Sweet citrus fruits straddle salad, dessert courses

A serving of fruit has been all but a mealtime requirement in the past six years since I’ve had kids.

Fruits go down easier than vegetables, after all, and the fiber keeps kids full between meals when fruit is their snack. Plus they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, in short the plethora of phytonutrients.

We can’t seem to get enough vitamin C, fortunately during the season when citrus is most abundant and delicious. My kids eat mandarin oranges and tangerines, even grapefruit, out of hand. But I also plan to incorporate plenty of citrus zest and juice into our meals this time of year.

The following recipe from Tribune News Service appeals to my preference for fruit as both salad and dessert. Orange-blossom water, which enlivens any number of dishes with a Middle Eastern flair, is more and more available in mainstream grocers and keeps for years in the refrigerator.

Consider making this with cara cara oranges, featured in this month’s Oregon Healthy Living magazine. You may need to tell people that the slices are not grapefruit, but the striking presentation comes with equally distinctive citrus flavor.

Tribune News Service photo

Moroccan Orange Salad

4 large, juicy oranges (or grapefruits or tangerines)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar or honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 to 3 tablespoons orange blossom water, or zest from 1 orange

6 fresh mint leaves

3 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped

Slice off very top and bottom of each orange, just enough to expose flesh. Remove all and pith by strips, top to bottom, using blade of your knife to cut away as little of juicy flesh as possible. Trim any small bits of pith you missed, and pour juices that collect on cutting board into a small saucepan.

Cut oranges horizontally to form thin slices, about 1/4-inch thick. Arrange in an overlapping pattern on a serving platter.

Add the sugar and cinnamon to pan. If using the orange zest instead of the orange blossom water, add it to pan, along with 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in orange blossom water, if using, and pour over orange slices. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Stack the mint leaves together, roll tightly and thinly slice crosswise. Scatter mint and the pistachios over oranges; serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Tasting Paris,” by Clotilde Dusoulier.

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Citrus fruits pop next to fat from avocado, olives

Distinctive citrus needs little adornment to constitute a salad.

Case in point is Citrus Salad With Avocado in this week’s food section. The only ingredient that infers a green salad is the cilantro leaves scattered atop the orange and avocado slices.

Another favorite in this vein is Orange, Fennel and Olive Salad. Is a theme emerging here? As this blog’s previous post acknowledged, the rich contrasts of avocado and olive make citrus pop even more on the palate.

While cheese isn’t the most obvious citrus pairing, there are a few natural duets. Think cheeses that are predominantly salty and tangy, that is to say fresh without much in the way of funk.

Haloumi, which I’ve raved about in previous posts, shouldn’t be passed up during citrus season. There’s also this recipe from the Los Angeles that takes a few high-quality ingredients and uses them to full effect.

If you can’t find Montealva cheese, consider substituting high-end goat or sheep feta. The haloumi would yield an entirely different, but worthwhile, dish. When I’m really stumped on which cheese would be a good substitute for an obscure one, I inquire at Rogue Creamery’s cheese shop in Central Point.

For more information on some of the more unusual citrus varieties cited here, see my story in this month’s Oregon Healthy Living magazine.

Tribune News Service photo

Winter Citrus With Montealva, Arugula, Black Olives and Marconas

2 teaspoons minced shallots (from 1 medium to large shallot)

1/3 cup blood orange juice

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons, extra-virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

Assortment of citrus, including pomelos, blood oranges, tangelos, cara cara oranges, mandelos, oro blanco grapefruit and kumquats

6 slices Montealva or similar Spanish goat cheese

6 to 10 arugula leaves

2 tablespoons citrus vinaigrette

1 teaspoon diced black olives

2 teaspoons crushed Marcona almonds

Fleur de sel, for garnish

In a nonreactive bowl, macerate the shallots in the blood orange juice for 5 minutes. Add the sherry, orange zest and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and balance depending on how sweet your blood oranges are. This makes about 1/3 cup vinaigrette, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.

Cut the citrus in segments or pinwheels. Recipe creators prefer to cut blood oranges and kumquats into pinwheels, and segment the rest. You’ll want 2 to 4 pieces of each citrus.

Divide citrus between 2 salad plates, and tuck in the arugula leaves and cheese slices. Drizzle over citrus vinaigrette. Sprinkle over the black olives, almonds and fleur de sel.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Los Angeles Times from a dish served at Lucques restaurant in Los Angeles

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Winter is time to make citrus shine in food, drink

Tribune News Service photo

That the vast majority of domestically grown oranges becomes juice likely comes as little surprise.

