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Local produce

Blueberry & Lemon Curd Crepes


Brunch, Anyone?

Recently we were gifted with a trove of blueberries, picked fresh this summer from a local orchard and frozen at the height of their sweetness. At the same time, we found ourselves with a glut of lemons. After recently drooling over other people's citrus curds such as these from Michael at Verses from My Kitchen and Viviane at Chocolate Chili Mango, I decided it was time I tried making lemon curd again. Now that I'm reminded how easy this is, there will be more curd.

So there was a rich and creamy lemon curd in the fridge, and fresh-picked blueberries in the freezer. All we needed was a canvas. Pie? Pancakes? Tart?

As we've been unpacking these last few months, we've been coming across all sorts of goodies we haven't seen in a long while. Some we haven't seen since we left Germany. One of these was a crepe pan. Now you would be forgiven for assuming that this is one of my many, many kitchen tools. In fact, it is one of T's. A dyed-in-wool blue-white-and-red Francophile, he loves crepes. He perfected his technique earlier this year on some savory crepes (his preferred variety) and some sweet ones with homemade "ricotta" and fruit. He agreed to whip up another batch one Sunday morning as an envelope for these treats. He gets consistent and delicious results from a recipe he found on allrecipes.com.

As you can see, his crepe pan is not the swirl-the-pan variety with which you might be familiar. Rather it is a home version of the ones the crepe-vendors on the street corners of Paris might have — it even came with a special batter-spreading tool and a crepe turner — both made of wood.





Pretty cool, right?


The best part is that on that Sunday morning my only job was to make the coffee and thaw the blueberries, and voila! I turned around and there were Blueberry and Lemon Curd Crepes. There will be more crepe brunches. Crepe dinners, too.

CREPE BATTER
T. uses this one from allrecipes.com
Makes 10-12 12" crepes

1 cup (100g) unbleached flour
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
½ cup (120ml) milk
½ cup (120ml) water
2 TBL unsalted butter, melted

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and eggs. Combine milk and water and gradually add to dry ingredients, stirring to mix well. Add butter and beat until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour approximately ¼ cup (60ml) batter onto the griddle for each crepe. Working quickly, tilt pan in a circular motion so that the batter evenly coats the pan.

Cook for about 90 seconds, until the batter just sets. Loosen with a spatula, turn and briefly cook the flip side, about 15 seconds. Remove to plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Use wax or parchment paper to separate crepes as they stack.

Fill with sweet or savory fillings as your heart desires!


LEMON CURD
Adapted from Joy of Baking
Makes 1½ cups

It's worth seeking out organic lemons for this recipe since the zest is used in such copious amounts.

¾ cup raw sugar
3 large eggs
3 large organic lemons
pinch of sea salt
4 TBL (56g) unsalted butter, cut into dice, keep chilled until needed

Wash and pat dry lemons.

Over medium heat, set up a double boiler or stainless steel bowl set over a medium pot filled with an inch of water. Remove top pan from heat, and add eggs and sugar. Using a microplane or fine grater, zest whole lemons directly over eggs and sugar. Repeat for all lemons.

Now cut each lemon in half and juice with a lemon reamer or juicer. Strain to remove seeds and measure ½ cup (120ml) fresh-squeezed juice. Add to eggs and beat well with a whisk to combine. Place top boiler/pan over simmering water and continue whisking until mixture begins to thicken (like a cream sauce or sour cream). Don't leave unattended or you may get some curdling.

Add pieces of cold butter, whisking in each addition well before adding the next. Remove from heat and turn curd out into a jar or bowl for storage or serving. Place a piece of wax paper or plastic film on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Keep refrigerated for up to one week.

Besides filling crepes, use lemon curd to fill tart shells, adorn scones, smear on pancakes, bagels and waffles, or swirl into plain yogurt for a breakfast treat. Either alone or with its favorite companion clotted or whipped cream, lemon curd is one of those great secret weapons that transforms ordinary into memorable with a dollop.


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A Taste of Persia: Lamb Khoresh with Eggplant


I’ve had a love affair with eggplant, or aubergines, for as long as I can remember. And when I think of eggplant I’m thinking first of the slender, long Japanese eggplant like the ones in this photo, since those are what I grew up with. In Hawaii, we found locally grown eggplant all year round — what a blessing that was!

