Tangerine Jam with Vanilla Bean

It’s a strange time of year.  In November and December I was so tired from the summer that I was happy to sleep in and do not a whole lot for awhile.  Many hours were spent soaking in the bathtub and reading through seed catalogues.  tangerinesBy now, though, garden plans have been laid out, the first round of earliest spring seeds have been ordered and shipped to us and I’m starting to wake up in the morning with manic summer gardening thoughts in the front of my brain.

Before I forget, though, these tangerines! Citrus season in California is very much upon us.  A friend of mine in Ukiah gave me a huge bag of tangerines off of her tree.  They were juicy, sweet and delicious, and while we ate a lot of them fresh I also ended up making a couple different projects with them.


I held back from adding a bunch of flavorings to the syrup.  My goal was to make a fancy version of the canned mandarin oranges that they sell at the grocery store.  They’re basically the same thing, but with local fruit and a light syrup made with organic sugar.  tangerines in syrupI used this recipe here, which worked out just fine. Maybe I’ll tinker with it next time, but I kind of like that these are pretty plain.   They’re lovely straight out of the jar, tossed with salads, in a sauté with chicken, almonds and parsley, and a whole load of other recipes.


tangerine and vanilla bean jamI realized a few years ago that any jam that’s heavy on the vanilla makes for the best, most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I think it’s something that ends up kind of being reminiscent of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff? But without the marshmallow? Maybe I’m crazy…  This jam is a good alternative to marmalade if you’re not a fan of the bitter flavor marmalade can have. It tastes like a creamsicle because of the classic orange-vanilla combination. If you want to use it for savory applications, just leave out the vanilla bean. I thought about making another batch with ginger instead of vanilla, which I think would be great on chicken or as a salad dressing base, but…. we ate the rest of the tangerines. Oops.

Cook Time: 45 min.

Makes: 6 half pint jars


  • 14 tangerines and 1 lemon, peeled and blended in a food processor, or about 5 c. of fruit puree.
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 box of sure-gel low sugar pectin
  • 2 c. sugar

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Put the fruit puree into a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the fruit puree.  Simmer the fruit-vanilla mixture for 5 minutes on low heat.  In a small bowl, combine the pectin with 1/2 c. sugar.  Once the fruit has simmered, add the pectin-sugar mixture and turn the heat to high.  Once it comes to a boil, add the remaining 1 1/2 c. sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until you can see the jam sheeting of a spoon.

Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims clean and attach lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

Note: I only use 1/2 box of pectin because I find that when I use a full box, the set is way too firm for my taste.  If you prefer a firmer set, feel free to add the rest of the pectin.


As you’re doing these projects, don’t throw away the peels. Save them and dehydrate them to make tangerine peel powder, which you can use as a spice with kinds of different applications.  I mixed some with garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, dried thyme and rosemary to make a savory rub for chicken or pork. You can also use it for sweet things — I find that any time you’re using desserty kinds of spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, a little pinch of the tangerine peel powder just makes it taste even better.  peelsYou can either dry the peels in a dehydrator or the oven; I don’t have a dehydrator so I used the lowest setting on my oven.  They took a couple hours to dry out, and then I ground them in my blender.  The powder felt like it still had a little moisture in it, so I spread it onto a cookie sheet and dried it a little longer to make sure it wouldn’t mold in the pantry. tangerine peel powderThe scent of the peels dehydrating is wonderful and will make your house smell delicious, like you’re baking a tangerine cake.

Happy canning!

Winter Vegetable & Lentil Stew

I think the easiest way to make something good out of whatever vegetables you have on hand is to make soup.  And it’s great, because I really like soup. I like cooking it. I like eating it. I like that you can make a big pot and put the leftovers in the fridge and have lunches for days. I do a fair amount of professional cooking, and soups and stews are the most obvious choices when I need to feed a mixed group of carnivores-vegetarians-vegans-gluten free – whatevers. It’s pretty simple just to make a big pot of veggie stew, maybe serve it with a green salad and a grain.

Really, one of the main things I like about soup is that its a huge pot of vegetables, so when I have a bowl, I can pat myself on the back for eating healthy things and not Doritos.

These were the vegetables I decided to turn into soup today: winter vegetablesSomething about the sweet, nutty flavor of the parsnips really made this recipe worth righting about here. It was delicious.

We had it for lunch, topped with some parmesan cheese, with a few slices of bread.   winter vegetable and lentil soup

Winter Vegetable and Lentil Stew

Cook Time: 2 hrs.

