Kitchen 101: Lemons, Knives, and Veggies

Lemons, Knives, and Veggies: How to preserve lemons, cook root vegetables, and which three knives are essential for your kitchen.

January 1, 2015

HomesteadIssue 10: January/February 2015Kitchen 101

How to Preserve Lemons

Lemon preservation

Lemon preservation

Common in Moroccan cooking, preserved lemons add a flavor profile to dishes that you can’t get from a regular lemon. They’re super easy to prepare—the sooner you get to preserving, the sooner you can enjoy.

You will need: A sterilized glass jar; enough lemons, sliced in quarters, to fill the jar to the very top; and 1 tablespoon of salt per lemon.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar and layer one layer of lemons over the salt, pressing the lemons into the salt. Sprinkle another tablespoon of salt over the first layer of lemons and repeat until the lemons come up to the very top of the jar. If the lemon juice from the existing lemons doesn’t cover the top layer of lemons, then juice a couple more and pour just the juice over the lemons so that all are completely covered. Sprinkle a bit more salt over the last layer and seal the jar. Place the jar into a dark cupboard at room temperature for one month. After you open the jar, store in the fridge and use within one year.

When you use your preserved lemons, give them a slight rinse and then chop them up, peels and all.

Simple, Delicious Fennel

Fennel bulb

Fennel bulb

Fennel is in the same family as carrots, celery, dill, and parsley. It’s packed with antioxidants, high in fiber, and it’s an anti-inflammatory food. The flavor is a clean, refreshing combination of celery and anise. The smaller the fennel, the more tender it is; the larger the fennel, the more coarse and fibrous it will be.

The fennel bulb is the most commonly used part of the plant. You can’t do much with the stalk, but you can use the delicate green fronds as you would use any other fresh herb. It’s super tasty to throw into a salad or to garnish a soup.

Here’s a simple recipe to return to time and again. Cut the stalks off one big bulb of fennel so you’re left with just the bulb. Slice the tough end off from the very bottom of the bulb and then cut the bulb in half. Thinly slice the fennel into half-moons and place in a bowl. Add some raisins, some quartered kalamata olives, a couple teaspoons of lemon juice, a kiss of olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Mix everything together and place in a bowl. Top with chopped walnuts and a few sprigs of the green frond when you’re ready to serve.

Root Veggies Three Ways

Root veggies are everywhere this time of year. They fill up CSA boxes and find their way to kitchens, only to get ignored until too many are piled up and you can’t see past the celery root. When you’re ready to tackle your root veggies, try these three techniques and never have a root veggie pileup again.

Root Veggie Pancakes

These are like potato latkes, but instead of potatoes, you can use whatever root veggies you have lying around. You can whip these up in less than 15 minutes.

Take 2 cups of grated root veggies and combine them in a mixing bowl with half of a grated onion, 2 tablespoons of rice flour, and 3 tablespoons of either chia seeds or flax meal, 1 green onion, ¼ cup of water, a pinch or two of salt, and some fresh cracked black pepper.

Stir the ingredients until everything is combined and heat olive oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, scoop up some of the veggie mixture and form it in the shape of a little pancake and then pan fry on either side until golden brown. Do this until all the mixture is used up. Drizzle with tahini or top with cashew cheese and serve.

Root Vegetable Gratin

If you’ve never used root veggies in this application, you’ve been missing out. This is quite possibly the easiest gratin recipe out there and it will leave you totally satisfied but not weighed down.

You can use any root veggies you like, but a good combination is 1 celery root, 1 turnip, 1 rutabaga, and 1 beet. Start by parboiling the veggies until they’re soft enough to cut through them easily, but not soft enough so they fall apart. Slice into thin rounds. Lightly oil an 8 by 8 inch baking pan and evenly distribute the root veggies.

Place 2 cups of veggie broth, 1 cup of cashew pieces, 2 tablespoons of rice flour, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth, about a minute or two. Pour mixture over the veggies, drizzle a little olive oil on top, and place in a 350° oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is bubbly and brown and the veggies are tender.

Simple Roasted Root Veggies

Roasting is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare root veggies. Use whatever root veggies you have on hand, and cut them into whatever size pieces you want. You can leave the smaller ones like carrots and parsnips whole, or slice in half. Veggies that have a thick skin, like celery root and kohlrabi, need to be peeled, while other veggies like beets and turnips don’t need to be peeled.

Place the cut veggies in a large bowl and add some good quality olive oil or coconut oil, fresh herbs, some acid, like vinegar or orange juice, a few peeled and smashed garlic cloves, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Pop them in a 400° oven and roast for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Root vegetables

Root vegetables

Knives 101

Cooking quality food in your home kitchen is not only less expensive than going out, it’s also healthier. Whether you’re cooking for your family, your friends, or just yourself, there’s nothing like being prepared before you get cookin’—which means getting out your knives! There are really just three knives that you need.


The most essential knife to have in your kitchen is an 8-10 inch chef’s knife. Don’t be intimidated by the name. You and your chef’s knife will do 85-90 percent of all your daily cooking tasks. While you can skimp on the quality of some kitchen items, it’s important to have a good quality chef’s knife. You can get a good one starting at $100. Once you have your chef’s knife in hand, you will be able to do almost anything with it, from cutting and dicing to chopping veggies, fruits, meats, and fish. Chef’s knives are typically heavier than other knives, but once you use it a few times the weight will feel natural and you will feel totally in control. The next most important knife in your collection is a small paring knife.


A paring knife is great for small kitchen jobs that your chef’s knife is too big for, like slicing herbs, cutting shallots, slicing garlic, and cutting small fruits like raspberries. It’s also a must-have for paring—go figure! The blade should be 3-4 inches long. A good quality paring knife should cost around $20.


A bread knife isn’t crucial, but it does round out the other two knives nicely. It is most commonly used for slicing through thick loaves of bread, but it can also be used on veggies and fruits with a waxy exterior, like tomatoes and pineapple. Because serrated knives can’t really be sharpened, you don’t have to dish out a lot of “dough” for one that will work. Choose one that’s 12 inches or longer and budget around $15 for it. Serrated knives are used for slicing and never chopping.

Don’t forget: Knives should be professionally sharpened at least once a year.

Molly Patrick blogs at

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