Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons!Preserved lemons are a precious ingredient.  They are created by pickling lemons in a heavy brine made from salt and lemon juice.  The product has a unique flavor that is a bit difficult to describe, but when used as an ingredient, contributes a bright, citrus flavor with deep, refined floral overtones.  You see them used in stews, tagines, marinades, soups, and to a lesser extent, in vegetable dishes.  I have never seen preserved lemons served as a side or a garnish; I think the flavor is simply too intense to be considered a reasonable candidate for solo eating.

While not a tremendously common ingredient in other cuisines, preserved lemons are called for in quite a number of Moroccan and Mediterranean recipes.  This created a little bit of a dilemma for us at first, … 

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Eggplant with Charmoula

Eggplant CharmoulaI’ve always been a bit suspicious of eggplants.  It isn’t the color; they display some of the most gorgeous colors and gloss seen in the vegetable world.  The shape, while bulbous, isn’t a problem either.  The issue is texture.  Specifically, the pithy nature of their uncooked flesh.  The flesh doesn’t seem natural and squeaks when you cut into it, managing to be both annoying and weird at the same time. I have a hard time eating food that, off the shelf, is that texturally strange.  No matter how visually nice they look, I know it is only skin deep.  Sad.

Here’s how I see it; the best way  to deal with an eggplant, should one cross your path, it through heavy, multi-stage processing. In this way, you can simultaneously reduce it to an unrecognizable form and establish your control over this dubious vegetable and your relative place in the universe.  Yay!  Perfect examples of this strategy are baba ghanoush and the subject of this post, Eggplant with Charmoula.  I regard the lengthy cooking time as the price of admission to unlocking some truly remarkably rich and somewhat smoky flavors from an ingredient that I would otherwise not be able to handle.  It’s worth it…. 

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Yam Miso Soup – An Enigmatic and Homely Soup for the Lazy

Yam Miso SoupI have to admit, this is one of the least attractive soups that I know how to make.  I mean, there really is no feasible way to get a decent photo of it, as it looks equally bad in most lighting.  Seeing it in real life isn’t much of an improvement; it just sits there looking vaguely orange.  It is just plain homely.

As it turns out, life is not always about looks, which should be comforting to most of us.  Sometimes it is about things like bright, clean flavors and smooth, creamy textures.  Sometimes, it is also about being too lazy to make a proper meal.  If any of the above fits your way of thinking, this soup is probably a great match…. 

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Fish and Shrimp Green Curry

Hard to beat a nice fish curry on a cool and rainy day.  I was delighted to find some cheap cod at the local store and some leeks still growing in the garden.  In the Northwest, it is common for some vegetables to survive the winters, but these guys were doing great.  Thai-style curries, such as this one, are much easier to make than many people think, and fish curries, since they have short cooking times and simple ingredients, are a great place to start if you have not cooked Thai food before.

I tend to like my fish curries with green curry paste and an abundance of fish.  The cod in this version develops an amazing buttery flavor despite being only briefly simmered in the coconut milk.  The green curry is aromatic and spicy, without being overwhelmingly hot.  Fresh basil and chilis punch up the first impression of the dish and leeks give a rich background for the remaining flavors.  Rich and comforting…and surprisingly easy to make…. 

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