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Kane’s cuisine: Making preserved lemons & vanilla extract at home

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in a new weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

Editor’s Note: What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in a new weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – In early 2020, I thought I was going to start baking bread at home. I was also going to really learn French and get through at least one of those Proust novels that, back in college, I had pretended to read for my Literature 101 course (translated into English, bien sûr). 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Two years later, as we emerge from the pandemic (I don’t see you, XE variant, because I am choosing to live in denial) I remain pathetically monolingual while the spine of my copy of In Search of Lost Time remains uncreased. 

Where my kitchen is concerned, however, some of my experimentation during quar yielded results that are too good not to share with the world. Dear reader, let me bless your life and change it with instructions for homemade vanilla extract and preserved lemons that are so easy (and so delicious/rewarding) it’s stupid. 

But first, a few notes about how to use these ingredients and arguments for why they’re worth making at home – even if, at this point, the prospect of doing any DIY projects feels as tired as Tiger King, or the Will Smith/Chris Rock incident, or…Covid. 

  1. Preserved lemons – you can (should, in fact) always keep an abundant quantity of lemons in your pantry. Put nine of them in a bowl, even. (That was a reference to Real Housewife of Orange County Shannon Beador, for any Bravoholics reading.) You can cook with every part of the fruit, save for their seeds, but preserve lemons in salt and they will remain shelf stable – with a flavor that is less bitter, pleasantly salty, and also, somehow, both milder and lemonier – for months and months. 

Chop them up to add some zing to your homemade or store-bought salad dressings, sauces, dips or spreads. Add them to soups or stews. Put the rinds under the skin of the breasts of a whole chicken, and then rub the outside of the bird with the fruit, before seasoning and roasting it (at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, lowering the temp to 400 degrees to cook until the skin is brown, about 40 minutes)

Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. Vanilla extract – If you ever bake sweets at home, you may have noticed that nearly every single recipe calls for this ingredient, which is usually sold expensively in tiny quantities, often with artificial flavoring and water. Store-bought vanilla extract is an affront to the magnificence of this unassuming long skinny bean, which is truly one of the greatest blessings God or nature has ever bestowed upon humankind. 

Get your hands on some of these beans and the only thing you’ll need to make  a sizeable volume of additive free, completely natural extract is some vodka (or rum, brandy…I wouldn’t use whiskey but most strong liquor would probably work, here.) And here’s the thing: It will not be usable for about six months, but mine has only been brewing for a few weeks and it already smells amazing – especially compared to the stuff I picked up from Safeway, which smells of vanilla but also overpoweringly like ethanol.

INSTRUCTIONS 

For preserved lemons: take however many lemons you have or want to use and cut each fruit nearly all the way through crosswise and lengthwise. Fill each of their insides with one tablespoon of salt, crowd them together in a vessel or container of some kind, and cover with plastic wrap or an airtight lid. Leave them alone in a cool, dark place for about a month (slightly longer if refrigerating), and they will be ready to enjoy!

Photo by Dan Balinovic

For vanilla extract: buy vanilla beans (which are easy to find online), put them in an airtight container and fill to cover with 80-proof liquor. (Plain vodka works best.) Leave them alone for at least six months, and it will be ready to enjoy

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Thanks, it’s giving

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – I have several recipes along with some excellent photos for you this week. But first, please stay with me through these long and digressive paragraphs because they are full of interesting factoids that I just learned about Thanksgiving and the traditions with which it is associated. 

Evidence suggests that settlers in Plymouth colony did, in fact, share a meal with the Wampanoag people in what is now southeastern Massachusetts in late 1621. Historians believe the meat on which they feasted was deer, along with ducks or geese.

No turkey for the “first Thanksgiving,” but the bird nevertheless became a staple menu item for the holiday by the turn of the 19th century. Likewise for the December holiday, a phenomenon that is widely attributed to Charles Dickens’s publication of “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. 

Fast forward to 1947. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Europe was roiled by food shortages. Endeavoring to beef up our supply to aid these countries, which were on the brink of famine, President Harry S. Truman gently asked the American people to forego eating poultry on Thursdays – a request that he delivered with the first ever televised address by a sitting president. 

President Truman receives a turkey from Sen. Olin Johnston of South Carolina in the Oval Office
(Photo Credit: Harry S Truman Presidential Library & Museum)

It was met with a big middle finger. 

(No surprise, right? I mean, during a pandemic that killed a million people in this country, when public health officials urged Americans to wear protective face coverings and avoid indoor gatherings, some responded by plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan for a show trial and extrajudicial murder.)

Okay, so in 1947, Americans were tired after years of wartime food rations. Plus, that year Christmas as well as New Year’s Day fell on a Thursday, too. (Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday in November, per an 1863 proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.)

So strong was the backlash that the Truman administration made peace by fully embracing the Thanksgiving turkey and formalizing the longstanding White House tradition of accepting the bird as an annual holiday gift. 

