Let’s face it, all of us experience failures as well as successes in the kitchen. This past month I’ve experienced both. The first and most spectacular ‘thumbs down’ (or 👎 in symbol form) has been my lemoncello. Sad, but true. I’m afraid I left it soaking in the alcohol too long and a bitterness crept in. That, and possibly a mistake of cutting the peel a tiny bit too thick so that it included a bit of the white pith. Both the over-long soaking and the inclusion of the pith are classic mistakes. However, I have several options for my bitter lemon alcohol. One is to make a Dijon mustard style vinaigrette using the bitter lemoncello in place of vinegar (amazing what solutions you can find on the internet). Another option is use it as a marinade. The last resort is to pour it down the drain, chalk it up to experience and start another batch – this time with absolutely no pith and marking the decanting time on my calendar. The vinaigrette, a variation of my mint balsamic dressing, was a thumbs up (👍) on a salad of poached salmon, wild asparagus and fresh garden greens, so I’ve saved some of the bitter lemoncello for vinaigrettes to be used on summer salads. I am also hopeful for its use as a marinade and perhaps with pasta. Oh, and a new batch of lemoncello is on the way.
Thumbs up also included my impromptu sourdough lagana bread (the bread on the bottom in the images below). This is a flatbread made and consumed on the Orthodox holiday known as Clean Monday. You can read about it in an earlier post. My version of lagana was similar in many ways – shape, taste, texture – to the one we bought at one of our local bakeries (the bread on the top in the images below). Although next year I will certainly cover my bread with more than a light sprinkling of sesame and perhaps some nigella seeds as well. Leftover pieces made excellent croutons for soups and salads – another thumbs up. In fact, S liked the croutons so much that she went home and made her own with her family’s leftover lagana.
Bitter orange mayonnaise was a thumbs down. A few failures (👎) refused to emulsify even after I realised that the acid (i.e. the bitter orange juice) needed to be added at the very end and not at the beginning of the process. So, a vinaigrette was made with the bitter orange juice instead. It is a natural substitute for lemon juice in many things. In fact, a book that has recently come to my attention, The fruit, herbs & vegetables of Italy written in 1614 by Giacomo Castelvetro, advocated just such a substitution. Castelvetro was a 17th century Italian refugee to England and was appalled at English cuisine at the time that was heavily skewed towards meat consumption and very little else. A modern reprint translated from the Italian with an introduction by Jane Grigson is available from Prospect Books. My copy is on order and I am eagerly awaiting its delivery. No doubt Castelvetro would have approved of the bitter orange vinaigrette was served with steamed broccoli or with thin slices of raw fennel – a definite success (and relief) after all those mayonnaise failures. The fennel version was our favourite.
Come to think of it, failures and sucesses this past month have metamorphosed into salad elements of some sort – vinaigrettes & croutons. Well, tis the season, so perhaps my IMK title should have been In A Salad Kitchen. With warming weather, the garden has been producing lettuces, greens and other vegetables – prime ingredients for salads.