Monday, April 30, 2018

Cooking Up Lemony Goodness...

Lemons 🍋 evoke freshness and awakens the senses, and it's a rejuvenating flavour to invite in Spring. Even though it was cold and damp during this community kitchen cooking session, it sure felt and smelled like spring indoors with the bounty of bright yellow lemony goodness in both savoury and sweet offerings. On the menu, Greek Quinoa Salad with a lemony dill vinaigrette and Flaky Scones with Lemon Curd. We cooked and baked to our hearts' content with the busy buzz of conversations and laughter. Ahhh :D... exactly the way I dreamed our gatherings to be. Many of the moms have two or more children, and these mornings give them a little time for themselves, to socialize and learn to cook something new. To hear they look forward to this day every week, and their heart-felt gratitude for our program, it truly makes my heart sing--  I just want our sessions to go on forever! With the warmer weather we will be coupling culinary with a nice walk afterwards. A time to further digest, get some fresh air and exercise, and to get to know one another better. 

A large fresh bed of both romaine and mixed greens is topped with textured nutty grains of quinoa and a medley of crunchy colourful vegetables dressed with garlicky lemony dill. This is the perfect crowd-pleaser or potluck picnic salad to make with it's healthful Mediterranean ingredients and tasty flavours! Always a hit at my gatherings.

Greek Dill Quinoa Salad 
Makes 8 servings

3 cups hot, low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1-1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt, more to taste
ground pepper to taste
6 cups mixed salad greens
3 cups romaine lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small English cucumber, sliced and quartered
1 small red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole pitted kalamata or black olives
sprigs of fresh dill for garnish

Heat the broth in a large saucepan placed over high heat. When it has just come to the boil, add the quinoa and stir well. Allow to return to the boil, then immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed. When cooked, transfer mixture to a large, shallow bowl to cool. Combine the dill, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to blend well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Layer the mixed greens then romaine lettuce on a serving platter. Drizzle with half the dressing. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl; toss with the quinoa and remaining vinaigrette. Layer on top of the greens. Garnish with fresh dill and serve.

Just look at the beautiful vibrant colours and textures... 

Greek Dill Quinoa Salad

On the other side, we had the preparations of scones going on...

Tall, brown-golden, crunchy, layered and slightly chewy, the key to super flaky scones is super cold butter and folding the dough as many times possible to trap the bits of butter and create the multi-layers without over-handling. These are seriously the best scones ever!!

Basic Best-Ever Flaky Scones (Baker and Scone recipe)
Makes 16 scones

3-¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter (chill in freezer for 10-15 minutes)
1/2 cup sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup half and half cream
1/3 cup buttermilk (make your own by mixing 1/3 cup milk and 1 Tbsp. white vinegar)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 lemon, zested
turbinado sugar for sprinkling
serve with lemon curd

Preheat oven to 415F. Combine in a large bowl - flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Zest lemon directly into a bowl. Stir with a whisk to evenly incorporate. Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. Toss in the butter well.

Mix cream and buttermilk together, and add vanilla. Add the cream mixture to flour mixture and knead very gently just until dough holds together. Pat out onto counter dusted with flour and fold over, then gently knead and repeat a few times. Cut into half, then each into 8s, and place spaced on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 16-18 minutes. TIP: For a crustier top crust, broil on high for one minute to brown-golden.

Kneading and folding for extra flakiness. Photo Credit: Fathima

How can we have a batch of scones without lemon curd? This homemade recipe is super easy and creates such a luscious perky lemon filling with just the right balanced tart to sweetness- it really is impossible to resist! They are perfect little jars to gift and can be refrigerated for up to five days.

Homemade Lemon Curd (adapted from Chatelaine)
Makes about 2 cups (double the ingredients for double the batch size)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup lemon juice (juice from about 3-4 lemons)

Beat sugar with butter, eggs, yolks and salt in a medium saucepan with an electric mixer on high, until creamy, about one minute. Beat in lemon juice. (Mixture may curdle but will smooth out during cooking.) Set saucepan over medium-high. Cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened and smooth. It should coat the back of a spoon, about three to five minutes.

We doubled the lemon curd recipe to fill little mason jars for each mom to take home. 

These ladies loved the perky lemon freshness. Each bite was met with ooohs, ahhhs and mmmms...

Beyond delicious, lemons really wakens up all the senses 🍋🍋🍋.

Mom Fathima made up these exact gorgeous delectable scones to serve with our take-home community kitchen-made lemon curd. These kind of sharing forward makes me so-O happy :D. Thank you so much for sending and sharing!

Photo Credit: Fathima

Photo Credit: Fathima

Mom Athira makes the Greek Dill Quinoa, and her family loved it! Beautiful and très colourful. YAY!

Photo Credit: Athira

More lemony goodness, cause you know I had to make something for my family too... I love this Luscious Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf-- the tangy citrus syrup that seeps into this pretty loaf creates a seductively divine taste. It's delicious served with a pot of tea and to give as a hostess gift! To me, this is one of those baked goods you savour slowly, letting your mind drift while enjoying life's simple pleasures 🍋...

Luscious Poppy Seed Loaf

Next up, we are heading back to my Chinese roots with chicken fried rice and Cantonese chow mein. And weather permitting, we are taking that happy stroll...

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