lemon rosemary sorbet

lemon and rosemary sorbet

Necessity and getting rid of left-overs equals sorbets, that's my personal math when it comes to cleaning up lemons in my refrigerator. That's exactly how I feel sometimes, after my last post for the Chia, Honey, Lemon 5 Spice Pound Cake, I had to figure a way out to use up all that fresh lemon juice. An herb infused lemon sorbet was just what I needed this week. Citrus fruits are my pick-me up, get-out-of-your-funk, refresher, source-of-energy, etc and they always cheer me up. And this wintry snow every week (that really needs to go away) has me in a funk.

rosemary

I don't have any luck growing rosemary, beyond the warm weather season here. Every year, I plant some, it does well and then come winter, it dies. This year, I'm tossing the towel in and giving up. Oregano has never been a problem but rosemary just hates me! On a side note, I'm hoping that after three years perhaps, my pomegranate tree/bush/shrub will finally bloom and fruit.

lemon prepping

I've added the rosemary to the sugar syrup to infuse the oils and flavors and then cooled it completely before adding the lemon juice and zest. The reason for this, Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid in lemons is heat-labile, it gets destroyed on heating, so not only does this sorbet pack some Vitamin C but it also tastes and smells fresh with all those wonderful citrus notes. 

lemon rosemary sorbet

lemon rosemary sorbet

yields: 4 servings 

ingredients

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 medium sized sprigs of rosemary, fresh (about 2-3 tablespoons, I used two 4 inch sprigs)
2 teaspoons lemon zest, fresh
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (if you like it less tart, use 1/2 cup juice instead)

1. Place the sugar, water and rosemary in a medium sized saucepan. Heat the contents until the sugar dissolves completely, then bring to a boil on a medium-high flame and remove from flame. Keep aside until cooled to room temperature. Once cooled, discard the rosemary sprigs and transfer the sugar syrup to a gallon ziplock bag.
2. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the the syrup in the ziplock bag. Seal the bag airtight and place in a ice water bath for 30 minutes. 
3. Pour the liquid into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn the liquid until the sorbet is frozen and has acquired a creamy white consistency. Transfer the sorbet to an airtight and freezer-safe container and cover the surface with a layer of parchment paper. Freeze the sorbet for at least 4 hours before serving. 

chia honey lemon pound cake

chia seed lemon honey pound cake


Of all the cakes I love to bake, I love pound cakes the most. This is why:
  • They are generally fuss-free or "fussy-less".
  • They provide a great way to clean up the pantry and the little ingredients I've collected but haven't used.(also a good excuse to make one)
  • The loaf shape makes it acceptable for me to eat them at breakfast, lunch, tea and post dinner. They are also acceptable at snack time.
  • And above all, I love it's sheer elegance that comes from its simplicity of flavors.

lemons

Just like my love for making my kitchen smell of cocoa and vanilla, I love, love the smell of fresh citrus fruits especially when I cut or squeeze them. The aromatic oils from the skin and the fresh juices are energizing and refreshing and definitely lift up my moods. It's one of my most favorite moments in the kitchen and seriously, it can't get any better than the zest of six lemons. 

lemon squeeze

I stayed away from a traditional sweet lemon sugar glaze on the loaf because the honey gives the cake a delicious color and flavor as it caramelizes on the crust. I also added in some chia seeds to give the cake a texture and believe me, you won't be disappointed. Plus, there's a hint of spices in this pound cake courtesy the magic Asian 5-spice mix that takes this lemon cake to a whole new level. I really wanted to call my cake, "5 Spice Chia Honey Lemon Pound Cake" but that just seemed too long, so I cut it short. If you can't find 5-spice, you can leave it out completely and the cake will still be delicious.

chia lemon honey pound cake

This cake recipe went through a couple of trial and errors, till I had everything worked out. The first time I made this cake, I added way too much lemon juice and my cake didn't rise enough as the acid reacted with the baking powder and baking soda. I reduced the amount of lemon juice and increased the amount of lemon zest to keep the cake as lemony as possible. I would still recommend moving quickly as soon as you add the lemon juice to the batter as the chemical reaction between the acid and bicarbonate starts instantaneously. I adapted and modified the basic pound cake recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Note: You generally don't need to grease and line a baking pan, you can do one of the two, I prefer to do both as they aid in easy removal and transferring of the cake.

chia lemon and honey pound cake

chia + honey lemon pound cake

yields: one 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inch loaf

ingredients

1 1/2 cups (7 7/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder mix (optional)
1 cup (7 3/8 ounce) sugar
zest of 6 lemons, fresh
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey (use a good quality)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly warm (not hot)
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed and strained

