Posts Tagged ‘lemon’


The Return to College Cooking: Part One

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 by Ben

In 2011, I started college at a small Virginian university called Eastern Mennonite; in 2015, I return. Unfortunately, this means I have left Chicago and consequently, The Chopping Block, although I’ll take with me many lessons (and recipes).

My move back to Virginia has provided me with an opportunity to reach out to other college students who are working toward making meals for themselves on a regular basis, perhaps for the first time. My roommates and I had a poor culinary history in years previous. One of them once asked me how to tell if water was boiling, a rather clear sign of a lack of familiarity with the kitchen, and I can remember at least one jelly roll disaster I attempted in an earlier semester. I hope to begin this one armed with knowledge and experience I gained at The Chopping Block, as well as a few new tools and gadgets.

This semester I made a few things ahead of time, so that right when college stress began, I would have some goodies to fall back on for breakfast or a quick lunch. I found TCB’s recipe for lemon curd, which is one of my favorite spreads for an early morning bagel or muffin, and had to try it. This one isn’t too sweet and has the perfect lemon tang. The morning before I left my parents’ house for my final semester, I quickly whipped up a batch, and even had enough to leave some as a late Christmas gift for Mom and Dad.

Lemon Curd

curdmiseZest of three lemons

1 cup fresh lemon juice

8 egg yolks

2 eggs

Half cup sugar

1 stick butter

Whisk together all ingredients except the butter in a saucepan.














Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.

Once curd is thick enough to hold marks of the whisk and bubbles appear, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Pour the curd in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, directly touching the curd so it doesn’t form a skin. Refrigerate for at least 1.5 hours before serving.














I also grabbed a tin of Mom’s granola as well as home-canned goods from last summer’s garden.














The Chopping Block always offers exciting new classes that make great gifts for college “chefs,” regardless of skill-level. Keep an eye out for a menu or skill that you or someone you know might benefit from learning about; I know they’ve helped me.

Ben Mast enjoyed meeting fantastic people and expanding his knowledge of cooking during his time as a retail associate at The Chopping Block. Now, he has returned to the small Mennonite town of Harrisonburg, Virginia to finish his degree in English and Writing. When he’s not cooking and studying, Ben enjoys spending time hiking, devouring fantasy novels, painting with watercolor, and playing tennis.


Most Valuable Ingredient: Chickpeas

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 by Andrea

There’s nothing less appealing at a summer barbecue than a table full of heavy, mayo-based salads. Don’t get me wrong, I love potato salad as much as the next Southerner. But the food sanitarian in me worries about those pasta salads and coleslaws coated in mayonnaise sitting in the heat and creeping close to the temperature danger zone.

That’s why I prefer to bring salads dressed with vinaigrette to outdoor affairs. But think outside the green salad box! I have the perfect side dish that is easy, light and won’t contribute to a case of food poisoning. Plus, it has my favorite legume: Chickpeas.

Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans)

chickpeasChickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) are a power player and always stocked in my pantry. These legumes are healthy, tasty and cheap. But most of all, they are versatile. They are hearty enough for soups and stews (even in the slow cooker) but light enough for salads. Chickpeas are a great source of fiber, protein and iron.

You can buy them dry, but you’ll have to soak then cook them. I typically just buy the canned variety and make sure they are thoroughly rinsed before use.

So, what can you do with chickpeas besides the obvious hummus and falafel?

  • Substitute chickpeas for any bean in your favorite baked bean or bean salad recipe.
  • Roast them in the oven for an easy party snack.
  • For those on a gluten-free diet, chickpeas can stand in for wheat in some recipes, so you can bake with them.
  • Use them as a substitute for meat in burgers.

Here’s the recipe that I adapted from a Weight Watchers version and is now one of my go-to summer party dishes.

Chickpea and Lentil Salad with Grilled Lemons


2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup lentils, prepared according to package directions and cooled. They should be tender, but hold their shape.

1 small seedless cucumber, small dice

3 scallions, sliced thinly on a bias

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest


Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.



1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or honey

Salt, to taste


Whisk ingredients together in a bowl and toss salad.



1 lemon thinly sliced and seeded

Olive oil


Brush lemon slices with a little oil and grill until lightly charred. Garnish salad with lemon slices. Note that the salad will absorb the vinaigrette’s flavor the longer it sits so make at least a few hours before serving. It’s great the next day for leftovers, too.

salad1I recently made this dish for a party and one of the guests was excited to make it for his wife the next day. Here’s my friend Christian’s version. He omitted the grilled lemon garnish, and it still looks delicious!


Want even more ways to enjoy chickpeas? Check out our We Love Chickpeas Pinterest board

Andrea has been with The Chopping Block for over 12 years in every role from Chef Assistant to General Manager to Private Event Coordinator and now Public Relations. Her journalism background and culinary school education from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago give her the know-how to spread the word about The Chopping Block's mission to get people to cook. She'll never shy away from a music festival, hot yoga class, beach read, dinner out with friends or a good glass of Pinot Noir, especially when cuddling on the couch with her terrier, Bosworth.


My New Breakfast Delight

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 by Maggie

I have recently discovered Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. How in the world did I miss them all these years? I could have been wowing my friends and family with their delectability all this time.

