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.

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

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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!

 

Coastin’ thru the ATL

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

 

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!

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.