Testing: Lemon Preserves

Making Something Great Even Better

I ordered a new cookbook from Amazon called “Smitten Kitchen Every Day” by Deb Perelman. Here’s Amazon’s description:

“Deb Perelman, award-winning blogger and New York Times best-selling author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, understands that a happy discovery in the kitchen has the ability to completely change the course of your day. Whether we’re cooking for ourselves, for a date night in, for a Sunday supper with friends, or for family on a busy weeknight, we all want recipes that are unfussy to make with triumphant results.”

I love unfussy meals and triumphant results, so I readily flipped through the pages immediately after receiving the book. There were so many meals that sounded delicious and flavor packed. More than one recipe called for lemon to stand out as the star flavor. I love dishes with lemon highlighted. I began to ponder how I could make a lemon-centered meal even more lemon-y without the pucker.

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When life gives you lemons…

Lemon preserves! Yes, the intense yet smooth taste of a preserve. The problem? I had no idea where to get them. The solution? Make them. How did I make them? Pinterest! I found a recipe on Serious Eats that seemed simple enough. I would just need three ingredients and a canning jar. (I will let you travel to their site for the recipe as I didn’t change it at all.)

The lemons were prepared quickly, needing only minor trimming and cutting. I then added sugar and salt and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next day they looked so pretty! It was almost like they had been coated in a sweet glaze. The step that followed was to simply jam them into a jar with their liquid. Done, and done.

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Finally, I had to wait two weeks. This was the hardest part as I am not patient in any way. Seriously, Derek can back me up on this.

Star of the Show

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Two Weeks Later

Those who are loyal readers will know I have problems with commiting to food and drink. I love experimenting. So, when I received a new cookbook days before my lemon preserves would be ready, and there was a delicious sounding recipe which included them, I had to run with it. It was a sign! (“The Smitten Kitchen” did provide other tasty meals over the two-week waiting period though.) The meal I picked was Pasta with Summer Squash, Sardines and Lemon Preserve. My new cookbook was “Back Pocket Pasta” by Colu Henry. Here’s Amazon’s description:

“As much a mindset as it is a cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta shows how a well-stocked kitchen and a few seasonal ingredients can be the driving force behind delicious, simply prepared meals. Pantry staples—a handful of items to help you up your dinner game—give you a head start come 6pm, so you can start cooking in your head on the way home from work.”

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The recipe included a few simple ingredients that would, I hoped, highlight the extra pleasant flavor of lemon. My only holdup were the sardines. I remembered eating them from the tin when I was little. (My dad and I would try to gross out my mom with those and spray-can cheese…I know…ick.) At the time, the shock was way more important than whether I actually liked them. At 39, I couldn’t remember the actual flavor at all, so I was letting the tiny little fish creep me out a smidge.

Remembering adventure is worth it, even if it results in failure, I jumped into preparation with gusto. I also hid the tin from my family. They aren’t as adventurous as me all the time. I figured surprising them would be more than ok.

The lemon preserves themselves had turned into glossy lemons with a bit of a gelatinous texture. The peel and meat had melded into a yellow slice that could still be diced with a knife. I tasted a piece and it was lemon, salt, and sweet- a perfect balance on my palate with lemon that really lingered. I felt the first feelings of success.

The meal came together easily. The finished product was a light pasta dish perfect for springtime. The sardines added a saltiness, and the squash and lemon preserves were the stars of the show. I would make it again, and my family even encouraged it. (And this was after they were in on the “surprise”.)

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Gnocchi, from Scratch! 

OMG I did it. I made gnocchi.

I don’t make pasta from hand, and I don’t make things that look like pasta but aren’t from hand either. So what led to this unusual event? More like who: supermodel Chrissy Teigan. Ok, so it’s not as though she personally taught me how, but I feel like we’re sorta buds since she’s amazingly funny, smart, and gorgeous and I’m clearly the same just paid way less. (Hey, my husband is very flattering.)

Her book, Cravings, hasn’t let me down yet, but I had a lot of scepticism toward this recipe. Sweet potato gnocchi from scratch was a big ask, even though I really enjoy the delicacy of hand-made pasta and gnocchi. I can truly tell the difference between a dish made by hand and a dish boiled from a bag. I eat the later primarily, but wouldn’t it be cool if the former could be found in my house too?

What made this dish even scarier was its lack of complexity. Fresh, clean ingredients are used. Hands fold them together and roll them out. A small knife cuts them into tiny pillows. By the time I was done, I thought there was no way they would taste good. I was messy, but it was just too easy. I still wasn’t trusting Chrissy.

 

Texture before & after flour has been added.

 

I had thought ahead and doubled the batch. (If the task was extremely hard, but worth it, I’d have another dinner ready.) One went into the freezer, and one went into a pot of boiling water. I nervously waited for the gnocchi to clump together like a popcorn ball, but no, it stayed separate and cooked nicely.

The sauce was a delicious brown butter, sage. It took minutes to prepare while the gnocchi cooked. Once drained, a quick toss was all it took to get the meal ready. At this point, having tasted success, I got a bit catty with Derek. He was gaming and didn’t jump up quite quick enough when I said dinner was ready. Apparently you don’t mess with me and gnocchi.

I loved it. Derek loved it. Most importantly, Chrissy isn’t a liar!

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Final product & content faces.

In hindsight, I’d cook the double batch. It’s that or have a big salad too. Derek is a meat and potatoes guy, so he was left wanting.

I wasn’t the least bit confident, and there were certainly cringe moments, but I survived and fed my family. (They were ready to order in if necessary.) It’s also worth noting that the moscato I was drinking while I cooked went exceptionally well with the sweet potato gnocchi.