Lemon Rosemary Shortbread

Eight years ago this fall, my sister, Chelsea, was living in San Francisco doing an externship through her architecture program. Chelsea thoughtfully sent me a package of local treasures including a few lemons and fresh rosemary. Apparently both were growing abundantly in the neighborhood where she lived, and as a passionate foodie, she figured I would appreciate the gifts, which of course I did. While searching for a use for them, I stumbled upon a recipe for lemon rosemary shortbread. I was intrigued by the idea of using a savory herb like rosemary in a dessert. I have to say that the combination of buttery cookie with the floral flavors of lemon and rosemary go together perfectly. The cookies were delicious!

Eight years later (last month) I found myself with a surplus of fresh rosemary – literally. I received some rosemary in my Imperfect Produce box, (they’re an awesome company that takes produce that is scarred, misshapen, or in excess – and which retailers won’t sell – and sends it to consumers in a weekly customized box.) I love fresh rosemary and so when I saw there was a surplus (and from California!) I happily added it to my order, without really knowing how I’d use it. So with an itch to bake, I decided to make those lemon rosemary shortbread cookies once again, if my almost 7 month old baby would let me of course.

Slight tangent here, but it’s funny how delusional about my life as a stay-at-home mom I can be. Sometimes I find myself waking up thinking about what I want to do that day and dreaming up all these recipes I want to make. Somehow I’m reminded that I am a mother and my young, not-yet-crawling baby is likely going to occupy most of my day. Today, however, she took a longer than usual nap so I threw together a batch of these cookies.

Unfortunately I never took a picture of the finished product but hopefully you get the idea. Picture perfectly buttery, golden cookies that go perfectly with a cup of tea on a rainy day (hello Seattle winter!) and you probably have the right image in your mind. And if you’re doubtful of the rosemary and cookies combination, let me tell you that my neighbor, who is not generally a fan of rosemary, loved them and said the flavor was not too strong.

Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

2 sticks (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1 lemon, zested

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 T. chopped, fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Cream together butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla now if using. Combine the flour, salt, and lemon zest, rubbing it into the flour to break up the pieces. Add to the butter, beating on low to incorporate or fold in with a spatula. Fold in fresh rosemary. Wrap dough in plastic and put in the fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

When dough is ready, preheat your oven to 375 F. Roll out your dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into squares or use your favorite cookie cutter. Space cookies about 2 inches apart and bake until golden brown – 10-12 minutes. I even almost burned a batch of mine (due to taking care of the baby) and they still tasted good!

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Lilacs, Spring Salads, and Grilling!

This past Saturday we celebrated spring’s sunny and warm weather with a 15-mile bike ride to explore some neighborhoods around Seattle (our first bike ride since moving here nearly 8 months ago!) I gripped my handlebars until my hands ached as we tore down sloping hills and I lost my breath crawling up the steep climbs that made for breath-taking views when you turned around. The Seattle winter may be pretty depressing with all of the rain and darkness, but the spring certainly makes up for it.

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After dragging our aching bodies through the rest of the afternoon, we had our friends, Zack and Kelly, over for a casual Saturday night dinner. They brought us lilacs picked fresh from their backyard and a jug of fermented apple juice cider that they’d been brewing in their house.The smell of the lilacs reminded me of the lilac bush we had in our backyard growing up and the posed pictures my sisters and I would take, each of us leaning in to smell the lilacs while smiling blissfully.

With the coming of summer and the spring hues beckoning us to spend more time outdoors, I find the need for easy, delicious, and no cook (or minimal cooking) meals: salads that can wait for us in the fridge when we’re ready to come inside from a long day in the sun and food that doesn’t weigh us down more than the heat already may. I’m trying to amass a salad recipe collection that I can turn to in times of spring and summer need, but I still have a long way to go. Some of my favorites:

Summer Pasta Salad with Roasted Veggies (what we had with Zack and Kelly) – this recipe works great with summer vegetables, though ideally you would grill the veggies to save turning on the oven.

Chickpea and Couscous Salad (I make it with regular couscous or make it with quinoa!) – extra cumin, extra chickpeas!

Marrakesh Carrot Salad (my new favorite) – texture and flavor heaven; the perfect combination of sweet (from the dates), salty (feta), crunchy (pistachios), and soft.

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With warmer weather also comes the season for grilling! I have never been a grill master, but that is partly due to my lack of practice, having rarely used a grill. Since living in apartments we have not had our own outdoor space, which makes it tough to own a grill. Thanks to the shared rooftop deck at our current place (and shared grills), I have taken advantage of the warm weather and have grilled twice with great success!

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I started out by pounding my chicken breasts, both to tenderize and to ensure they were all an even thickness. If you have a thick center and thinner outsides, you’re going to burn or dry the outer parts before the inside is cooked. Afterward I marinated them for about an hour in a simple lemon, rosemary, and olive oil marinade. Marinading adds both flavor and tenderness to chicken breasts.

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After a short time in the marinade, I gathered my tools and fired up the grill. The results – juicy, flavorful, and something to be proud of.

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Lemon-Rosemary Grilled Chicken

juice and zest of one lemon

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

2.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mix the ingredients for your marinade and set aside. Meanwhile using a meat mallet and a non-slip cutting board, pound each chicken breast under a sheet of plastic wrap until an even thickness. Be careful not to pound it so much that it rips apart.

Place chicken in a 9×13 glass dish and pour the marinade over tipping the pan or using a spoon to make sure it spreads over every piece. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Remove the chicken from the fridge and begin heating your grill to medium (about 350 degrees). Once the grill is beginning to heat up, oil your grill with a brush or a paper towel dipped in oil (use tongs to apply the paper towel). Carefully lay each piece of chicken on the grill and close the lid. Cook for five minutes. Flip the chicken and cook another 3-5 minutes, until at least 165 degrees in the middle. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute in the meat.

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Slice and serve hot or cold atop your favorite bed of greens or another side salad. Happy grilling!