Monthly Archives: April 2009

Preserved Lemons: Easy and Delicious!

Preserved lemons are incredibly easy to make, are perfect housewarming gifts and add a wonderful savory touch to Moroccan & Mediterranean cooking. If you have a friend with a lemon tree (or you’re lucky enough to have one yourself), this is a perfect way to deal with a bounty of lemons.

Easy Preserved Lemons

1. Start with about 4 to 5 lemons, well-washed (ideally organic). Cut them into quarters.

2. Pour a good amount of sea salt (not treated with iodine) into a large Mason jar.

3. Pack the lemons tightly inside, sprinkling with salt as you pack each layer in. Add a couple of bay leaves and a sprinkling of peppercorns into the jar.

4. Pour distilled or filtered water into the jar until about an inch off the top. Make sure none of the lemons are peeking above the water. Pour a small layer of olive oil over the water to prevent mold.

5. Close the jar and place in the fridge. In about two weeks, your lemons will be ready!

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Posted by on April 22, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Kimchi Me Step II

The aromas of fermenting kimchi are wafting through the house fiercely. I’ve completed step II and with the recent heat wave, the fermentation has picked up speed and is going full-force. Those wonderful microorganisms are turning the brine acidic and adding those nuanced flavors we’ve come to associate with kimchi.

We left off with a bunch of cabbage, bell peppers, garlics and kohlrabi fermenting in a vat of brine (If you missed it, check out Step I). Here’s the next step:

Kimchi Step II

Next we’ll need to prepare the spicy, garlicky paste that will give kimchi its characteristic flavors. Feel free to make it as spicy, garlicky or fishy as you like. Here’s what I used:

10 garlic cloves

4 Tbsp chili powder (choose how spicy you want to make it)

2-3 anchovies (make sure they contain no preservatives, as they can kill your microorganisms) or 2 tsp fish sauce

4 Tbsp grated ginger (I used baby ginger, which is particularly fresh & spicy)

1 leek, chopped


1. Place all of the chili paste ingredients in the food processor or blender and process until it forms a nice paste.

2. Take your vats of brined kimchi and drain the brine above the cabbage into a container (save this for now). Taste the kimchi. If it is too salty, rinse it with water. If it is not salty enough, add more salt.

3. Using your clean hands, massage the chili-garlic paste into the kimchi until every last bit is covered.

4. Once you are finished, press down on the kimchi until brine comes up above the cabbage. If there isn’t enough liquid, use the brine you drained off. Make sure there is about an inch or so of brine above any of the kimchi.

5. Weigh down the kimchi with a plate so that the cabbage stays below the brine (this will prevent mold from growing on your kimchi).

6. Cover the top with a cloth or a plastic bag (but make sure it can still breathe) and leave in a warm spot. You’ll be leaving this baby to ferment for several days, several weeks or up to a month. It depends on (a) the flavor you want and (b) the weather. We’ve been having hot, hot, hot weather in San Diego so my kimchi was ready to go pretty quickly, but if you’re in a cooler place, it might take longer.

How do you know when it is ready? It will smell sour and fermented. After several days, take a little piece and try it out.

7. Every day, check the kimchi to make sure that the cabbage is still submerged underneath the brine. If a little mold has formed on top, scoop it out. This is nothing to worry about — it’s just on the surface and has not affected your kimchi.

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Posted by on April 22, 2009 in Pickles



What would you do if a waiter confronted you about your tip?

I just finished reading “Served: The Ballsy Waitress” on by Hannah Howard. This new waitress is encouraged by her staff to confront a group of customers when they leave her a small tip.

“You should feel free to say something,” T., the fromager chimed in. “Just go up to them really sweetly. Say, ‘Is this what you meant to leave? Just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a mistake or anything, and that everything was OK.’”

I followed her advice. Verbatim. It was a little awkward, but I played it pretty cool. I definitely made them uncomfortable. They huddled together and recounted their cash.

“Um, I don’t get it?” One of the women in the group asked me after their pow-wow, “Is something wrong?”

“Well,” I said, “You guys left less than five dollars gratuity on a 66 dollar check. That’s less than ten percent, and I wanted to make sure everything was OK.”

What would you, as a customer have done in this situation? I’ll tell you what I would have done, I would have been pissed off. Tips are earned, not guaranteed, and if for whatever reason they felt like being cheap, that’s their problem. To confront a customer about such a matter is rude. I’ve been in several cabs where the taxi driver made me feel bad because I didn’t leave enough tip. Well, the music was turned up loud, the cab stunk, and the driving was terrible. So I left what was appropriate.

Look, I’ve worked as a waitress. I’ve dealt with lousy tippers. That’s just the way it is and by confronting people, you’re just going to encourage them to eat elsewhere. Treat your good tippers particularly well and they will keep coming back. That’s the way it works.