Makes: a big batch!


  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced in half, rinsed, and then sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, tops included, diced
  • 4 parsnips, diced
  • 1/2 sm. buttercup squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard, roughly chopped
  • 2 c. crushed tomatoes with juice
  • about 13 c. water or stock
  • 1 lb. lentils
  • salt and pepper
  • a splash of apple cider vinegar
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese, for serving


Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, on medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, leeks, parsnips, and buttercup squash.  Saute for about ten minutes, til the onions start looking translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients- the tomatoes, water, swiss chard (stems and all!) and lentils, and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the cider vinegar and cayenne if you think it needs a little kick.  To serve, top with grated parmesan.

Failed Quince Jelly Into Orange Marmalade With Quince And Star-Anise

When I first started making jam, I would get the occasional customer that would ask if I used added pectin.   At that point, every single batch I’d ever made used commercial pectin, and I had no clue why anyone wouldn’t want to use it. Instead of taking 45 minutes to cook a batch of jam, it takes about 5, and I thought all of the jams I’d made tasted great. Over time, however, I’ve realized that understanding how to make jam without adding pectin means that I have a better grasp of the fundamental idea of what makes a delicious jar of jam.

Jams and jellies with no added pectin often have a softer set than those with commercial pectin, which often can have a set that is too firm and hard to spread. The other main improvement that I’ve noticed stems from paying attention to the acid content of the jam. Many fruits require the addition of lemon juice to boost the acid content and ensure a good set, but this also usually improves the flavor of the fruit; that lemony kick often adds depth, brightness, and complexity to what might otherwise be too sweet and simple.

Because of all this, these days I find myself actually tasting my jams to adjust seasoning before they go in the jar.  It seems obvious, but commercial pectin teaches people to follow instructions blindly, and not adjust the jam for their own personal preference. (I would go so far as to say that they scare people into listening, implying that somehow you’ll get botulism and die if you change anything in the recipe).

The downfall of not adding pectin is that recipes are sometimes less predictable. They take longer to cook and may not set perfectly every time.  Anyone who’s tried making jelly without added pectin probably has ended up with a batch or two of syrup, the result of jelly that doesn’t gel. Many people may leave the syrup as is, since it has plenty of practical applications (topping for ice cream or pancakes, poundcake glaze, etc.) but, well,  I am a perfectionist and I don’t really eat a lot of pancakes.

Last fall I came upon a huge amount of quince from one of my neighbors, some of which ended up in a failed attempt at a star-anise scented quince jelly. I actually tried to re-cook it and it still didn’t set. In retrospect, I suspect that the issue was the acid content, and I needed more lemon juice.  Instead of re-cooking the syrup a third time, it’s going into new batches of jam.

That’s the point of all of this.  Do you have syrup in your pantry? Is it just sitting there, with FAILURE written all over it? Mine isn’t a failure anymore, it’s pectin stock. Quince is incredibly high in natural pectin, so adding a jar or two into a batch of marmalade or jelly helps make sure that for this new batch of preserves I will get a good set.  Other high-pectin failed preserves, specifically apple jelly, apple jam, failed marmalades that are too syrupy, or quince jam, would all be excellent candidates for this method. (Disclaimer: Only use high quality syrups from your pantry.  If the preserve has gone bad for some reason, don’t use it. If there are bubbles or mold in the jar, or if it smells bad, do not use it!)

Today, instead of making plain orange marmalade, I’m making star-anise scented orange marmalade in a quince jelly.  The set is beautiful, and the flavor is mild and floral because of the quince. Now that quince is impossible to find, I’m thrilled to have a whole case of quince syrup.

Orange Marmalade with Quince and Star Anise

It’s hard to say if this recipe would work perfectly for someone else since my quince syrup might be slightly different from another syrup.  This recipe could certainly serve as a jumping off point though. Any citrus could be used, and any any high-pectin syrupy preserve could be used instead of syrup in my pantry.

makes: about 6 half-pint jars

  • 1 pint of quince syrup
  • 1 pint of lemon juice (I freeze lemon juice during the winter so that I have a stash of cheap, high quality lemon juice to use later in the year)
  • 4 c. prepared oranges (3 c. oranges sliced for marmalade soaked for 24 hours in 1 c. orange juice)
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 4 c. water

Bring boiling water canner to a boil and sterilize your jars.

Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Cook on high heat, stirring ocassionaly until marmalade reaches gel point (220 degrees on a candy thermometer, or alternately, you can put a few small plates in the freezer. When you think the marmalade is almost set, start testing it by putting a teaspoon of hot marmalade on the frozen plate. Wait 30 seconds, and run your finger through it. If it’s finished, your finger will make a line through the jelly and a few small wrinkles on the surface. If not, keep cooking and try again). 

Ladle hot marmalade into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/8″ head space. Wipe rims clean and screw on lids. Process half-pint jars for 5 minutes.

For more information on making jam with no added pectin, refer to the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine, parges 22-29.

Wild Duck Cacciatore (Because It’s Freezing In The Kitchen, and I’m Not Going In There)

We’ve been having some real crap weather in Northern California.  I know I should be thankful for the rain since it means we won’t have to worry about a drought this year, but I’m not feeling it.  When I got home from the farmers market this past Saturday, we were getting pounded with freezing mix and high winds.  My “kitchen” (it’s a barn) has no hot water, no heat, no insulation, and poor lighting, and I was absolutely not going in there to start a cooking project….

Hence this delicious dinner, cooked in the warm, cozy “living room” (also a barn, but with insulation and wood stove):

wild duck alla cacciatora

I have a big cast iron dutch oven that I really don’t use very often, but on really cold days I can just throw a bunch of ingredients in the pot and set it on the wood stove, letting it simmer in my living room for the whole afternoon.  If I have the fire burning already, it’s such a convenient way to cook a big meal without a lot of trouble.  (I suppose this is really the pre-cursor to the electric crock-pot.) Whether you decide for the wood stove or a conventional oven,  I can’t emphasize enough that this dish is all about flexibility and convenience; no need to search out obscure ingredients and make life difficult.

If you do want to cook this on a wood stove, keep a good base of hot coals going to ensure an even temperature for your dutch oven.*

First you need a protein. I used wild duck, which is delicious.  It’s very low fat compared to farm-raised duck, so the stew doesn’t get greasy or feel too heavy; the duck adds a rich flavor vaguely like beef or lamb.

Season your meat with salt and pepper, and then sear in the hot dutch oven with some aromatics.  Since I was lazy and tired, (getting up at 6:30 a.m. picking lettuce in the pouring rain for the farmers market doesn’t always make for proper cooking technique) I didn’t mince the garlic, but it would be better if I did. I put the sprigs of fresh herbs in whole and pull them out later, before serving.

Pick out your favorite veggies, and dice them up for the stew pot while your meat is searing (or before you start cooking, if you’re into planning in advance).

i love me some parsnips

I wild-harvested these from the a forest grove in the product section of the grocery store. That’s right!  Whenever I shop at the grocery store I feel like a criminal, like I’m buying crack on a street corner.  I realize that this is totally irrational.  Anyway, though, the sweetness of the root vegetables pairs really well with duck, and the firm texture holds up really well in a stew.

Saute your vegetables in the fat from the meat for a few minutes. This develops the natural sugars in the vegetables and makes them taste amazing.  Once you’ve done that, you deglaze the pan with the red wine. (When you pour the red wine into the hot pan with all kinds of crusty pieces of duck fat stuck on it, you pull all of those intense flavors off the pan and into what will become the best sauce you’ve ever tasted).  Add some stock, and then some tomato sauce for body and thickness.

Throw a lid on the pot and let it cook, covered, for a few hours. This roasts the meat and cooks the vegetables.  Then take the lid off for another hour and let the sauce slowly reduce, concentrating the flavors and achieving the right thickness.  You can always add more red wine or stock if you need more broth.  Remember to re-season with salt and pepper before you serve the stew.  Serve over mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles, brown rice, quinoa, or whatever you think tastes the best drowned in juicy stew goodness.  A loaf of bread good be a good thing here too.  I decided to make the Wild Stinging Nettle Spaetzle from Hunter Gardener Angler Cook instead of plain old noodles.  Spaetzle taste like a cross between a dumpling and an egg noodle, and are the perfect medium for soaking up the saucy good part of stews just like this one.   Hank Shaw’s recipe for nettle spaetzle paired well with my duck stew, with the brightness of the greens balancing out the richness of the duck.  If you want to give them a whirl, go here for my full post on how to process nettles and make the dumplings.

duck alla cacciatora on wild stinging nettle spaetzle

Wild Duck alla Cacciatora ….   Fire up that woodstove!

This is a cacciatore in the loosest sense of the word, meaning a “hunter’s style” braised meat dish with wine and vegetables.