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease and flour an 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inch loaf pan, line the pan with parchment paper and keep aside. Whisk the dry ingredients from the flour to the 5-spice powder mix. Sift the ingredients three times and keep aside.
2. Place the sugar and the lemon zest in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Toss the sugar and the zest to coat the zest completely.
3. Add the eggs to the mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment whisk the eggs for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until completely blended. You might need to scrape the bowl down a few times with a silicone spatula to bring the ingredients together. Add the honey and mix on medium-high speed until completely blended for about 1 - 1 1/2 minute.
3. Stir the butter to mix up any solids that might have settled to the bottom. Pour the melted butter from the side of the bowl and continue to mix the ingredients on medium high speed. Add the lemon extract and vanilla.
4. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients from step 1 to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed until completely mixed. Add the chia seeds and the rest of the dry ingredients and mix till no specks of flour can be seen. Add the lemon juice and quickly mix the ingredients. Immediately pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes. Rotate the cake halfway through the baking process. The cake is baked when the center of the cake is firm to touch and a skewer/knife when inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to rest in the loaf pan for 5 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

lemon and poppy seed rice cookies


The rain and wind are pounding on the windows and it's a bit crazy outside. Though, hurricane Sandy might have extended the weekend by two days, sitting at home and preparing for the worst possible scenario is a bit stressful. Walking the dog out in the rain was no fun either, he wasn't ready to budge and I honestly just wanted to be indoors. Over time, I've realized that you just need to make the best of any situation that life throws your way. For the most part, I have enjoyed the extra free time at home and made the most of it. So here I am sharing my "hurricane-coping cookies", this is what got me through the crazy moments of the hurricane. I hope the rest of you in the East coast are staying safe, warm, and dry!


You've probably eaten lemon and poppy seed cookies before but these rice flour based cookies are very different. The cookies are much more delicate and crumble easily making them a perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee. I used stone ground rice flour which has a slight grainy texture but you are welcome to use a finer grade of rice flour if you prefer. I can't stress enough on the importance of using fresh lemons here, they make a big difference to the flavor of the cookies. For that matter, everything around you in the kitchen will also smell wonderfully citrusy when you work with the lemons. These cookies are also great for those on a gluten-free diet due to health reasons. As always, chill the dough for at least 2 hours (overnight is even better) for a crisp cookie. The cookies should be white when completely baked. The crushed pistachios are optional and I love the contrast of the green salted nuts with the white rice cookies. Salted pistachios are also easier to find than the plain variety and they also give a wonderful flavor. 



lemon and poppy seed rice cookies

yield: about 45 cookies 

ingredients

4 cups rice flour
4 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons poppy seeds
3 tablespoons crushed salted pistachios (optional)

1. Dissolve the sugar and water on a medium flame. Bring it to a boil and let it cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, add the lemon zest and lemon juice.  Keep aside.
2. Whisk the eggs yolks for 8 minutes with the paddle attachment of an electric stand mixer. The yolks will become light and fluffy.
3. With a whisk, mix the flour and salt together in a separate bowl.
4. Pour the cooled lemon-sugar syrup from step 1 into the yolks and continue whisking.
5. Now add the melted butter to the yolks and continue whisking till completely blended.
6. Mix in one cup of the flour at a time into the egg yolks until no trace of the flour can be seen. The batter will be soft. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before baking the cookies.
7. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line several clean baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out 1 teaspoon of the chilled dough. Keep the cookies about an inch apart from each other to prevent them from sticking. Flatten the surface of each of cookie dough with an offset spatula. Sprinkle a few poppy seeds and pistachios on the surface. Bake for 10 minutes till the cookies are dry on the surface but still white. Remove from the cookies carefully from the baking sheet and allow to cool to room temperature. Be careful while handling the cookies once they are out of the oven as they can crumble quickly. Store the cooled cookies in an air tight container, with each layer of cookies sandwiched with wax paper, to prevent any sticking.

Note: Dipping the offset spatula in water before touching the surface of each cookie before baking will prevent the dough from sticking to the spatula.

persian khoresht of chicken and herbs


I am still savoring my "high" fueled by the Broadway production of Billy Elliot that we went to see last Sunday evening at the Kennedy Center. If you've seen the movie then you must see the musical. The show had a great cast and the songs and of course dancing were spectacular.Someone is keeping an eye on me while I post this and does not seem too happy without the attention.


While sticking with my theme on personal highs this holiday season, I am still on my Persian food kick. This recipe is for a delicious Persian stew or Khoresht that uses spinach and lemons for the base with a bunch of aromatic herbs that add a fresh and fragrant flavor to the chicken and garbanzo beans. You can substitute any type of beans in this recipe, red kidney beans would be delicious too due their meaty texture. Stews or Khoreshts are so versatile in Persian cuisine and amazingly easy and delicious to prepare. They can  be served with plain rice (especially Basmati) or you can try my previous post on Persian rice with green Lentils, raisins and dates or even  a stack of warm pita breads.


persian khoresht of chicken and herbs

ingredients

4 lean chicken breasts
1 cup chopped red onion
8 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 lemons
1 cup water
2 cups of garbanzo beans soaked overnight in water
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Pat the chicken breasts between paper towels. Trim off any excess fat from the chicken and discard. Cube the breasts into 2 inch cubes and keep aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onions and garlic till golden brown. Add the chicken cubes and brown on each side. Add all the cinnamon, greens and beans to the skillet. Squeeze the juice from the two lemons and add the water. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to the flame to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or till the chicken is tender and begins to fall apart. The sauce of the broth will thicken as it cooks. Serve this hot or warm with pita bread, naan or rice.


avgolemono


What a way to start a post, an earthquake in Washington after 67 years! Thankfully, no one was hurt and damage appears to be minimal so far. Since, people started to panic getting home was a challenge with traffic gridlocks everywhere. Work gave us the remainder of the day off and I finally ended up walking home. This is my final post on lemons for now that completes my entire lemon themed lunch. I think I may have found my new favorite soup, Avgolemono, the egg-lemon soup that is so very popular in Greek cuisine. The creamy richness of this lemon soup makes for a wonderful dip for a warm and crusty slice of bread. I made several alterations to this soup, mainly through playing around with the components of my chicken stock. The addition of fennel stalks and leaves to the chicken stock was purely coincidence. Since, I can never figure out what to do with some vegetable parts that I am unable to use in some recipes, I normally freeze them and use them in making stocks. I substituted barley instead of short-grained rice that is usually used to make this soup. 


avgolemono

yield: 6 servings

ingredients

1.5 liters water
1lb lean chicken breast
1 whole red onion halved
4 cloves
4 bay leaves
1 lemon, chopped in half
1 bunch fennel leaves and stalk
6 unpeeled garlic cloves, cut in half
3 eggs separated
1/3 cup barley or short grain rice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
fresh mint or parsley for garnishing

1. In a large stockpot, add 1.5 liters of water, chicken, onion, cloves, bay leaves, the halved lemon, fennel, and garlic. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season. Slowly bring the water to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and keep aside to cool. Strain the stock completely and discard the solids. 
2. Add the stock back to the stockpot and add the barley/rice to it and let it cook on a reduced flame until the rice is tender. In the meantime, shred the chicken. 
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites till they form stiff peaks and then beat in the yolks. Carefully, beat in the lemon juice. 
4. Now temper the eggs with approximately 150ml of the hot stock solution by immediately whisking it into the beaten egg mixture. Now add the entire tempered egg mixture to the stock pot with careful stirring. Make sure the stock is not boiling and is simmering, this will prevent the eggs from coagulating. 
5. Add the chicken and season the soup with salt and pepper as necessary. Serve the soup with fresh lemon slices in individual bowls. Garnish with fresh mint or parsley leaves.


Hopefully, no more calamities or traffic jams for a while or is that too much wishful thinking ?

lemon-ginger tart


For some reason, I find it easier to wake up earlier on weekends than I do during the week. I think I have a lot more energy too, it is sad that weekends past by so fast. Perhaps the lemons have created a motivation an early awakening of sorts. 


This post will explain why I went around making the candied lemon slices in my previous post. Visions of lemon tarts have been floating in my head for a while and I thought perhaps a lemon-ginger tart could lay these thoughts to rest. David Lebovitz had an amazing tart au citron recipe that I modified a little to suit my own taste buds. Fresh ginger root extract and a sprinkling of crystallized gingers add a wonderful surprise to this tart. I used a ready-made pastry sheet to save on time rather than make my own crust. Overall, the lemon-ginger tart was a sweet-tarty success. Adding a little cornflour to the lemon curd ensured a good firm setting for the tart. Again as with my previous post on candied lemon slices, be careful to avoid using any reactive utensils or cookware or it will spoil the utensils and the food that it comes in to contact with. For blind baking the empty tart crust with the pastry shell, I use ceramic beads but if you can't find those dried beans will also work. Do not forget to prick the pastry sheet with a fork to let the air out so the crust does not unevenly rise.

lemon-ginger tart

yield:  6-8 slices

ingredients

1 thawed pastry sheet to cover a 9 inch tart pan
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1/3 cup fresh ginger root juice
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoon cornflour

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. 
2. Blind bake the pastry shell after lining it in a tart pan till it is halfway cooked using ceramic baking beads or dried beans. 
2. In the meantime, heat a medium saucepan and melt the butter, ginger juice, lemon juice, zest and sugar. 
3. In another bowl, whisk all the eggs and the yolks. Add about 100-150ml of the melted butter mixture to temper the eggs with constant whisking. Then pour the eggs slowly with constant whisking into the saucepan with the remaining butter solution. Mix the cornflour in the curd mixture. At this stage you must constantly stir the liquid till the lemon-ginger curd thickens. This happens relatively quickly so be careful to avoid burning the curds. Fold the crystallized ginger into the curds. (If you prefer you could strain the curds to remove the zest or any lumps if formed and then add the ginger crystals). Once it is done, pour the lemon-ginger curds into the pie and tap it gently so it sets evenly.
4. Put the tart back in the oven and let it bake for at least 10-15 minutes. This will vary with the oven but the tart will be done when the center is firm and solid. Let the tart cool in the pan at room temperature and then let it chill for at least 2-3 hours overnight. Decorate with the tart with the candied lemon peels

candied lemon slices flavored with ginger


Vacations are supposed to revitalize you, at least that is what I used to think. I have begun to notice that as I get older, vacations are most energizing a few days before and during the duration of the holiday but the days following the trip are most exhausting. Most often, I have blamed "jet lag" as the culprit even when I have traveled within the same time zone. Perhaps, it is rather the re-adaptation of my body to different climates or environments or perhaps these are excuses at my end to disguise my sluggish behavior and laziness. Either way, this week has been overwhelmingly busy and I am tired and already looking forward to another trip. Unfortunately, it appears that things on the horizon are going to get busier with the advent of the final year of graduate school.



I think its fair to say that I can shift most of the onus of splitting the next few posts to come on my friends Nick and Tamar that are dropping by for lunch this weekend. I've been debating on what to do for lunch with them but nothing was coming to mind till I ran into the bag of lemons in my refrigerator. My goal then became to stretch the lemons across lunch and dessert. Does anyone else enjoy the smell of citrus from freshly sliced lemons in the house ? My kitchen smells so wonderful right now that I could do this all over again!

Let me start backwards and begin with my first post in this three-part series on lemons with a recipe for candied lemon slices. I searched for a recipe and then finally landed up with a simple recipe from Martha Stewart that I tweaked a little by adding some ginger to it. Candied lemon slices can be used to decorate almost any dessert or simply enjoyed with tea. The trick to getting sweet and non-bitter lemon slices is cutting them as thin as possible and even. I used a knife but a mandolin slicer would probably make things easier. I used two lemons because the center gives the largest slices and the least amount of pith (which is where all the bitterness of the lemon is concentrated) relative to the rest of the lemon. Avoid using any copper based or any other acid-reactive metal utensils with lemons or they will react and damage the utensil and the food being prepared.

candied lemon slices flavored with ginger

yield: About 12-20 slices depending on size and thickness of the lemon cuts

ingredients

1 cup water 
2 large lemons
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed ginger root juice 
3/4 cup water

1. In a large nonreactive skillet,bring one cup of water to boil. 
2. In the meantime, using a good quality sharp knife cut the lemons half way in the center to get thin and even slices. Remove the seeds carefully and handle the slices gently using a fork or a pair of tongs. Carefully add the lemon slices to the boiling water and let them cook for 7 minutes to remove any bitterness. Immediately transfer each lemon slice into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. 
3. After discarding the spent liquid in the skillet, dissolve the sugar and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to a slow medium and add the individual lemon slices in one single flat layer along with the ginger juice. It should not boil but simmer slowly. The lemon slices will cook for about 45minutes -1 hour depending on the thickness of the slices. The lemon slices will be ready when they become translucent. The sugar may get brown but it should not caramelize. Carefully remove the slices and let them dry out individually on a wire rack after spraying it lightly with oil. The slices should dry for at least two hours and then removed and stored in air-tight container. 


I saved the lemon infused sugar syrup that was left behind and used it to sweeten my ice tea which gave it a wonderful lemony-ginger taste. Another tip on storing the lemon slices, cut squares of wax paper and put them between each slice for easy removal when you need them.