Homemade Preserved Lemons


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!


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


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.

Lemon Bars on a Rainy Day

Rainy day + New York Times Cooking section + all the ingredients to make lemon bars already in the pantry + the best Meyer lemons just outside the front door = …

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Ben borrowed a delicious lemon bar recipe from The New York Times on this rainy day. These are insanely yummy. The shortbread crust, the tart Meyer lemons, the confectioner’s sugar topping. There is zero chance you or anyone else will eat just one.

What to Know

New York Times recipe for Lemon Bars With Olive Oil and Sea Salt. (We added the confectioner’s sugar.)

Ben’s Garam Masala Chicken Salad Recipe


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.


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.


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!


Coastin’ thru the ATL


Every beverage needs a place to land and fortunately I’ve got four of the best spots. These ATL coasters have been with me since I left the Dirty Dirty for the last time back in 2011. The night before I left to start a new life in New York City, my girlfriends and I had a crazy night out in East Atlanta hitting up all the spots that became staples of our early-mid 20’s. Before the night ended, they each gave me one of these custom made coasters of our favorite spots. If you’re going to Atlanta, you have to hit these places up!



I’ll forever remember Eats as one of my favorite lunch spots on Ponce de Leon Ave in Atlanta, GA. It’s like a dive-bar pasta shop. The staff is cooler than I could ever hope to be, and there’s something for just about everyone. You HAVE to get the Egg Fettucine Alfredo. In high school, my friend Evan once asked for extra meat and they added long, girthy, slightly bent to the left sausage on top. This place has humor, charm, and damn good pasta.


This place is where the girls and I used to go out for Taco Night every Tuesday. It’s located in the heart of the East Atlanta neighborhood. If you’re in your 20’s and live in Atlanta you know this place well. It’s got pool tables, perfect bar food, tables for eating, couches for lounging, and a dance floor that is always packed on the weekends. It’s always lit.


The Majestic is the original OG of diners in Atlanta. Located on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta, this is the spot for getting your late-night grub on. Unlike Waffle House, there’s only one Majestic. The food is ‘eh’ but the atmosphere is why you’re here. Plus, just about anything tastes amazing at 4am. I remember sitting at a community table with some friends at 3am, eating our faces off to absorb all the alcohol we had just tainted our bodies with, when the drunkest woman I had ever seen walked in swinging a ladle around her head before sitting down next to us and ordering “like, really soft eggs”.


Even if you’ve never been to Atlanta, you still may have heard about our most notorious strip club- The Clermont Lounge. Located in what used to be the seedy Clermont Motel, the Clermont Lounge is as divey, and seedy, and dope as anything you could image. The strippers are older, bigger, fiercer. Go sit at the bar and pray you’re there when Blondie is dancing – she crushes a beer can between her tits at the end. Truly the kind of magic you didn’t know you needed.

These are the places that remind me of growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. Check them out next time you’re in town. Deuces up, A-Town down.

What to Know

These coasters have been with me forever and they make me happy to look at every day.
Eats on Ponce for that Egg Fettucine Alfredo.
The Graveyard Tavern for wing night on Tuesdays or dance parties on the weekend.
Majestic Diner is open 24 hours.
Clermont Lounge for a Blondie show.



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.


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.


Ben’s bowl.


I mean…which one has OCD?

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

Golden Boy Pizza


“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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


The Perfect Taco Tuesday FEAT. Guest Recipe

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“You don’t need that…but it does make it WAY better,” Ben said as he put the finishing touches on his chicken recipe, so detailed that it reads like a novel. ‘A Good Cook’ is an important element of the perfect Taco Tuesday. Ben McKee has taken my Taco Tuesdays to the next level. This man is passionate about cooking, and he agreed to share his recipe for the best chicken I’ve ever tasted. He’s a musician by trade, but he was certainly a Michelin star chef in a past life. Check out his recipe below!

bbq chicken

Ben can cook a chicken in fifty million ways. All of them delicious. The recipe below is for the chicken pictured above.

Ben McKee’s Whole BBQ Chicken

This method is really more like baking on a grill, and the seasonings can be changed to suit your taste or to feature any aromatic ingredients that you might happen to have handy. I’ve only done it on a charcoal grill, so that’s the cooking method I’ll describe here, although I suspect it would be quite a bit easier on a gas grill, I believe that it would lose that delicious smokiness that the charcoal gives it.