Special Equipment: Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Woodstove*

Cooking Time: 7 hours, with 20 minutes of active cooking

Serves: 6


  • 2 California wild ducks** (enough for 1 1/2 c. shredded cooked meat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh herbs: 1 sprig marjoram, 1 sprig sage, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 parsnip
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large parsnip, sliced into rounds
  • 1 medium rutabaga, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 garnet yam, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 c. zinfandel, or whatever red wine you have open
  • 1 pint of chunky tomato sauce (I have this in my pantry, but you can substitute 1 16-oz can of crushed tomatoes. Just know that you’ll need to add some more seasonings, since my sauce is already seasoned in the jar)
  • 1/2 pint chicken stock (or 1 8 oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth)
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper

Start a fire in the wood stove and set a cast iron dutch oven on top of it to preheat. (This is the dutch oven I use; It has feet on it so the whole bottom of the pot doesn’t sit on the stove.  It’s really meant more for cooking directly in the fire, but I like the low, consistent temperature that I get using this method.)

Season ducks with salt and  fresh cracked pepper.  Once the pan is hot, add in the two ducks, fresh herbs, and minced garlic.  The ducks will release fat into the pan, but feel free to add an extra tablespoon or two of olive oil if you think the pan is too dry and the garlic is burning.  Put the lid on the pan, and cook for 10 minutes.
The duck should be sizzling and starting to get a little color at this point (add more wood to the fire if it’s not hot enough).  Add in chopped root vegetables and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the red wine, followed by the chicken stock, tomato sauce, and parsley. Give the pot a stir or two to mix everything together, cover, and cook for about four hours. Open the lid and stir the stew every so often.  If the fire gets really hot and it starts bubbling like crazy you may want to add more stock to prevent anything from sticking.
Uncover the pot.  Remove the ducks.  (At this point I discard the skin because I don’t enjoy eating that much fat, but if you like it, leave it in). Pull the meat off of the bones and discard the carcasses (or reserve them for duck stock or soup). Shred the meat into smaller pieces, whatever size you’d like in your stew. Return the meat to the pot and cook, uncovered, for one more hour or until the stew reaches the desired consistency.  If the stew reduces too much, add some more stock or red wine to the pot to thin the broth out again.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve over spaetzle, noodles, rice or mashed potatoes.

*If you’re not the wood stove – cast iron type, this recipe will work with a conventional oven and any type of dutch oven.  Start the cacciatore on top of the stove to sear the duck and saute the vegetables, and once you add liquid, move the pot to the oven and cook at 300 degrees for 3 hours.

**Meat substitutions that I would recommend: two chicken quarters, 1 lb of beef stew meat, pork tenderloin, or 1 lamb shank or 1 lb. of lamb stew meat. Be creative though, this is just a stew with meat, wine, and root veggies.

Red D’Anjou Pear Cardamom Jam

This is one of my absolute favorite jam flavors.  Top five, for sure.  If you want to think about something other than citrus for a minute, make this! It absolutely explodes with the flavor of ripe, sweet, juicy pears.

Pear-Cardamom Jam

makes about 5 1/2 half-pint jars


  • 4 c. ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced  (It only works when you find good pears- make sure the pears taste how you want the jam to taste; if they are grainy, too tart, or not ripe yet, don’t buy them.  I used Red D’Anjou pears from a local farm, which were in season here.  I’ve used Comice Pears in the past and they were also delicious).
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 4 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin Calcium Water, included inside the pectin box (see package for instructions)
  • 3 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin Powder (I used commercial pectin to shorten the cooking time and retain the intense pear flavor).

1. Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water. Put lids in a small bowl and cover with some boiling water from the canner. Put jars in the oven on low so they are hot when you put hot jam into them later.  In a small bowl, whisk the 4 tsp. of pectin powder with 1/2 c. sugar and set aside.

2. In a large, non-reactive pot, combine pears, lemon juice, cardamom, calcium water, and 1 1/2. cups of sugar.  On medium-high heat, bring to a full rolling boil.  Pour in the pectin/sugar mixture, and bring back to a full rolling boil.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars.  Wipe the jar rims clean, and screw on the lids. Process half-pint jars for 10 minutes to get a good seal.

Recipe Ideas:

This is a strong candidate for The Jar That Actually Goes On Toast In The Morning…. but if you don’t want to go that route, don’t forget how delicious pears are with almonds- there are all kinds of tart and cookie possibilities here! This is also one of the jams that I serve on a chevre-ginger cheesecake that I make really often- I would highly suggest the idea of any type of cheesecake with this jam on top.

