Unbeetable Borscht!

borsht

This was one of my favorite dishes that my mom made when I was a kid. We used to eat it with blintzes  on the side. This is not traditional Russian hot borscht which has meat, cabbage and potatoes, but cold simple beet borscht, served back in the day with sour cream, Meyer lemon juice and a spoonful of sugar.

I roasted the beets before boiling them, for a deeper flavor. I’ve added the beet greens for more body and nutrients, as well as a bit of salt, dill and lemon zest for flavor. Since I’m watching my waistline, I added nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Not quite the same, but not bad either.

Ingredients:

beets with lemon

2 3/4 cups mild vegetable broth (see below)

1 bunch of 2 large beets, leaves included

1 Meyer lemon (a regular lemon will do if you can’t find a Meyer)

A few shakes, dill weed, salt, sugar, to taste

Trim “tails” and stems from beets. Scrub beets well. Line a covered container with foil (to prevent baked-on beet juice), then place beets in with ¼ cup of water, cover and roast at 400 for 40 minutes.

While beets are roasting, make vegetable broth. (You can do both a day ahead of time.)

trimmed leeks

3 1/2 cups water

1 large leek, dark green parts trimmed

2 large stalks celery. chopped

1 parsnip or 1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 sprig parsely

1/2 tsp dried thyme, or several springs fresh thyme

1/4 tsp dried dill weed, or several springs fresh dill

Several grinds black pepper

3/4 tsp balsamic vinegar to taste

Salt to taste

Directions:

veg broth with leeks celery parsnip garlic thyme and dill

Bring water to boil in medium pot. Trim outer dark leaves from leeks. Slice lengthwise into quarters, then chop crosswise and rinse thoroughly several times in a salad spinner

Rinse and chop celery and peel and chop parsnip or carrot. Thinly slice shallot and garlic clove. Add all vegetables to boiling water with herbs. Simmer for 25 minutes. After it cools, strain through a sieve into a bowl, pushing on the vegetables with a large spoon.. You should have approximately 2 3/4 cups left.

washed beet greets

While broth is booking, rinse beet leaves thoroughly: first rinse, then soak in a salad spinner for about 10 minutes in warm water, then rinse several more times. Chop them finely.

grating beets

Remove beets from oven and let cool. Peel them under running water. The peel should come off easily, revealing the jewel-like beets. Grate them on the large part of a box grater. Unless you have a pair of thin gloves handy,  prepared for hot pink hands!

grated beets

Bring vegetable broth to a boil and add grated beets and greens. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Grate lemon zest (the yellow part) on a fine grater into the soup, and then squeeze in the lemon juice. Stir in vinegar, a few shakes of dill weed, ¼ tsp salt to taste and 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp sugar to taste. Let borscht cool, then refrigerate. You can also serve it room temperature.

Serve with more lemon juice and sour cream. (or substitute plain Greek yogurt for a low-fat alternative.)

Meyer Lemon Triple Ginger Chocolate Gingerbread

dark-gingerbread-with-lemon-and-chocolateLemon and ginger are natural partners, so I added zest and juice from Meyer lemons, along with freshly grated ginger, candied crystallized ginger and powdered ginger for a triple ginger zing in this dark gingerbread.  Cocoa powder brings a warmth to complement the zesty flavors. The warmth of the cinnamon and the candied ginger make up for the smaller amount of sugar than you’ll find in most recipes.

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Warm the eggs in a bowl of warm water. If you forget to take the butter out early, you can soften it using one of these methods: Fill a glass with hot water, empty it and set it on top of the peeled butter cube, or you can microwave the butter for about 5 seconds.

Ingredients: Makes 8 x 8 square pan. You can also make it in an 9 x9 pan.

1 stick butter

2 eggs

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2/3 cup dark molasses (I used unsulphured organic blackstrap molasses)

1/4 cup candied crystallized ginger

3 Tb finely grated fresh ginger root

2 tsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest (the yellow part of the peel)

1 Tb fresh lemon juice

1 ¾ cups all-purpose unbleached flour

2 Tb cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

½ cup boiling water

1 tsp powdered sugar to sift on top of baked gingerbread

Preheat the oven to 350◦ Spray a 8 x 8 square pan with nonstick spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper. I set the pan on the parchment paper to measure it and cut it with scissors. Butter the parchment after placing it in the pan.

Mince the candied ginger. Peel the ginger root and grate on a fine hand grater. Grate the lemon zest, using the same grater. Squeeze the lemon juice, measuring 1 Tb.

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. I use an electric mixer. Add brown sugar and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and molasses. Beat candied ginger, grated ginger, lemon juice and zest into the batter.

Sift the flour, cocoa, and spices together, and then add to the batter, stirring slowly just until combined, then scrape the bowl.

Stir boiling water gently into batter.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake 35 -40 minutes at 350◦ until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Place the cake on a metal cooling rack, and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Slide a thin knife around the sides, and then invert the cake on the rack and peel off the parchment paper. Invert on a plate to serve. Sift a spoonful of powdered sugar on top if desired, or serve with whipped cream.

Lemon Ricotta Cornmeal Pancakes

serving with pecans, strawberries ricotta cream

Inspired by a similar pancake I ate at the organic restaurant Gather in Berkeley, I invented this recipe. I loved the lemon ricotta cream with the grated Meyer lemon, topped with strawberries. Mix a few tablespoons of pecan pieces with maple syrup and scatter on top. It is sublime mixed with apricot jam and fresh peaches.

Flax seed meal amps up the nutrition level. Combine milk with lemon juice first, and let it sit while you mix the other ingredients. The lemon juice will curdle the milk so it resembles buttermilk.

Makes about 15 medium-sized pancakes. Half recipe is in parenthses.

Mix milk and lemon juice:

2  2/3 (1 2/3) cups milk (I use 1%)

1 (1/2) tsp Meyer lemon juice

Mix other wet ingredients:

¾ cup (1/4 cup plus 2 Tb) ricotta cheese (full fat is rich and low-fat is healthy. Sometimes I combine them to get the best of both worlds.

2 (1) large eggs

½ tsp grated rind of Meyer lemon

2 (1) tsp vegetable oil

2 (1) tsp melted butter

Mix dry ingredients:

1 (1/2) cup cornmeal

1 1/4 cup (1/2 cup plus 2 Tb) whole wheat pastry or finely ground flour. If you can’t find this, use 3/4 cup (1/4 cup plus 2 Tb) whole wheat flour and 1/2 (1/4) cup all-purpose white flour

1/4 (2 Tb) cup ground flax seed

2 (1) tsp baking powder

½ (1/4) tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

2 (1) Tb sugar

Stir in:

½ (1/4) cup sliced blueberries and crushed raspberries if desired

1/2 (1/4) cup pecan pieces

Directions:

Combine wet ingredients, mixing well.

Alternate 1/2 of milk mixture and dry ingredients, stirring only until lumps disappear. Fold in blueberries and nuts if desired.

Heat oiled skillet or pancake grill. Rub a cube of butter over surface. Fry pancakes over low-medium heat.

Lemon-ricotta cream:

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

½ tsp lemon juice from Meyer lemon

½ tsp grated Meyer lemon rind

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp maple syrup (pure is best)

Whip ingredients together for about 2 minutes. Serve over pancakes with fresh strawberries and peaches. Top with apricot jam or maple syrup if desired.

Valentine’s Day Heartfelt Salad

Valentine’s Day meals aren’t only about the chocolate for dessert. They begin with a salad made with hearts of romaine, artichoke hearts and red bell pepper hearts. The heart-healthy dressing marries olive oil and Meyer lemon juice, celebrating the happy coincidence of Meyer lemons ripening on Valentine’s Day.

serves two sweethearts

14 oz can Artichoke hearts

1 heart of romaine lettuce

1 red bell pepper, cut into heart shapes

Dress with Meyer lemon vinaigrette:

3 Tb Meyer lemon juice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp fresh minced garlic

Combine ingredients in blender and run on high until emulsified.

Rainbow Chard with Arabic spices and Israeli couscous

Somewhere over the rainbow,
In my backyard,
Growing green, red, and yellow,
Organic rainbow chard.

My daughter and I invented this recipe together on Mother’s Day. We started in the backyard where we are growing rainbow chard. This grows in red, white and yellow colors.

We chop it, stems and all, and sauté with onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms and lemon, and add  the Arabic spices sumac and coriander. When the vegetables are tender, we stir into Israeli couscous. We garnish it with cilantro, and toasted pine nuts.

Israeli couscous or Maftoul,  is shaped like small pearls and is chewier than its Moroccan cousin. I cook it in broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version). You can make this dish vegan by using the vegetable broth.

If only achieving peace in the Holy Land was as easy as blending Palestinian and Israeli cuisines!

Serves 6 side dishes:

Israeli couscous:
1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
1 ¾ broth (chicken or vegetable)
½ teaspoon salt to taste
2 Tb  lemon juice (Meyer lemon is nice)
Vegetables:
1 bunch chard: 10 -12 leaves and stems, washed
10 mushrooms
2 large cloves shallots, minced
1 onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sumac
2 tsp zataar or dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup broth
Zest of 1  lemon (Meyer is best)
 
Garnish:
¼  cup pine nuts
2 Tb cilantro leaves
 

Boil 2 cups broth in a medium saucepan with salt and lemon juice. Remove ¼ cup and reserve.

While broth is coming to a boil, toast the Israeli couscous in a  skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently about 7 minutes until golden-brown. Add it to the 1 3/4 cups broth and cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes  until couscous is tender.

While  couscous is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Quarter the onion, then slice thinly.  Heat 2 Tb olive oil in heavy frying pan. Add onions, sumac, coriander, zataar or thyme, and salt. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent.

 

Cut mushrooms into quarters and add to onions.

Mince garlic and shallots and add to the onions. Sauté them a few minutes until they turn golden.