But the variety of oranges available in mainstream grocers may be a bit surprising.

Blood oranges, Cara Cara and mandarins all were featured in this month’s Oregon Healthy Living story about citrus. Numerous ways to prepare the season’s citrus and reasons to eat them accompanied an eye-catching photo spread.

Produce experts, both locally and nationwide, are touting the Cara Cara orange for its complex flavor. Taking a navel orange to the next level, Cara Caras have an herbal, floral quality and striking pink flesh. It’s a grapefruit’s aesthetic without any sourness or bitterness.

A grapefruit-tangerine cross, minneola tangelos are juicy and sweet, encased in a bell-shaped peel that often separates easily for little fingers. And just when it seems that citrus varieties can’t get any more audacious, there’s the TDE mandarin, which commingles the genetics of Temple, Dancy and Encore mandarins for tangy-sweet, well-rounded flavor.

Botanically, oranges are the berries of subtropical evergreen trees. An average-size orange contains 100 percent of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C and also boasts vitamin A, potassium and plenty of dietary fiber.

Their acid make oranges a great culinary stand-in for tomatoes. They’re delicious with avocados and olives. Cooks increasingly are tapping into the power of citrus zest, which is popping up in more cocktails and mocktails, even plain water to lend flavor without added sugar.

Citrus keeps for a month or longer in the refrigerator, particularly if not stored in plastic bags, which draws out moisture. Keep them on the counter for a few days, just not in company with apples or bananas, which emit ethylene gas that accelerates ripening.

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Deep-frying hardest part of quick doughnut holes

Baked goods calling for just a few ingredients and a few minutes of hands-on time have been this blog’s theme for the past week.

From cream biscuits to English muffins to classic scones, they’ve progressively gotten a bit more challenging and a bit more decadent. To that, I’ll introduce another level of difficulty, which adds another layer of enjoyment, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Frying a spiced quick-bread dough results in my preferred doughnut, rich and cakey, coated in cinnamon-sugar rather than raised and lacquered with icing. But everyone knows that a day-old cake doughnut becomes dense with a note of stale frying oil.

While I don’t look for reasons to deep-fry, I do acknowledge that anything freshly fried, straight from the draining rack, and still hot enough to singe one’s fingertips is worth the occasional indulgence. Consider decorating little paper bags or Chinese takeout containers for Valentine’s Day to convey these sweet bites to your sweethearts.

Tribune News Service photo

Quick Doughnuts

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 egg

1 cup apple cider

1 quart ghee (shelved near oil in supermarkets) or canola oil, for frying

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, mace and 1/4 cup of the sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg and cider. Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix with a wooden spoon just until a thick dough comes together.

In a heavy pot at least 3 inches deep, heat 2 inches of the ghee (or oil) to 350 F. Using a 1 1/2-inch diameter ice-cream scoop, scoop up a generous ball of dough and drop it in. Cook, for 4 minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Wait for 1 minute. Cut in half. If done, you’re good to go. If not, add 1 minute cooking time to your batch.

Scoop balls of dough into hot ghee (or oil), without crowding. Fry, rotating spheres now and then, until deep brown outside and cooked through inside (4 or 5 minutes, depending on your test doughnut). Repeat, frying all doughnuts.

In a paper sack, shake together the cinnamon and remaining 1 cup sugar for topping. Drop in doughnuts a few at a time and shake to coat. Munch while warm.

Makes 18 to 20 doughnut holes.

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Handle with care is beginning bakers’ challenge

It’s perhaps the hardest lesson for a novice baker — and I count myself in that group. It isn’t what you do, but what you don’t do, that makes all the difference in delicately textured baked goods.

Minimal manipulating is key whenever flakiness is the goal. Dairy fat mingled with flour and leavening can produce airiness and lightness that belies such humble ingredients.

That’s only so long as the baker can resist the impulse to overwork these mixtures, which develops their gluten, resulting in stretchy doughs and batters that bake up tough. Developing gluten is important in baking yeast breads, not their quick counterparts.

This blog’s previous two posts could hardly be called recipes, given they’re so simple. Just a few ingredients and the most basic instructions, both with similar admonishments. “Knead lightly about three times, just until the dough comes together” … and “knead until smooth, for a few seconds.”

That’s it. Forgo the futzing. Handle the dough gently. Shape it deftly. Perfectly textured is preferable to perfectly shaped.

