Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Lemon in Winter

Winter in Los Angeles does not usually bring to mind freezing temperatures like we had a week or so ago (and still having, though a tad warmer).  Winter does bring to mind a market flowing with citrus...whether little satsumas, bright, big Navel oranges, blushing grapefruits, or sunny lemons.  Even better than your typical lemon is the Meyer lemon.  A little rounder than a true lemon, a Meyer is thought to be a hybrid between a lemon and orange.  The juice is sweeter and the skin smoother and much thinner.

I stopped at the grocer's the other night and right past the bananas, there they were, quietly calling out to me.  The store had them packaged in groups of four, but in looking through the stack, I found a package of two.  Perfect.

I've been slowly returning to my usual self in the kitchen.  Doing more cooking, having more for dinner than a sandwich, and thinking about baking, which I hadn't done since the holidays.  Today was a day off from work and by late this morning, I had those Meyers zested and juiced, though I was still debating what to do with them.  I made fresh ricotta this morning and thought about a Meyer lemon and ricotta cake, or maybe Meyer lemon cupcakes with a simple glaze...but truthfully...both options were more work than I wanted to do.  So I fell back on my tried and true, easy to make, and quick to bake...scones.

They are just what I wanted.  Not too sweet with the delicate taste of Meyer lemons.  Hot out of the oven with a dab of butter...it was perfection.

Meyer Lemon Scones
Makes about a dozen 2-inch scones

2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tbsp butter, cut in pieces
4 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest
2 tbsp milk or water
Sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a bowl, sift flour and baking powder.  Add remaining ingredients and with a pastry cutter or fork, mix well.  Turn dough out onto a floured board, rolling out until dough is about half an inch thick and cut scones with a biscuit or cookie cutter.  Alternately, you can make 2-inch rounds with your hands.  The dough will be soft and fairly sticky, so dust your hands with a decent amount of flour.  

If you like, brush the scones with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking.  I left my plain.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, depending on size.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on cooling rack.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Break

It's cold outside.  In fact, for the past week or so, it's been damn cold for Los Angeles.  I know it's January and the middle of Winter, but in Southern California that usually means some rain and highs in the 70's, maybe 60's.  But it's cold...and I mean, 'bring in your tender plants, frost advisory in the San Fernando Valley, 34 degrees at 7 a.m.' cold.  Unusual.  Strange. Downright weird.  I had to break out the leather jacket, sweaters, and thermal shirts.  The heat has been running every night.

Now, in weather like this, you want foods that speak of warmth and comfort.  Soups, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, a cup of hot chocolate as you're sitting on your couch wrapped in blankets, bundled up and cozy.  How about a salad?  Not the first thing you think of eating when it's cold outside.  I, myself, am guilty of not eating much salad once there's a chill in the air and the Season of Gluttony begins (roughly the time between Thanksgiving to New Year's).  Cookies, wine, cookies, pasta, cookies, cheese, candy, bourbon, bread, and cookies is more like the list of what I consume during the holidays.  There may be a vegetable thrown in there for good measure.  But the holidays are over, it's time to stop the over-indulging, and maybe you've promised yourself to pay more attention to what you're eating and get yourself back to the gym.  Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

A salad on a cold afternoon is much more appealing when it's topped with a warm vinaigrette.  I also added a heap of beans and thick shavings of Parmesan cheese.  The vinaigrette is an easy to whip together recipe from the Food52 site and while it's not advertised as a warm dressing, it's delicious warm with the Dijon mustard and Worcestershire in it.  Add whatever beans you like to this.  I made a white and red beans mix the day before, just because I have so much in the pantry and want to use them more frequently.  They ended up in a bean and vegetable soup, beans and rice, and this salad.  I was lucky enough to gather arugula and curly green lettuce from my window box before the cold nights got to them.  The parsley has held up, thankfully.

January Salad with Warm Vinaigrette

1 cup spinach greens
1 cup lettuce
1/2 cup arugula
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3/4 cup beans, cooked
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Shaved Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Salad Dressing (from Food52)

Mix all your ingredients in a bowl.  Heat 1/4 cup of vinaigrette over low heat for 5 minutes.  Add shaved Parmesan and drizzle with dressing.  Salt and pepper to taste.