Connect with us

Food

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Lemon butter cookies & cinnamon sugar cookies

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

Published

on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

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 his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – Lemons…Butter…I love these things separately. But combine them together into a cookie? I’m Lisa Rinna with a slice of chocolate cake. Seriously, making this face:

A person sitting on a couch

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Have you failed to follow my sage advice to keep your pantry stocked with lemons? I have you covered with a recipe for cinnamon sugar cookies. (A snickerdoodle this is not, for I have included cinnamon in the dough as well as in the exterior coating.) 

To be honest, I felt the need to make a second variety of cookie because I think 30% of the recipes I’ve done for this column have included lemons, as most of my loyal readers have probably gathered by now.  

Photo by Dan Balinovic

(True story: my love for lemons runs so deep that I purchased a fully grown 7’ Meyer lemon tree for $200, repotting it on my small balcony here in Washington, DC. Several months later, it has not yielded any lemons, so I am exploring my options up to and including litigation. Follow me for more gardening tips.) 

Anyway, as of this writing it’s occuring to me that this week’s column is not Fourth of July themed. And you know what? I don’t think America deserves a birthday celebration this year, even if 2022 might be the last year in which this country can reliably be called a liberal democracy. 

But so long as you’re not taking away anyone’s reproductive freedoms, I think you deserve some cookies. So, let’s begin. 

For these recipes, though it’s not imperative, it helps to have a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer. If you’ve considered buying one, just do it. Trust me, you’ll get more use out of it than you imagine you will. 

By the way – a little peek behind the curtain – in case you were wondering why there are only three of each cookie pictured together in this article…it’s because I singlehandedly ate all but three of the lemon cookies.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

It brings me no pleasure to admit that, but I suppose it’s evidence of how delicious they are. I’m giving the rest of the cinnamon sugar cookies to my husband to bring to the office because this is simply getting out of hand.

Lemon butter cookies
Cinnamon sugar cookies
Preheat oven to 350° F
Preheat oven to 350° F
In a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, cream together two sticks unsalted butter and one cup confectioner’s sugar for two minutesIn a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, cream together one cup granulated sugar and one stick unsalted butter for two minutes
While beating, zest a whole lemon into the mixture. Slice it in half and juice half the fruit into the bowl, using a strainer to catch and discard any seeds
Beat in one egg and one teaspoon vanilla. Separately, whisk 1.5 cups all-purpose flour with 1½ teaspoons cinnamon, a teaspoon baking powder, and a half teaspoon salt
Beat in three-quarters teaspoon kosher salt and two cups all-purpose flour
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend until smooth
Roll the dough into one-inch balls, distribute on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes
Cover and refrigerate dough for at least two hours 
As the cookies bake, make your glaze by whisking together one cup confectioner’s sugar, juice from the other half of your lemon (again using a strainer to catch the seeds), and two tablespoons unsalted butter
Combine a half cup granulated sugar with a half teaspoon cinnamon. Roll dough into balls, and roll with cinnamon sugar mixture before transferring to baking sheet lined with parchment paper
When your cookies have fully cooled, decorate with your glaze and zest from another lemonBake for 10-12 minutes. Garnish with a sprig of mint 
Continue Reading

Food

Kane’s cuisine: Molecular gastronomy, three ways

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

Published

on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

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 his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – I get it: molecular gastronomy is a bit passé. Gimmicky, even. At first it was fun when chefs in fancy restaurants started serving potatoes that had been transformed into puffy clouds of foam, artful accompaniments to a beautifully marbled six-ounce wagyu beef filet.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

But eventually, the novelty wore off. Or, perhaps, diners started boycotting expensive restaurants because their portions were small enough before it became trendy for their chefs to start puffing air into the food. A restaurant whose guests are still hungry after spending hundreds of dollars is a restaurant willfully jeopardizing its own longevity. 

Here’s the thing, though. Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party, serving your guests a side salad dressed with a balsamic-olive oil mixture that’s been transformed into burgundy-colored pearls that might be mistaken for caviar or salmon roe. Well, I don’t know how to do that, but I can tell you how to make a blue cheese foam that will have them gagging. It’s a flex. It’s a serve. It’s a vibe. 

I have become an evangelist for the use of molecular gastronomy in home cooking, and it’s easier than you might expect. The only equipment you really need is a whipping siphon, which you can purchase online for less than $100. 

