Tag Archives: lemon

Ending the Summer with Orzo with Roasted Vegetables!

It’s hard to believe that the summer is drawing to a close, although I have to say, the cool weather is a welcome change. I keep seeing leaves falling from our many trees, and it’s getting me excited for fall. However, I know, there still are a few weeks left. As your squeezing in those final summer get togethers and Labor Day picnics, take a look at this recipe! Orzo with roasted vegetables is a delicious alternative to potato salad or cole slaw, or whatever you normal take. It’s pretty easy, travels great, and is absolutely delicious.

Peel and chop 1 small eggplant into 1 inch pieces. Chop 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 red onion into 1 inch pieces as well. Throw them all on a sheet pan. Add 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat all of the vegetables in the oil, then spread out on the pan. Cook at 425 for 40 minutes until browned. Turn them once with a spatula about half way through so they don’t stick and get evenly browned.Ready for RoastingGetting ThereDone!

Meanwhile, cook ½ lb. orzo according to the package directions. If you’re not familiar with orzo, it’s a pasta, similar in shape to rice. You can find it in your pasta aisle. Once it’s cooked, drain and add it to a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables when they are done, and any delicious liquid that may have accumulated in the pan. Make the dressing by combining 1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons), 1/3 cup olive oil, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine, then add to the other hot ingredients. Stir, and let them all combine while they cool to room temperature.OrzoRoasted VeggiesJuicing LemonsLemon JuiceOlive OilPepperAlmost Ready

If you’re going to use the salad in a day or so, you can cover and store this salad in the refrigerator before adding the rest. The day you’re going to serve, take the salad out of the refrigerator several hours early to allow to come to room temperature. Add 4 minced scallions (both white and green parts), ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, ¾ lbs. crumbled feta, and 15 basil leaves, thinly sliced.ScallionsBasilPine NutsFetaCombined

Toss everything to combine, and there you go. The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and really is a delicious one. Give it a try at your next get together. I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews, and lots of requests for the recipe!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup…Oh My!

IngredientsAh, pancakes!  They are delicious, and I know some people love them every possible way.  I do like a good old pancake, but for me, the beauty is using them as a vessel to hold amazing flavors.  You know, gingerbread pancakes around Christmastime.  Or, whenever I get to cook breakfast for my niece or nephews, chocolate chip pancakes…with whipped cream and maple syrup, of course.  But, recently, I’ve been experimenting with some more “adult” flavors.  Sophisticated one might say! 🙂 And, although the name may seem complicated, they are easy and delicious…lemon ricotta pancakes topped with blueberry syrup.

BlueberriesWhen I was growing up, when it came to good food, we were spoiled.  Whenever my mom made pancakes, and it usually only happened during the rare “breakfast for dinner” nights, she made them from scratch.  I know there are those boxed dry mixes that people often use, but they are so much better made from scratch, and really, so easy!  It’s just a matter of throwing the ingredients together and stirring to combine, very similar to that box mix!  So, when I wanted to try to incorporate lemon and ricotta cheese into the batter, I had a good starting point.

Eggs and SugarWhisk 4 eggs in a large bowl with 1/4 cup sugar until well combined.  Add 6 tablespoons melted butter.  You’ll want to allow it to cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs, or, do as I do and just pour it in slowly and whisk the whole time.  Then add 1 1/2 cup milk.  I sometimes use 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2, if it’s all I have, but feel free to be a little flexible here.  Next add 2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Finally, mix in the zest of 1 lemon and 15 oz ricotta cheese.  I used the whole milk variety, but if you’re concerned about the fat, feel free to use the part skim or skim.

BatterYou want to use the whisk to incorporate everything.  The batter will be pretty thick, which is actually nice for making the pancakes.  Heat a skillet or frying pan to medium heat and give it time to make sure it’s hot.  I add the batter using a 1/4 cup measure.  Since the batter is so thick, you may need to spread it out a bit.  Let them go just a minute or two, until the bottom is golden.  Because of the cheese, these usually don’t get the nice bubbles that plain pancakes get, so just use your spatula to check.  Turn them over and cook for another Pancakesminute or two until nice and golden.

If you’re making for a crowd, I turn the oven on to 200 degrees and keep a cookie sheet in there.  As I make the pancakes, I throw them in the oven so they all stay warm.  They make probably 15 or so nice size pancakes, and they are filling.