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Posted by on April 20, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Should you eat free-range pork?

There was a wonderful rebuttal by Rebecca Thistlethwaite of Honest Meat to the latest free-range debate Op-Ed article in the New York Times written by James McWilliams.

In the original Op-Ed, McWilliams tells us that free-range pork actually has higher levels of trichinosis, a parasite that can be potentially fatal. Pigs that are kept outdoors, he argues, have more contact with wild animals such as rats, which can introduce the parasite into the herd of pigs.

But the rebuttal was excellent. The Honest Meat blogger argued that the study quoted by McWilliams was a preliminary study, the levels of trich were not statistically significant (v. important for research) and the study design was flawed.

So what’s the verdict? Should you eat free-range meat?

I argue that you should. Disease spreads faster in high-density feed lots, so antibiotics must be used, leading to antibiotic resistance… It’s cruel (take a look at the picture in the Honest Meat post) to raise animals so closely together. Plus, free-range meat just tastes better!

Oh, and take a look at the editor’s note in the NYT: the study was published by the National Pork Board. So much for good science.

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Posted by on April 18, 2009 in Food Reads


Sexy Salsa: Tomatillo Salsa with Spicy Dried Chiles

My favorite Mexican restaurant in the United States is actually nowhere near Mexico. It’s on the East Coast actually, and has the most wonderful margaritas. Rosa Mexicano, found both in Washington D.C. and in New York City, has Roberto Santibanez at the helm, a Mexico City native. The food is fresh, spicy, simple and has none of the heavy, greasy cheese or slimy beans found at many places that call themselves “Mexican” here in the U.S.

rosasmexicantableWhen I saw that Santibanez had put out a cookbook, I couldn’t resist. Rosa’s New Mexican Table has recipes for all kinds of salsas, sauces, moles. Truly irresistible!

I started this week out with a tomatillo and chile morita salsa. This isn’t a raw salsa and the original recipe uses chile pasilla, but I had chile morita, so I improvised. The result is a smoky, spicy sauce with wonderful nuanced flavors. Perfect for serving with chips, on top of tacos, with grilled chicken. Honestly, I could put this on (nearly!) everything.

The recipe calls for cleaning, roasting, de-seeding, de-veining and soaking the chiles. It’s time consuming, but quite worth it.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with Dried Chiles

1 lb of tomatillos, dehusked, washed and halved

olive oil

about 1 cup of chiles (you can use dried chipotles, dried moritas, dried pasillas — experiment!)



1. Drizzle a little olive oil onto a saute pan and heat it up. Place the tomatillos in the pan and roast until their skins turn brown. Remove from the heat and set aside. Clean the pan.

2. Clean the dried chiles with a damp towel. Using a paring knife, make a slit down the center and take out the veins, seeds and the stem.

3. Throw the chiles onto the pan and roast until the skins start to turn black. Remove from the heat and place into a bowl.

4. Cover the chiles with water and soak for about 20 minutes. Drain and put into a food processor.

5. Add the tomatillos to the food processor and a dash or two of salt. Process until smooth.


Note: I always use gloves when handling chiles to avoid skin irritation!

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Posted by on April 16, 2009 in Salsas


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Kimchi Me

Whenever I go to a Korean restaurant, my favorite part is always the kimchi. The pickled cabbage; pickled radishes; tofu cake; strange little eels; spicy, gleaming fish with chili powder… I could go on. It’s sour, spicy and tangy at the same time. Refreshing and crunchy. Mmmm…

I love kimchi so much, that when I was in Seoul, I visited the kimchi museum and learned all about how it was made hundreds of years ago. Apparently, kimchi is wonderful for you. Something about those microorganisms that helps your digestion. The primary fermenter in that delicious Korean staple is Lactobacillus plantarum. The little guys that make the mixture sour are Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which start the whole thing. Learn more about kimchi!

And for the first time today, I’m starting to make my own kimchi. I’m using the book “Wild Fermentation,” written by Sandor Ellix Katz, which has a variety of excellent recipes.

To make kimchi, I bought two food-grade two-quart containers at Target and assembled my ingredients:

Kimchi, Step I

1 Napa cabbage, roughly chopped

Garlic cloves, about 15

2 red peppers

2 kohlrabis, peeled and chopped

about 10 cups water

8 Tbsp of salt


1. I divided the water into the two food containers and also split the salt, dissolving it into the water.

2. The chopped cabbage, bell peppers, garlic cloves and kohlrabi were combined and split into the two containers.

3. I packed down the vegetables in the brine and covered the vegetables with a bowl so that they stayed underneath the brine. I filled a jar with water and placed it on top of the bowl to further weigh down the vegetables.

4. Everything soaks overnight so that the vegetables pick up some of the brine!

Stay tuned for step II!

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Posted by on April 16, 2009 in Pickles


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