Preserved Lemons Two Ways: Weekend Project?

preserved lemons two ways

I typically don’t/never do this: 1. Post a recipe I’ve made only once. 2. Suggest you make something I’ve never tasted.

Why am I making the exception today? Well, this is the thing: preserving, as many of you know, takes time, and while I would prefer to wait a month to tell you how these preserved lemons turn out, I would prefer more if in a month from now you actually had these preserved lemons on hand, so when in the event I post about something else, something perhaps like the chicken tagine with preserved lemons and green olives I had at Tara Kitchen in early December, a dish I cannot stop thinking about and so hope to recreate at home, you’ll be able to participate, too.

Make sense? I mean, what if on February 10th, I posted about said tagine and exclaimed: Friends, you HAVE to make this. It is the BEST thing you will ever eat. All you need is a chicken, some stock, a bunch of herbs and preserved lemons. You would be like, are you serious? Oh sure, let me just run to my pantry and pull out my jar of preserved lemons. I mean, doesn’t everyone spend all of citrus season slicing and salting and stuffing Mason jars full of lemons? Couldn’t you have given us a head’s up? How hard would that have been? Am I right? Just making sure I can sleep at night.

And so today I offer you two recipes for preserved lemons, one from Jerusalem, which will be ready in four weeks, and one from the September 2013 Bon Appétit, which will be ready in two weeks. Both sound promising. Fingers crossed?

[Read more…]

Benriner Mandoline & Turning Slicer, Kevlar Gloves

sliced cucumbers, potatoes and summer squash

Shortly after posting the summer squash spaghetti entry, I received a message on Facebook from a reader. It said: “I just ordered the mandoline! My husband is shaking his head. Just wait!” Shortly after reading the comment, a few images flashed through my head: a dismembered finger, an angry husband, and a couple sitting in the ER waiting room cursing my name. What had I done?! Statements and suggestions from that post had to be followed up, sooner rather than later.

Let’s start from the beginning. In that post, I noted that I prefered my Benriner mandoline to my Benriner turning slicer for the long thin wisps it creates. This is true. The Benriner mandoline is great for, among many reasons, creating julienned summer squash and cucumbers, for slicing potatoes into rounds to be baked or fried into chips, and for thinly slicing radishes and kohlrabi for salads. Moreover, it, unlike some mandolines, can be adjusted so that it truly makes paper-thin slices (others stop at 1/4-inch or 1/8-inch).

What I perhaps love most about the Benriner mandoline, however, is its size, which measures only 13.5 x 6 x 1-inch, making it compact enough to fit right against the inside wall of any of my kitchen cupboards, allowing for easy access and stowage. Having never owned any other mandoline, I have only my mother’s to compare, which sits in the same cumbersome box in which it was packaged and lives someplace in her basement. It’s no wonder she never uses it.

The Benriner mandoline is not perfect, however, and if you decide to get one, it is important to keep a few things in mind:

1. Because it is handheld, it is necessary to have some way of securing its bottom edge while you are using it. I have a wooden cutting board with a back raised ledge (see videos below), which works perfectly, but a wall (if your counters aren’t too deep) or a brick (maybe?) could serve the same purpose.

2. Because it does not have one of those protective plastic shields — or if it came with one, I have no idea where it is — it has the potential to seriously injure whoever is operating it. With this is mind, reader Dee G left a great comment on the pasta post: “Love my mandoline, and I use it with no fear after purchasing kevlar gloves from Amazon. I could never make the pushing thing work for me and always used my fingers…a dangerous proposition. Those gloves are simply fantastic! And you really only need one, so buy a pair and share with a friend. I promise you’ll use that mandoline much more often!”

Dee G was right. The gloves give you all the confidence you need to pass any vegetable swiftly down the mandoline plane right through the razor sharp blade. I purchased these kevlar gloves and would like to share one half of my pair with one of you. Leave a comment if you are interested.