Slice the chard stems thinly, and chop the leaves. Add to the onion mixture with the reserved broth, lemon juice and zest. Mix well and cover pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chard softens.

Toss with the Israeli couscous. Garnish with pine nuts and fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Meyer Lemon and Italian Herbs

This is quick and easy. The chicken is fragrant and juicy. A good way to use those chicken breasts on sale. Use roasted bones and skin for Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup  ; perfect to make broth for Minestrone Soup on a rainy day.

5 bone-in chicken breasts with skin attached
Olive oil, about 3 Tb
5  garlic cloves, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tb fresh thyme, minced
About 1 Tb each dried oregano and thyme
About 1 tsp chili flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves
2 lemons: ½  sliced and 1 ½  juiced and zest grated
 

Preheat oven to 450′

Oil a large roasting pan

Salt underside of breasts. Place breasts in pan, skin side up

Stuff garlic, rosemary, fresh thyme and a lemon slice under each breast skin

Sprinkle dried herbs, chili flakes, salt and pepper over breasts

Sprinkle olive oil over breasts

Roast in 450’ oven for 50 minutes

Squeeze lemon juice over cooked chicken. Garnish with fresh basil and Meyer lemon zest.

Meyer Lemon Bread and Blossom Tea

Meyer Lemon Bread

Any self-respecting Berkeley foodie knows the value of Meyer lemons from tasting Meyer lemon ice cream or cheese at the local farmer’s market. They are sweeter and more flavorful than plain old lemons, and ripen to a lovely orange-yellow. Back in the 50’s, when my parents first planted a Meyer lemon tree in their suburban backyard, they had no idea how trendy this fruit would become.

My mother made a delectable Meyer lemon bread, which is moist and fragrant with Meyer lemon juice and peel. It was a family favorite, and brings me back memories of crawling underneath our lemon tree to nab the ripest ones in the thorny center. I would just lie there, inhaling the delicate scent of lemons. I finally brought the bowl, heavy with fruit, to my mom. She would send me and my sister around to our favorite neighbors to give them lemons.

I now own my own dwarf Meyer lemon tree and make this recipe for my family and friends. I added a 1/2 tsp ginger powder to complement the lemon.

This recipe also works for cupcakes, but can be too sweet if you use a high sugar frosting. Try a cream cheese lemon frosting that’s not too sweet. But you really don’t need to frost it at all. The lemon syrup is delicious as is.

I also make a Meyer lemon blossom tea (recipe below.) A hot cup goes perfect with the cake.

I am going to visit my dear 90 year-old mother on Sunday and bring her a slice of Meyer lemon bread and some tea.

Meyer Lemon Bread

makes one loaf, cake or dozen cupcakes

Set oven for 350·  Generously grease a 5×9 loaf pan or 8 x 8 cake pan with butter. Or use 12 cupcake holders.

Ingredients (that is my mom’s original retro flour canister!)

ingredients for Meyer Lemon bread

½ cup butter (my mom used margarine  back in the day) at room temperature, plus at least a teaspoon for greasing the pan

½ cup milk

1 tsp Meyer lemon juice

1 cup sugar

2 eggs at room temperature, slightly beaten

1 ¼ cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp ginger powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup chopped nuts

Grated zest of one large or 2 small Meyer lemons (yellow part only)

Lemon syrup:

Juice of one large or 2 small Meyer lemons

2 Tb sugar

Add lemon juice to milk. This will make the milk curdle for a more delicate crumb.

Cream butter with 1 cup sugar. Mix in eggs and scrape bowl and mix again.

Sift flour with baking powder, ginger powder and salt. With mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the butter-sugar-eggs mixture. Mix in the nuts and lemon zest.

alternate flour and milk in batter

Bake the loaf for one hour. Cupcakes should take approx 20 minutes. While it is baking, juice the lemon and stir it with 2 Tb sugar. When you remove cake from the oven, poke a bunch of holes in the top with a fork. Pour in lemon syrup. Spread a few teaspoons of what’s left on the top like a glaze. Enjoy!

lemon blossoms

My Meyer lemon blossom tea has a delicate natural sweetness. I’ve added a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh mint and lavender for a complex taste. Try the different combinations. You won’t need much sweetener, unlike regular lemonade.  Serve it iced with your picnic.

lemon blossom tea

Lemon blossoms are fragrant and sweet. If you don’t use too much lemon juice, you won’t need much sweetener.

Pick about 10 lemon blossoms and buds and rinse. Steep in hot water for at least half an hour. Add a squirt of lemon juice and agave nectar or honey to taste. The longer you steep it, the more flavorful.  Serve hot or  iced.

Lemon blossom – mint tea

mint leaves

Prepare as above with 2 sprigs of mint per glass.

lemon blossom mint tea

Lemon blossom-lavender tea

lavender

Prepare lemon blossom tea adding 2 lavender blossoms. Don’t steep this tea too long or the lavender will overpower the other herbs.

lavender lemon blossom tea