While our blogging slowed down leading into the holidays last year and inadvertently into the new year, it doesn't mean that our sisterly devotion to cooking came to a halt. Nothing could be further from the truth. The past five months have been something akin to a whirlwind. Personally, this past Christmas was the first Christmas in years that I hosted and professionally, the fourth quarter was a record. I'm happy to confirm, with a sigh of relief, that the house was festively decorated, all the meals were served as pre-planned and all the many sales were converted to shipments with only a little breathing room to spare.
In this new post, that I could have (and perhaps more appropriately) titled Snapshots From Tucson, I am happy to report that it has been a stellar year for lemons and bread. That is, at least in Michelle World. My husband's brother and sister-in-law's new home in Phoenix has mature citrus trees in the backyard that zealously fruited this winter. Weekend before last I was the grateful recipient of about sixty fresh lemons, which is in addition to the forty lemons that they gifted to me in February. The challenge was not how to use all the lemons, but giving each lemon a thorough scrubbing and soapy washing in preparation for the various ways I would be using the citrus.
When considering an abundance of lemons, my mind naturally jumps to Limoncello, surely the nectar of the Gods. I have about two and a half gallons in various stages of preparation. I made a traditional Limoncello, a Mellocello that includes vanilla bean, and a new variation, based upon input from my friend, Michael that will include the addition of fresh lemon juice along with the sugar syrup once the lemon peels are removed and discarded. Limoncello in any of its various forms must age - a minimum of six weeks - to acquire its famous flavor. The longer, the better. Like fine wine, the Limoncello likes to be left alone for awhile.
|Allow up to two weeks for the lemon peels to lose all traces of yellow.|
|It's imperative to peel lemons with a "light" hand taking only the yellow peel.|
|It's official: Maddie is besotted by Juliette's puppy.|
|Prepping the preserved lemons and blooming saffron to prepare Morrocan Chicken.|
Perhaps you, like me, might be patiently waiting for the arrival of cherry season. Until there are fresh, abundant cherries in their relatively short season, happiness is sourcing organic frozen cherries at Costco. The cherries are a welcome addition to frozen mangos and blueberries added to Linda's green smoothie boosted by fresh kale and spinach for a healthy start to the day. Maddie is happily sipping these in the morning as she gets ready for school. How great is that? My daughter is willingly eating raw spinach and kale.
|Bright green Kombucha and Kale Smoothies turn purple by adding blueberries.|
My professional work days are spent laboring on the computer and having a phone practically glued to my ear, so practicing baking bread in my spare time turns out to be a peaceful, thoughtful mediation to offset the work day stress, and it also gives my family and friends something good to eat. I recently gave a loaf as a gift to my neighbors and it made them so happy, which in turn made me feel, at the least, like a better neighbor, and perhaps I might go so far as to contemplate, a better human. Note to self, spread more joy by giving the gift of homemade bread or chocolate chip cookies.
Following my sister Juliette's recommendation, I added to the base bread recipe minced fresh rosemary and lemon zest (employing a rasp-style grater). The bread is amazing. I especially enjoy thick slices toasted then slathered with room temperature unsalted butter. As Austin Powers would say, "Yeah, baby."
|Rosemary-Lemon Zest Baguettes.|
|Spring fling: add rosemary and lemon zest to the French Bread recipe.|
I may tire of eating some entrées in my weeknight recipe rotation but I never seem to lose my appetite for pizza. Especially homemade. The thin crust pizza dough recipe on this site is rated in the top ten of the most popular postings viewed on our blog. We sisters have put a lot of time, energy and practice into perfecting the dough and we've had a lot of fun together making and sharing pizza over the years, such as the Italian combo featured in the photos below. Buffalo Chicken is another favorite. Juliette's spring inspired pizza includes shrimp and lobster. She tosses the shellfish in freshly squeezed lemon juice before layering on top of the prepared dough next to chunks of goat cheese, minced garlic and artichoke hearts. I cherish the time we've all spent together in the kitchen. To make it a party we simply add margaritas, or happy juice or blood orange cosmopolitans, or strawberry lemon drops... (you get the idea).
|Ready to be put on the smokin' hot grill.|
|We can never make just one pizza and the Italian Combo is a favorite.|
Last month I was engaged in a conference call when my husband came bounding down the stairs and urgently beckoned, with a pointing finger, for me to look out the window. Much to my surprise (and also his by the look on his face) big flakes of snow were beginning to coat the succulents in our front yard with a thin layer of white icing. I felt like a kid excitedly running from window to window as the snow kept miraculously pouring from the sky. The cold snap continued for over a week and all the mountain ranges surrounding Tucson were gorgeously dappled in white instead of the usual year-round brown. Belgian waffles seemed like the natural thing to prepare on such an occasion.
And we will close where we began, with lemons. As a bonus, if you don't have access to fresh, unwaxed lemons, no need to despair. Quite the contrary. You are in luck. One of our absolute all time favorite family recipes requires lemon extract in lieu of fresh lemons. Over the generations, our family has made lemon ice cream whenever the craving strikes, which is often. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Until next time! Cheers, Michelle
P.S. Shrimp Scampi is one of the best dishes I have tasted in my life. Shellfish for Easter? You betcha.