Ingredient: fresh lemon juice

So Many Strawberries!

When I go to the farmer’s market on Saturday’s I get a little over zealous buying berries. I buy way more strawberries than I know we’ll use, but I also get a little nuts with the blue, black and little red ones, too. May is our peak month but, here in California, we are fortunate to enjoy beautiful berries all year long. I get really frustrated when my berries go bad before we have a chance to eat them. So now I make jam! Sometimes just strawberry, other times I mix it up. The point is I make a lot of jam!

Making jam is one of those arts that is actually pretty easy. If you make it with lots of love, like I do, it’s a great gift. I have been trying to keep some in my freezer and take it as a hostess gifts.

The basic recipe is always the same, but you can get creative with flavors. You can play around with spices. How about adding some ginger? Then use it as a glaze over pork tenderloin as it’s grilling. Adding a little fresh ground black pepper gives a surprising flavor profile when used in a Croque Monsieur. I sometimes stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter for a creamier texture. If you’re, really, looking to jazz it up, try adding orange liqueur or champagne. Be sure to remove the jam from the heat to add liquor. Just stir in about 1/3 cup, then boil again for about 5 minutes to set-up.

Homemade jam is always appreciated and what can be better than a dab of fresh jam on toast in the morning or even a midnight snack.

So Many Strawberries!
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So Many Strawberries!
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Wash and hull strawberries. Give them a rough chop.
  2. Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes. Use a brush dipped in water to brush down any sugar crystals on side.
  4. Once jam has thickened, remove from heat. I use a immersion blender to puree it a little.
  5. At this point you can add 1/3 cup of your favorite liqueur (I like Grand Marnier). Just be sure to remove from heat before adding. You may need to bring it back to a boil for 5-10 minutes, if it thins out too much.
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Winter’s Colorful Citrus

Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.

The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.

Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.


Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
  4. Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
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Israel and Hummus

I went to Israel last year. I was on a fabulous Women’s trip that was a little sight seeing and a lot of spiritual education. How could it not be spiritual with 260 women? The trip is based in Jerusalem and there are lots of day trips throughout the country, to Masada, Tel Aviv and Tsfat, among other places. When I left for Israel, I was armed with my laptop and fork. I was going to blog about my spiritual journey and surely the amazing food that would accompany it. Well the best laid plans as they say. I should have made sure to have comfortable dancing shoes and sweat mopping towels.

Our first stop was Tsfat, in the north. It was amazing and beautiful. There were 260 women dancing together and drinking on the northern coast. We were served Israeli salad and hummus with huge, fresh made pitas. We were served beautiful pickled vegetables that had just the right amount of tart and sweet. The entrée came and it was salmon encased in fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil. It was served with simply grilled sweet potatoes and mushrooms. We were tired, hot and hungry and the meal did its job to satiate us. When we were thirsty we had cold water. When we thought we couldn’t stay awake even one more moment, there were fireworks and cold Goldstar beer. And then more dancing and singing, hugging and crying. What an amazing night! And I wrote all about it.

Thanks to chefs like Ottenlenghi, the rest of the world is experiencing Israel’s wonderful food scene. When you walk through the open markets in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem the vibrant colors and aromas are intoxicating. Lunch on our first day was the most amazingly authentic and delicious falafel. I had it loaded with pickles and cabbage and tahini with hummus and French fries. It was exactly what I wanted in an Israeli falafel.

This year my husband will be going on the men’s trip. I’ve done my best to tell him where to go for the best falafel and hummus. To not miss the hidden wine shop in Tsfat. He will find that the shashuka at the hotel is a great way to start each morning and that even Israel has great Chinese food.

Of the 30 different hummus’ I ate while I was in Israel, I came home with this recipe. It is the best one I had and I love the tang of lemon.

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Hummus
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Hummus
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put them in a large pot with shallots, salt and dried pepper (I like to add a whole peeled carrot, sweetness, but its optional). Cover with cold water by one inch. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or two.
  2. Drain, but reserve the liquid. Discard all but the chickpeas.
  3. Puree about half the chickpeas in a food processor with 2 Tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid. Add the garlic and remaining chickpeas and continue to puree.
  4. While pureeing add lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and spices.You may add additional cooking liquid if needed, but don't let it get runny.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve with fresh, warm pita.
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