Many presidents chose not to eat their turkeys.

Just three days before his 1963 assassination in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy was gifted a bird wearing a sign that read, “Good Eating Mr. President.” Fortunately for the turkey, which weighed a whopping 55 pounds, Kennedy reportedly said he would “let this one grow” upon returning her to the farm.   

Nearly two decades later, facing questions over whether he would pardon Oliver North for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, President Ronald Reagan deflected with a joke about instead “pardoning” the Thanksgiving turkey that was gifted to him, thus formalizing a silly presidential tradition. 

It is in keeping with these White House stories that I chose to forego turkey this year. I did, however, spend all day cooking, which is something I thoroughly enjoyed despite my husband’s photo of me looking less than enthusiastic. 

See links below if you’d like to make any of the dishes pictured here. They were all fantastic.

Photo by Dan Balinovic
Photo by Dan Balinovic
Photo by Dan Balinovic
Photo by Dan Balinovic
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Kane’s Cuisine: Spicy chicken curry ramen-noodle soup

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – It is my most fervent wish that you, dear reader, have not been trapped in a vortex of repetitively refreshing The New York Times and Twitter in search of the smallest actionable update on the status of our midterm elections. I want better for you. 

My brain, on the other hand, has been poisoned by a decade in Washington. 

On Tuesday, in addition to my nails and cuticles I ate the customary Election Day dish (pizza). Ditto for Wednesday. By Friday, it was time for something more refined. 

I wanted to chop an onion and make something fabulous because regardless of the results of the midterms, at the very least we can breathe easy for a bit without being battered with overwrought takes from pundits and politicos. They don’t really know how things are going to shake out (and never really did, to be honest). 

Today’s recipe isn’t topical or gimmicky. It’s just really good. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. Cook one onion, minced, and 4 inches of peeled fresh ginger, minced, in a large skillet with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil for ten minutes
  2. Add four cloves garlic, minced, and one teaspoon dark red chili paste, preferably Thai, Malaysian, or Vietnamese, cooking and stirring frequently for another minute
  3. Add one-pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed or thinly sliced, cooking for another minute  
  4. Add three tablespoons spicy curry powder, preferably Thai, Malaysian, or Vietnamese, and a half teaspoon paprika, stirring to coat 
  5. Add one 14-oz can full-fat coconut milk, ½ cup heavy cream, 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 2-4 tablespoons fish sauce, and one tablespoon granulated sugar 
  6. Bring to a boil and reduce heat until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes 
  7. Cook a package of noodles – rice noodles, udon, or ramen (pictured here) – according to package instructions, making sure to season the water. Drain and rinse with cold water

Serve with bean sprouts, cilantro or Thai basil, scallions, and red pepper flake

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Send noods

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – Every time I see a box of Israeli couscous or Italian ditalini or fregola at the grocery store (or on Instacart), I almost always add it to my basket in anticipation of the next time I’ll make the dish featured in today’s column. Usually when I’m very hungry and it’s cold outside. 

When I was in college, it was the cheesy, salty Kraft Easy Mac pouches, ready in under a minute with no special equipment beyond a microwave. You might consider this the grown-up version. I wouldn’t exactly call it “adult mac n cheese” though because that sounds a bit reductive. More like an adulterated version of cacio e pepe

Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. Toast a box of small pasta (ditalini is used in the photos here) in a heavy bottomed pot with some olive oil and a bit of kosher salt for about 3 minutes. 
  2. Bring a stockpot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions until a few minutes short of al dente. Drain and reserve a cup of pasta water
  3. Meanwhile, toast a teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper in your heavy bottomed pot (which should still have a bit of olive oil)
  4. Add ½ to one cup pasta water to your heavy bottomed pot, with the heat on medium-high. Add your pasta, 8 ounces freshly shredded parmesan, and a splash of heavy cream, cooking for about three minutes until your sauce has reached the desired consistency and noodles are cooked through. (I like to shred my parmesan in a food processor.) 

Serve with red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, chives, an egg yolk, and flaky salt

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Kane’s Cuisine: Enchiladas con carne con Velveeta

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – Shout-out to Ken Sena and Erick Flores on their upcoming nuptials in Mexico because come Wednesday, I’ll be sipping margaritas by a pool in Oaxaca Centro. So, today we’re making Tex-Mex style enchiladas in honor of my upcoming vacation. 

