Beginning, Delicious Middles and Never Ending Friendships

Making preserved lemons

I am reveling in the bounty of my summer travels. I have been {literally} around the world, to old homes, to new homes, to sweet hugs of long time friends, and I’ve felt the delicious excitement of discovering new friendships.

Since my “retirement” in January I have been indulging in so many wonderful things that I am starting to feel just a bit guilty about it. You know that “list” you have? The one titled- Someday when I have the time…  ? well, I’ve been given the gift of that time, and I am here to say that ticking off bits of that list has been sheer delight.

My last post was a long 11 days ago, the longest hiatus I have taken thus far. I purposely did not try to post while away this past week so that I could fully enjoy my time. This last trip took me to Portland, OR for the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), which turned out to be one of the best experiences of my blogging life. {After Portland I went on to visit with my dearest friend, Marie in Walla Walla, but more on that another time}

IFBC had approximately 300 people in attendance, which gave me ample opportunity to interact and get to know some amazing people. The weekend started out with a lovely party at the Barhyte residence, who produce the Saucy Mama collection of mustards, marinades, and sauces. There I met Cathy Pollack from Noble Pig Winery, who became an instant best friend, along with Tiffany Haugen, Kelly Mooney from This Just In, Kristy from The Wicked Noodle, JJ from 84th & 3rd, Marisa from Margaritas in the rain, and some other crazy friend of the Barhyte’s named Steve (what can I say? people can be really interesting when drinking delicious Oregonian wine), but seriously- I was amongst some incredible women who inspired me beyond measure.

That evening set the stage for a weekend of flow and intensity of meeting some wonderful people hand over fist. Some of the other incredible bloggers I met were:  Rodney Blackwell, (the burger junkie), Tara Mayberry, Sunita Budhrani from Serendipitously Sunita, Kathleen Flinn and Eliza Larson from Eliza Domestica.

I was astounded to be amongst by so many people equally passionate about food, AND so incredibly talented. I was simultaneously humbled and gleeful, like a kid in an adult version of Willy Wonka. There was delicious foods coming from all direction, long tables groaning with gifts for us to pick from, and Pinot Noir at every turn. Can you imagine it?

Now this laden and weary traveller is finally home. So weary that I have just woken from my second 2 hour nap of the day. The traveling has ground me to a halt finally, but it has also left me with so much more to tell and share. It will come, over the next few weeks I promise you, it will come. My travels has filled me with ideas from all the love and new friendships that I’ve shared- and now that will get passed on to you.

The recipe today is for making Preserved Lemons, which I put together earlier this summer. I am sharing this post now because it is a lovely symbol of these past weeks. The process of making the lemons requires an incubation time. The ingredients are combined, and then left to relax to meld and transform. After a few weeks you have something delicious that adds a brightness to your meals, and adds a different dimension. Preserved Lemons are an ingredient which is better than the sum of it’s parts developed over time.

That’s me. I am better for all my travels, conversations and shifts in perspective. As the calendar clicks past Labor Day weekend, heralding the end of “summer”, I am filled with new thoughts and recipes to share with you. Ideas, thoughts and inspiration has been filling me up, and I promise it will come spilling out onto these pages.

Preserved Lemons
approximated 4 cups
12 small fresh lemons
1 c coarse salt
Sterile quart size jar with lid
Wash the lemons thoroughly and cut into quarters. 
Sterilize jar and lid by either boiling in hot water for a few minutes, then draining face down, placing in a hot oven for 10 minutes, or running through a dishwasher with a sterilizing setting. Allow to cool.
Rub the lemons all over with the salt and pack into the jar as tightly as possible. Add plenty of salt to cover and allow some to sink to bottom of the jar.
Not all the lemons will fit. Juice the rest of the lemons and fill the jar to the top with the juice to cover.
Sprinkle any remaining salt over the top, then secure lid.
Store on the counter atop a plate for approximately a week. Each day flipping over the jar. After a week move to the fridge and allow to continue to marinate for another few weeks. 
After approximately a month your lemons will be ready. Rinse before using.

{Day 5} Cowboy Candy- Jalepeno Happiness

This September I posted about this simply awesome condiment after stumbling upon it on a blog called Foodie With Family. If you haven’t visited this blog I recommend it. Rebecca, the mother of a brood of young active boys, writes in a rye slapstick style that is absolutely hilarious. Her Cowboy Candy is even better.

Jalepenos are stewed in a vinegary, sweet, spiked concoction and the result is a heat freaks nirvana. If you’ve followed my blog at all you know that I am one of those very freaks. I am not the “let me blow my head off to prove to you I can” type, I just love the layering effect that heat has on my palate. Spice blooms in the mouth, and there is just no other eating sensation that does that. This condiment offers not just heat, but a wonderful balancing act.

Cowboy Candy I would say is middling low on the heat scale. Jalepenos have a decent kick, but they won’t make you sweat or make your nose run like the chilis in Thailand. The best part of Cowboy Candy is that the heat gives you a short slap, but the vinegar sweetness of the juices is the forgiving kiss afterwards. Eat these the way you would pepperoncini- on a sandwich to give it a kick, or serve with a cheese board. It’s great on a burger or pour over grilled chicken.

