Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen

Archive for the ‘lemon’

Two Pestos 1

Posted on July 11, 2013 by Sahar

While I love to cook any time of year, unfortunately, it’s a little more difficult in the throes of a central Texas summer.  The thought of turning on the oven or the stove makes me want to stick my head in the freezer.  So, while it may not always be possible to avoid the extra kitchen heat, it can be minimized.

And one of those ways is making some pesto.

Pesto originated in Genoa in the northern Italian province of Liguria.  The name comes from Italian word pestare  (Genoese: pesta) meaning “to crush; to pound”.  It is traditionally made with garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk).

The ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, which was made by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together. Basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, likely originated in India and was first domesticated there. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated cheese, and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. The first mention of recipe for pesto as it is known today, is from the book La Cuciniera Genovese written in 1863 by Giovanni Battista Ratto.

While pesto was introduced in the US is the 1940’s, it didn’t become popular until the 1980’s.

(some information from and

The pestos I’m showing you today aren’t the traditional recipe that many have come to know and love.  While I’m very serious about traditional recipes, sometimes experimentation isn’t a bad thing.

Now, on to the recipes.


A few notes:

1.  Splurge and buy the freshest ingredients you can.  And that includes buying imported cheeses.  While America makes many wonderful cheeses, we aren’t too good with hard Italian cheeses.  Since pesto is essentially a raw product, you want the best.

2.  I don’t recommend using oil-packed/cured sun-dried tomatoes.  They’re usually flavored and I can’t control the amount of oil in the pesto.  Plus, somehow, they always taste cooked. Buy plain sun-dried and you won’t be sorry.

3.  You’ll no doubt notice in the instructions that I use a food processor for these recipes.  It is simply for ease in preparation.  If you feel like going all traditional, go for it.  But, it’d be a safe bet to say those tomatoes would be a bitch to beat down with a mortar and pestle.

Also, I keep the processor running through most of the prep.  This helps greatly when adding the “harder” ingredients like the garlic and nuts.  If you add them to the bowl and then turn on the processor, you won’t get a fine or consistent chop, which is what you want.

4.  When I serve these pestos, I always have some extra cheese on hand, some minced parsley (for the sun-dried tomato) and some halved cherry tomatoes (for the cilantro).  You don’t have to have these, but I thought I’d pass it along.

5.  As we all know, pesto is good on so many other things than just pasta.  Spread it on bread, use as a dip for vegetables, top grilled meats, seafood, or vegetables.

6.  Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  I don’t recommend freezing.

Cilantro Pesto

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Toasted pine nuts. These aren't inexpensive, so watch them very carefully.

Toasted pine nuts. These aren’t inexpensive, so watch them very carefully. If they begin to small like popcorn when you’re roasting, you’ve gone too far.


4 -6 cloves garlic, depending on size

1/2 c. pine nuts, roasted (350F for 3 – 5 minutes)


1/4 c. raw, unsalted pistachios

1/4 c. walnuts

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c.  Romano cheese, fresh grated

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, fresh grated

2 – 3 bunches cilantro, depending on size, large stems removed (It’s OK to have some stem. No need to pick the leaves.)

Juice of 1/2 lemon (approx. 1 1/2 tsp.)

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Salt & pepper to taste


1.  Have your food processor running.  Drop the garlic through the feed tube and chop. Add the pine nuts and pepper flakes.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

Turn off the processor, remove the lid, and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Turn on the processor again and let the cheese mix in.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

2. Again, with the processor running, push the cilantro down the feed tube.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.


Add the oil and lemon juice.

Adding the oil.

Adding the oil.

Continue processing until the mixture becomes a paste.  Add more oil if you want a thinner pesto.



3.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.


Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

The ingredients

The ingredients


Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Toasted pecans.  Again, nuts aren't inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

Toasted pecans. Again, nuts aren’t inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

3/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed; see note above)

1/2 c. roasted pecans (350F for 5 – 7 minutes)

4 cloves garlic

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1/4 c. Romano cheese, shredded

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tbsp.)

Salt & Pepper to taste


1.  Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let the tomatoes sit for 20 minutes.

Soaking the tomatoes.  Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Soaking the tomatoes. Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Drain the tomatoes, reserving some of the soaking liquid. Set aside.

The soaked tomatoes.

The soaked tomatoes.

2.  Have a food processor running and drop the garlic down the feed tube.  Let it chop.  Add the pecans the same way.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Turn off the processor and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Again, process until everything is mixed.

3.  With the processor running, add the tomatoes down the feed tube.

Adding the tomatoes.

Adding the tomatoes.

Pour in the oil and lemon juice.  Turn off the processor and check for seasoning and consistency.  If the pesto is too thick, add a little of the soaking water  or oil and process until it becomes the consistency you like.



The most common way to serve pesto is over pasta.  So, cook your pasta of choice according to the directions.  Be sure to save some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta.

