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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Saffron Water – A Lovely Shortcut

Saffron WaterSaffron is both tasty and expensive.  In fact, I have seen it referred to as the most expensive spice in the world.  Not sure about the veracity of this claim, but it is most certainly, the most expensive spice we buy.  The spice vendor that we go through typically has it for about $18 per gram; in excess of $500 per ounce.  Ouch.

Now I understand that the process of harvesting the stigmas off of a specific type of crocus, drying it, and then shipping it around the world to my kitchen has some inherent costs.  Unfortunately, knowing this does not stop me from crying out in financial pain when a recipe calls for saffron.  We use saffron a lot in Moroccan and other Mediterranean recipes and all cooks have to work within a budget.  Saffron water to the rescue..well, somewhat…. 

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Dashi – Making Japanese Soup Stock

Kelp in a JarI first heard about Dashi, or sea stock, when I was still in high school.  I remember being sort of puzzled that anyone would use a soup stock consisting solely of seaweed and dried fish and put the concept out of my mind until about 2 years ago.

What started as a simple desire to make some decent miso soup ended up making a serious change in how I cook and eat.  As it turns out, dashi is one of the most versatile stocks I have run into and it is safe to say that we it use more than any other.  It is quick and easy to prepare and has a really subtle, rich flavor that is a bit hard to pin down; it is not really fishy, not really salty, not really kelpy (if that is a word).  It is packed with excellent flavor and enhances just about anything that you cook in it.  I think of it less like a soup stock and more like a cooking fluid; used to get at flavor combinations that would otherwise be unavailable.  I regret my long period of ignorance and really wish that I had gotten around to preparing this stock sooner in my life…. 

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