Triple Citrus Glazed Butter Cake

citrus cake with our peach-raspberry jam

For the past week or so, we’ve had fantastic magical California paradise weather, and I’ve been working in the gardens almost all day long.   Late winter veggie starts went in the ground, and one last batch of garlic.  I also planted seeds for calendula, love-in-a-mist, bells of ireland, and poppies, along with the dahlia tubers I picked up at the store the other day.  This fantastic triple citrus butter cake is all that sunshine and good weather on a plate, no matter where you live! The flavor is bright and refreshing, and it’s lighter than all these 15 layer chocolate death cakes that are floating around with Valentine’s Day coming up so soon.  Those are awesome, but this the kind of cake that you can vaguely rationalize eating for breakfast, and those are important cakes to have in your life.


fresh eggs make better baked goods!

This recipe is an adaptation of the Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake recipe in the April 2009 issue of Gourmet. I’ve substituted skim milk and added some new citrus- I hope you like it!

Triple-Citrus Butter Cake


  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (or whatever milk  you have in your fridge is fine)
  • 1/2 tbs. lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbs. tangelo zest
  • 1/2 tsp. clementine zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut extract (I was out of vanilla, you could use that too)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs (the original recipe suggests bringing the eggs to room temperature, but you could also just walk to the chicken coop and get three fresh ones that never were in the fridge at all)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh citrus juice (combine 1/8 c. lemon, 1/8 c. tangelo, and eat the clementine. Or a different combination, it doesn’t matter.)
  • Optional: top with confectioners sugar and jam (I used Peach-Raspberry, but any fruit would be fine).  Whipped Cream would be good, but we didn’t have any when I made it.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour an 8″ round cake pan, which I don’t own, so I used a glass dish…
  2. 2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, citrus zest, and hazelnut extract.
  3. 3. If you have an electric mixer, now’s the time to get it out: Cream together the sugar and softened butter until it’s fluffy and fully incorporated (about 2 min.)  Next, add in the eggs (one at a time, and mix well in between each egg).
  4. 4. Turn the mixer on low, and mix in the flour in batches, alternating with the milk mixture. (Make sure not to over mix the batter).   Pour the finished batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles, and put it in the oven.
  5. 5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  When the cake is out of the oven and cooling, whisk together the confectioners sugar and citrus juice until it’s completely smooth.  Remove the cake from the pan and put it on a cooling rack if you have one(I don’t have one of those either, you can tell I’m totally not a baker…. I put mine on a big plate with paper towel). Brush the cake with the glaze and let it cool the rest of the way.
  6. 6. Eat the cake! (If you’re thinking about cake-dinner menu pairings, we had fried chicken, braised kale from the garden cooked with our home-cured bacon, and mashed potatoes with country gravy, and the refreshing citrus flavor went absolutely wonderfully with all that).


Meyer Lemon Marmalade

meyer lemon marmalade on vanilla pound cake

This past week has been a crazy tornado of citrus! In the midst of the whirlwind of blood oranges, tangelos, lemons and honey tangerines,  I thought it might be nice to stick to Meyer Lemons and sugar for one batch- no fancy spices, no booze (well, not in the marmalade atleast), no other fruits, no added pectin.

I was able to do my shopping for the marmalade extravaganza at the Allemany Farmers Market in San Francisco, which is my absolute, hands down most favorite shopping experience.  I find so many lovely things there; just this last week I went home with fresh dates, a bundle of lemongrass, chanterelles, fresh baked croissants, a dozen oysters from Point Reyes, and, of course, a rainbow of citrus fruit! (The prices here tend to be really reasonable too, not like Whole Foods or other specialty markets).  With such high quality, fresh fruit, it seemed like a shame to mess with it.

I want to brag about only buying certified organic, but really, a signed statement from the farmer saying that he’s never sprayed a pesticide in his whole life seems more genuine than any certification from the government.

Enough about the farmers market, though, check out these lemons!  In case you haven’t seen then before, Meyer Lemons are smaller and juicier than regular lemons, and their thin skins are much more delicate, making it hard for normal grocery stores to stock them since they don’t ship well.  They are also incredibly aromatic.

This marmalade is simple, with no added pectin.  All you need is Meyer Lemons, sugar, water and time.  This recipe uses a ratio of 1 part prepared lemons to 1 part sugar, so once you’ve read the whole thing through, if you’d like to change the amount, it should work fine.