I generally like to place a serving of the pasta in a medium bowl, spoon over the amount of pesto I want, and begin to toss them together.  I’ll use some of the pasta water if I need to.

I’ll place the pasta on the plate, garnish a little, and serve.

The completely optional garnishes:  Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

The completely optional garnishes: Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #2.

Serving Suggestion #2.


Enjoy! Buon Appetito!









Blood Orange Marmalade 0

Posted on February 07, 2013 by Sahar

Winter is the perfect time to make marmalade.  The oranges that are considered the best for marmalade – Blood, Seville, Cara Cara – are most readily available December & January.  By February into early March, they disappear for the year.

They all have a bitterness and high pectin content (important for thickening) that is prized by marmalade afficionados.


Here’s a nice quick history of marmalade by Elizabeth Field from the New York Times (I couldn’t find a date on the article)

Early Marmalade History

Marmalade began more than 2,000 years ago as a solid cooked quince and honey paste similar to today’s membrillo, the Spanish quince paste that is typically served with sheep-milk cheeses. Known as melomeli in ancient Greece and melimela in Latin, it was used both as a preserve and a reputed remedy for digestive complaints. The Portuguese took up the product, perhaps via the Arabs, substituting sugar for the honey, around the 10th century. They called it “marmelada,” which derives from the Portuguese marmelo, or quince.

The first shipments of marmelada, packed in wooden boxes, arrived in London in 1495. Fabulously expensive and imbued with purported medical and aphrodisiac powers, it was a popular gift among noble families.

Simultaneously, a northern European version of a cooked quince and sugar preserve called alternately chardequince, condoignac, cotignac or quiddony sprung up. Flavored with red wine, honey, cinnamon stick and powdered ginger, it was taken at the end of a medieval feast, along with pears, nuts, sugar-coated aniseed and other sweetmeats whose purpose, harkening back to the ancient Greeks, was to ease an upset stomach.

Versions of quince marmalade became a staple of “banquetting stuffe,” the elegant display of sweetmeats and confectionery served at the end of 16th- and 17th-century English feasts. Rolled and twisted into hearts and knots or flattened and then stamped with flowers and tarts, pale and rose-colored quince pastes were as decorative as they were therapeutic. Food historian Ivan Day offers period recipes and photos of these creations on his website.

Scotland’s Contributions

In the 18th century, the Scots pioneered the switchover from quince to orange marmalade. Many regions of the country were too cold for quince trees to flourish, and imported Seville (bitter) oranges had been available since the late 15th century. Cooks were now producing a thinner form of marmalade, stored in pots or glasses, achieved through a shorter cooking time. A succession of Scottish cookbook authors including Elizabeth Cleland, Hannah Robertson, Susanna Maciver, J.Caird and Margaret Dods, turned marmalade-making into an art form, introducing the term “chips” for shreds of orange rind, and refining techniques to produce marmalades that ranged from dark and chunky to transparent and golden.

More significant perhaps than the switch from quince to orange marmalade, was the new Scottish pattern of serving marmalade as a breakfast and tea-time food rather than an after-dinner digestive. This coincided with the evolution of the legendary British breakfast, which in its 19th-century heyday could consist of eggs in many guises, bacon, sausage, broiled mutton chops, stewed kidneys and smoked fish with crisp toast and an array of rich breakfast cakes. Orange marmalade, honey and jam were ubiquitous accompaniments.

While the “invention” of orange marmalade in 1797 is sometimes erroneously attributed to Janet Keiller, a Dundee grocer’s wife, she was among the first of a series of late 18th- and early 19th-century Scottish grocer’s wives who established commercial marmalade factories. Demand for store-bought marmalade had risen, perhaps facilitated by the growing number of women working outside the home.

By the late 19th century, numerous British firms produced marmalades for every preference, ranging from Robertson’s fine-cut Golden and Silver Shred to Frank Cooper’s coarse-cut “Oxford” marmalade, to Chivers’ Olde English, which was marketed as “The Aristocrat of Marmalades.” Wilkin of Tiptree, an English fruit conserving company founded in 1885, was producing some 27 different marmalades by the turn of the 20th century, according to the preeminent marmalade scholar, C. Anne Wilson, who authored “The Book of Marmalade.”

An Enduring Tradition

After a post-World War II decline in consumption, marmalade is now undergoing a comeback in Britain. Many home cooks continue to make their own, often using generations-old recipes. Because Seville oranges are only available for a few weeks in January and February, marmalade-making is a seasonal ritual. The enticing aroma of bubbling brews of oranges and sugar on the stove and the glow of newly filled jars of marmalade signal the coming of brighter days during the short, dark winter days.