If you’ve baked  two-ingredient cream biscuits and four-ingredient English muffins with success, you’re probably ready to graduate to the classic scone. It fits nicely into the food section’s breakfast theme for a second week running.

Tribune News Service photo

Classic Scones

1 3/4 cup flour (plus more for shaping and cutting)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut up

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup heavy cream

Tip the flour into a mixing bowl; whisk in the sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Shoot in the butter, then rub together with your fingers to make a reasonably fine-crumbed mixture, lifting to aerate mixture as you go. Try not to overrub, as mixture will be lighter if it’s a little bit flaky.

Measure the buttermilk, then mix in the cream to slacken it. Make a bit of a well in center of flour mixture with a soft spatula, then pour in most of this buttermilk mixture, holding a little bit back in case it’s not needed. Using spatula, gently work mixture together until it forms a soft, almost sticky, dough. Work in any loose dry bits of mixture with remaining buttermilk. Don’t overwork at this point, or you will toughen the dough.

Lift ball of soft dough out of bowl and put it on to a very lightly floured surface. Knead mixture just 3 to 4 times to get rid of cracks.

Pat dough gently with your hands to a thickness of 1 inch. Dip a 2-inch-round, fluted cutter into a bowl of flour; cut out scones by pushing cutter down quickly and firmly into dough with palm of your hand — don’t twist it. You will hear dough give a big sigh as cutter goes in. Gather trimmings lightly; pat and cut out a couple more scones (these last won’t be as pretty).

Set scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 F until risen and golden, for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, uncovered if you prefer crisp tops, or covered loosely with a cloth for soft ones.

Enjoy warm with strawberry jam and a generous mound of clotted cream. Cornish people put jam first, then cream, Devonians the other way round. Americans are permitted to substitute whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Makes about 10 (2-inch) scones.

Recipe adapted by the Chicago Tribune from BBC Food.

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No self-rising flour for baked goods? No problem

Pillowy perfection is possible in just two ingredients, or so runs the recommendation for biscuits featured in this blog’s previous post.

Sticklers may say that self-rising flour, which contains salt and leavening, isn’t a single ingredient. But it’s still a scant number, whichever way you look at it, not to mention a simple process.

So what if you lack self-rising flour but want to add a tried-and-true recipe, like Jolene Black’s Cream Biscuits, to your repertoire? Do it the old-fashioned way. Or is that actually older fashioned? Or new-fashioned?

Regardless, the ratio of leavening and salt in most self-rising flours is 1/2 tablespoon and a 1/2 teaspoon, respectively, for every one cup flour. This English muffin recipe, which relies on just four ingredients, spells it out. Or substitute 2 cups self-rising flour for the first three ingredients, and you’ve got another two-ingredient wonder.

Tribune News Service

English Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups plain, fat-free Greek-style yogurt

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Scrape in the yogurt. Using a soft spatula, mash until dough comes together, for about 30 seconds.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth, for a few seconds.

Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. With lightly floured hands, roll each into a ball. Pat each into a puck about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.

Set pucks on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a little room in between. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes. Flip each muffin over and bake until golden-brown and hollow-sounding when thumped, for another 10 to 12 minutes.

Let cool a bit. Using tines of a fork, split a muffin. Prize open; slather each craggy face with butter and jam. Enjoy.

Slip cooled, leftover muffins into a plastic bag, seal and store in refrigerator. Reheat at 350 F for 5 minutes, or toast lightly.

Makes 8 muffins.

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Bypass boxed mixes for self-rising cream biscuits

Bypassing box-made biscuits is the premise of this week’s food-section feature.

I had to chuckle at the writer’s revelation that making biscuits from a box is hardly more involved than making them from scratch. That’s because my mom recently announced that she hardly bought Bisquick anymore when it’s so easy to make biscuits from the individual components of that American standby. Such confidence after approximately 50 years of cooking!

I reckon I haven’t bought a box of Bisquick in about 15 years, but I also can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve made biscuits since wielding the cutter under my mom’s watchful eye. Even worse than buying Bisquick, my husband likes to keep refrigerated canisters of biscuit dough on hand for quick pigs-in-blankets. And that guilty pleasure dates to before we had kids!

There really isn’t any reason for any of this processed-food reliance. But occasionally, a convenience product really proves its worth. Take, for example, this recipe from Tribune New Service, originally published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. As TNS recipe testers confirm, the South is awash in to-die-for biscuits, all made from scratch, many calling for numerous ingredients and steps in the process.

