The Real Dill

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 In Texas, we consider dill a cool-weather annual. Plant this herb in the fall, typically mid- to late October, and you can begin harvesting leaves around eight weeks later. It prefers temperatures between 40º and 78º F, but you’ll find mature plants are frost-tolerant.

Our dill harvest is usually over long before we have much to pickle. To preserve dill for the cucumber or okra harvest yet to come, cut fresh dill fronds and bloom heads into segments  2 to 3 inches in length. Fill a gallon-sized glass jar with the dill segments and completely cover with white vinegar (or your pickling vinegar of choice). If the jar has a metal lid, be certain to cover the jar first with a double layer of plastic wrap before screwing on the metal lid. This will prevent corrosion. Place the jar in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to start pickling your harvest. By then, your pickling vinegar will be well flavored and can be used as directed in a favorite recipe. I found this information in  a Texas Gardener magazine article.

One of our family’s favorite “real dills” is pickled okra. To use the preserved dill and vinegar as described above, use this recipe for small batches of pickled vegetables. We also like to add sliced jalapenos.

Basic Pickling Liquid

2 cups dill infused cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 whole cloves garlic
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup equal parts mustard seed, black peppercorns, coriander seed, dill seed and lightly crushed red pepper (approx. 2-1/2 teaspoons each)

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Pour hot liquid over clean, prepared vegetables, add some of the reserved dill leaves and stems from the dill vinegar, and refrigerate until well flavored.

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Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake

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I love this lemon cake.  My husband has decided it is favorite cake.  I like it because it doesn’t call for 7-Up or lemon jello or lemon extract, just fresh Meyer lemon juice.  Since we have an abundant harvest almost every year from our one small Meyer lemon tree, I really like using the juice in zest!   I adapted the recipe for specific use of the Meyer lemons from Ina Garten’s recipe on her Barefoot Conntessa Food Channel program.

Mary Ann’s notes:

I juiced lemons and put juice in the freezer last year, as well as freezing some lemons whole, so we are still using last year’s fresh juice.  If you do this, a good way to have small amounts of juice available for cooking is to freeze the juice in ice cube trays or mini muffin baking sheets.  If you need zest, a whole frozen lemon zests even more easily than unfrozen ones.  The “naked” lemons can then be thawed and used even though they are very mushy.

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Before a predicted hard freeze in December, we harvested what we thought were all of this year’s lemons.  Last week after some foliage had been cut and removed,we discovered one solitary lemon which my granddaughter Skye picked to add to our photos for this post. I will harvest on a much more as needed basis in the future.

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Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake

2 sticks butter

 1/2 cups sugar (2 cups for batter, 1/2 cup for simple syrup)

4 large eggs

1/3 cup grated Meyer lemon zest 

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice, divided

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 1/2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

 

Set out butter, eggs, and buttermilk to allow to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may line the bottom with parchment paper, but this is optional.


Cream room temperature  butter and 2 cups sugar with electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. When the cakes test done, remove from oven and  allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cooled cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.
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Baked Scallops with Pineapple Salsa

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Sea scallops bake perfectly when dusted with seasoned cracker crumbs and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice.  Pineapple salsa adds just the right sweet and tart flavor.  Served with baby green peas and garnished with a tomato “rose” – this is beautiful on the plate and delicious for the palate, an elegant meal that is simple to prepare.

Baked Scallops

1 lb. large sea scallops (around 10)

1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 lemon

garnish (parsley, chives, or thyme)

Set oven to 350 degrees.  Coat  8X8 baking dish with oil or cooking spray. Combine crushed crackers and seasoning in small bowl.  Coat scallops one at a time in crumbs and place in baking dish.

Mix melted butter, wine, and lemon juice and drizzle over scallops.  Bake until scallops are beginning to turn golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with a few leaves of parsley on top and a spoon of pineapple salsa on the side.

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Pineapple Salsa

2 cups chopped fresh pineapple, may substitute canned pineapple.

2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and serve with grilled or roasted seafood.  This is also a great condiment to serve with roasted pork tenderloin  or ham.