The other added bonus of making this gorgeousness is the remaining syrup after the chilis are bottled. I use it to make a killer base for a spicy Margarita- but more on that later- there will be a post soon on cocktails that you’ll love.

If you have Spice loving friends or family on your Xmas list, this one they will really enjoy- I promise you.

Cowboy Candy by Foodie with Family

please click on name above to link to Rebecca’s post. You’ll be glad I sent you there.


{Day 4} A Tradition Renewed- Marzipan Fruits

Marzipan Cherries

The tradition of modeling marzipan (almond paste candy) for the holidays is an old one and if found in many different cultures. The Italians make it and so do many Northern European countries-Germany, Sweden etc.  Hand made marzipan is an art that has sadly waned. Most that you see these days is machine made and with a low quality of almond paste. The colors are sprayed on and for the most part they are just ghastly.Hand making marzipan is not difficult to do and a fantastic thing to make with kids as it doesn’t require a stove or oven- and mistakes can just be nibbled out of sight.

Years ago I had a marzipan business with a woman named Kim Jurado that we called Bella Dulce. We made gorgeous marzipan that we put into small rustic wire baskets from artisans in Mexico, or tiny wooden crates to look like imported fruits. One of my favorites was to build the marzipan into topiaries that brides would use as centerpieces. Stephen Spielberg had us make tall gorgeous topiary cones for his movie Armistad and our beauties also made it into Dean and Deluca and Williams Sonoma catalogs. In those days we had a legion of workers hand making marzipan. All day long hands were rolling, shaping and dusting lumps of almond paste into rows and rows of beautiful bright almond candies. It was an artisanal business before it was vogue.
Marzipan is made from blanched almonds and sugar into a dough. It’s possible to make it from scratch, but to be honest, I don’t find it time or cost effective. I’ve tested a lot of marzipan over the years, and by far the best is made by American Almond (see Holiday Resource page). A lot of marzipan out there has a high sugar content, leaving it super sweet and lean on good almondy flavor. American Almond has the highest almond to sugar ratio which makes it heavenly. Marzipan does not come cheap but most fruits are about a half to one ounce each, so a pound goes a long way.
There are simple tools needed to shape the dough, but mostly you can get by with what you have around the house. Toothpicks, a knife and a dowel stick work well- or you can purchase modeling tools that are typically used for clay. What you will need to get is powdered food coloring and gel food coloring, paint brushes, cloth covered wire and paper leaves- all of these things can be purchased at NY Cake and Baking Supply.
Marzipan is such a great medium that you can do many other things with it. The fruits are classic, but little Santa hats are awesome, or Xmas light bulbs. It’s great for making leaves and mushrooms for Buche de Noel or reindeer antlers for cupcakes.
Unused marzipan can be saved for future use if stored properly. Wrapped tightly and put into an airtight container it will keep it for several weeks. For longer keeping it can go in the fridge.
How to Make Marzipan Cherry, Pear and Plums
yields 20-30 fruits depending on size
1# American Almond Marzipan
juniper green food paste
golden yellow food paste
royal blue food paste
red powdered food coloring
purple or burgundy powdered food coloring
soft paint brush-like a blush brush
cone tool (or rounded toothpick)
veining tool (or butter knife)
green florist wire 24 gage
small paper rose leaves
Queen Anne Cherry
Paste food coloring is very intense, so start out with tiny dots and add on from there. You can always add more. Use a toothpick dipped into the color pot and dot the marzipan then knead through.
The cherries should have a soft golden yellow color.
Next follow the grid above. Pinch off a small chunk and roll between your palms to make a ball, then using the cone tool make an indentation on the top- or use a toothpick to ream in a dent. Then with the veining tool or the back side of the butter knife, draw down from the hole and make the crease of a cherry cheek.
To color tap out a small amount of red powder color onto a plate. Using just a small amount dab the brush into the color, just as you would if you were applying powdered blusher. With a circular motion paint on the “cheeks” of the cherries.
Finish off with a 3″ length of wire. Fold down one end to make a knob and then curve the stem into a natural shape. Tuck into the hole in the top.
I used the juniper green for the paste color. Follow the directions above to tint the marzipan.
To make the pear shape first roll a knob of dough into a ball. Then, using your fingers coax one end into the neck of the pear. Then give a little tap on the bottom to square it off just a little bit.
Pierce the top of the pear to make the stem dent. Then on the bottom of the pear create four dents which create that round bottom look a pear has.
Dust just a liiiiiiitle bit of red onto the sides of the pears and finish off the top with a paper leaf.
Plums have an ashy blue grey line in the crease which I personally love. Color the marzipan a soft blue using the royal blue paste.
Then roll the marzipan into a ball and then into an oblong ball.
As with the cherry make a dent at the top and crease down the length of the plum. Plums have deeper creases though. I make a fairly keep crease and then soften the cut edge with my fingers. I then pinch the seam closed a little to give that cheeky look.
Dust the plums with the color and for these it takes a lot, avoiding getting color into the crease. Finish off with a paper leaf.
Once made the marzipan can be left out to dry a little. Left out indefinitely they will turn to stone. If you intend for them to be eaten, or given as gifts, keep them under plastic or present in a clear plastic box or cello bag. Both of these can be purchased at Glerup.
*see resource page for links to Glerup, NY Cake and American Almond*