Lemony Grilled Chicken

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I'm making progress slowly with my preserved lemon jar. But, don't fear, it's holding up pretty well. With enough oil and salt to submerge the lemons, I'm not so frightened about them spoiling. Besides, hardly anyone dies of botulism anymore. Believe me, I looked it up. And in a few rare cases, it's mostly the older folks. Another drawback to aging. 

So here we have a whole grilled chicken, marinaded with a whole preserved lemon, and a mix of spices I had leftover from the dry rub I used for couch day pork. To the leftover spices, I added turmeric and cumin, rubbed my chicken down,  and popped it in the fridge for a couple of hours. 

After spending some quality time on the grill, the chicken was mighty tasty. Very tender and succulent, with hints of lemon and spice. I haven't had a grilled chicken this good for quiet some time. I didn't even regret paying double for it at Whole Foods because they let it roam around.

There were side dishes -- black beans with salsa and wild rice -- but the chicken was the true star here, along with the preserved lemons of course.

Grilled Zucchini Soup - Take 2

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The key word here is grilled. My first attempt at zucchini soup was good, but not fantastic. Right away, I knew "Take 1" could be improved immediately with a mirepoix base. Now an interesting tid bit for you all, I can't pronounce many a word, and mirepoix is one of them. Therefore, I call the onion, carrot and celery mix Jamiroquai. Saying it makes me smile.

So back to this soup. I was thinking to myself, how do I elevate this soup to the next level? How? Then it came to me, grill the zucchini. It's my favorite way to eat the vegetable, so I decided to go for it. Great idea. Really. Grilling the squash added nice flavors, raising the soup quality from mediocre to fancy restaurant soup.

I did add a splash of curry powder to the OG recipe, left out most of the fresh herbs, except for the thyme, and forgot all about the lemon juice. All these alterations made for a smokier and tastier soup, with a richer flavor and texture. "Take 2" you win!


Sourdough Thin-Crust Pizza

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Dear Readers,
I have a treat. The husband took time to write about his recent pizza-dough experience, using his own sourdough starter. This was a deliciously sweet and beautiful pizza-pie. My kitchen was also kept in tact during this process, with minimal flour dust in the air. And nothing makes me happier than a clean kitchen. Enjoy his journey with the dough!


Earlier in the year, my friend and his non-wife spent some time with me and my real wannabie housewife.  We spent a lot of time eating, but we also spent a bunch of time just sitting on the couch talking.   One day during a lull in the couch conversation, my friend grabbed a Cook’s Illustrated magazine on our coffee table.  Perusing its contents, he saw what was touted as a foolproof thin-crust pizza recipe.  Putting his faith in Chris Kimball and his CIA cronies, my friend jotted the recipe down, took it back to Pittsburgh, and one week later, insisted on me making it myself. 

So I did, following the recipe to a T.  My verdict: it was okay.  The crust was mighty thin, tasted more flavorful than other recipes I’d made, and wowed some relatives who had never seen someone actually make pizza in their own home.  

Before I took the first pizza out, I was already trying to come up with ways to out-Kimball Chris Kimball.  First, who puts vegetable oil in a pizza?  Cook’s Illustrated does, but I wasn’t down.  I needn’t follow the traditional Neapolitan pizza making rules, but I did think that olive oil made a lot more sense in a pizza recipe than vegetable oil.  Also, a bit more salt would help.  Last and most importantly, some sourdough starter would give the 1-3 day resting period for the dough that deep, rich golden brown crust I was hoping for.

Unfortunately, the first time I tried making this modified pizza, I added way too much of a watery starter to the dough.  When it was ready to be thrown in, the pizza stuck to the peel, folded in on itself, and baked a mess in the oven.  The wife noticed that I became very silent, and yes, perhaps my eyes even got a bit watery at my failure.  Luckily, she took no pictures of this event. 

A few weeks went by, the tears dried, and I got the courage to try my modified recipe again.  This time the dough was wet, but held its form. I shaped it into a nice round and we topped it off with a homemade sauce and made two different types of pizza with a mixture of smoked mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  The uncooked pizzas slid off the peel onto the baking stone, where the oven maintained a scorching 515 degree heat.  The cheese bubbled, the dough rose up, and the pizza emerged from the inferno changed into a majestically rustic looking pie.  Below is the recipe that should have made it into that magazine.
Sourdough Thin-Crust Pizza
with some, but only some help from Cook’s Illustrated

14 ounces bread flour (buy a scale if you don’t have one)
2.5 ounces sourdough starter
2 tsp sugar
1tbs olive oil
2tbs salt
optional, ¼ tsp of packaged yeast

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add water.  Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes.  Add oil and salt next and mix till combined.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Place ball in an oiled bowl and cover tightly.  Set in fridge for at least a 24 hour time period, but no longer than 3 days. 

Opens some tomato sauce, add garlic, oil salt and pepper, and all of your favorite Italian spices.  Taste until you think you got good pizza sauce.

We used Hungarian salami, black olives, roasted peppers, arugula and fresh pear-shaped tomatoes. Feel free to pick your own delicious combinations.

An hour before, take dough out of fridge and divide in two.  Set oven rack to the highest position that will still accommodate a pizza and the temperature between 500-525 degrees.  Slightly knead and shape dough into two smaller balls.  Place one back in the original bowl, and oil another bowl for the second ball.  After an hour, stretch dough balls out carefully until you have a 12 inch circle (check the internet for some pizza stretching tips, but really, it’s a matter of practice).  Flour a pizza peal, transfer dough onto it.  Work quickly to spread sauce on dough, then cheese, followed by whatever ingredients you fancy.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese has melted and crust in golden brown.       

