Homemade Preserved Lemons

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The latest in the Ben’s Bitichin’ Kitchen series – Preserved Lemons!

There are endless ways to flavor and prepare preserved lemons for making marinades, salad dressings, seasoning rice pilaf, or just adding the brine to flavor some yummy Bloody Marys.

We have several lemon trees on our property, and the two Meyer lemon trees produce the most delicious citrus. The trees, however, seemed like they hadn’t been pruned in years, so Ben took his pruning shears outside and went to town on those trees. He picked every last lemon off the branches, and you could feel the trees taking huge sighs of relief.

That said, we found ourselves with more lemons than we could use. If you find yourself in this position, or you’re just looking for a fun activity, get out your spices and start playing around!

Here’s how we did it:

Start with your bowl of lemons. Pick out the best ones for the preserving process – the others will be used for their juice.

Grab some empty mason jars.

Separate out the ‘pretty lemons’ and quarter them – but don’t slice them all the way through!

Ingredients:

Salt & Sugar.

Rose petals and green tea.

Dried chilis.

Tellicherry peppercorns.

Cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

Long peppercorns.

Dried habaneros.

Juniper berries, bay leaves, and star anise.

Begin by salting the surfaces of the ‘pretty lemons’ that you just quartered. Put some salt and spices (whatever combo you choose) at the base of the jar. Add two or three lemons, then layer more salt and spices. Add more lemons and layers of salt and spices until the mason jar is full. Squeeze about 3-4 ‘ugly lemons’ worth of juice on to the top of your creation. Seal the jar and keep them in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. Turning the jars a couple of times a day.

We played with a bunch of different spice combos. Here are 3 of my favorites:

#1 – Rose petals, juniper berries, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, salt, sugar.

#2 – Green lemons, habaneros, chilis, star anise, long pepper, extra salt, bay leaves.

#3 – Chilis, tellicherry peppers, bay leaf, juniper berries, salt.

This was so much fun, and the fruit of your labor will be delicious!

Bakesale Betty

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This is a post I’ve been afraid to write because it features my absolute favorite lunch spot and I’m worried that if I let the not-so-secret secret out it’ll be so popular that the line will wrap around the block. Today, I HAD to write about Bakesale Betty. If you’ve ever done a Google search for the best chicken sandwich in the Bay Area, you probably already know about this place.

Open Tuesday-Saturday, Bakesale Betty opens up shop in a nondescript location in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland, California. You’ll know the place by the long line that always forms just after opening. The ironing boards for tables outside are also a dead giveaway that you’ve found the right place.

We go here at least three times a week for the incredible fried chicken and coleslaw salad. The chicken is mildly spicy and the cabbage slaw is every bit of the crunchy, vinegar goodness it looks to be.

My sweet tooth rules my life and Bakesale Betty has my favorite cookie…ever. The Ginger-Molasses cookie is TO DIE FOR. All caps are absolutely necessary here. Go get and I’ll await your freak out.

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed a new, sweet item on the menu – a homemade banana nut bread. I’ve always loved banana nut bread, but they go for gold with the sandy, sugar topping. The top is a crusty brown sugar mixture that they lovingly refer to as ‘sand’.

The banana nut bread was so good that we went back for a full loaf the next day. Ben made a big deal about it being amazing and lo and behold THE Bakesale Betty overheard him and lit up, “Thank you! I made that.” We couldn’t stop gushing about how good it was and what idiots we were for not getting more.

She remembered us because when we saw today’s new menu item – Rhubarb Orange Pie – we knew we needed to try a slice. Betty overheard our order this time and pulled us aside to give us a full pie because she knew we were going to die and go to dessert heaven. Meeting Betty was how I imagine meeting the Pope might be – a holy, divine culinary goddess.

Now you know my best kept secret;)  Bakesale Betty is Oakland’s finest.

What to Know

Bakesale Betty is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11am-2pm. The line moves faster than it looks!

They offer fried tofu for our vegetarian friends – it’s equally amazing.

Check out their Facebook page for more enticing photos.

Oaktown Spice Shop

Oaktown Spice Shop

“We have to go to Oaktown Spice Shop.” Whenever we are in the Lake Merritt area of Oakland, Ben is drawn like a moth to the flame. This place holds the most delicious part of any homemade dish. The flavors lined along the shelves provide a rich perfume throughout the store. I wish you could smell these pictures. There are spices for everything here – baking, diy tea blends, bbq rubs, salts and peppers, and everything in between. Check it out next time you’re strolling around Lake Merritt.

Cocoa Powder, nutmeg, and baking powder - oh my!

The wall of spices for baking are a dream for any one with a sweet tooth and an imagination.

Spice racks Herbs

The herb shelf is where Ben spends a lot of his time. He’s always adding complex flavor with inspiration from these shelves. (See his Garam Chicken Masala Recipe.)