  • 36 Meyer Lemons
  • 3 Water
  • 6 Sugar

Because these peels are so thin and delicate, so I used a different method for preparing citrus fruit than I usually do.   First, I sliced off the ends of the fruit. Then I slice each lemon into quarters.

Using a sharp knife, slice out the tough inner piece of pith and remove any seeds.Slice into very thin wedges and put them into a nonreactive pot. Add a little water (I used 3 cups for 36 lemons; change the ratio accordingly).

Cover the pot, set it aside, and wait for a day.

After you’ve waited the full 24 hours, bring the lemons to a simmer and cook for 10-20 minutes or until the peels are soft.  Set aside the cooked lemon mixture in the fridge for an hour to cool and let the pectin develop. (The pectin, which makes the marmalade gel, is inside the lemons. By letting the lemons rest- first for 24 hours, then for 2 hours- the pectin oozes out into the surrounding liquid.)

After the hour has past, use a large measuring cup to see how much lemon mixture you have.  Combine equal parts lemons and sugar in a large, wide-bottomed nonreactive pot. I had six cups of the lemon mixture so I divided it into two separate batches just to make sure it didn’t have to cook forever to reach the gelling point (you lose a lot of flavor this way).

Cook on medium high, stirring fairly often, until the marmalade gels (about 30 minutes). It seems like everyone has a different way of testing for gel point, but I just use my trusty wooden spoon. When the marmalade drips off the spoon in one big sheet instead of single drops, it means it’s done.  (You can also leave a few small plates in the freezer, and when you think the marmalade is close, put a teaspoon of hot marmalade on the cold plate.  Wait 30 seconds, and run your finger through the marmalade. If you see little wrinkles on the surface of the marmalade, it means it’s set.) Ladle the hot marmalade into hot, clean jars. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and screw on the lids.  Process half-pint jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes to get a good seal.


This classic marmalade is great on english muffins with lots of butter, or as frosting on pound cake. It would also make a fantastic marinade for grilled chicken or shrimp, and it will work well in Spanish, Moroccan, or Middle-Eastern dishes.

As a bonus project, you can germinate some seeds and try to grow your own Meyer Lemon tree…

Just pull out some whole seeds, fold them in a damp paper towel, and put them in a ziploc bag. I blow some air into the ziploc bag so it’s like a little greenhouse.  Theoretically they will sprout in 7-14 days, and then you can plant them.  These little seeds probably won’t bear fruit for years and years, but they’re pretty plants and fun to grow.   Good luck! 

Polenta with Mascarpone and Roasted Winter Vegetables

While I on the east coast, I was able to spend the night in New Jersey and see a whole slew of relatives that I hadn’t visited in years.  We had a fantastic evening, with lots of laughter, wine, and tons good food.  The theme was some kind of vague California-Italian, but not really on purpose.


  • Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe and Lemon
  • Auntie’s Stuffed Manicotti
  • Creamy Polenta with Mascarpone
  • Roasted Mushrooms With Red Wine
  • Roasted Winter Vegetables
  • Baby Lettuces with Mustard Vinaigrette and Fennel
  • Chevre Cheesecake with Pear Sauce

I’ve adapted two of the recipes for a much smaller group, since they are delicious, easy, and shouldn’t just be for big dinner parties.

I often hear mixed opinions about polenta, with complaints about mushiness and texture. To those people, I say: Stop whining! Go get a spoon!

If you look at other polenta recipes, you will notice that there is an absurd amount of cheese in this one. A better name for this recipe might be “Giant Bowl O’Cheese.” Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  You really have to try this though!


makes about 4 servings

cook time: 30 minutes

  • 1 cups cornmeal
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 3 tbs. mascarpone
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese plus 1/4 c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. dried onions (usually from McCormick)
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper
  1. Bring 1 c. of chicken stock to a boil in a large pot. Turn the heat to low, and gradually whisk in the cornmeal (Don’t just pour it all in at once!).
  2. When the mixture comes to a simmer, add in the other 2 cups of chicken broth.  Stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried onions. Whisk the mixture  for 10-15 more minutes (this makes sure it cooks evenly, doesn’t get clumpy, and doesn’t stick to the bottom). The polenta should be fairly thick now, but if you like it thicker feel free to cook it another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Turn the flame to very very low (so you don’t burn the cheese), and stir in the mascarpone, parmesan, and cheddar cheese. Add more salt and pepper to taste, and top with shaved parmesan and cracked black pepper while it is still steaming hot.
winter greens from the garden.... into the oven with you!

