Chicken Tagine with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons


In September I tried my hand at making preserved lemons.  The first batch has been sitting on the top shelf of my refrigerator ever since and I finally decided to pull them out and make something with them.  The obvious choice: a chicken tagine with green olives and preserved lemons.  I captured the adventure on video.


Preserved lemons are wonderful.  They have the bright lemony flavor with none of the acidic tartness.  I’ll have to try using them with other dishes.  I also need to make some more!

Per Matt’s recent request, I uploaded this video in high definition.  However, it seems a bit unwieldy to embed it in high definition as it will be twice as wide as my pictures normally are.  So if you want to see it in high definition, click here.  Otherwise, enjoy it as embedded.


Fettuccine with Green Olive and Mint Pesto

The macadamia nut cream pie was not served alone, although it would have made a pretty enjoyable meal.  Instead, I served it with pasta in a green olive and mint pesto, a recipe I found on Domestic Daddy.  The Domestic Daddy describes his site as “a fresh take on cooking, entertaining, decorating and other domestic arts and sciences from a real daddy … since my partner and I had our daughter Julia last year, I’ve learned to keep my projects simpler, faster and more fun.” Okay, Tawn and I don’t have a child, but the idea of keeping projects simpler, faster, and more fun appeals to all of us, right?


“Pesto” just means “paste” so there are many other types of pestos you can make than the basil and pine nut pesto you may be moth familiar with.  DD’s pesto is made with green olives, a lot of mint, Parmesan cheese, and some garlic and lemon juice.  This combination of ingredients wouldn’t have initially jumped into my mind, but they worked together surprisingly well.  (Recipe here)


The challenge for me is a lack of a food processor.  Instead, I had to chop things by hand and I don’t think I got quite the consistency that I was looking for.  Still, I ended up with this pesto that I then mixed into fettuccine.


To add some protein, I marinated some chicken breasts in a buttermilk brine then grilled them in our quasi-panini grill.  Sliced thin, they went into the past very nicely.


To go with the homemade rye bread I roasted some heads of garlic.  This is so easy that when I have the oven on for some other task, I like to roast garlic before turning it off.  The harsh flavors turn mellow and you can mash up the garlic with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a nice spread to put on the bread.  Much more interesting than butter.


My appetizer idea was also taken from Domestic Daddy: miniature Greek salads.  Dress cherry tomatoes, seeded cucumbers, and bell peppers in a red wine vinegar dressing then stir in some olives and feta cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste (not too much salt since you have the cheese and olives, which are already salty) and add a little fresh rosemary.  Serve in a small dish that you can hold while mingling with other guests.  (Recipe here)

I had to laugh to myself a little while I was preparing this.  Those who criticize the “gay lifestyle” must be talking about our penchant for changing up traditional recipes (“pesto made with mint!?”) and ways of serving food (“Greek salad in a coffee cup!?”).  Such an unconventional lot!


Lavender Lemon Buttermilk Scones

This is turning into some sort of an Iron Chef thing where I get inspired by a certain ingredient or combination of ingredients and return to them day after day.  In this case, I had pulled the lavender from the back of the cupboard and resolved that I had better start using it before it went bad, combined with a good price on lemons at the Gourmet Market at Emporium.  Continuing on the theme, I decided to try a recipe for Lavender and Lemon Buttermilk Scones.

Now, buttermilk biscuits are one of my specialties, one of the few recipes that I can make (and actually follow the recipe!) from memory and that I can turn out consistently, time and time again.  Scones and biscuits are relatives and the biscuits I make reminded a former British roommate of mine of scones, so I figure I can move from one to the other pretty easily.

The recipe I used was from the EatLocal blog on WordPress, but like many similar versions of the recipe I found online, this one was credited as being adapted from Leslie Mackie’s “completely fabulous” Macrina Bakery Cookbook, so that’s maybe where credit is really due.

Lemon Lavender Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp dried lavender, divided use
4 tbsp chilled butter
½ cup nonfat yogurt
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Heat oven to 400°F.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and 1½ tsp of lavender.