Recipe adapted from Sam Sifton via New York Times Cooking:

Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. Toast ½ cup all-purpose flour in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden-brown, and then set aside
  2. Wipe skillet and add a bit of oil. Cook one pound ground chuck beef until browned, seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove meat with slotted spoon
  3. Without cleaning the skillet, add one chopped white onion, four cloves garlic, minced, and two diced jalapeño peppers with seeds and veins removed, cooking for about 10 minutes
  4. Stir in one cup canned crushed tomatoes, cooking until their liquid is evaporated. Add 3 tablespoons chili powder, ½ teaspoon cumin, and ½ teaspoon oregano, stirring until combined
  5. Return meat and toasted flour to skillet and mix until well blended. Cooking on medium-high, slowly add 2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade),* ½ cup at a time. Lower heat and allow to continue cooking for another hour or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  6. Heat oven to 425°. Heat neutral oil over medium heat in your skillet and gently fry 12 corn tortillas, one at a time, for about ten seconds per side. Shred 1.5 cups sharp cheddar and 1.5 cups Velveeta American cheese and combine in a large bowl
  7. Assemble enchiladas. Begin by evenly distributing about ½ cup of the meat mixture on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. One at a time, fill tortillas with a combination of the meat mixture and cheese mixture, placing each seam side-down in the dish such that they’re overlapping a bit

Distribute the remaining meat mixture and cheese mixture over the top. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Top with crème fraiche, cilantro, greenonions, and diced raw white onion

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Kane’s Cuisine: Making cinnamon rolls while streaming ‘Midnights’

LA Blade White House correspondent Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based White House correspondent snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album dropped on Friday evening at 6pm ET. Before the weekend had officially begun, it seemed everyone in my Twitter feed had streamed the 13 tracks on “Midnights” enough to recite their lyrics from memory. 

To each their own, but my reaction to the release of a new album by any recording artist would never be to listen on a loop until the songs are etched into my hippocampus. Not in my Wildest Dreams. 

I did, however, spend some time and attention on the “Tay-spiricies” that began to circulate on social media with the debut of “Midnights” – theories that are often floated and spread by the very online “Swifties” who comprise Taylor’s most die-hard fanbase. 

Probing her song lyrics and social media posts as if they were engaged in a robust hermeneutics of a religious text, these fans have collected what they believe to be evidence that the singer is secretly a lesbian, or perhaps bisexual. Whoa, if true! 

Anyway, the point of this tangent about Taylor is that I managed to stream “Midnights” this weekend while making the treats pictured here with the recipe below. It’s a great way to listen to the album, which is very good, and the end result is delicious cinnamon rolls.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

The recipe is from Alison Roman’s Newsletter. My only modification was the decision to add a simple frosting. 

  1. In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, whisk one cup buttermilk or whole milk together with ¼ cup granulated sugar, and 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  2. Add 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, and 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt. Mix on low speed until dough starts to come together. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and mix on medium until no dry spots remain. With the mixer running, add 1 stick unsalted butter cut into half-inch pieces
  3. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. 
  4. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and coat the bottom with maple syrup. Roll out the dough into a 12 by 24-inch rectangle. Spread room-temperature unsalted butter generously over the entire surface of the dough. Top with an even coating of one cup brown sugar mixed with one tablespoon ground cinnamon
  5. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough/butter/cinnamon mixture into a log, (tightly, to minimize air pockets). Cut horizontally into 12 equally sized cinnamon rolls, measuring about 2-inches each, and transfer to baking dish
  6. Preheat oven to 350°. Cover baking dish with plastic and place on top of the oven so the rolls can proof in the warm environment for 45 to 95 minutes
  7. Bake for about 40 minutes. Brush the rolls with maple syrup and flaky salt

If desired, make your icing by whisking together 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 4 tablespoons whole milk

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Kane’s Cuisine: A baguette- hold the Negroni spagliato & prosecco

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – Last night, I ordered a Negroni spagliato with prosecco in it, and my server audibly groaned at me. You can’t always get what you want. Unless you make it yourself. 

A couple weeks ago, I introduced some of you to the wonders of ricotta toast and hinted that my toast was from a homemade baguette. Well, it’s time for that recipe! 

I Eat Bread Every Single Day GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

I don’t, actually. To limit my bread consumption, I only eat it when I make it myself. (It’s not that hard, but it is time consuming. A lot for a weekday.)

Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. In a stand mixer, stir 3.5 cups bread flour, 1 ⅔ cup warm water, and ½ teaspoon instant yeast until a dough forms. Cover and rest for 30 minutes
  2. Add 3 ¼ teaspoon salt and knead with a dough hook on medium-medium high for five minutes
  3. Transfer dough to large bowl lightly coated in olive oil. Cover and rest for one hour. Punch down, flip, re-cover, and allow to rise for another hour
  4. Punch down again, transfer to lightly floured surface, and divide into three equal pieces. One at a time, shape the baguettes. It would be as painful for you to read instructions for this step as it would for me to write them, so I’ll instead direct you to this helpful YouTube video.
  5. Transfer baguettes to a floured towel (or a baguette pan, if you have one. I don’t.) Rest, uncovered, for the final rise – 45 minutes to an hour
  6. Score with a razor blade or very sharp knife, making a few diagonal cuts along the length of the baguettes. 
  7. Transfer to a baking sheet and into a sous vide oven at 475° and 100% steam for 5 minutes, and then turn off steam and bake for another 14 minutes. IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SOUS VIDE OVEN, follow baking instructions in this recipe.
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