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There isn’t much gardening going on in February, yet the anticipation for the first signs of spring are just around the corner. Today I am preparing one of my favorite ingredients for cooking and that is preserved lemons. It’s surprisingly easy to preserve lemons. After a few attempts at getting the method down, I have landed on a solid technique for perfect preserved lemons.

 Meyer lemons are my number one choice. I would not even consider making this recipe without them. They have a softer more delicate flavor and less acidity than your standard variety.

Preserved Lemon Recipe:

7 small Meyer lemons

5 large standard lemons

1 cup kosher salt

 Cut each Meyer lemon in half, then cut each lemon half in half but leaving the stem attached at the base. This will allow the lemons to fit better in the curing jar. Coat the cut ends of the lemon halves with lots of salt. Place two tablespoons of salt in the bottom of the jar and start layering the lemon halves in cut side down. The lemon halves will stack very well.

 Juice the standard lemons which should be enough to cover the lemons. I prefer to dissolve as much salt into the lemon juice as possible. The trick to keeping your lemons from fermenting is lots of salt. Trust me; you do not want your lemons to ferment. Here we are trying to create a preserved lemon with a briny flavor and a floral aroma, not something sour.

 Pour in the salted lemon juice to cover. The lemons may float because of the salt, but after a week they should behave and stay submerged in the liquid. Press down lemons to release any trapped air.

 If lemons do peek out of the liquid, cover with more salt and close the jar. Store the jar in cool dark place for one month. After a month the lemons are ready to use. I like to store the finished lemons in the refrigerator. They will last for up to a year. Do you have a favorite recipe that uses preserved lemons?

This dish is delicious with any kind of potato and a simple green. I have chosen to serve the salmon with asparagus and parsley potatoes.

Salmon can handle bold flavors but I think lemon is the best flavoring for this fish. Lemon helps brighten up its flavor and what better pairing is it to have capers in the mix. I adore capers for their unique briny flavor. So for this recipe I planned on roasting salmon steaks with a lemon caper butter sauce.

 Salmon Steaks w/ Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

2 salmon steaks

¼ cup shallots minced

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 lemon juiced

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons capers

2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted

2 Tablespoons parsley, minced

Freshly ground black pepper

 Preheat oven to 400F and place the salmon on parchment paper. Season them with sea salt and place them in the oven. They are going to take about 15 minutes to cook until easily flaked.

 Meanwhile, gently sauté the shallots in butter until translucent over medium-low heat. Add the lemon juice, capers and zest and simmer until reduced by half. Just before serving, turn off the heat and add the remaining butter and parsley. Swirl the pan to incorporate the butter, forming a creamy sauce. Plate the salmon and pour the sauce over.  A delicious and classic dish with lots of butter. My thoughts, butter is magic!

Why do cupcakes captivates us? Is it the perfect ratio of cake to frosting or perhaps the endless variety of flavors that satisfy a particular mood? Whatever the reason, they effortlessly make us happy and are easily enjoyed with no accompaniment. 

Here is a recipe for chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting. Many recipes tend to incorporate so much confectioners’ sugar that it makes the frosting grainy and overly sweet. Reducing the sugar achieves a smooth frosting that pipes like a dream.

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 ¼ cups granular sugar

¾ cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ rounded teaspoon baking powder

 1 ½ cups coffee

¾ cup vegetable oil

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

3 eggs

Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, sea salt, ginger, nutmeg and baking powder. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add coffee, vegetable oil, vanilla and eggs. Whisk until a smooth batter forms. Place two #40 scoops of batter in each cup, otherwise just fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake one pan at a time in a 350°F oven for 18-20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes in pan then transfer to a wire rack.

Chocolate Ganache Recipe:

1 cup chocolate pieces

½ cup heavy cream

1 Tablespoon softened butter

Place chocolate and butter in a bowl and set aside. Bring heavy cream to a boil over medium heat and pour over chocolate and butter. Allow the cream to soften the chocolate then whisk until smooth. While your ganache is still warm, coat the tops of the cupcakes by dipping them head first into the chocolate. Place cupcakes in the refrigerator to firm up the ganache while you make the frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream Recipe:

3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening

5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat butter and vegetable shortening together until smooth. Incorporate half of the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Repeat with the remaining sugar and add in vanilla extract. If you want to add any color, add color paste a little at a time until you achieve the shade you are looking for. Fill a pastry bag with frosting and pipe away. This recipe makes approximately 24 cupcakes.

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