In her book, A Taste of Persia, Najmieh K. Batmanglij, shares her love for eggplant tied to a memory of frying them with her mother to make a luscious aromatic stew, called Khoresh in Farsi. This slim volume introduces the reader to the most popular dishes of the rich Persian repetoire, including 13 recipes for various khoreshes. I can’t recommend it highly enough, although it can be challenging to find some of the more unusual ingredients called for in the recipes. But well worth the hunt.

This particular khoresh recipe drew me in because it utilizes eggplants that are fried whole, then added to the stew with the stem end intact. It makes for quite a dramatic presentation on your plate. After frying, he eggplant may be peeled or left unpeeled, depending on the diameter of the vegetable. The eggplant used in these photos were nearly pencil-thin and about 10” long — it is a variety I’ve most often seen used to make the Philippine vegetable stew known as Pinakbet. Since the eggplant were so small, the skin softens and becomes meltingly tender, even when fried, so the eggplant were left unpeeled.

Eggplant and lamb have a natural affinity for each other, and although Ms. Batmanglij allows that other meats may be substituted for lamb in her khoresh recipes I hope you try this one with lamb. You will love it!


LAMB KHORESH WITH EGGPLANT
From A Taste of Persia by Najmieh K. Batmanglij
Serves 4 persons

5 TBL unsalted butter or ghee
3 small onions, thinly sliced (used 1 large)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 lb/455g fairly lean lamb, beef or boneless, skinless chicken, cut into thin strips
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 4 TBL hot water
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
3 cups/483g fresh or canned pureed tomatoes
1 cup unripe grapes or 4 TBL fresh lime juice (used lime juice)
2lbs/900g long Japanese eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4” strips
(I used ultra-thin baby eggplants)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 TBL oil
1 small tomato

Heat 3 TBL of butter or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and stir-fry 5-8 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and meat, and fry for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.


Add salt, pepper, saffron water, and turmeric. Add tomato puree and unripe grapes or lime juice, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare eggplant and pre-heat the oven.

Peel eggplant and slice them lengthwise into quarters if they are large. Brush each side with egg whites to reduce oil needed for frying.

Heat remaining 2 TBL of butter or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Fry eggplant until golden brown on each side, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

In the same skillet you fried the eggplant, heat 1 TBL of oil over medium heat and saute the tomato whole.

Transfer meat to oven-proof casserole, and arrange eggplant and tomato on top. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove cover and bake 15 minutes longer.

Taste and adjust seasoning for balance of salt and sourness (add lime juice).

Serve with saffron steamed or plain basmati rice. We also added a yogurt salad.

Visit Ms. Batmanglij’s site for a preview of and more recipes from this book.

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Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables in Egg “Custard” Sauce

Once farmers’ markets re-open and spring vegetables appear, they seem such a luxury after months of root vegetables, squashes and winter greens! This is a simple and unusual preparation that seems more decadent and rich than it really is. I learned the method from a housemate in London who was also a student at Leith’s and hailed from Bari, Italy (near the “heel” of the Italian peninsula). It is a sensuous decadent pasta coated with melting slices of zucchini dressed in a "custard" of barely cooked eggs. Prepared correctly, this sauce will remind you of the best carbonara — a flavor-packed, unctous sauce clinging to every strand of pasta. And like carbonara, the ingredients are few, so quality is important.

Costi prepared his mother's recipe for this sauce with only 5 ingredients: zucchini, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and fresh eggs. I’ve made this dish regularly since I learned it from him, but I also include a touch of garlic as a personal preference (but Costi would not approve). In this instance, I’ve also added asparagus because it was also seasonal and its flavors would marry well with the other ingredients.

The method is simple: thinly sliced zucchini are gently sauteed in copious amounts of olive oil until translucent, then the hot cooked pasta is heated through with the vegetable. Off the flame, beaten eggs are added and gently stirred through to combine. And when I say "copious amounts of olive oil," I mean enough to make most people faint at the thought of it — when I helped Costi make this dish for a dinner party thrown by our host family in London, he used almost a liter of oil for an 8-person serving! The hostess almost had a heart attack watching him devastate a prized bottle of olive oil she had brought back with her from their family’s last trip to Italy.