But why endure so much futzing when just two ingredients, in precise proportions, bake up with heavenly results? White Lily self-rising flour and heavy cream are all that’s needed to produce Jolene Black’s Cream Biscuits, so remarkable that it was republished in the Times-Picayune’s 2015 best-of recipe anthology, titled “Cooking Up a Storm.”

Don’t even think about using another brand of flour, in lieu of White Lily, if you’re serious about making a biscuit that would live up to that name in the South. If you can’t find it at your local grocer, consider ordering it online.

Tribune News Service photo

Jolene Black’s Cream Biscuits

2 1/2 cups White Lily self-rising flour

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Put the flour in a medium mixing bowl and add the cream. Stir until a soft, sticky ball forms. (Dough will seem wet at first.) On a very lightly floured surface, knead lightly with well-floured hands about 3 times, just until dough comes together.

Pat dough to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a 2 1/2-inch-round cutter. Bake on prepared baking sheet in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until biscuits are golden-brown.

Makes 10 to 12 biscuits.

Recipe from “Cooking Up a Storm — 10th Anniversary: Recipes Lost and Found From the Times-Picayune of New Orleans,” edited by Judy Walker and Marcelle Bienvenu (Chronicle Books).

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Dish combines tofu, egg to cut beef consumption

The Whole Dish podcast: Celebrate plant-based protein in hearty, cohesive dishes

If you want to save the planet, eat beans, not beef. That’s the latest advice from a panel of experts on nutrition, agriculture and the environment.

Their recommendations for improving the food system entail a massive overhaul from field and factory to shopping cart and dinner table. But the notion of eating only a hamburger’s worth of red meat every week has prompted some incredulous responses. Mine, however, was not among them.

I all but eliminated beef from my diet decades ago primarily for reasons of health — mine and the planet’s. Rather than bore people with the particulars of my body’s sensitivity to beef, I instead often cite it as the least sustainable meat option, as least how it’s raised for the American masses. While there are innumerable processed foods that contribute to industrial agriculture’s impact on the planet, I’ve found that beef is an obvious and relatively painless item to bypass at the grocery store.

My family’s alternative strategy for red-meat consumption, as I’ve mentioned many times over the years, is to purchase a locally raised lamb annually from ranchers or 4-H participants. So mild-flavored that most guests mistake it for beef, the lamb comes with a small carbon footprint and gives us some peace of mind.

I substitute ground lamb or turkey in any dish that calls for beef, including this one from Tribune News Service. In the Asian tradition of consuming meat like a “condiment,” as we’ve all heard for some time, this Japanese specialty calls for just 4 to 6 ounces of beef — and ounce to an ounce and a half per person — combined with tofu and eggs.

This dish is an appealing introduction to soy protein, augmented with some familiar flavors, in addition to being a starting point for reducing your beef consumption. Of course, you could choose to substitute lamb, turkey or pork. Ground chicken is milder in flavor than this recipe should offer.

Tribune News Service photo

Donburi Soboro

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 carrots, minced

2 scallions, minced

4 to 6 ounces ground beef

8 ounces tofu, diced into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 bunch spinach or 1/2 cup frozen, chopped

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 tablespoons soy sauce

Salt, to taste

4 eggs

Hot cooked rice, for serving

In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, heat the oil and sauté the carrots until tender. Add the scallions and cook until limp. Add the beef, breaking it up to prevent formation of chunks. Cook until brown. Add the tofu, spinach, sugar, soy sauce and salt to taste. Cook on low until heated through, stirring carefully so tofu doesn’t crumble.

Beat eggs and add to mixture, cooking and stirring carefully until done, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Put hot rice in 4 bowls and top with meat-egg mixture. Add hot sauce, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Japanese Country Cookbook,” by Russ Rudzinski.

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Mushrooms masquerade for plant-based proteins

The Whole Dish podcast: Mix up your mushrooms with widely available exotics

With 3- and 5-year-old boys who clamor for dinner by 4:30 p.m., I rarely these days get caught on my heels.

Serving up the family meal between 5 and 5:30 p.m. leaves little wiggle room. Thus, I conceive the menu at least 24 hours in advance, allowing time for meat to thaw, beans to soak and even some vegetables, such as salad greens, to be prepped.

Occasionally, however, I’m caught without a clear plan. Such was the case this past week after a day of running errands and T-ball signups on the schedule between dinnertime and bedtime. No meat handy in the fridge, although we did have a bag of lovely bok choy that suggested stir-frying and serving with rice.

