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Posts Tagged ‘Lemon’

For the first time in my life, I am on the West Coast of Canada, enjoying the casual Vancouver life. I’ve been indulging in delicious seafood, and it reminded me of one of my favourite seafood salads.

This salad is the very essence of fresh – the cool cucumber and green melon accents the crab meat perfectly.  The mayonnaise dressing is lightened with lemon and dill, making the seafood shine.  This is one of my favourite salads to enjoy as it’s simultaneously light and refreshing, while filling.

I can’t take credit for this salad – that goes to my mom a few decades ago who had the brilliant idea of substituting imitation crab meat for chicken in a Silver Palate recipe.  It’s been a family favourite ever since, often the star during a picnic lunch. The salad keeps well undressed for a few days in the fridge – so if it’s just me enjoying it, I’ll dress individual portions as I eat them to help it hold. To make it a meal, serve with a crusty roll and enjoy!

Neptune Salad

Neptune Salad

Ingredients

1 lb imitation crab meat, flake style (usually blend of Alaska polluck and king crab)

2 cups honeydew melon balls

2 cups cucumber balls with skin

4 green onions, chopped

2 cups washed green or red seedless grapes, halved

½ cup chopped fresh dill

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

Coarsely ground fresh pepper and salt, to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest, and seasoning until thoroughly mixed.

Shred the imitation crab meat into bite-size pieces and place into a large bowl. Add the melon and cucumber balls, grapes, green onions, and dill. Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the salad. Adjust seasoning to taste.  Best served cold.

Bon appetit!

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A few weeks ago, I had an excuse to bake a celebratory cake.  While searching for a suitable recipe, a small side note from the “About Angel Food Cakes” section in  Joy of Cooking caught my eye: it suggested that to jazz up an angel food cake, to stuff it with lemon curd.  The complementary flavours of tangy lemon layered inside a light angel food cake captivated my imagination (not to mention my tastebuds).  I decided to finish the cake with a whipped cream frosting stabilized by rich mascarpone cheese.   Mascarpone is a rich, spreadable, Italian cheese, almost custard-like in flavour.  It helps thicken the frosting, while retaining the lightness of the whipping cream.

The cake was suberb – with the flavours melding perfectly.  For my parent’s wedding anniversary this weekend, I tried it out on my mother (who is a self-declared dessert connoisseur),  and she too declared it an absolute success. While slightly fiddly to assemble, it is certainly worth every second of effort!

Coincidently, a few weeks after my initial test run,  Canadian Living came out with a similar recipe for mother’s day.  I suspect most mothers would love this special dessert next Sunday!

Angel Cake with Lemon Curd and Marscapone Frosting

Makes one 10-inch angel food cake

 

Ingredients:

Angel Food Cake

1 cup sifted cake flour

3/4 cup + 3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 11 large whites)

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond abstract
 

Lemon Cheese

3 large eggs

1/3 cup sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon vanilla
 

Marscapone Frosting

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup marscapone

1/4 to 1/2  cup icing sugar, depending on your preferred sweetness
 

Finishing Touches

1 pint blueberries

Grated zest of 1 lemon
 

Directions:

Angle Cake

Note: The egg whites should be at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Have ready an ungreased 10-inch tube pan (preferably with removable sides).

Sift together three times the flour, 3/4 cup sugar and salt.  In a separate large bowl, combine the egg whites, water, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and vanilla.  Beat on low speed for 1 minute.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture increases to 5 times in volume and resembles a soft foam, about 3-5 minutes.

On medium-high speed, beat in 1 tablespoon at a time, taking 2 to 3 minutes 3/4 cup sugar.  When all the sugar has been added, teh foam will be creamy white and hold soft, moist, glossy peaks that bend over at the points: do not beat until stiff.

Sift a fine layer of the flour mixture (about 1/4 cup) evenly over the batter and fold gently with a rubber spatula only until the flour is almost incorporated; do not stir or mix.  Repeat 7 more times, folding in the last addition until no traces of flour are visible.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread gently to level the top.  Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

When the cake is done, invert immediately and cool upside down in the pan, to prevent it from sinking.  Use the feet of the pan to hold it above the surface of the table or prop it higher by resting the tube on a bottle or inverted funnel.  Let the cake cool for at least 1 1/2 hours, until it is thoroughly set.