I cut back a bit on the amount of olive oil here, but this is about as far down as you can take it and still retain the creaminess of the original. I rationalize the amount of oil in this dish by thinking that 1) olive oil is at least a monounsaturated oil, approved by the American Heart Association for reducing bad cholesterol, and 2) we have this only once a year.

The freshness of the eggs is especially important in this dish, because the eggs are just barely cooked so they retain their creamy texture and do not “set” or scramble. I actually prepared this last spring when we were still on Oahu and zucchini, asparagus, and eggs were all local and fresh. When buying “farm fresh” eggs at the farm or market, let the proprietor know that you plan to use the eggs in a semi-cooked state and ask for the freshest they have on hand. Until I can find all these again in our new local area, I’ll wait and continue to dream of our next taste…

FETTUCCINE WITH SPRING VEGETABLES IN EGG “CUSTARD” SAUCE
Serves 4 persons
This dish contains semi-cooked eggs and, even when using the freshest eggs possible, should not be consumed by pregnant women, young children, the elderly or anyone with a compromised or weakened immune system (including those who are taking or have recently taken a course of antibiotics) without first consulting your physician.

1 lb. fresh or dried fettuccine, or other flat pasta

Sauce
½ lb. zucchini
1 lb. asparagus spears
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cup olive oil (not a typo)
sea salt to taste
fresh grated Parmesan, about ½ cup, plus extra for the table
4 large very fresh eggs, preferably organic and without antibiotics

Bring water to boil for pasta. Warm pasta bowls/plates. (See hints for warming plates below.)

Wash and dry the zucchini and asparagus well, preferably in a vinegar wash. (See original Gai Choy post about cleaning vegetables to remove pesticides, wax and dirt and a link to an NPR story about cleaning vegetables.)

Slice the zucchini cross-wise on the diagonal. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the asparagus lengthwise into thin strips or ribbons.

Wash eggs well, and dry. Beat eggs together with ¼ cup oil. Set aside.

In a skillet or wok large enough to hold both the sauce and pasta, heat ½ cup olive oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic becomes fragrant. Add another ½ cup oil and zucchini, and stir gently to coat vegetable with oil. As zucchini absorbs oil, add another ¼ cup and allow vegetable to absorb new amount. Continue cooking until zucchini just starts to become translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta (remember to salt the water just before adding your pasta).

Add asparagus ribbons, salt to taste (but remember that the Parmesan will add saltiness too), and combine to coat asparagus with oil. Continue to cook until asparagus just becomes bright green, about 4-5 minutes. Add Parmesan and stir.

Drain pasta, but do not rinse, and add hot pasta directly to skillet with the vegetables, and stir through to combine. Immediately pour beaten eggs over everything, and stir well but gently. Cover for 5 minutes.

Serve in warmed pasta bowls, garnished with extra Parmesan if desired. (If you don’t always warm your pasta bowl or plate — *guilty!* — this is one dish where you really want to take that extra step.)

With a garlicky bruschetta and glasses of Pinot Grigio or Soave, you’re set for a spring fling al fresco! Happy Spring!


Hints for Warming Bowls/Plates:
* If you’re making garlic bread, put your plates in the oven as it’s pre-heating. Remove them from the oven to put in the garlic bread, and keep covered with a clean towel. Or if you’re like us and use a toaster oven for this task, put the stacked plates on top of the toaster oven while making your garlic bread — if you have 4 or more plates, you may have to rotate the plates around to get them all warm.
* Bring a kettle of water to a boil, and pour ½ cup into each bowl just before serving. Set aside for 1 minute, pour off water and dry.
* Find your warming tray and put it to use! We have one that uses 2 votive candles to keep serving dishes warm at the table, but it can pull double duty here by warming your pasta bowls while you are preparing the meal.
* In the microwave, place a 1/4 cup or so of water in each bowl, stack them and place in microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on your oven. Remove water and dry.

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