers, of course, but you will have a lot of fun and the pain will be justified by the taste!”
Now that’s a piece of descriptive food writing which makes you want to jump in and try a bisteeya!
I will freely admit having a real weakness for a good cookie…and a well-executed chocolate chip cookie rises to the top of my list of foods I crave but wish I didn’t.
I was eventually faced with an important decision after giving up consumption of all dairy products more than three years ago…either give up chocolate chip cookies or figure out how to make them without dairy. My ultimate decision is the following recipe for Chocolate Chip Olive Oil Cookies.
This dairy-free version of chocolate chip cookies comes very close to everyone’s favorite original tollhouse recipe. They should end up chewy and oozing with chocolate…an ultimate treat for all cookie aficionados! After some experimentation, I finalized the ingredient list which included a few surprises. I decided to use both baking powder and baking soda in the recipe to create a nice rise in the batter as the cookies baked. This was ultimately important because I eliminated the use of whole eggs. Originally, I wanted to make a completely vegan version…which I did accomplish. I just felt the addition of a slightly whisked egg white added a tremendous amount of structure to the final product…and without adding any additional fat (the completely vegan version eliminates the use of the egg white and adds 30 gr. of egg replacer, which is essentially guar gum, starch and a binder).
So, back to the recipe and the use of olive oil. I really enjoy baking with olive oil as I believe the final product is much cleaner in taste…allowing one to enjoy all of the ingredients rather than having their flavors muted by the overwhelming flavor of butter. I like that. But, using olive oil in recipes which call for creaming flour and fat became an issue because the mix always leaked fat and never really became homogeneous. I finally added a bit of arrowroot to help bind the mix in the final product…but more importantly, I simply changed the method. Instead of creaming the fat and flour together, I just treated the fat (olive oil) as a liquid ingredient and mixed it together like one would do in making muffins. I worked fine for me…
Finally, I used the half banana as part of my egg replacer. I was worried about this ingredient at first because I thought the flavor would become too prevalent in the cookie, but in the end, the marriage of flavors actually worked to an advantage and I was thrilled with the result.
I’m not one to generally use recipes I see out of cookbooks. I prefer instead to scan through my books looking for inspiration and flavor matching ideas instead of recipes. But, when I was thumbing through Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, I knew right away I needed to try making his Celeriac and lentils with hazelnut and mint recipe. The combination sounds simply irresistible!
But alas, I gave into my instincts as a cook and decided to make some changes…changes which I believe are better-suited for Switzerland in February.
The first change was replacing the celeriac with salsify…which seemed like such a natural decision for me. Celeriac may be popular in North America or the UK, but I think in mainland Europe it is a bit…well…pedestrian. Salsify on the other hand, is relatively underappreciated. It’s flavor is somewhat akin to asparagus and it is incredibly healthy. Next, I decided to switch from Puy lentils to brown lentils because I think the nuttiness of brown lentils matches better with the hazelnuts in the recipe. Finally, I decided to go for tarragon to dress up the final version of the dish instead of mint. I don’t have anything against mint, but I really don’t think it is appropriate in mid-February.
I’m happy with the outcome, which can be served either hot or cold…and cold is how I will be enjoying this dish as part of my Meatless Monday.
Find out what’s in season at markets throughout Switzerland – and get inspired to cook fresh!
Baking a cake with olive oil? I know, this does sound strange at first to many who are used to baking with traditional fats (think butter), but the result with olive oil is a very light tasting product resembling a sponge cake. The absence of butter allows the other flavors to become more prevalent making this cake a truly delicious and fresh-tasting revelation.
Any fat acts as a shortening in baking, because it ‘shortens’ gluten strands and tenderizes the product. Most professional bakers use shortenings made from vegetable oils. The liquid fats are made solid during the manufacturing process and the fats become hydrogenated…and these types of fats are not very health-friendly. Hydrogenated fats are mostly used because of cost considerations. They are far less expensive than butter, and they will create products with a longer shelf life. Good for the manufacturer…bad for the consumer.
Most hydrogenated shortenings are intentionally flavorless and leave an unpleasant coating in the mouth. Fresh butter on the other hand has a highly desirable flavor and melts nicely in the mouth. Butter does cost more than hydrogenated fats and has less shelf life. But for the home baker, these factors seldom come into play.
So why change fats now? Well, my two reasons are really quite simple. I think olive oil is a healthier fat alternative and I like the way olive oil performs in baking vs. butter. Butter makes such a big impression in the final product; it simply selfishly takes over and will not allow the other flavors to be recognized.
When I came across a version of olive oil cake some years ago from Marcella Hazan’s classic book on Italian cooking, well I knew I needed to experiment and try out the cake. It was stunning and I was immediately convinced on the merits of baking with olive oil.