This recipe is great because it’s so flexible. You can really pick whatever vegetables you like (my favorite combination is beets, sweet potatoes, and turnips).  This time I used buttercup squash from the pantry, rainbow carrots and winter greens from the garden, half a butternut squash I had sitting in the fridge, along with red onion, shallots, and garlic.


serves: as many as you want

cook time: 1.5 hrs.

  • an assortment of winter vegetables, whatever you like(carrots, beets, butternut squash, turnips, parsnips, cauliflower, beet greens, kale, etc.)
  • olive oil to coat liberally
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • chopped flat leaf parsley (probably about 1/4 c.) or other herbs you like (thyme,  rosemary, minced garlic or shallots, etc.)
  • shaved parmesan cheese for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash veggies thoroughly, and chop all of your vegetables into 1/2” cubes (roughly chop any greens into 1/2″ strips). I never peel beets, carrots or sweet potatoes, I like the texture of their skin when it roasts in olive oil.  Set aside greens to add in later.
  2. In a large bowl, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh herbs (about 2 tbs. of herbs from a large mixing bowl of veggies will do fine).  Spread veggies over a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes. If you want to add any greens, take out the cookie sheet and mix them with all the veggies now. Cover with tin foil, and roast for another 20 minutes or so, or until veggies are cooked and nicely golden brown around the edges.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serve these roasted vegetables over polenta or rice, tossed with pasta, in a green salad, or however else you can think of!




    Orange Pecan Tea Bread

    I’m in upstate New York right now, visiting my parents for the first time in a great while.  If I ever decide to become a 400 lb. woman I will come here to do the dirty work…  My dad is a loves to cook and my mom is a fantastic baker. Even though we’re supposed to be in the New Years Resolution phase of the holiday season, the shelves are still stacked with cookies, chocolates, marzipan, and other delicious treats. Given this situation, and the fact that now she’s wandering around the house talking about making tiramisu this evening, I either need to put on my sneakers and go for a run or maybe just buy some bigger pants.

    Today I had warm Orange Pecan Tea Bread waiting for me when I woke up. It’s an adaptation of a recipe from Cooking Light, and a great way to use up some marmalade. My mom used the seville orange marmalade I made last winter, but you could use any type you have on hand.  She didn’t bother with the glaze (see step 4 below), it was delicious without it.  The citrus and buttermilk in this recipe will brighten up any winter day, no matter how snowy.

    I am a terrible baker, unlike my mother. I can’t be bothered with things like recipes and measuring. I don’t even own a tablespoon (I may have once, but I lost it).   The concept of preheating an oven is foreign to me, it’s either “hot” or “off.” Lasagna is ready when it’s bubbly and the cheese has nice golden brown spots, not when it’s been in the oven at 350 for an hour and fifteen minutes (this is a guess, I really am not sure how long I cook lasagna for).  I often get angry at recipes for trying to tell me what to do. The nerve of these people…

    If, unlike me, you can follow instructions, here’s  the original recipe from Cooking Light (December 2009 issue):

    Orange-Pecan Tea Bread

    • 7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 c.)
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
    • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
    • 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
    • 1/4 c. chopped pecans, toasted
    • 3 tbs. 1% low-fat milk
    • 3 tbs. canola oil
    • 3 tbs. orange marmalade
    • 2 tsp. grated orange rind
    • 2 large eggs
    • cooking spray
    • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
    • 1 tbs. fresh orange juice
    • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped pecans, toasted
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Combine granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (through eggs), stirring with a whisk; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
    3. Spoon batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
    4. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over bread, and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. pecans.  Yield: 14 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

    Calories: 164; Fat: 5.4 g; Protein: 3g Carb: 26.6g; Fiber: 0.6g; Chol: 26 mg; Iron: 1 mg; Sodium: 136 mg; Calc: 46 mg.

    Pomelo Marmalade With Rosewater and Cardamom

    Welcome to my shiny new blog! I hope that you keep reading and maybe try out a few of the recipes and projects that will be appearing here. Check back often- 2011 should be a pretty action packed year. Anyway, enough with the introductions, time to make some marmalade!