Prep Time:
 – 1-2 days

Cook Time:
– 1-1.5 hours

What You Will Need:
– Charcoal for your awesome charcoal grill, hopefully a Weber.
– Kitchen twine
– 1 Large bowl
– Paper towels
– Meat thermometer
– 1 whole, fresh, organic, free range, happy chicken
– 1 onion (not red), finely chopped, stem reserved
– 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
– 3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, stems reserved
– 1-2 tablespoons oregano
– 1 lemon, zested, sliced
– 1/2 cup butter at room temperature or unrefined coconut oil
– Kosher salt, or some salt with similarly coarse crystals
-1 tablespoon (+/-) onion powder or granulated onion
– 1-2 teaspoon(s) sweet paprika
– cayenne pepper to taste

What You Do:
Chicken Prep:
– Get your chicken at least a day in advance. Remove the neck and innards. Save them if you’re planning on making a stock with your chicken bones. (The liver will bitter your broth! Fry it up with some onions instead).
– Rinse the chicken well, inside and out, and dry THOROUGHLY, inside and out. You want dry skin so it will be crispy golden delicious when you take it off the grill.
– Sprinkle the chicken generously with coarse salt and pepper, inside and out, and put it in a large bowl, breast side up. You want visible salt crystals sprinkled evenly atop the chicken skin.
– Put the chicken in the fridge UNCOVERED for 24 hours. (48 hours is even better).
– Take the chicken out a couple of hours before you plan to cook it to allow it to come to room temperature.

– Combine butter, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon of salt. Mix into a paste.
– Separate the skin from the breast of the chicken by sliding your hand gently between the skin and the meat and working your fingers around. Spread the paste evenly around the breast, beneath the skin.
– Place any remaining parsley and oregano, stems and all, along with the stem end and any other onion scraps, the sliced lemon and any other aromatic leavings you happen to find in your kitchen (use discretion) into the cavity of the bird.
– Truss your chicken.

– Once you’ve gotten your coals fired up, spread them evenly along the left and right sides of your grill. If your grill has baskets on the side for smoking with wood chips, just put the charcoal in those.
– Keep the vents open. You want the grill hot (450° +/-) at the beginning.
– Place the chicken in the middle of the grill, breast side up, so that it is between the charcoal piles, but has no charcoal directly beneath it.
– Cover the grill immediately.
– After 15-20 minutes, check the bird. You’re looking for some nice color on the skin. It should look almost done.
– When it’s starting to look delicious, close the vents most of the way and sprinkle a little beer (or water, I guess) on the coals to calm them down a bit. You’re aiming to get the temperature inside the grill down to around 300°- 350°.
– Check the bird after another 30 minutes. You’re looking for the temperature in the breast to read 150°. Once you’re there, take the bird off and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.” – Ben McKee

Like this recipe? Be sure to subscribe to my blog for email updates when new posts come out! You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram.




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In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the main drag in downtown Milan lies a quaint, warm farm-to-table spot called Taglio. Finally, a place with such an authentic menu that I could barely understand the choices that lay in front of me. “Caprese” and “burratta”, an obvious ‘yes please’. Risotto Milanese, check. The guys were told there was just one two and a half pound t-bone steak left so it was ordered with a quickness. Our waitress came to see what kind of water we wanted (only in Europe can you guarantee that every restaurant, from white table to casual cafe, will make sure you make a decision between still and sparkling) and I took the chance to humbly ask if she spoke any English. “A little ” she said hesitantly. I pointed to what I believed to be a pasta dish. “Yes. Pasta. Very good.” Fine. Sold. The veal, which shows up on every menu in Milan, was the last dish to round out our feast.


Perhaps it was the electric mood of downtown Milan, or maybe it was the bottle of white wine we consumed, as if it were water, from room service before we left the hotel, but I’m sure we were the easiest customers to please that night. “Mi scusi, two glasses of rosatii. Grazie.” I didn’t need another glass wine but…yes I did.

Our dishes were spaced out perfectly giving us plenty of time to eat, savor and laugh. Also enough time to allow our waitress a chance to sneak outside past the ‘Vietato Fumare’ sign to, one could easily assume, fumato.

The guys went after the steak tartare like privileged cavemen. By the time the two and a half pound steak arrived, so did a fit of laughter. Consuming this much meat felt ridiculous and we all knew it, but the dilated pupils of the guys was evidence enough that these two were fully ready to consume this meat, the size of a teenage human head.

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Eating too much good food is a lot like drinking too much, your eye lids drop to half-staff and you start to stoop over the table in defeat, but if offered more it’s hard to refuse. Our lack of Italian is the only thing that kept us from ordering everything on the dessert menu. We were too exhausted to attempt any lame translation.

As we got up to leave, the waitress walked over to the stereo, surrounded by stacks of CDs and records, and put on some reggae. Mood set. Time to go. Back to the streets of Milan to see if we could hail a taxi before we got dangerously close to a gelato shop.