Battle Citrus: Locked & Loaded


[left to right: citrus slushy, lemon-thyme cakes, hearts of palm + citrus salad, citrus-glazed chicken wings, beef sliders, hurricanes, ceviche, brown butter lemon popcorn, citrus tofu pie]

I’m not sure what’s going on with my immune system, but that thing has been made of steel since moving out to California. Not that I was ever a person who got sick often, maybe 2-3 times a year after leaving a job in pediatrics (those damn kids and their germs!), but still. So far, the sick count is a whopping zilch, zero, nada. I’m sure my time is coming, especially now with all this “cold” weather and rain, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Of course, it is officially citrus time, so maybe the extra doses of vitamin C will further combat any wonky sickness that might be coming my way. We’ll see.


[top left: blood orange crostata, bottom left: citrus cake, right: fried chicken wings + lemonade]

I almost titled this post the “anti-Scurvy” battle, but I had a last-minute change of heart. I like “locked and loaded” better, since what I mean here, is that we are now locked and loaded with vitamin C which is, in itself, anti-Scurvy. You see? Good. And it sounds more menacing, which I dig. Menacing, but at the same time totally pointless, since it would take a whole helluva lot of vitamin C deprivation to cause scurvy. Just ask the sailors.

Anywho, after what felt like an eternally long hiatus, we had Battle 3 of SF Iron Chef a couple of weekends ago, and Fancy Chef Winner Molly (too long?) chose citrus, which is an amazing selection for this time of year (clearly, because grapefruits are from Paradise, remember?). Back in Chicago, we had a Battle Grapefruit in early Winter, and it was also amazing – not nearly as heavy as Roots + Tubers, that’s for sure.

I honed in and focused on two things this time around: lemons and Meyer lemons. I almost made an amazing citrus cheesecake, but since Chris and I were stupid enough to do another juice cleanse that just happened to finish up on Friday, I couldn’t fathom making a cheesecake on Friday night whereby I could not stick my whole face into the bowl to lick the excess. Something tells me that might have canceled out three days of all those vitamins and nutrients.

[On a quick tangent though, we tried the juice cleanse through Urban Remedy this time around (they had a groupon back in December) and most of the juices were really tasty. Not sure if I’ll be doing another cleanse any time soon, but if I did I’d use them again.]

So yeah – lemons lemons lemons. First off was a quick spin on air-popped popcorn – I tossed it with a lemon brown butter sauce with lots of lemon zest. YUM. But the main recipe for me was the sliders. It worked nicely, because I was definitely craving some meat after three days of juice and two days before of vegan life, which I do not prefer. I made a Meyer lemon pesto for the topping and a Meyer lemon-herb butter that was shoved inside the patty and brushed atop the homemade buns.

Since we had our little shindig at Judy’s work (The Culinary Edge), we had full use of a professional kitchen, which brought back all kinds of memories of culinary school, like navigating through a foreign kitchen, walking into an entire refrigerator, setting up the sanitizing station for dishwashing, and of course – a shitload of food all around us. Good times. But it also meant I got to grill my tasty sliders right before service the Battle. They turned out just as I’d imagined – juicy, fresh, and ultra-lemony.

Sadly though, they weren’t good enough to win. We have yet another fancy food cooker in our group now (which pardon my sarcasm, I really do like having professional and non-professional cooks at Iron Chef, because it makes us all try just a little bit harder) and he AND his girlfriend took the 1 and 2. Dang. My buddy, Liz, pulled into the top three with her beautiful citrus cake though. It was my favorite of the night.

The Top 3:

1. Jeff’s fried chicken wings with spicy citrus hot sauce and lemonade
2. Dana’s blood orange crostata
3. Elizabeth’s citrus cake with lemon curd filling

I could have sworn the sliders were #4. Just sayin’. And yes, we finally remembered a group shot. And never mind that long, scraggly hair of mine – it was definitely time for a little trimmy trim trim.