I love the second room because of this little knickknacks shelf. They have vintage spice cans on display right next to modern kitchen accoutrements. I feel like I have to look at everything before I can move on.

Cute shelves with fun extras This jar smells like spring

I can’t even begin to convey how amazing this jar smells – it’s like spring. There were jars of dried lavender and chamomile – if you close your eyes you’ll swear you’ve been to heaven.

How cute are these shopping baskets? I felt like I was foraging.

I love the grocery basket.

What to know

Oaktown Spice Shop is a full-on treasure trove. This place smells incredible and it’s directly across the street from Lake Merritt.

My Dream Brunch

You know what they say, “The sweeter the brunch the closer to God”. Okay, maybe nobody says that, but brunch will always be the way to my heart. For my birthday last year, Ben made my dream breakfast – french toast, fruit salad, candied bacon, etc.

I’ve been working non-stop lately at the Pilates studio and today I finally had a morning off. Luckily for me, Ben went to work making magic happen again in the kitchen – a throwback to the best brunch ever. A nap afterwards is mandatory.

Oatmeal French Toast

Oatmeal French Toast

 

Grilled tomatoes and white mushrooms.

Grilled tomatoes and white mushrooms.

Candied bacon and warm maple syrup with butter.

Candied bacon and warm maple syrup with butter.

 

The Plated Finale!

The Plated Finale!

What to know

French toast –
Oatmeal bread from Batch Pastries.
1 cup milk, 1 egg, 1 heaping tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, salt,                             1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.
Soak thick-cut bread in mixture before adding to the griddle.

Grilled Tomatoes + Mushrooms –
Toss in olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, granulated garlic,                                        granulated onion then throw on the grill.

Candied Bacon –
Toss bacon in brown sugar and bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes per side.

Fruit Salad –
Mix greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey. Add blueberries, strawberries, and                            bananas.

Ben’s Garam Masala Chicken Salad Recipe

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Main ingredients

Ben and I have a tendency to snack on sweets. In an effort to combat our sweet teeth, Ben decided to make a delicious Garam Masala Chicken Salad for us to snack on. Gather up some E.V.O.O., Italian hot pepper infused olive oil, smoked almonds, greek yogurt, green apple, Meyer lemon, parsley, grilled chicken, salt, pepper, and garam masala spice mix.

The spread Smoked almonds and greek yogurt.

Start by grabbing a mixing bowl and whisking together the greek yogurt and spices.

Spices

Add some more oil to taste.

Take the juice from your Meyer lemon and add that to your mix.

Last bit of magic to add is the honey!

Start chopping up your green apple and mix that in the bowl with the yogurt and spices.

Next comes the smoked almonds! Chop those up and add that to your mixing bowl.

Chop up some parsley and add that beautiful green color to your mixture.

Parsley

Somehow, shallots make everything tastier.

Couldn’t make a fancy chicken salad without the chicken…

Mix it all up.

Ben's Garam Masala Chicken Salad

So unbelievably Y-U-M!

 

Girl Scout Cookies

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“I’ll take two of each box.”

“Wow, girls! Did you hear that? TWO boxes!”

And so the scramble began. I have never felt like such a big shot. It was the biggest order of the day and the girls were so stoked to be selling me a whole $40 worth of sugar. I was getting two of everything, but, honestly, when it comes to girl scout cookies I could’ve easily eaten my way through everything they had.

This is one of my favorite times of the year and it always sneaks up on me. I wasn’t expecting to buy girl scout cookies when I headed over to the market for some produce. It was a few days before Valentines Day, and when I saw the cookie stand it was like the stars were aligned. My Valentine likes girl scout cookies even more than I do, so I decided I should get enough boxes for him to share with me.

We are almost done ravaging the first Tagalong box…taking bets on how much longer it’ll take for us to finish the rest!

What to Know

The Girl Scouts are selling cookies online this year! Head over to their website to make sure you’re buying online from a legit Girl Scout.

Soup(y)

The great thing about day after day of rain is it has taken care of the drought in Northern California. We needed this rain so bad, but we’ve also gotten used to the reliability of a sunny day. Dogs are more happy because they can spend all day outside, yelling at the neighbors. People are happy, because their dogs are yelling outside and not inside while they try to work. These rainy days – as much as we need them – are kind of a bummer. Like a wet blanket on the plans you hoped to make for the day. That being said, there is one, fail-proof way to take on a rainy day – SOUP.

Yes, soup. An Asian-inspired soup to be exact. Last night, Ben got to work on the best tasting soup I have EVER tasted. No lie. You’re gonna love it.

Here’s another gem from Ben’s Kitchen:

First, crisp some bacon in your pot. Set aside and cook your mushrooms in the bacon fat left in the pot – add some salt, pepper, cumin to taste.

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Set the mushrooms aside and add some sesame oil to your pot. Throw in some sliced ginger, lemongrass, and star anise and cook for a couple of minutes. Grab a soup sock and throw those in there and set aside.