Cut butter into pieces and cut into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, or crumble in with your fingers.  Separately, whisk together yogurt and buttermilk. Combine wet and dry ingredients to form a dough that will be wet and sticky.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times, then shape into a square about 1′ thick. Using a kitchen knife, cut the dough into eight triangles.  (As you can see, I used a biscuit cutter for a round shape.)

Transfer to an oiled baking sheet (I just used parchment paper instead of oiling and brushed the tops of the scones with cream) and bake 20 minutes, or until scones are golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet. Meanwhile, dissolve powdered sugar in lemon juice and mix in ½ tsp lavender, then drizzle over scones.

I wasn’t terribly patient – we were hungry and had a condominium juristic meeting to attend – so I put the sugar-lemon glaze on while the scones were warm, so instead of glazing it just absorbed.  Still, they tasted really good.  The tops also cracked, which leads me to believe I should have turned the oven down a little.  My oven is a convection and I think you’re generally supposed to cook at a slightly lower temperature but I don’t always heed this advice.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy these scones as you begin your weekend!

Lavender Lemon Panna Cotta

Nearly two weeks ago I made a greek yogurt panna cotta for a brunch dessert.  Since then, I have done some cooking with lavender and lemons.  Looking in my refrigerator, I saw that there was some yogurt left as well as some more lemons on the counter and plenty of lavender, so I decided to revisit the panna cotta but this time with lavender and lemon as the flavoring.


I added lavender to the cream and sugar mixture, brought it to a near-boil, and then let the lavender steep for two hours off the heat.  Afterwards, I strained the flowers and reheated the cream.  Taking it off the heat again, I dissolved some hydrated gelatine into it, then whisked the yogurt in.


For fun, in addition to putting it in ramekins that could be unmolded onto a plate, I poured some of the mixture into shot glasses.  These were put in the refrigerator overnight to set.


The next day, I made another mixture with lemon juice, sugar, and gelatine.  This was poured on top of the panna cotta and allowed to set for a few hours.  Upon eating it, you had a sweet-tart lemony jelly on top of the lavender panna cotta.  Quite nice and it makes for interesting presentation.  A garnish of mint would have been nice, too, but I didn’t have any.


Preserved Lemons

Limes are a popular fruit in Thai cooking, are plentiful, and are generally inexpensive.  Lemons, on the other hand, are none of these.  In fact, there is no word in Thai for “lemon” – they just use the same word as lime and, when necessary, say “yellow lime” to distinguish.  That’s one reason you are likely to order an iced lemon tea only to remark at how much it tastes like lime.  But I recently found a reasonably good price on lemons, about half their regular cost, so bought a dozen in order to try preserving lemons.


Preserved lemons are a staple of Moroccan and other Middle Eastern cuisines and provide a certain unique flavor that fresh lemons cannot provide.  One food writer said that if you couldn’t find preserved lemons, it was better to substitute capers rather than fresh lemons, so different are the tastes.  Curious, I decided to try preserving my own lemons, something that several recipes promised is easy to do.

The ingredient are simple: lemons, salt (I used sea salt from Samut Songkhram province), and spices – coriander seed, cloves, bay leaf, pepper corns, and cinnamon were recommended and I decided to add some cardamom pods, too.


After purchasing a Fido pickling jar at Muji and washing and sterilizing it, I cut about 1/4 inch off from each end of the lemon, making them flat.  Then I cut them into quarters, slicing down almost the entire way but leaving the quarters connected at the bottom.  I then liberally salted the insides of the slices.


After lining the bottom of the jar with a few tablespoons of salt, I mushed lemons in, alternating each layer of lemons with a generous sprinkling of salt and spices.  I kept layering until the jar was tightly packed and then added the juice of two additional lemons to fill up the remaining space.  Close the lid, shake a few times to help the salt dissolve, and that’s it.


Now all I have to do is wait.  I’m supposed to leave the jar on the counter at room temperature for a week or so, and then can transfer the jar to the refrigerator for at least another three weeks before using.  I’ll keep an eye on these and once they are complete, will write a follow-up entry.

After finishing this process, Tawn told me that we can buy Chinese preserved lemons (used in some Cambodian dishes among other things, I understand) at local markets here.  But where would be the fun in just buying them?