To remove the cake from the pan, slide a thin knive around the cake to detach it from the pan and the tube.  If you have removable sides, slide the knife under the cake to detach it from the bottom.  Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
 

Lemon Curd

Whisk together in a saucepan until light in colour the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest.  Add the fresh lemon juice and butter.  Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until the butter is melted, the mixture is thickened  and simmers gently for a few seconds.  Using a spatula, scrape the filling through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Stir in the vanilla.  Let cool, cover, and refrigerate to thicken.
 

Marscapone Frosting

With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk whipping ceam until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat, or cream will be grainy). In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated.
 

Assembly

Using a very sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, carefully cut the cake horizontally in thirds. Lay the bottom layer on a serving platter.  Gently spread half of the lemon curd over the cake.  Place the middle layer over the curd.  Gently spread with the remaining lemon curd.  Cover with the final third.

Using a frosting spatula (or a butter knife), frost the entire cake including tops and sides.  Decorate with blueberries and lemon zest. Bon appetit!
 
– Catherine

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As I write this, mango pollen and flowers are falling from above me and are lodging themselves in my keyboard. And I will begin with a warning that this is a long, long post! I promise, though, that there is a true Gambian recipe waiting for you at the end, and before it, the story of a Canadian who has attempted to cook it.

As I learn the Gambian way of life, I must admit that I have found it difficult to cook. Hence the lack of posts on Gambian food so far. That is not because cooking here is difficult – most dishes are one-pot dishes or two-pot dishes – so they are not too complicated. Cooking here is difficult because the women don’t believe that I can cook. This is aggravated by their love of repetition… and if a dish is not cooked exactly as they do it or they know it – then they don’t like it. After two months living here though, I decided to push all help out of the way and cook a meal all by myself. Oh boy, it was not easy! All throughout my cooking women would come in and tell me different things about how I should be doing it… but I kept on saying ‘today I am cooking, and you will eat’. So I guess before I give you the recipe, I will tell you the story of how this meal was created. The way I made it was a fusion of Gambian Benachin and Senegalese Chebu Gen, because I learned to cook it in Dakar as well as in Gambia.

It started off with a deal with a friend of mine, P., who told me that he didn’t think I could cook because every time I say I cook I end up watching more than anything else because the women take over.

Mid-morning I headed to the market with my friend F. who helped me with the transactions so that I would not be nailed with Toubab prices. My basket was soon filling up with fresh fish, sea snail, salt-dried fish, carrots, tomatoes, bitter tomatoes, garlic, squash, niambi, cabbage, egg plant, onions, rice, preserved tamarind, hot peppers, salt, seasoning, pepper corns, peanut oil, and charcoal.

On my way home, several men told me jokingly, ‘I look forward to you bringing my lunch!’. Every time I go to the market and return with food, the next time I pass, men (who I don’t know) ask me ‘where is my lunch?’. Here, people like to joke jovially a lot.

Back home, I started by cleaning the fish to fry it right away, because even though I was going to cook dinner, I had to cook the fish right away so it didn’t spoil since there is no refrigeration. I lit the charcoal, and began to heat the oil to fry the fish. As the oil heated up, fish scales were flying everywhere as I cleaned it. I hauled buckets of water to the back of my house, and washed the fish three times. Then I drizzled it in lemon and salt.

After frying it, I put it in a bowl and let it stand in the shade all afternoon while I visited a friend.

That evening, I returned to cook around 5pm. First, I started by cleaning all the vegetables, and lighting the charcoal again. That is easier said than done, and took a lot of blowing and fanning in order for the charcoal to be fully lit. The women kept on coming over to watch and tell me what to do (all the time different instructions). I had to shoo them away every time. The kids would then come and ask to help me. That day, there were 5 women at the house, so I got 5 different sets of instructions. It was exhausting!

Finally, when I got to the stage of picking through the rice to clean it and then wash it, I was relieved. I was also worried that the pot was too small for the 7 cups of rice I was about to cook… It just fit. Barely. Now, I will try to estimate quantities for you to make this – but I definitely did not have any measurements as to the amount of water to use with the rice – just a lucky guess!