I never expect resounding approval, though, from vegetarian stir-fry. It’s too sparse, too fibrous, without anything rich or silky to soften the effect for my boys. So I abruptly switched gears and starting concocting a Thai-style green curry with coconut milk. Not for the first, second or fiftieth time in my life, I was grateful for having laid in a supply of fresh mushrooms.

While shiitake mushrooms are meaty and savory, they still scream fungus. But the king oyster mushrooms that Food 4 Less in Medford recently started stocking are so toothsome that, when cubed, they could be mistaken for tofu, or even diced, cooked chicken.

Touted for years as healthy, meatless dishes more recently are being advocated for the health of the planet. If you’re still wary of how to make the transition, at least one night per week, look to ethnic flavors for interest. They’ll take the focus off the bare spot on the plate where meat would be.

Plant-based protein substitutes can be delicious, but they’re often not even necessary if a dish is warm and filling with some texture and substance. Consider swapping cooked, diced sweet potato or winter squash for the tofu indicated in this Tom Yum, Thailand’s cold-and-flu cure.

And using good-quality bone broth in curries, soups and stews imparts protein, healthy fats and minerals. Instead of common button mushrooms, mix it up with shiitakes, oyster mushrooms and other exotics that increasingly are more available. Serve this recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service, with steamed brown rice and additional veggies on the side for a more filling meal.

Tribune News Service photo

Tom Yum

5 cups vegetable, chicken or seafood broth, preferably low-sodium

2 stalks lemongrass, tough woody exterior peeled away, thinly sliced

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

2 scallions, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves , peeled and minced

Pinch dried turmeric

1 teaspoon Sriracha or 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek or Thai chili sauce (see note)

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

7 ounces firm tofu (1/2 of a 14-ounce package), drained, pressed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 handful watercress or spinach leaves, sliced into ribbons

1 handful of cilantro, chopped

Pour the vegetable broth into a medium saucepan and heat over high heat. Add the lemongrass, ginger, scallions, garlic, turmeric, Sriracha or chili sauce, mushrooms, soy sauce and lime juice. Do not taste at this point — flavors are sharp.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. In this time, spices will mellow and come together. Add the tofu and float in the watercress or spinach leaves. Stir for a moment or two, until greens are lightly wilted. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the chopped cilantro.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Warmth, patience bring out mushrooms’ essence

Reassured by weather forecasters and lulled by my own wishing thinking, I assumed the rain would cease for several days. But I woke up this morning to a dark, dreary sky. Drizzle chased away the previous evening’s chill, but I bundled up in a scarf and donned a hat under my hood.

Demoralizing, that’s the term for fits and starts of sunshine and clear skies that surrender to gray masses of oppressive clouds. So it’s easy to see how contributors to a community cookbook hailing from Seattle came up with a name for this gray mass of food. Yet it’s all tongue-in-cheek, or perhaps gallows humor.

More commonly dubbed “duxelles,” by cooks and diners in the know, mushroom spread is anything but defeatist. It takes a familiar ingredient and, with heat and fat, coaxes it into a luxurious topping for toast, crackers, and crudities. A filling for omelets, quiche, lasagna, ravioli, turnovers or tarts, it’s a spark of inspiration despite its brooding, dark persona. Perfect for winter’s meal-planning blahs.

Thank artist Shannon Eakins whose recipe appears in the volume “Cook,” recirculated by Tribune News Service. You also can follow along with my podcast while preparing your own batch of duxelles.

Tribune News Service photo

Demoralized Mushroom Spread

8 ounces cremini, mini bella or whatever they call brown button mushrooms

1 cup Italian (flat) parsley leaves — typically the product of a small bunch

1 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled — how are cloves even a measurement? They vary in size so much!

4 tablespoons salted butter

1 teaspoon soy or tamari sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

A few grinds of black pepper

Juice from a half of a lemon — more if you need

With a food processor or by hand, mince the mushrooms, parsley and garlic.

Melt the butter in a low pan on medium and add minced ingredients to it before butter browns.

Now watch.

Mushrooms start to sweat and release their water. Parsley wilts. It becomes a soupy mess. Add the soy, Worcestershire and pepper. Lower heat a little. Stir periodically.

How long do you simmer? It’s different every time. Look at it. Has the moisture evaporated? Has the parsley wilted and darkened? Is there a buttery corona forming around the edges? Have the mushrooms given up? If so, add the lemon juice and simmer for another minute or so.

Serve warm or lukewarm.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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