Summer Zucchini Soup - Take 1

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I'm not a good recipe follower. I'm usually tempted to stray and try something different. But, I followed this recipe pretty closely, and in the end, I wish I had strayed.

I love zucchini. In any shape and form. But, a 100% zucchini soup seemed like a bit much. Sure there's an onion in here, and some herbs, but that's pretty much it, people. How did it taste, you ask? Like zucchini. A lot of zucchini. It was good, don't get me wrong. But it needed balance. Luckily, the husband's gardens produce a constant supply of this summer vegetable, so I had the chance to tinker with the recipe, and make a more delicious soup (check back soon for take 2).

So why am I posting take 1? Because I can! And because it was still a tasty, and very simple soup. Take 2 is definitely more time consuming. So if you're looking for a soup to make in 20 minutes, and love zucchini, here's your recipe.
Zucchini Soup

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large zucchinis, chopped
half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice
2 cups vegetable stock
Fresh herbs like basil, rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream, optional

1) In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat and sauté onions and garlic until translucent.
2) Add the zucchini, lemon juice, and 1 cup of vegetable stock, bring to a boil and then cover and simmer about 15 minutes until tender. Add your fresh herbs in the last 5 minutes.
3) Use an immersion blender and purée the soup until smooth.  Return soup to the pot, add the other cup of stock (more or less depending on how thick you like your soup) and bring back to a simmer for a couple minutes and stir.
4) Serve with a spoonful of sour cream.


Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon

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What do you do when you have too many lemons? Add them to everything. Because you can't really make lemonade with preserved lemons. But, you can slip a bit into your tuna salad for a lemony kick.

For this version of a tuna salad, I used red onions, roasted peppers, olives, capers, celery and added about a quarter of a preserved lemon. And of course, mayo, sour cream, mustard and salt and pepper. I served the salad in a wrap, with greens and avocado. The avocado added a nice richness. A simple weeknight meal, and another way for me to use up my jar of lemons.


Pork Party + Couch Day + Rainbows & Lightning = Really Long Title

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Last summer was a little hectic, and a lot of lazy. Two very important events made it so. First, our condo was on the market, which meant absolute cleanliness, open houses, and strangers. Second, I broke my elbow which limited my mobility and hostess capacity, and we ate a lot of quick dinners, and didn't throw any parties.

And when Couch Day came around on Labor Day weekend, we had packed up and stored all of our furniture, including the beloved couches, and instead had a Goodbye Condo Party.

This year, Couch Day received a new start, at a new home. And since summer slipped right by us, and we didn't end up having a Pork Party, we decided to combine the two celebrations. For a little background on both, check out previous posts: Couch Day '09 and Pork Party '09.

I typically avoid cooking on Couch Day. Drinking begins at noon, and it's hard to stay motivated, follow recipes, and be away from the couches. But this year, most of the prep was done the night before. We purchased two, nice-looking pork butts, ground our spices, and massaged the pork with the dry rub, letting it marinade in the fridge over night. That morning, I cooked the pork, beans, prepared meat balls and other snacks for phase one of Couch Day, picked a good spot on the couch, and enjoyed the afternoon drinking and relaxing with the friends. At around 3:30 pm, I pulled the pork from the oven, shredded it, cooked up the sauce, and we made ourselves little tacos, descending upon the pork like vultures.

The taco idea, all mine, was pretty brilliant. The pork made a super tasty filling, and our friend brought freshly made guacamole, with mango and pineapple. The tropical flavors went well with the spicy meat. The meal added a new delicious dimension to Couch Day. We might have to make this a new tradition. That is, if I don't resort back to my lazy ways.

As if this day wasn't spectacular enough, after our early dinner, we wondered outside for some fresh, non-air conditioned air, and witnessed a beautiful and huge, double rainbow. We hung around for a while, oohing, and taking photos, and then there was lightning and thunder. Now, you might think, call it a night, things can't get any better, but they did. In the strange weather, we walked to the Altadena Ale House, where a good time was had by all, drinking more beers and taking over the jukebox. And that my friends, is the proper way to pay tribute to your couches, who throughout the year give us so much pleasure and comfort, and ask for so little in return.
Couch Day Crew, 2011, minus my brother, who's playing photographer
Arrogant Bastard Pork
via Pittsburgh, with adjustments
Serves 10 generously

There’s a bit of a
story with this recipe. It comes from our Pittsburgh friend, who loves his pork. And, it lives somewhere in my gmail account. I made this recipe once in 2009, and my brother deemed it “the best pork” he’s ever had. It was quiet the honor. This time, I misread this recipe, and used an ale instead of a porter, and the husband and I declared this an “even better pork than the best pork”. So here’s to delicious mistakes.

For the dry rub:

2, 3.5 lbs. pork butts
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons ground mustard seed
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
22 ounces of Stone's Arrogant Bastard Ale
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

1) Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Rub all pork. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2) The next day, Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Unwrap pork, and with a little bit of olive oil, brown all sides in a heavy dutch oven you plan to roast your pork in.
3) Place browned pork in the over, and cook for 30 or some minutes, until its dark.
4) Remove from oven. Lower oven to 325 degrees, and pour about 15 ounces of the beer over the top, cover and cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours, until tender.
5) Remove the meat from the pot, and place on large platter to shred.
6) To the pan juices add:

1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons adobe sauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (I totally forgot this! And, the pork was spicier, but still delicious. With the sweet ketchup in this recipe, I think the sugar is optional)
the rest of the beer

7) Bring to a simmer until reduced by half and thick, about 10-20 minutes.
8) While the sauce is boiling down, pull apart the pork with two forks.
9) At this point, you can throw the shreds into the sauce, or serve the sauce on top.

This pork is magical and good just by itself, or you can make tacos, like we did, and these tasted like little bites of pork heaven. Since we had leftovers, we even made quesadillas.