Sunday, April 26, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons, Don't Make Lemon Glaze

Really. Make lemonade, lemon tarts, lemon mousse, or a lemon cake - just don't make lemon glaze. Our fourth Cover Girl Dinner started easily enough. I had done little prep and worked all morning doing drama games with little kids (it's akin to doing aerobics). Came home to find my sister reading the recipes, eating lunch and feeding the dog. (In other words: ready to cook!)

The dog doesn't desperately need feeding but she is fetching when she asks. My daughter and husband had just run a 5K. We were all in "layabout" mode.

The menu?
Crab Cakes
Grilled Chicken Salad with Tarragon Pesto
Lemon Cornbread Cake with aforementioned evil lemon glaze and blueberry sauce
Seemed simple enough. I would make the grilled chicken salad while Diane made the cornmeal cake (and scary lemon glaze). I started on the tarragon pesto. She took out a bowl and got to work. This is where two sisters seem to differ. I usually need two bowls for a cake. She seemed to be adding the liquids into the solids one at a time. I have some bossy tendencies so tried to remain quiet. ("Thinking: "Don't you want to mix the melted butter in the milk with the eggs and vanilla before you add it to the flour?") Remaining silent turned out to be one of my better ideas. The cake was wonderful.

The crab cakes were baked and seemed more like a crab dip encased in Panko.

It was covered with chives from my garden.
With creamy, savory and tart tastes mixed into one appetizer. A non-crab-cake person had one. And finished it. (A secret success!)

The Grilled Chicken Salad with tarragon pesto was quick and easy as promised in the April 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. We were at the table gathering to eat when I decided to take the photo - which is why it doesn't do justice to the dish. Everyone had their forks out. The tarragon paired well with the chicken, it was simple, all the greens were fresh (I have taken to buying the "live lettuce" at Kowalskis. It helps me live the dream of going outside my Tuscan villa as Frances Mayes does and digging up some baby lettuces just before dinner.) After playing "Think Fast," Bus Stop," "The Car," "the three w's" and "fractured fairy tales" for almost three hours, I was seduced by a Cover Recipe that said:

make pesto
slice radishes and cucumbers
toss lettuce with oil, lemon and tarragon
Grill chicken and place on top of salad

Easy-as-pie/cake/salad. That said, my sister had the cake in the oven and was laboring away with the glaze. Two ingredients: powdered sugar and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. How hard can that be?

As it turns out - really hard.

1 1/2 cups (packed) powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice

We should have gotten worried at the "or more." There was a lot of "or more." About two lemons worth of "or more."

Combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in small bowl. Stir with spoon until smooth and paste-like, adding more lemon juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to spread. Set aside.

It never became a paste. It became little lemon-sugar balls determined to never, ever be spreadable on a warm cake. In desperation, we tried heating the concoction over the stove. (My not-so-good idea - but with eyes glazed, the glaze needed desperate measures.) That's when the rest of the sugar seized and refused to be morph into a paste. After tasting the most tart sugar confection ever devised by a human, we heaved it into the garbage can, decided the blueberry sauce would be just fine and never looked back.

And you know - it was. Lemon Cornmeal cake with blueberry sauce -a wonderful easy spring dessert. Hold the glaze.
Below is the recipe for the chicken. Make the pesto ahead of time and the dish comes together as you grill the chicken.
From Bon Appetit April 2009 Issue

1/4 cup (packed) fresh tarragon leaves plus 2 teaspoons chopped
1/4 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 tablespoons pine nuts, divided
5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 teaspoons chopped shallot
6 tablespoons (or more) olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing
4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
4 1/2-inch-thick slices country-style French or sourdough bread
1 5-ounce package mixed baby greens
1 cup thinly sliced radishes (from 1 large bunch)
1 cup thinly sliced Japanese cucumbers (about 1 1/2)

Place 1/4 cup tarragon leaves, parsley, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and shallot in mini processor; chop coarsely. With machine running, gradually add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil by teaspoonfuls to thin, if necessary.

Whisk 2 teaspoons chopped tarragon, remaining 4 teaspoons lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons oil in small bowl. Season dressing with and pepper.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush chicken breasts on both sides with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until grill marks form, skin is crisp, and chicken is cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to work surface; let rest 5 minutes. Using clean brush, brush both sides of bread with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until dark-brown grill marks appear on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Place greens, radishes, and cucumbers in large bowl. Toss with dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad among 4 plates.
Cut grilled chicken breasts crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Arrange 1 sliced chicken breast atop salad on each plate. Spoon tarragon pesto over chicken. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts over salads. Serve with grilled bread slices.
Serves 4. We served five with no leftovers. Drink wine, move on to dessert, hold the glaze and serve the sauce.


Juliana said...

WOW, I love lemony food...and it seems that you all had a feast with lemons...great recipes.

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Oh Claudia, I'm so happy to find someone who loves lemons as much as I do. My Mom used to have a book that was given to her by my grandmother called, "The Virtues of Lemons", In Spanish, Las Virtudes de Limon. I so wish I had that book. There are literally dozens of things you can do with lemons aside from just cooking with them. Your recipes are fantastic. Thank you my friend.

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Yeah I have to agree that I'm a little annoyed when directions say "or more" for an ingredient. What in the world does "or more" mean? How many lemons should I really buy? It's not like I have millions of lemons sitting around waiting to be squeezed. Sorry for the rant but I totally get it!

AndreaQ said...

Those crab cakes look so delicious!

Alisa@Foodista said...

What a great meal!It's wonderful that you and your sister could cook together.I really enjoy reading your blogs.