The annual World’s Original Marmalade Festival held each February at Dalemain Estate, in Penrith, Cumbria, England, is to marmalade lovers as California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival is to garlic aficionados. A paean to British marma-lade culture, hundreds of home cooks compete for titles in categories ranging from classic Seville Orange marmalade to the more eccentric Clergy Marmalade, for ministers, priests, rabbis or anyone associated with a religious group.


The more traditional recipes have equal parts sugar and water along with the citrus; no pectin.  So, a recipe can have, for example, 8 cups sugar, 8 cups water, and anywhere from 2 – 5 pounds of fruit.  This makes a very sweet-bitter combination.

Now, admittedly, Orange Marmalade isn’t one of my favorite foods.  I generally find it too sweet. But this one recipe, that’s more on the tart/bitter side, is one I will eat. (In fact, marmalade is one of those foods one either loves with a passion reserved only for a significant other or hates like their worst enemy.)

Of course, you can adjust the sweetness as you prefer.

Now, on to the recipe.


The finished marmalade in this recipe will not look the same as many marmalades.  Because I use juice and honey as sweeteners, the marmalade is much more opaque than if I made a marmalade with sugar.

Oranges typically used in marmalade are very seasonal and are only available 2 – 3 months a year in the winter.  However, you can use any type of orange and regular orange juice.  The flavor won’t be the same (probably sweeter), but will be delicious nonetheless.

If you need to know about the how’s and why’s of canning sweet preserves, please look at my August 10, 2012 post, “Classic Strawberry Jam”.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients


5 lbs. Blood, Seville, or Cara Cara oranges

4 c. blood orange juice

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 tbsp. calcuim water (if using Pomona’s Pectin)

1 1/2 c. honey

3 1/2 tbsp. low sugar pectin (if using Pomona’s Pectin)


3 tbsp. low- to no-sugar powdered pectin


1.  Cut the ends of 2 pounds of oranges down to the pulp.

The end cut off the orange. It's a beautiful ruby color.

The end cut off the orange. It’s a beautiful ruby color. Hence the name.

Cut the oranges into quarters, cut out the center pith, and remove the seeds.

The trimmed orange quarters.

The trimmed orange quarters.

Slice each quarter very thinly and put into a large stock pot.

Ready for the pot.

Ready for the pot.

2.  Segment the remaining 3 pounds of oranges.  Do this by cutting away the peel and pith all the way down to the pulp.

Cutting the peel off the oranges.

Cutting the peel off the oranges.

Then, cut the segments out from between the segment membranes (you’ll see them; they look like white lines).

Sementing the organges.

Segmenting the oranges.

The organge segments.

The orange segments.

Add the segments to the stockpot.  (Be sure to squeeze and reserve whatever juice you can from the peels and segment membranes.  You’ll be surprised at how much juice you’ll get.  Discard or compost the unused peels, the membranes, and seeds.)

The center membrane with the segemtns cut out.  Be sure to squeeze it to extract as much juice as you can.

The center membrane with the segments cut out. Be sure to squeeze it to extract as much juice as you can.

(Alternately, you can peel, segment, and juice  all 5 pounds of oranges, take as many or as few of the peels as you like and slice them as thick or thin as you like. It’s up to you.)

3.  Add the reserved  juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 4 c. blood orange juice to the pot with the oranges.

Comparison of blood and regular orange juices.

Comparison of blood and regular orange juices.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Once the juice comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 45 – 60 minutes.  The pulp should be broken down and the peel very soft.

4.  After the oranges have cooked, if you are using Pomona’s pectin, stir in the calcium water. (Calcuim powder comes with the pectin). If you’re not using Pomona’s, skip this step.

5.  In a separate bowl, stir together the honey and pectin.  Add to the orange mixture.  Stir well to combine.

6.  Turn the heat back up to medium and bring the marmalade back to a boil.  Stir almost constantly to prevent scorching.  It should thicken within 5 – 10 minutes.

Cooking the marmalade. The thermometer is to check the temperature. Ideal jelling comes at 220F.

Cooking the marmalade. The thermometer is to check the temperature. Ideal jelling comes at 220F.

Test the set by pouring a small amount of the marmalade on a plate that has been chilled in the freezer.  It should set up quickly and when you run your finger through the marmalade, it should “wrinkle”.

Testing the set of the marmalade. (I used an ice mug that I keep in the freezer.)

Testing the set of the marmalade. (I used an ice mug that I keep in the freezer.)

The set marmalade.

The set marmalade.

(Also, if you have a thermometer, clip it to the edge of the stockpot and bring the marmalade up to 220F.  That is the ideal temperature for proper jelling.)

The finished marmalade.

The finished marmalade.

7.  Ladle the marmalade into hot, sterlized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Process the jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (begin timing after the water has come to a boil).  Let the jars cool on racks.  The marmalade will set up as it cools.

Cooling the jarred marmalade.

Cooling the jarred marmalade.

Makes approximately 5 half-pint jars.











↑ Top