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Hits and misses

In my desire to make a dent in the ever increasing pile of recipes that I wanted to try, I ended up with a lovely roast, and a wonderful cake.

The roast was courtesy of Marcella Hazan, whose Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is the gold standard in many kitchens. It sounded like an intriguing recipe – a pork roast slowly braised in milk, seasoned with nothing more than salt and perhaps garlic. The milk is supposed to cook down to deeply brown curds and the tenderness is supposed to be unparalleled. And then I screwed it up, as only I can do. See I had some leeks and fennel that were languishing in the fridge, and in interests of good fridge management (and haunted by ghosts of slimy veggies past), I chopped’em up and added them to the roast with the milk. It just sounded good together, y’know?




And the fennels and leekses gave off so much juice, that the cooking of the milk was pretty much not happening. A loooong braise later, I had to admit that my milk was never going to develop the dark brownness that is called for, and settled for the color along the lines of baby diarrhea. Now I should mention that I grew up in a country where the visual aspect and appeal of food ranks dead last, so this was not going to stop me in any way from trying it.  And the taste delivered. It was not fantabulous by my standards, but it was rich, tender, and made for a unique meal. I rated it a 4/5 and gave the leftovers to my brother.

The second recipe – a gorgeous Mediterranean Lemon Cake was much more successful, only because I don’t know enough to mess around with baking.  The only change I made is cut down on the sugar – I used about 3/4 of a cup, and next time would be tempted to bring it down to 2/3 of a cup. I should mention, that I don’t know what it is about US recipes, but man, you guys like sugar in insane proportions! I like a decent amount of sugar, enough to support other flavors, but every time I make a recipe that originates down south, I know to cut out a third to half of sugar to make it palatable.  I’ve seen carrot cake recipes with 2 cups of sugar. Eeeek.

Moving on, I found the recipe on the fabulous blog of Leslie Land, had all the ingredients, and found her description of it somehow irresistible.  It comes together super quickly and it gets better on days 2 and 3. In fact, when you eat it on day 1 you may wonder what the big deal is. It’s a fine simple cake, but nothing to write home about. Yet on subsequent days some magic happens, and the faint grassiness of the olive oil comes through. This may not sound like a good thing, but it is, and it sings lovely duets with the lemon zest.  A keeper of a recipe  4.5/5.




After zesting three lemons for the cake, I had three skinned lemons to put to use, so I decided to make something I’ve never had, only read about – lemon curd. I got the recipe from a book which I plan to put to heavy use this summer – Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda Amendt.  The book is a joy to read, all the recipes sound phenomenal, and lemon curd sounded easy. For the recipe you needed a double boiler, which I didn’t have, and the bowl kept hitting the water, so I had to improvise with balancing a bowl on two butter knives in a pot of water. MacGyver ain’t got nothing on me.




Again, I cut down the sugar to something like less than half of what the recipe calls for. Next time I’d use less lemon juice too. In fact, I’ll just gently flavor the butter and yolks until they taste like heaven, and call it a day. But the curd was great – like a lemony pudding, rich and creamy and great with the cake.




And that, folks, was my lovely Sunday during our last rainy weekend. Mucking around the kitchen, baking bread, trying out recipes. Pretty much my idea of a perfect weekend.


10 comments to Hits and misses

  • Yum, yum, yum! That cake looks soooo good. I will definitely have to try this one. And with the amount of rainy days we’ve had lately, I’ll have no trouble finiding the time for it.

    Love the reference to MacGyver 🙂

  • Looks delicious. I have never had a whole lot of sucess cooking roasts – I suspect because I so rarely attempt to…a vicious circle. As for the cake I was amazed to see it called for 3/4 cup of olive oil – that’s a lot and I suppose that’s why it’s a ‘Citrus and Olive Oil’ cake…! I am going to give this one a try in the next few days.

  • admin

    @Martha – yep, MacGyver was awesome. And we’re having rainy days too, which is giving me waaay too much time in the kitchen doing things that are calorically dangerous.

    @Jane – it is a fair bit of olive oil, I’d feel free to cut that down to a half cup or just over, I don’t think it will hurt it at all. The clean taste is great though, and per serving it’s not excessive. I hope.

  • Janet

    I was wondering, where you buy your heirloom seeds? I know it’s risky, but I want to grow vegetables this year, particularly heirloom tomatoes. Also, are you on twitter? Thanks!


    PS my twitter feed is jclarkebell

  • admin

    Hi Janet – my favorite place for seeds is Salt Spring Seeds. Their descriptions of the vegetables seduce me into buying everything. They are a small grower, and all their seeds are wonderful. Second and third place would be larger seed companies like West Coast Seeds and Veseys, who also grow heirloom varieties as well as the more conventinal ones.

  • It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to make something from scratch.

  • admin

    You’re a busy lady! All that traveling lately.

  • This looks delicious! Too bad it looks complicated and I don’t have time to make it. This includes the time that I would have to try redoing it 10 times before I got it right!

  • I think you have the best idea…let the recipes pile up in your head and just see what comes out. You can’t go wrong with fennel and leeks. Leeks are a staple in my fridge. Did you get your rhubarb fix yet?

  • admin

    Hi Ashley! No, no rhubarb yet, I believe – we’re having an exceptionally late spring, I am hoping to see it at the Farmers Market this weekend.

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