Your pot is smelling amazing right about now, so add in some onions, garlic, celery and carrots to brown. Add two cups of wine and then your chicken stock, water, and miso paste. Throw the leftover of the carrots, onions, cilantro stems, etc into the sock, place in your pot, and boil.

As your soup starts to cook, start chopping up your cooked bacon, some jalapeno, shallots, cilantro, cabbage, carrots, limes, and noodles.

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Once your soup is ready, throw out the soup sock and start putting your bowls together!

The difference between my bowl and Ben’s bowl:

My bowl.

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Ben’s bowl.

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I mean…which one has OCD?

His bowl is as beautiful as this soup tastes. Grab a spoon and dig in!

Smooth(ie)

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I haven’t always been a fruit and vegetable kinda girl, but you can’t meet a NorCal boy and not get into his morning routine every now and then. Ben is one of those people who needs a smoothie each morning in order to feel ok. Each morning, consistently and without fail, he begins the day by meticulously preparing the ingredients for his nutrient full smoothie.

My favorite part of his smoothies are how amazingly delicious they are. I wouldn’t think cabbage and dates would be palatable to me, but in this combination it’s magic. I actually consume all the nutrients my body needs without complaining about the taste.

Here’s how he does it:

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Add some peeled citrus fruit to about 18 ounces of water.

Core and section a green apple and chop up some cabbage (green or red, whatever looks good.)

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De-pit a few dates. I don’t normally eat dates, but they add a silky, sweetness to the flavor of the smoothie.

Add some frozen berries to add that tart, sweet flavor.

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Secret ingredient? Coconut Oil.

 

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Put it all together in the blender and hit ‘Start’.

Grab some mason jars and fill up some glasses. It’s got most of the nutrients your body will need for the whole day. You’re off to a great start!

Golden Boy Pizza

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“You have to try Golden Boy. It’s famous around here.”

I don’t get into San Francisco very often – it’s not far but traffic usually keeps me on the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge.

As I work towards my Pilates certification, I’ve been spending my weekends in the North Beach neighborhood. Reminiscent of New York City’s Lower East Side, it’s close to Chinatown and full of Irish pubs, home decor stores and boutiques, and a million Italian pizza places. During our five and a half hour days in the Pilates studio, we only get a thirty minute lunch break. It’s important to use the time wisely – finding the coffee and food you need to fuel your body for the rest of the day.

Another student pointed me in the direction of Golden Boy Pizza so I hustled down the block to see what this pizza was all about.

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It’s a small, unassuming store front except for the gigantic, over-sized hand pointing directly at the entrance. The window facing the sidewalk showcasing all the slices they had on tap for the day. As I walked in, it felt more like a dive bar than a pizza place. The space was long and narrow and the only seating was at the bar. It was a chill atmosphere possibly because it wasn’t physically possible to fit many people inside at any given time. Luckily for me, I was there in the middle of the day on a rainy day.

I saw the “combo” slice right away. The focaccia bread, green zucchini, the handmade sausage and pepperoni – I’m salivating just thinking about it! For $5 I got a giant slice of the most delicious pizza and a drink. Golden Boy Pizza is a great spot to decompress and enjoy some ‘za. Check it out next time you’re in North Beach and let me know what you think.

What to Know

Golden Boy Pizza is cash only.
Simple, delicious menu here.

Ramen Shop

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Ramen is not something I’m used to going out of my way for. I have a massive sweet tooth so when it’s my turn to decide where to eat – it’s usually for dessert.

Last night, Ben had a craving for ramen so we headed out for date night. Right down the hill, sandwiched in the heart of the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland, CA, lay an unassuming but super yummy spot, Ramen Shop.

We always go early on for dinner service and by the time we arrived shortly after 5pm the place was already starting to fill up. This is a great sign for a restaurant you’re trying for the first time – it means people like it enough to leave work early.

We started off with the pickled veggies – sancho cabbage, yellow carrots with jalapeno, watermelon radish with chilis, and lime kohlrabi

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I mean, who doesn’t love a good pickle plate?

Next up, we ordered the Spicy Chicken Karaage – with fermented guava chili sauce and glardiniera pickles.

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The chicken was perfectly tender and not crazy spicy.  I can’t handle too much heat, but this had just the right amount of kick. Plus, my Atlanta roots keep me ordering fried chicken anywhere I find it.

Finally, we both ordered the Veggie Meyer Lemon Shoyu Ramen – with a salt-cured egg, maitake and king oyster mushrooms, broccolini, shaved Toyko turnips, roasted purple carrots, and mizuna.

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Holy God, this was SO SO GOOD! The broth is something I’ll be dreaming about for a while. I’m glad this place is close!

What to Know

Ramen Shop is a great date-night spot.
They’ll do a pop-up test kitchen at Starline Social Club in Winter 2017.
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