    So, Reader, since we’re just getting to know each other, a few basics first-  If you want your jam to be really, really amazing the key is to get your hands on the highest quality, freshest fruit at the peak of the season.   Avoid grocery stores like the plague. Fruit should come from your own garden, your neighbor’s tree, a farmer that you know, or a local farmers market.  While buying local and organic is certainly very trendy right now, the reason to seek out this produce is really flavor.  Ethically, it is important to support small farms, cut down on your carbon footprint, etc., but the fact of the matter is that this fruit is just going to taste infinitely better.  If you were to do a blind taste test, the local, in season produce will win every time.  You’ll really know it’s time to make marmalade when you’re at the farmers market and you can actually smell the oranges and grapefruit before you can see them.

    Even though I live in California, it’s the dead of winter right now- pouring rain, freezing cold, dark at 4:30 pm.  I am dying to get on a plane and go somewhere exotic, where I will need a passport, sunblock, and a little book to translate common phrases like “this is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen” and “why yes, freshly caught lobster sounds lovely,” or “a cocktail would be wonderful, thank you.” This marmalade is a little jar of happy intentions and new year’s resolutions to travel a little bit more and work in the garden a little bit less.  Oh, and it’s totally delicious,  floral, citrusy and exotic.

    Rosewater, green cardamom pods, and saffron add extra dimension.

    How to Prepare Fruit For Marmalade

    Of course you must start with sharp knives:

    This can get kind of tedious here. You might want to drink a beer or something  to make it more fun. Take your time and do a good job though, and you’ll be happy about it later when your friends are praising your excellent marmalade-making skills.

    We want only the colored, outer part of the rind.

    Stack the pieces of the rind on top of each other and slice through them to make julienned strips.

    Repeat with all the fruit. (Dream of tropical vacations!)

    Cut off the ends and the white part of the fruit.  Use your knife to separate the fruit from the membrane.

    Your prepared fruit should look something like this:

    Chop the wedges into small pieces. Put them into your pot.

    Pomelo Marmalade with Cardamom and Rosewater


    • 1 large pomelo
    • 2 oranges
    • 2 meyer lemons
    • 1 tsp. rosewater
    • 2 c. water
    • 1 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
    • 1/8 tsp. saffron (use either Spanish or Mexican depending on your budget)
    • 6 green cardamom pods
    • 5 c. sugar
    • 3 tsp. Pomona’s calcium water
    • 4 1/2 tsp. Pomona’s pectin powder
    1. Fill your canner with water and bring it to a boil. Wash jars and lids. Put jars on a cookie sheet in the oven at 150 degrees until you are ready to fill them.* Put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water from the canner.
    2. Wash fruit thoroughly.
    3. Make calcium water (see instructions inside Pomona’s box). Measure 4 1/2 c. of sugar and set aside in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the other 1/2 c. sugar with the pectin powder and whisk well, making sure to avoid any clumps of pectin powder. Set aside.
    4. Using a small sharp knife or veggie peeler, remove outermost layer of the rind from the fruit, avoiding the white as much as possible.
    5. Working in batches, make small stacks of the colored rind and julienne into thin strips.
    6. To prepare the fruit for cooking, cut off the white rind, exposing the fruit inside.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut in between the membranes and each section of fruit, and lift out each wedge. Chop the prepared wedges, and set aside. (See illustrations below, in “How to prepare fruit for marmalade”
    7. Squeeze 1 c. fresh orange juice.
    8. In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the prepared fruit and rinds, 2 c. water, 1c. orange juice, 6 green cardamom pods, 2 tbs. rosewater, and 3 tsp. calcium water. Cover, and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until rinds are soft (about 30 minutes).
    9. Turn heat to medium high and stir in 4 1/2 c. sugar. Bring to a boil, and then stir in the pectin-sugar mixture. Bring to a full, rolling boil and cook for 1-2 minutes. (Marmalade will reach sheet stage)
    10. Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/8 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and screw on lids. Process for 5 minutes.

    yield: about 8 half pint jars.

    *It is not really necessary to sterilize your jars in the oven, since they will be processed later. I’ve had jars crack in the canner when they weren’t hot though, so now I always do it. Hot jam, hot jars, hot water seems like the way to go.

    Recipe Ideas

    • Heat 1/2 c. marmalade with a few teaspoons of butter and a little chicken broth to make a sauce for sauteed chicken breasts, top with slivered almonds.
    • Mix with couscous (add the marmalade to the cooking broth). Garnish with chopped cilantro and toasted pine nuts.
    • Marinade for grilled lamb skewers (whisk together equal parts marmalade and olive oil, add a dash of mustard or vinegar for more acid). Serve with olives and pita bread.