Anyway, after an exhausting but nonetheless fun cooking session, I had two big bowls of food prepared for the family. When I came to Gambia I was given a Gambian name, Yandé, which means ‘everyone’s mother’ – after the mother of the Director of the Agricultural Centre where I work. So all of her children call me ‘my mother’ and their children call me ‘Grandmother’. I was very happy that I could share this meal with 4 of ‘my children’, their spouses, and many, many grandchildren. Despite the fact that the recipe was not exactly like they usually have it (I made a slightly healthier version than normal… with less oil and no palm oil and lot of vegetables), they all said they loved it and said, Yandé, you can cook!’.

So there you have it, the story of the first truly Gambian dish I have cooked entirely on my own. Sorry for the long story! Bisimilah – that means ‘bon appétit’, among many things.

Ingredients – for a full meal for approximately 6 – 8 people

-3 cups of medium or long-grain (not basmati) rice
-2 onions
-6 cloves garlic
-5 kani chili peppers (scotch bonnet – you can alter the amount based on how spicy you like your food)
-1 Tbsp black pepper corns

-3 firm-fleshed whole fish
-1 piece of sea snail (substitute some smoked oysters or dried fish from an Asian food store)
-1/2 a salted dried fish
-4 lemons
-1 tbsp coarse sea salt

-1 cup peanut oil
-2 cups water (plus more)

-2 cubes vegetable stock

-4 carrots
-2 pieces of squash
-2 bitter tomatoes (not sure if there is any substitute for this in Canada – maybe just add more of something else)
-4 pieces of niambi or cassava root
-1/2 a medium cabbage, cut into two pieces
-1 sweet potato, cut into 4 pieces
-4-6 medium tomatoes
-8 cups water approximately

-Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean, gut, and scale the fish. Cut in half, and cut slits onto each side. Drizzle with the juice of two lemons, and salt with the coarse sea salt. Make sure there is plenty of lemon juice in covering the fish and in the slits.

In another bowl, wash the salt-dried fish and snail thoroughly three times.

Pound the pepper corns, and then the garlic. Once it is a smooth paste (you can use a food processor for the garlic with ground pepper instead of pepper corns if you don’t have large enough a mortar and pestle). Add the hot peppers, and pound until smooth. Then chop the onions and add them and continue pounding until it is a relatively uniform paste. Transfer to a bowl and cover until it will be used.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Once the oil is very hot, fry the fish pieces one-by-one until it is fully cooked and golden. Remove from oil and let drain on paper towel (I didn’t do this here… but I think it is a good idea if there is paper towel available!).

Set fish aside. While the oil is still hot, fry the snail and the salt-dried fish. Once they are in the pot, they should never leave it until it is time to eat! Fry them until they are golden brown.

After this, crush or crumble one cube of stock and carefully stir into the hot oil. Stir well so no clumps form. Add the pounded garlic, hot pepper, and onion mixture. Traditionally, you would add the tomatoes and pound them with the garlic but I like them separate.

Stir the pounded mixture in well, then fry in the oil for two minutes while stirring often until everything becomes fragrant. Then add two cups of water and the remaining stock cube, and bring to a boil. When it boils, add the hard vegetables. Add more water until the vegetables are fully covered. Boil them until tender, approximately 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the whole tomatoes, the two remaining hot peppers, and the egg plant (and any other soft veggies you might want).

Put the preserved tamarind in a bowl with a lid, with the juice of one lemon. When the veggies are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and put them in the bowl on top of the tamarind, and cover.

Replace fish in the pot, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in with the vegetables.

Add more water until it makes approximately 8 cups of stock and bring to a boil (instead of measuring, I use the following technique to guess the volume necessary: there should be approximately 2-3 fingers-thick of water above the rice in the pot). Taste the broth and add salt accordingly. Pick through the rice and remove any rocks and other seeds. Wash the rice three times until clean. Add rice to boiling stock and cover. Once it boils, reduce the heat (for me, this meant removing charcoal…). Cook for 10 minutes more or so and then stir and remove from heat.

Place rice in a big bowl. Spread vegetables on top, with fish. Serve with juice and tamarind from the bowl where veggies were reserved. Slice a lemon and juice it on top of everything, and a dusting of minced parsley if you like.

If you want to eat Gambian-style, use your right hand and make a ball of rice with small amounts of veggies and fish for each mouthful, and everyone eats out of the same bowl!

Bisimilah!

-Sitelle (alias: Yandé)

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It’s been a very long time. I have been meaning to post some Gambian recipes, but it is not easy to get internet access. I am starting to get used to the african rhythm of life.

Steamed fish is something I have for breakfast here on the Smiling Coast. I think it would be appreciated for lunch or dinner in Canada though!

Here, access to electricity is never guaranteed, and most people don’t have refrigerators. That means instead that food is fresh fresh fresh because it is caught the day it is eaten, or picked the day it is sold. At the market, there are heaps of kani chilis, heaps of fish, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, squash, egg plant, bitter tomato, niambi, cassava, cabbage… and women greeting me everywhere in the hopes that the Toubab will be their customer. I greet them in wolof, and they laugh and say ‘this toubab understands wolof!’ And then the greetings begin.

Although this is a Gambian dish, it is definitely not one of the most common ones. I will post those recipes another time.

Ingredients – Serves 4
-4 lemons
-4 whole fish, fresh, gutted, scales removed, sides slit
-3 hot chili peppers (or more or less depending on your taste – here they use kani peppers)
-4 onions
-medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
-salt to taste
-2 Tbsp mustard
-2 tsp – black pepper
-1/2 cube vegetable stock
-1 head of lettuce, washed
-4 tomatoes, sliced
-1 1/2 cups water

Directions
Bring water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, clean the fish and wash.

Pound the hot chili peppers in a mortar and pestle. Add to the fish in a bowl. Add the juice 3 of the lemons, the mustard, and black pepper to the fish as well as the cube of broth.

Slice the onions and add to the fish. Stir well to coat everything in seasoning.

Remove the potatoes from the water, and remove a few tablespoonfuls of water so there is less than one inch of water at the bottom of the pan. Add fish and cover. Cook for 10 or so minutes or until fish is fully cooked. Add potatoes at the end and stir to season.

Wash the lettuce, and add the juice of the remaining lemon and some salt to the lettuce. Arrange lettuce on a large platter. Place fish and everything from the pot on top of the lettuce. Serve with slices of tomatoes and fresh crusty bread!

-Sitelle (Alias Yandé Saar)

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Berry season is over, and there’s nothing quite like fresh, fully ripe berries that have been warmed in the sun. I’m posting this for memory’s sake, because I love blueberries, and as you’ve probably already figured out, I harvested a lot of them this summer (the heading photo for our blog is proof!).

I love how versatile shortcakes are: all you need is a sponge cake, some cream, some fruit, and a bit of imagination to make it unique – and then you have a delicious never-fail dessert with which to spoil your friends and families.

Ingredients – 8 servings

sponge cake

-1 cup sifted cake flour
-6 large eggs, separated
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1 tsp pure vanilla extract
-1 Tbsp milk
-zest from 1 lemon, finely grated

lemon whipped cream

-500mL whipping cream, cold
-finely grated (as finely as possible) lemon zest
-2-3 Tbsp icing sugar (or more if desired)
-2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions

Sponge cake

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 round sponge cake pans, or better – line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift the flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks together with 1/2 cup sugar until they are fluffy and light, around 5 minutes on high with a mixer. Then add the lemon zest, milk, and vanilla extract, and continue beating for another 30 seconds.

Pour flour over egg yolk mixture, but do not mix. In another bowl, beat the egg whites into soft peaks on high speed. Gradually add in the remaining sugar until it is incorporated, and the mixture is glossy.

Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the flour/egg yolk mixture, and gently fold in. Then add the remaining egg whites, and gently incorporate. Do not over-mix. There may be a few lumps remaining, but that is not a problem.

Pour batter into each pan evenly, spreading it out gently with a rubber spatula so it is even throughout. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden and springy. When ready, remove from oven and pans, and cool on wire racks, and remove the parchment paper if you used it (which I recommend).

Lemon whipped cream

Once the cake is cooked, whip the cream in a bowl (the colder the bowl, cream, and whisk are – the better). Once it begins to thicken, add the vanilla, icing sugar, and the finely grated lemon zest. Make sure the lemon zest is really fine – I usually zest it with a microplane and then chop it even mor on a cutting board with a sharp knife so it is basically lemon dust.

Continue whipping the cream until it is firm, but stop before it begins to get lumpy.

Assembling the cake

Place one of the sponge cakes on a platter. Cover it with a thin layer of whipped cream, and arrange a layer of blueberries on top. Cover with a bit more whipped cream if desired, then place the second sponge on top. Cover entire cake with remaining whipped cream, and arrange blueberries on top. If you want to make a tripple, or even quadrupple-decker, just multiply the sponge and cream recipes!

-Sitelle

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Cooking for one still manages to stump me, and I often end up with at least an extra meal if not more in left-overs even if I try to keep things small. While many people would love this, I prefer the freedom of cooking something new almost every day. If what I make is freezable, it’s not a problem, because I can re-visit it after a break.  I now have even more appreciation for my wonderful left-over loving partner. Alas, for me all these left-overs represent an issue – I love to cook so much but my stomach simply is incapable of handling the quantities of food I make on any given day and so I have had to get used to eating left-overs several days in a row.

Well, since I’ll be living in Senegal for 6 months, I had better get used to repetition. It’s sort of like training, I guess. That, and the fact I probably won’t have access to a kitchen anything like I’m used to. I can’t wait to learn to cook Senegalese food!

Luckily, by the second week in Montréal I discovered it’s not quite as monotonous if I try to re-invent the left-overs. This is one of those recipes – one you can make with any left-over chicken or other meat/tofu.

Ingredients – 2 wraps

-1 leftover chicken breast or 3 drumsticks, cooked, meat sliced
-2 Tbsp capers
-6 slices sharp cheddar
-2 large soft wheat or corn wraps
-lemon juice
-salt and pepper
-veggies to eat on the side
-1 tsp olive oil

Directions

Slice the meat and cheese. Arrange the wrap on a counter, then place 2 slices of cheese across the wrap. Place the meat on top, along with the capers and a spritz of lemon juice. Top with the remaining cheese and salt and pepper, then close the wrap tightly. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook wrap on both top and bottom until the wrap is warm and has begun to turn golden.

Wash and cut up assorted veggies to eat on the side. I love carrots and tomatoes with this particular combination! You could also add some fresh spinach to the wrap before warming it if you like.

-Sitelle

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Family dinners at the cottage are often more exciting than one bargains for.  Earlier this spring, my grandmother was given a whole frozen Arctic char.  She decided that the occasion to serve it would be for her 63rd wedding anniversary.  The dilemma was how to cook the fish?  No one in my family had ever attempted to cook a whole fish before, and certainly not a beautiful large Arctic char!

On their 63rd wedding anniversary, my grandparents enjoying an evening swim!

We decided to try to poach it.  My mother dug up from her basement, a dusty fish poacher given to her as a wedding gift over two decades ago (never once used).  I was to look up a recipe, and chose Martha Stewart’s court-bouillon recipe for poached salmon.  It looked simple, yet flavourful using fresh spring ingredients.  And the Arctic char would add the Canadian twist!

Cooking the fish proved to be more exciting than expected.  Our first excitement came when we realized I had forgotten the recipe at the grocery store.  Then, as it thawed,  we discovered it had yet to be gutted (my uncle saved us here).  Finally, half way through the poaching, my sister scraped the crown of her foot on a rock covered with zebra mussels. She suffered a series of cuts, but more seriously, a gash that proved to need stitches!  Realizing emergency might take a while, we decided to enjoy the fish and chocolate zucchini cake before taking my sister into town for stitches.  But really, what would a special dinner be at the cottage sans adventure?

The fish itself was delicious – succulent, flavourful, and soft – the 14 of us polished it off nicely.  Indeed, my mother thought it was so delicious that she decided to cook it the following week for a dinner party!

A feast of Arctic Char!

Poached Arctic Char

(serves 12-15)

Ingredients

1 bottle dry white wine

1/2 fresh fennel, sliced

2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

3 bay leaves

1 bouquet garni (1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley and 1 bunch thyme, tied together)

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

Water

1 large Arctic char, between 6-8 pounds, gutted (salmon substitutes beautifully)

Directions:

Set the poacher diagonally over the stove so it touches two burners.  Place all the ingredients for the court-bouillon into the fish poacher.  Add water until the fish poacher is about 3/5th full.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

Gently lower the Arctic char into the court-bouillon.  Cook at a bare simmer for about 20 minutes.  Slide two wooden spoons through each handle of the rack, and lift it to remove the fish.  Serve on its own or with a creamy dill sauce.  (Be sure to freeze the stalk for another dish.) Poached Arctic char is perfect for special occasions!

– Catherine

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