So here’s the deal: there are a lot of components to this dish, but most are very easy. You can definitely purchase store-bought slider buns unless you want to make your own. I went the all-authentic route to rack up scoring points, but you don’t need those in real life, at least usually. The first “printable version” link is for ALL components, but you can also print out components piece by piece if you are using them for something different. The pesto goes well on anything, that’s for sure. So does the butter.

And yes, folks. I am aware that the links on my site are hard to click on. They do work though – you just have to oh-so-gingerly hover over them a couple of times. I have no idea why this is happening lately, but can’t seem to figure out how to fix it. Remember – gingerly hover. :).

update – I DID figure it out! apparently my Facebook plug-in somehow interfered with the workability of the links. go figure. anyway, that is gone and the links are back and working like a charm, so click away!

and speaking of clicking, check out Kenna’s post on her very own, inaugural Iron Chef Leelanau (Michigan). Kenna and I met through our blogs, and both went to the same culinary school at slightly different times. She and Michael attended a few Chicago Iron Chefs, and she moved from Chicago to Michigan (and had a baby. a baby during a move!) earlier this year. They had Iron Chef Battle Citrus too – what a crazy coincidence! Kenna also won her first Iron Chef with us (well, her husband claimed the dish…), so maybe that strong competitive streak is paying off for her, right Kenna?!

 

Beef Sliders with Lemon Butter & Lemon Pesto
chiknpastry recipe; makes 16 sliders

time commitment: 30 minutes (with components made in advance)

printable version (all recipes)

ingredients
2 lbs beef, 15% fat
lemon butter (recipe below)
salt and pepper
lemon pesto (recipe below)
16 slider buns (store-bought or homemade, recipe below)
handful of baby arugula
2 small tomatoes

instructions
divide meat into 16 2-oz portions. stuff a 1/2″ cube of lemon butter into the center of each portion. shape each portion into a thin burger patty. season with salt and pepper.

heat grill to medium high. grill sliders for 3 minutes on each side. top with lemon pesto, tomato, and arugula on a slider bun and serve.

 

Lemon Butter

time commitment: 35 minutes (most is chilling butter)

printable version (butter only)

ingredients
3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 T parsley
1 T basil
Zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
salt and pepper

instructions
using a fork, mix all ingredients together. place butter on a piece of saran wrap, roll into a log shape, and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.

 

Lemon Pesto

time commitment: 5 minutes

printable version (pesto only)

ingredients
2 c basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c pine nuts
zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper

instructions
in a food processor, combine basil through lemons and pulse until combined. slowly add olive oil until fully incorporated, finish by adding cheese and season with salt and pepper.

 

Brioche-style Slider Buns
adapted from GroupRecipes.com; makes 18

time commitment: 3 hours (most is inactive, rising time)

printable version (buns only)

ingredients
3 T warm milk
2 t active dry yeast
2 1/2 T granulated sugar
2 large eggs (1 for optional egg wash)
3 c bread flour
1/3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, softened

instructions
In a glass measuring cup, combine one c warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg into another small dish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl, if doing by hand), whisk flours with salt. Add butter and mix into flour, resulting in a crumb-like dough. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg into the flour mixture. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and turn on low-medium; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can mix the dough and once it comes together, dump it onto a floured surface and knead about 8-9 minutes by hand. The dough will be on the sticky side but try not to add more flour unless you absolutely have to.

Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 18 equal pieces (mine were about 1.6 oz each, if you want to weigh them). Roll each piece into a ball and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. If using the egg wash, beat the second egg and brush onto the rolls before baking (I brushed some melted lemon butter onto mine). Once rolls have risen, bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until browned. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Batter Up

It’s National Pancake Week, boys and girls! I truly, honestly had no freakin’ clue until around 12 PM on Thursday. Otherwise, I might have held off on the Vietnamese sandwich shop talk until later and instead provided some pancakes for you to mull over early in the week.