Now, to make these pancakes out of this world, I serve them with a blueberry syrup.  Just put 2 pints blueberries and 1/4 cup maple syrup into a small saucepan with a pinch of Blueberry Syrupsalt.  Heat them over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the berries have all burst and the sauce has thickened.  I usually do this the day before and let it cool.  You can always quickly re-heat, but it’s too hot right off the stove.

I made these this past weekend for some friends down the shore, and they gobbled them up.  The pancakes are rich and delicious with a slight lemon taste, and the blueberries are scrumptious!

Oh, and ladies, they would also make a great breakfast for Father’s Day! 🙂 Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there!Eating Pancakes

A Great Mother’s Day Dessert…Lemon Bars!

Ingredients ReadyFor most Mother’s Days, I cook dinner for the family.  The number of siblings varies from year to year as commitments may be with in-laws, but at least my mom is always there…actually, my mom and my sister, who is also a mom, of 3 boys.  And, the good son and brother that I am, I try to incorporate some of their favorite foods into dinner.  The menu always varies drastically, but one pretty common ingredient, at least with dessert, is lemon.  My mom loves lemon desserts, so I’ve made lemon meringue pies, lemon curd tarts, even lemon ricotta cookies (FYI, Giada has an amazing recipe for these…you have to try them!), but one of my favorites, and the easiest, is lemon bars.

Lemons JuicedOver the years, I’ve tried a number of different lemon bar recipes, and was about to give up.  There have been ones that are too runny, and others that have been too sweet or too tart.  Then I found this one.  This recipe is absolutely perfect.  It’s easy to make, and the lemon bars come out perfectly sweet and tart, with a buttery crust, and custardy filling.  I found this recipe on allrecipes.com, where it is appropriately named “The Best Lemon Bars.”

CrustTo start, beat 1 cup softened butter with 1/2 cup sugar until light and creamy.  Add 2 cups flour.  Mix until combined.  Pour into a greased 9×13 inch pan and press it down into an even layer.  Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until firm and golden.Crust Ready for Oven

Filling IngredientsWhile the crust bakes, whisk together 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour.  Add 4 eggs and the juice of 2 lemons.  Whisk until well combined.  When the crust is finished baking, as soon as it comes out of the oven, pour the egg mixture over the crust.Pouring

Powdered SugarBake for an additional 20 minutes in the same oven.  They may look too soft, but they will firm up when they cool.  Once cooled, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar, and cut into bars.

One tip about the powdered sugar, I sprinkle the powdered sugar on the top, cut them, then sprinkle again.  I find that it makes my messy cuts look perfect…and a little extra powdered sugar never hurt anyone!

These really are a great dessert for Mother’s Day.  And speaking of Mother’s Day, hopefully you’re all taking care of the mothers in your life on Sunday.  For all of you moms, I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing day.  Happy Mother’s Day!  Tray of Lemon Bars


More Spring Produce with Braised Artichokes

As I told you earlier in the week, I love the produce that starts appearing in the spring.  While I went on and on about sugar snap peas, another one of my favorites is artichokes.  Maybe you’ve never had them outside of the jarred hearts, which, don’t get me wrong, are delicious!  I know the whole artichoke can seem intimidating…those sharp edges, tough leaves, and you probably wonder “what do I even eat?”  But if you take a little bit of time, and prepare them right, they can be delicious.

cut off topsBraising is simple, basically searing something off on the stove, then finishing it simmering in some sort of liquid.  Usually it’s reserved for meats, and they can be delicious.  The searing gives you great color and flavor, and the slow simmering in the liquid results in tender, juicy meat.  Definitely a keeper.  But this time, I’m take a similar approach, but with the artichokes.  They cook in a garlic, lemon, white wine sauce that really brightens the flavor and makes a great vegetable.

ChokeFor this recipe, start with 6 artichokes.  Because they discolor, you’ll want a bowl with acidic water.  This will also be used as braising liquid.  Take 3 lemons, and first, zest 2 of them.  You’ll use the zest later.  Then cut all 3 in half, and squeeze the juice into a big bowl.  Add some cool water.  You don’t need a ton of water, just enough to cover the artichokes.