3. Finally, Kevlar glove on or off, the Benriner mandoline is not the best tool for certain jobs. Julienning potatoes, for instance, I found to be very challenging with the Benriner mandoline. In contrast, the turning slicer seemed to magically and effortlessly multiply my single potato into a beautiful web of thinly sliced strands, the perfect shape for frites (or a frites nest I should say).

In sum, if you’re in the market for a mandoline, I highly recommend the Benriner, but I would sleep better knowing you purchased a pair of kevlar gloves along with it. And if you have room for another gadget, the Benriner turning slicer (I’ve discovered this past week) does in fact have a place in the kitchen — for certain vegetables it is a much safer and better tool to use than a mandoline, and if you’re at all frightened by the idea of using a mandoline, the turning slicer might be the way to go.

fried potatoes

slicers & kevlar gloves

This salad is so summery and refreshing, perfect aside grilled meat or fish.
cucumber, feta and mint salad

potatoes & slicers

Benriner slicers

One note: I used a cucumber that I had sliced on the turning slicer for this salad. It was beautiful but a little bit awkward to serve — the turning slicer creates insanely long strands of whatever it is slicing up. One way to avoid this situation is to either use a mandoline or a knife (neither a turning slicer or mandoline is necessary to cut up cucumbers — just slice the cucumber into thin rounds or small dice) or to chop up the cucumber “nest” created by the turning slicer before tossing it with the feta, mint and dressing.

Cucumber, Feta and Mint Salad
Serves: However many you like

cucumbers, julienned or diced or sliced into rounds
feta cheese
mint, thinly sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
white balsamic vinegar

1. Combine cucumbers, feta and mint in a bowl. Toss with equal parts olive oil and white balsamic. As a reference, I used 1 tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of vinegar for the 1 cucumber I sliced up. Season with salt if necessary — I found that the feta added enough saltiness so I didn’t add any additional salt.

cutting board

cucumber, feta and mint salad

fried potatoes

Two Ways to Cut an Onion

onions, diced & sliced

OK, I know most of you know how to cut onions. If you’re one of them, please stop reading. I don’t mean to bore you.

This post is intended for those of you who might just like a little extra guidance at the chopping block. The way I cut onions is the way I learned many years ago while working at a restaurant. When I was there, the chef at the time made the most beautiful salads, relishes, ceviches, and most notably, salsas. Depending on the season and on the celebration (and on his mood), the star ingredient of the salsa always changed — from tomato (of course) to roasted poblano pepper to grilled pineapple to jicama to mango to corn to pickled red onion to tomatillo. The supporting cast, however, remained constant or nearly constant: there was always some sort of herb (cilantro, mint, Thai basil), some sort of acid (lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar), some sort of heat source (jalapeno, Thai bird chili, Tabasco) and always red onion.

The red onion — diced into perfect little arched diamonds — was always the prettiest of all of the shapes comprising the salsas. Sometimes it was super thin (when used in a delicate mixture topping a fresh oyster, for example) and sometimes it was super thick (when used in tomato bruschetta, for example). But the cutting method was always the same. I’ve included a video below. The key, which might be hard to pick up in the video, is in the final slicing step: when the half moon slices of onion are stacked, and you are ready to start creating your dice, you always want to keep your knife 90º to the curve. Does this make sense? I know this is nothing earth shattering, but once you learn out how to do this, you’ll be so happy (I was at least) to see those little red diamonds amassing on your board — they make the prettiest additions to salsa, of course, but also to potato salads or whole grain salads or bean salads etc.

finely diced onions

Note: This is not a technique to improve speed — the goal is to create beautiful delicate red diamonds.

sliced onions

There’s no story to go along with the second method, slicing, but I also learned this method at the restaurant. A video is probably unnecessary, but I’ve included one below anyway. When I need to sauté an onion or to caramelize it or to slice it for a Greek salad, for example, this is how I do it:

cutting board