Do you just love love love pancakes? Growing up, we didn’t eat waffles or french toast; at least not that much and not enough where I can remember it. I do remember pancakes though – they were griddled on the weekends if my pops wasn’t making those bacon, egg, and cheese samiches that we all loved so dearly. Straight from the box of Bisquick they were, but they were all I knew and quite frankly, all I cared to know.

Aside from Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup, which was the only syrup I would eat as a child. To this day, I like it better than maple syrup on my flapjacks (although I don’t eat it now, because now I know maple syrup is “better”). In fact, I hated eating breakfast at other kids’ houses; they always had Log Cabin or Mrs Butterworths, or even worse, some generic brand that tasted like sugar water. In those instances, I’d eat my ‘cakes plain, no lie. There was no Aunt Jemima substitute when it came to the syrup and as I mentioned, there still isn’t if you can get past the ‘high fructose corn syrup’ taboo.

So, friends, it’s a good day to be reading my ramblings. I have two tried and true pancake recipes for ya and until today I wasn’t sure when I’d be posting them :). I whipped up one of these batches for company a few weeks ago (s’mores weekend) and they were demolished in moments, sorta like the way my cat scarfs down a nibble of bacon. I’d consider that batch as one of my very favorite pancake recipes of all time – and really, who wouldn’t adore a flapjack that tastes like a slice of carrot cake? Exactly.

The other is from pancake fanatic, Joy the Baker, who must have at least 15 different pancake recipes on her blog. I made these for my lover boy on Valentines day morning, as I just happened to have some lovely Michigan blueberries in the freezer and a couple of Meyer lemons in the fridge. These, I think, might be his favorite pancakes, as he didn’t leave a crumb behind.

So, here you are. If I were you, I’d be making some weekend breafast plans right. this. minute.

Carrot Cake Pancakes
Adapted from Cooking Light, January 2010; serves 6

printable version

ingredients
5.6  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/4  c  chopped walnuts, toasted
2  t  baking powder
1  t  ground cinnamon
1/4  t  salt
1/8  t  freshly ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of ground ginger
1/4  c  brown sugar
3/4  c  low-fat buttermilk
1  T  canola oil
1 1/2  t  vanilla extract
2  large eggs, lightly beaten
2  c  finely grated carrot (about 1 pound)
Cooking spray
butter, for topping
maple syrup, for serving

instructions
Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1/4 c brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in 2 c carrot.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or pancake griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon 4 (1/4 cup) batter mounds onto pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook 1 minute or until bottoms are lightly browned. Repeat procedure twice with remaining batter.

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Blueberry Meyer Lemon Pancakes
Adapted from Joy the Baker; serves 3 (12 small pancakes)

printable version

ingredients
1 egg
1 c flour
1 T sugar
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c buttermilk
1 c thawed and rinsed frozen blueberries (or fresh, if in season)
cooking spray
butter, for topping
maple syrup, for serving

instructions
In a small bowl rub the lemon zest into the granulated sugar until pale yellow and fragrant.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and butter.  Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir until just combined. Batter will be clumpy and not smooth, which is perfect.  Fold in the berries with a few strokes until barely combined.

Heat a griddle pan or large skillet over medium-hi heat.  Add a smidgen of butter or cooking spray and let melt.  Add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter to the pan.  Heat until bubbles form and start to pop.  Carefully flip over and cook through.   Place cooked pancakes on an oven proof plate and let rest in a 200 degree F oven while you fry the rest of the pancakes.

Top pancakes with maple syrup (or Aunt Jemimas!) or as Joy suggests, mascarpone sweetened with a dash of powdered sugar and the juice of one Meyer lemon.

 

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Want some more pancakes to choose from? Here’s a few from around the blogosphere:

Chai-Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes from Joy the Baker (I will totally hit these up one day)

Whole Grain Pancakes w/ Blueberry Maple Syrup from 101 Cookbooks

Gluten-Free Pancakes from Gluten-Free Girl & the Chef

Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen

Uncle Austin’s Mexican Pancakes with Coconut from Homesick Texan

Strawberry Cardamom Blender Pancakes from Adventures in Shaw