The next step is cleaning.  Because the cleanedleaves are very tough, you need to clean them so you only end up with the more delicate interior leaves.  If you’ve ever eaten stuffed artichokes, you know you can’t eat the outer leaves.  The principle still stands for these.

Start by cutting about an inch ofin lemon waterf the entire top of the artichoke.  Just cut straight down.  Now start pulling off the leaves.  You really want to take off a lot.  You need to get to the delicate, yellow, almost white inner leaves.  It will seem like you’ve taken too much, but you’re fine.  And don’t worry, if you find that you haven’t taken enough off when you start eating, just cut off any tough leaves and don’t eat those.  Once the outer leaves are removed, take a peeler and peel along the stem to remove the tough skin.  Cut the artichoke in half, and, trust me, you’re almost done, remove the choke.  This is where the artichoke gets its name.  In the middle of the inside is a fuzzy choke.  You need to grab a spoon and just scoop it out.  It comes out very easily.  Once that’s done, just drop your 2 halves in the water.  Continue cleaning until they are all in the water.

cookingOnce the artichokes are clean, mince 3 cloves garlic.  Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan large enough to hold all of the artichoke halves.  Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Feel free to add more or less red pepper flakes depending on if you like a little heat.  Saute for a minute until the garlic gets some color.  Add the artichoke halves, cut side down, to the pan.  Cook for a minute or two, then add 1 cup white wineit's doneLet the alcohol cook off, then add 1-2 cups lemon water (this is the water the artichokes were soaking in).  You want the water to come about half way up the artichoke halves.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the artichokes are soft when pierced with a knife.  Remove the lid, raise the heat to high, and boil for about 5 minutes to tighten up the sauce a bit.

parmigianoTo serve the artichokes, I plate them and spoon over some of the sauce.  Sprinkle the reserved lemon zest and about 1 tablespoon chopped chives.  I also like to add some shaved Parmigiano cheese.  It works really well with the artichokes and lemon.

These artichokes make a really nice side dish, and it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy them.  They would make a pretty good addition to an Easter dinner too.  Hmm…I might have to adjust my menu for next week!

Taking Advantage of Spring Produce with Green Goddess Dip

One of the best things about spring’s arrival for me is I start to see some of my favorite, delicious, fresh produce at the farmers market and grocery store.  It gets me excited to think of new ways to prepare and serve these delicious morsels, especially since it always seems too brief that some of these make their appearance.  I love the asparagus and artichokes, tender baby lettuces and rhubarb, but my favorites are the sugar snap peas.

Sugar Snap PeasI’ve always been a fan of peas.  I can remember when I was little, helping my grandmother shell peas she picked from her garden.  Those raw peas, fresh from the garden, were delicious.  I am not sure if more of the peas ended up in her bowl or in my mouth.  From then on, there was a special place in my heart for raw peas.  While I don’t get many occasions these days to eat raw peas, my favorite way to eat sugar snap peas is still raw.  They maintain their crispness and sweet flavor, and they are perfect with a dip.  One of my favorites to serve with sugar snap peas, or really any vegetables for a crudites platter, is green goddess dip.

IngredientsGreen goddess dip or dressing is a simple recipe to make with fresh herbs, and it’s quick to whip up.  The recipe I use is from an old version of the Joy of Cooking cookbook.  Start by chopping chives and parsley so that you have 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (minced scallions can be used instead if you can’t find the chives) and 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley.  Add them to a bowl with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup sour cream.  Add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, and 3 anchovy fillets, minced.  I know the anchovies may Ready to Mixscare some people, but they really just add a salty note to the dip.  It doesn’t taste fishy at all, however, if you’re concerned about the anchovies, don’t add them.  The dip will still be good.  Mix everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

That’s really it.  Once everything is mixed, your dip or dressing is ready to use, although I think the flavors come together after it sits in the refrigerator for a few hours.  As I mentioned, I use it as a dip for sugar snap peas.  I just washed 1 1/2 lbs sugar Ready to Eatsnap peas and snipped off any hard stems.  If you prefer them cooked, you can certainly blanch them in boiling water for just a minute, then drain and add them to a bowl with cold water and ice.  This will stop the cooking process but still keep them pretty crisp.

Feel free to substitute any other vegetables you prefer for the sugar snap peas.  But they do make a nice vegetable platter, especially in the spring when everything seems so fresh and new again.