Ingredient by Design

Tuesday Tip: Saffron

I’m sitting here wondering if I should tell you about the wonderful travel stories I have that involve saffron; traversing through Morocco, Spain and Italy?  But that would force me to going through piles of pictures, that I in turn would need to scan and tidy up a bit, then thread them into a visual story.  Perhaps another day…


Today I’ll share the best way to bring the flavor, scent and color out of a saffron thread. It is your Tuesday Tip.

Place your measured saffron threads into a small bowl.  Take very warm water (not boiling) and pour over to just cover.  Let stand for up to 15 minutes.  Now you may use the “saffron water” and threads for your recipe.  It can be in addition to or as a substitute for water, stock, extract, wine etc….

If you would like to learn more check out Wikipedia’s information about the flower, saffron crocus, from which this enticing “thread” comes from. 

Tuesday Tip: A Perfectly Roasted Tomato

Tomato season is so over here in Central Texas. But boy oh boy do I have a craving. And the truth is you can buy tomatoes at your grocer that are actually quite good - even out of season. Buying tomatoes out of season may be blasphemous to some of my colleagues. And I understand but sometimes you must satisfy that craving. So here’s how I do it.


This is actually a technique I’ve been teaching to students for years. The basic standard is, “If you buy out of season, in this case tomatoes,  you’ll get the best flavor by roasting them”.  And you get the best flavor by roasting because it brings out the sugars which in turn caramelize leaving you with a sweet harmony of flavor that’s irresistible.  Ready for a perfectly roasted tomato? 


5 medium Roma tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2C of dried or fresh basil (if using fresh tear gently into small pieces)
2Tbls of extra virgin olive oil
3tsp of salt (I use kosher)
1 1/2tsp of fresh ground pepper
Pre-heat oven 300F


Clean tomatoes, pat dry, remove stem and slice lengthwise into 4 even pieces.

Take sliced tomatoes and place them on a parchment papered sheet pan. Be sure to use a pan that has a lip around each edge so that the tomato juices to not drip when cooking.

Drizzle olive oil over each tomato slice. Sprinkle basil, salt & pepper over all the tomato slices.  Make sure each tomato slice has a little bit of every ingredient.  Place tomatoes into pre-heated oven on the middle rack. 


Roast for up to 1.5 hours or until the tomatoes begin to carmelize (see the “browning” in the picture). 

Check your tomatoes every 15 minutes.  You can take them further than I did.  It’s really a preference.  Take the tomatoes out of the oven.  Let them cool.

Serve with any salad or by themselves.  At my house I can’t keep them around at all.  However, refrigerated they will keep well up to 1 week.

Enjoy this weeks Tuesday Tip: a perfectly roasted tomato!

Lemons, Preserved

A gift from the heavens is what a preserved lemon is to me.  When I think of that brine-y, tart and juicy yellow orb brightening a dish I just swoon.  And it’s all because of a trip to North Africa - Morocco to be exact.  That trip is a whole lot of other stories.  But for today’s Friday Food Find it’s a recipe for just one beautiful ingredient and preserving it to use in any number of dishes.  It’s simple to make and it lasts a while.   Most importantly it’s flavor inserts itself magically transforming a dish from fabulous to FULL of FABULOUCITY.  One of the best things about this recipe it doesn’t have to be perfect! How rockin’ is that - enjoy.


10 medium lemons
3C Kosher salt
6C water 


Place all lemons in a medium, non-reactive bowl.  With a sharp knife make up to 8 fine 2-inch vertical incisions around each lemon from the stem down.  Repeat with each lemon. If you are able, do not cut deeper that the pith or white inner lining of the lemon. Once incised squeeze each lemon gently to juice.  Place the incised lemons and their juices in a non-reactive pot; large enough so the lemons set on the bottom in one layer.  Pour salt and water over the lemons.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer until the lemon peels become very soft (15 to 30 minutes).  Set aside to cool.  Once cool take the lemons, one by one, out of their juice (which you can now call a liquor) and place each into a clean glass jar (with a tight lid). Then cover the lemons with the reserved cooking liquor until liquor reaches right under the brim of jar.  The lemons and liquor should be packed in the jar tightly. Secure the jar by placing the lid on tightly.  Discard any left-over liquid.  Leave the jar of lemons in a cool dark place or refrigerator for approximately 3 days.  After 3 days they are ready to use.  Your preserved lemons can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. 

How to Use

Take however many preserved lemons you need for a recipe out of the jar.  Rinse gently to wash of excess liquor.  Pat dry and follow recipe directions. 

*If you cut deeper than the pith - don’t worry - it’s going to be just fine.  The lemon will come apart but that’s ok!  You primarily use the preserved lemon peel.  Therefore, it’s going to be usable and delicious.
*Used sparingly, left-over liquor can be used to marinate meat, fish or chicken.  Use it within a couple days, however, as the shelf life is no longer than 1 week.