Thoughts on Lemons, Herbs and Spices

No new recipes to share this morning (except a couple that are linked), but as I was preparing the marinade for Roast Butterflied Middle Eastern Chicken (Posted December 6 last year –, the inspiration for this post came as I was zesting and squeezing the juice from a lemon and reaching for my array of spices.

Lemons.  Anyone who discards a juiced lemon without first having used the zest is missing the essence of lemon flavor.  There are recipes both savory and sweet that just sing with lemon flavor, with only the zest – no juice – to bring that out.  Also, I’ve never found a lemon reamer that did a better job than my own fingers.  So easy to extract maximum juice just doing this:  after cutting the lemon in half, cradle each half skin side up between your palms, thumbs on top, and reach inside with the four fingers on both hands to wiggle and press that juice out.  Then you can invert that half to work the rest of it out, including some pulp – and nothing wasted.  The seeds can be easily removed with the tines of a small fork from whatever vessel you’re using.  Same goes for limes and oranges when you need just a small amount of OJ in a recipe.

Spice Rack

Herbs and Spices.  Whatever you use the most, buy it in bulk.  Those little jars at the supermarket may be fine for the items you use sparingly or only occasionally (think ground cloves, red chili flakes, saffron, to name a few), but there are so many excellent sources for buying in bulk.  Penzey’s or MySpiceSage, for example.  I use a whole lot of mint, oregano, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, za’atar, sesame, dry mustard, turmeric, curry powder, black peppercorns, and buy these and others online in 1 lb. foil bags from my former client, Frontier Natural Products in Iowa.  I have so many of these foil bags on the top shelf of the food pantry that the DEA might have me under surveillance.  This is both economical, and ensures freshness, because every time I re-open one of these foil bags to fill a jar on the 48-jar spice carousel, the aroma is just as fresh as the day it was first opened.


There are a few herbs one should never dream of using in dried form: parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary.  And please, when you buy parsley or cilantro, be sure to dry it off thoroughly before storing or you’ll have a mush-pile within a couple of days.  Do they really have to shower whose beautiful bunches with all that water?  And never refrigerate your basil, either.  It will turn black.  Treat it as you would a bunch of flowers, cutting off a bit of the stems and store on your kitchen counter in a glass of water.

I also love to use fresh oregano, mint, sage (the velvety touch of sage leaves makes me crazy in a good way), and thyme (whose leaves drive me crazy in a bad way), but don’t mind the dried versions at all in a marinade, dressing, rub, or soup.  Lucky if you can grow your own, but an indoor herb garden is tabu for me with four cats who’d find a way to attack it, and outdoors is more work than I’m willing to commit to.  As long as fresh herbs are available at a reasonable price (often at the Asian market) I’m good with that.

Spices are another matter entirely.  No one grows their own.  It pays to keep a multitude on hand for a broad palette of ethnic cuisines.  And if your collection is eclectic enough, you can usually make your own spice mixes, such as ras el hanout, garam masala, or even curry powder, as well as rubs for your meats and seafood.  I’ve never purchased any spice rub other than the Smoky Paprika Chipotle by Victoria ( that I found on sale at Homegoods.  This is essential in one of my favorite yogurt marinades for chicken that comes from the Epicurious site –  I use it for ingredient #1 in the recipe – a mixture of Aleppo pepper and paprika.

Would love to hear your tips and thoughts on anything I’ve addressed here – thanks for reading!





Broiled Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Revisited

I first posted this recipe two years ago when I started writing this blog.  Making it now for the umpteenth time since then, I remembered that the accompanying photo was a repost from a website that sorta looked like what I’d made.

While prepping this for tonight’s dinner, I was reminded of that, and of a few other thoughts about salmon filet in general.  Firstly, I prefer farm-raised salmon to wild-caught – even the expensive king salmon at Whole Foods that sells for $20+ per pound when not on sale.  I find it too dry and, when cooked, too much like the canned Rubenstein’s sockeye salmon my mother use to buy.  That was fine for her salmon croquettes (which I also now make starting with fresh salmon, see blog post from 3/26/15), but as a salmon filet entrée it was wildly disappointing.

Regardless of whether you’re on the same page with me on farm-raised vs. wild-caught salmon, you must insist that your fish seller cut a center-cut piece from the thickest part of whatever filet is in the case.  Do not settle for anything at the narrow end, and resist, if possible, a piece with that skinny flap on the side.  A perfectly cut 1-lb. piece should look like this – no flaps, no skinny parts, a perfect rectangle:


Now, to revisit the recipe.  If time permits, you can prepare your hoisin-based sauce and garnish in advance and leave it in the fridge until time for broiling.  It’s not necessary, it’s just convenient if you want to then put dinner together quickly later on.

Broiled Hoisin-Glazed Salmon


2 8-ounce pieces salmon filet

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 T orange juice & a bit of grated rind

2-1/2 t sesame oil divided

1 clove minced garlic

1-1/2 T minced ginger root divided

1/4 tsp Thai chili sauce or Sriracha

3 T thinly slice scallions, divided

1-1/2 t rice wine vinegar

2 t black or white sesame seeds, or a combination


Place a cast iron skillet on top rack of oven and preheat broiler. Combine 1/2 T of the ginger,  1 T of the scallions and the sesame seeds in a small bowl for garnish. In a shallow plate, brush the salmon filets all over with about 1/2 t of the sesame oil, then combine all other ingredients for your glaze and pour over the fish.



Place the salmon on the hot skillet under the broiler, broil about 8-9 minutes, depending on thickness, brushing 2-3 times with the remaining sauce in the plate. Garnish with ginger/scallion/sesame seed blend and serve – goes nicely with jasmine rice and a simple green vegetable.   But if time permits, a salad with Asian dressing or stir-fried veggies make it truly an exceptional meal.

And done…IMG_0759