I wanted to show you how versatile this instrument is, so this week I used it for a salad, a main course, and a dessert. And because molecular gastronomy is considered a trend that crested around the mid-2010s, I decided to use elements of the cooking style to put a spin on classic steakhouse staples: A wedge salad with (you guessed it) blue cheese foam dressing; a bone-in ribeye with truffle potato foam; and chocolate foam mousse. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic
Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. For the salad and foamed dressing, quarter a head of iceberg lettuce. Scatter chopped tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, flaky sea salt, and black pepper between the leaves. Then, blend a half cup sour cream with a half cup buttermilk, a fourth cup blue cheese, a clove of garlic, and a tablespoon red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Then, strain the blended mixture into the whipping siphon, charge it with one charger, and shake vigorously to distribute the gas before dispensing (either on top of the salad or next to it for a deconstructed look, as pictured.) Top with chopped chives
  2. For the potato foam, peel and boil about two pounds russet potatoes until they’re cooked through, about 40 minutes. Drain and combine them in a blender or food processor with one stick melted butter, a cup heavy cream, a cup chicken broth, and a teaspoon truffle salt, blending until completely smooth. Transfer to the whipping siphon, charge it twice, shake vigorously, and dispense. Serve with a nice cut of meat and garnish with parsley or more chives. 
Photo by Dan Balinovic

For the chocolate foam mousse, in a single-layer metal bowl, combine eight ounces chocolate (dark or milk, whatever you like to eat) with a half cup room temperature coffee, a half cup water, and three tablespoons granulated sugar. Fill a large metal bowl with ice and transfer to the freezer or refrigerator. Fill a straight-sided cooking vessel with an inch of water and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Put the bowl with your chocolate mixture in the simmering water and cook, stirring occasionally, until combined and smooth, about five minutes. Remove the bowl and place it inside your larger bowl with the ice, stirring continuously for about three minutes. Transfer to the whipping siphon, charge it once, shake vigorously and dispense into a champagne flute. Garnish with a mint leaf.

Continue Reading

Food

Kane’s cuisine: Going hog wild over this pork dinner perfect for summer

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

Published

on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

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 his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – I would never cast aspersions on barbecued pulled pork, no matter whether it’s prepared in the North Carolinian, South Carolinian, Texan, Tennessean, Missourian, Kentuckian, or Alabaman, or Korean fashion.

Over the years, human beings have devised so many ways to infuse deliciousness into fatty cuts of braised meat, and I say we should celebrate them all. 

Speaking as a North Carolinian, if I may make a clumsy analogy, the prospect of my swearing allegiance to the state’s vinegar-based style of barbecue was about as likely as my becoming a devoted Carolina Panthers or Duke basketball fan (which is to say not likely at all.) Folks, it’s simply too hot to get all worked up over some silly football game or argue over which regional variation of barbecue is best. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Anyway, pork shoulder, however delightful when bathed in a tangy sauce or smoked and massaged with a dry spice rub, is more than capable of shining bright all on its own. In the spirit of open mindedness, I present for your humble consideration a pulled pork dish that is an alternative to barbecue (in all of its forms and iterations). 

Apart from the simple fact that it’s delicious, making this dish will help you better understand and appreciate the pork shoulder’s flavor – an essential step toward becoming a master barbecue chef. 

  1. Season a three to four-pound pork shoulder with three to four teaspoons of salt and a generous amount of black pepper, ideally but not mandatorily 24-hours ahead of time
  2. In a large, lidded pot, brown the meat on high heat with a tablespoon vegetable oil, cooking on both sides for eight to 10 minutes starting with the fat side down. Remove and set aside the meat and then drain all but one tablespoon of fat 
  3. Halve an orange and cut two heads of garlic crosswise. Place them cut side down in the pan along with a handful of sprigs of thyme, a few bay leaves, a teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and two tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  4. Cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic and oranges are lightly browned. Then, add two cups water and one cup fresh orange juice (I bought mine from Whole Foods because I didn’t feel like juicing five oranges)
  5. Deglaze the pot with a wooden spoon, scraping up any fond from the bottom, and transfer to an oven preheated to 325°. Cook for three to four hours 
  6. Transfer meat to a cutting board and either slice or shred it. Add the juice and zest of two limes to the pot, along with the thick stems from a bunch of cilantro (reserving the tenderer stems and leaves for garnish)
  7. Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients in the pot, and then pour the mixture over the meat using a strainer to catch the solid bits. Garnish with cilantro and serve with the oranges to squeeze over the pork if desired.
Photo by Dan Balinovic
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular