Rock n Roll, Meyer Lemons and Tagines


Ok, so I freely admit it.  Sometimes I get a little A.D.D.

Allow me to explain…

It all started a couple of weeks ago at Walmart, of all places.  I found bags of Meyer Lemons for sale. Joy! Rapture! Bliss!  I went in to buy some groceries and there they were, in the produce section,  between the navel oranges and the limes and glowing like a bright yellow brick road leading me home.  For a second, time stood still. Everyone and everything around me seemed to get fuzzy and dreamy, like the old movie trick of putting Vaseline around the camera lens.  It was just me and the lemons, sharing a moment. The sky opened, the Citrus Gods smiled and bestowed upon me succulent, fragrant orbs of sunshine. Ahhh…

My ethereal moment of citrus bliss was interrupted my my husband-“Did you need lemons?”   LEMONS???!!!  How dare he defile my golden beauties by calling the “Lemons”?  Before I jumped to the defense, I remembered that although the hubs has a nicely tuned palate, he may not realize his offense, so I explained the difference between a plain old lemon and the elevated Meyer.  Meyer lemons are a little smaller and thinner skinned than regular lemons, and believe it or not, the taste is totally different. Meyer Lemons are reputed to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange, so they  much sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons. You can peel and eat these babies just like an orange. And don’t get me started on what you can do in the culinary realm…Yowza.  If you’ve tried a Meyer Lemon, you know why I am rhapsodizing about them.  If you’ve never tried one, go out immediately and hunt some down. I promise, you will thank me for this. I’ve since been on a search for a Meyer Lemon tree of my very own. It’s taking a little longer than anticipated… Call me instant gratification girl, but I’m looking for one that’s mature so I don’t have to wait 4 years to get the goods.  So my search continues….I’ll post a picture when I strike gold. In the meantime, Walmart has continued to carry my bagged Meyer’s. This week I bought 3 bags-two to keep on hand (Gary is addicted to my Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette) and one I gave to my Mom so that she can experience the power of the Meyer (Alas, her Walmart doesn’t carry them. Bummer)

Ok, so flash forward to this morning…

I started out the day by taking the dogs out with Gary, getting them fed, then getting some tea made, making Gary some lunch (turkey, ham and Havarti on white, touch of mayo) washing the pots from last nights dinner (a variation on my Penne Bosco with roasted Elephant Garlic on fresh Italian bread and mixed field greens with my Meyer Lemon vinaigrette with a nice Red Zinfendel) and giving the kitchen a good cleaning.  I poured a cup of tea and sat down with my script, Tom Stoppard’s amazing “Rock n Roll” (I’m playing the role of Lenka in addition to doing the costume design) We open in a little less than 2 weeks and I’m brushing up on my Act One lines for tonight’s rehearsal.  While I was cleaning, I turned on the Food Network and Rachel Ray’s “Week in a Day” was on and she was cooking a Moroccan Lemon chicken dish that looked amazing. Plus, it was yet another use for my Meyers! Yay!  Since I’d missed the beginning of the recipe I figured I’d put the script down for a minute, to search for the recipe online.  I found a veritable plethora of recipes for this Moroccan chicken dish.  Now, I know a teeny little bit about Moroccan cooking and know that the traditional mode of cooking is a clay pot with a conical lid called a Tagine.  So of course, I opened another tab and started looking for Tagines.

Gary laughs at me and compares me to Dodgem’, our female greyhound, who shares my A.D.D tendencies (Run, run, run-oh look a flower-run, run run-oh look, a butterfly! No shock that she never had a racing career…)  I say that it makes life a little more entertaining.

After all this, I figured, I’d keep up my promise of keeping up with the blog and to inspire you to try my beloved Meyer Lemons, here is the recipe for my Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.  This is so simple and so tasty, you may not go back to those bottled dressings. Plus it’s all natural, with no chemicals or weird stuff (xanthan gum? what the heck is that stuff anyway?) so you can feel good about serving it to your family.  My mom is going to experiment with using it as a marinade for chicken this week.  She’s such a little badass….I just love her! I’ll let you know how it turns out.  And since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, here’s my Penne Bosco and Roasted Elephant Garlic appetizer. Pair it with a nice salad dressed with the Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and your sure to be the recipient of some sweet kisses for dessert-just be sure to have some mints or gum on hand.

So being a little A.D.D does have its advantages.  I’ve fulfilled my promise to keep the blog rolling along and you guys have the the day to cook this easy and yummy dinner. Everyone wins and I can get back to rehearsing my lines (and shopping for Tagines-it’s Moroccan chicken for dinner as soon as I find one!)

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

3 Meyer Lemons, juiced

1.5 tsp Balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper (you can use pre-ground if you don’t have a peppermill)

1 tsp minced garlic

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 TBS honey

1/4 tsp sugar

1 C extra virgin olive oil

In a medium glass bowl, combine all ingredients except olive oil. Whisk until well combined.  Add olive oil a little at a time, whisking until all of the oil is incorporated and all ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Drizzle over your favorite greens and enjoy!

Now to make an appetizer that is easy and delicious and yes, good for you, go buy yourself a giant clove of elephant garlic.  Elephant garlic gets the same worship in my house as the Meyer Lemon does and if you’ve been hesitant to try it, I encourage you to give it a whirl. It’s naturally sweeter and not as pungent as the smaller variety and is extremely versatile, especially if you roast it first….If you have a terracotta garlic roaster, awesome. If you don’t, you can use a small oven safe dish (like a custard cup) and some tin foil.  Cut the tops off of the garlic to expose the flesh, but make sure to keep the tops, too-just peel off the papery skin. Put the whole clove and tops in your garlic roaster or baking dish and drizzle about 3 TBS of extra virgin olive oil on top. Cover and roast in your oven at 350 for about an hour or until the garlic cloves are soft.  Remove from the oven and carefully open the covering. Inhale and smile.  After you’ve wiped the drool from your chin (hey, it give the garlic time to cool slightly, right?) carefully remove the remaining paper skin from the cloves-it should just slip right off. Serve with fresh, warm, crusty bread that is thinly sliced.  Use the oil, which is now infused with the roasted garlic oils on the bread first and then just spread the garlic on the bread and enjoy.  The slow roasting caramelizes the garlic and makes it mellow and super sweet. The oil complements it perfectly. And since garlic and olive oil are both heart healthy foods, this is good for you! Woohoo!  To make it even better, use a wheat or whole grain baguette. Yum!

Now, for the Penne Bosco

1 lb Penne Regate pasta

1 lb shrimp  (you can substitute 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in to bite sized slices)

1/4 cup oil cured sundried tomatoes, drained and julienned (reserve 2 TBS of oil)

1 TBS capers, drained

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 16oz can artichoke hearts

3/4 cup brandy

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup heavy cream, heated

Fresh basil

Extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

In a saute’ pan, cook the shrimp, garlic, red pepper in the reserved oil from the sundried tomatoes for about 1 minute on high heat, or until shrimp just start to turn pink (if you’re using chicken, cook for about 2 minutes or until chicken starts to get slightly browned).  Add the sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and capers and cook for another minute.  Add the brandy and cook for another minute.  Add the chicken stock and tomatoes and cook for another minute.  To the heated cream, add a bit of the sauce a little at a time (this tempers the cream and keeps it from curdling-icky) when the cream is up to temperature, add it to the pan and stir to combine. Cook for another 30 seconds and remove from heat and let rest.

Cut the basil into a chiffonade .  Ok, before you think “What the heck is that?”…

A chiffonade is a classic cutting technique used for herbs and other green, leafy veggies. It is named for the French word for “rag”-Chiffon.  It’s super easy to do and makes a lovely presentation.  All you have to do is to stack up your leaves, roll them up and slice into thin strips. Fancy name for something pretty simple, right? And it’s so fun to say 🙂 (Shiff-uh-naad-now don’t you feel oh, so French?)

Add the sauce to the pasta and mix thoroughly to combine.  Plate and garnish with the basil chiffonade and your favorite grating cheese (I love Loccatelli, which is a sharp Italian Romano, and is what my Grandmother used all the time). This will serve 4 nicely.

See, putting an amazing meal on the table is not that hard-go on and give it a try tonight. You’ll delight and amaze your sweetheart and may get some something sweet for dessert-mints or not 😉

Have fun and be fearless!

xoxox

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