They have a light creaminess and bright flavor that sets them apart from your everyday pancake. As soon as I heard about them, my husband and I had friends over for breakfast and they were indeed a big hit.

My friend Tina, who writes a fabulous food blog called Shredded Sprout, first told me about them. Here’s her recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Compote. I’ve included a gluten free recipe here from my new cookbook, The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, which was just published by America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve also included the recipe for their gluten free flour blend, which I’ve been using lately with good results.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

PancakesPage 38-39

Makes twelve 4-inch pancakes

3 ½ oz (3/4 C) gluten free flour blend

½ t baking soda

½ t salt

9 oz (1 C) whole milk ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, separated, plus 2 large egg whites

1/3 C milk

1 t lemon zest plus 4 t juice

½ t vanilla extract

2 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Pinch cream of tartar

1 ¾ oz (1/4 C) sugar

1-2 teaspoons oil


  1. Whisk flour blend, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl and make well in center. Add ricotta, 2 egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla and whisk until combined. Stir in melted butter.
  2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip 4 egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar and whip until glossy, soft peaks form, 1-2 minutes. Transfer 1/3 of whipped egg whites to batter and whisk gently until mixture is lightened. Gently fold remaining whites into batter.
  3. Heat 1 t oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering, 3-5 minutes. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out oil, leaving thin film of oil on bottom and sides of pan. Using ladle or ¼ C measure, portion batter, leaving 2 inches between each portion. Gently spread each portion into 4-inch round. Cook until edges are set and first side is deep golden brown, about 2 ½ minutes. Flip pancakes and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, about 2 ½ minutes longer. Serve immediately or transfer to a wire rack inside oven preheated to 200 degrees. Repeat with remaining batter, using remaining oil as necessary.

America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free Flour Blend

GFCookbookPage 13

24 oz white rice flour

7 ½ oz brown rice flour

7 oz potato starch

3 oz tapioca starch

¾ oz (3 T) nonfat milk powder

Whisk all ingredients together.


Maggie Swanson is in her third year working as a class assistant at the Chopping Block. She and her husband have lived in Chicago for over ten years and they love the endless dining opportunities in the city. Maggie has enjoyed being in the kitchen for as long as she can remember and is now thrilled to introduce 3 year old son Eliot to the joys of cooking. Maggie has been on a gluten free diet for over four years. She has developed significantly as a cook through discovering how to make gluten free food delicious. Maggie always has a hard time answering questions about her favorite thing to cook or eat because she's always trying something new!


The Arrival of Summer Wines

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 by David

Summer is so close I can almost taste it and by taste it, I mean the glorious flavors of strawberry, bing cherry and minerality of Rose. Our first delivery of Bieler Rose is arriving right now, which means warm summer weather is right around the corner.  Following on the heels of the 2013 Bieler Rose from Provence are some new additions from other corners of the globe. We are adding the Zios Albarino and Skouras Moscofilero to our summer lineup.

Bieler Rose

RoseThe Bieler Rose is a classic example of Provence style Rose, clean fruit flavors, streamlined minerality and bone dry. Paired with salad Nicoise, grilled shrimp and cheese or left on its own, it is a fantastic way to enjoy a warm summer evening.

Zios Albarino

The Zios Albarino from the Rias Biaxes region of Northern Spain is great pairing for Spanish food and seafood. There is this underlying saline note as a result of being so close to the ocean that reinforces the seafood pairing. With notes of green apple and lemon, the lees aging adds weight and body to this lush wine.

Skouras Moscofilero

whitewineThe Skouras Moscofilero from Peloponnese, Greece is an expressive white wine made from 100% Moscofilero, a native Greecian grape typically grown at high altitudes. With notes of orange blossom, white flowers and honeysuckle, there is a bright acidity that makes this a great food wine or a refreshing glass by itself.

Stop by The Chopping Block to grab a bottle (or two) for that nice evening that’s just around the corner.

What’s your favorite warm weather wine?


David Indriksons is a Lead Class Assistant at The Chopping Block with a background that goes from small scale bistros to large scale catering and everything in between. In addition to a great love of food, he is a self-admitted travel junkie that enjoys hanging out with locals around the world and trying new cuisine. Outside of TCB, he enjoys skating, snowboarding, and playing with his dog, Caesar.


Hello, April Calendars

Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Sara

I just spent the last few weeks working on The Chopping Block’s April class calendars, and I can’t even begin to explain how mentally refreshing that was. I am truly a happier person now. I’m optimistic again. Yes, I know there’s still a lot of snow that needs to melt, but it will, and then everything will be okay.

springveggiesIf you are reading this blog, the April calendars have made their debut, so you should take some time and navigate through all of the classes. Seeing words like asparagus, spring onions, peas and strawberries might just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

All of our 101 classes have spring-inspired menus that include student and chef favorites such as Grilled Curry-Spiced Salmon with Spring Pea Mint Sauce, Ginger-Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with Sesame Snow Pea Salad, and White Ale-Braised Chicken with Leeks, Artichokes and Coriander.

We will teach you how to make Ravioli Stuffed with Green Garlic and Ricotta with Arugula Pesto in Pasta Workshop and Herb Ricotta Gnocchi with Bacon, Peas and Mint in White Wine Cream Sauce in our Know Your Gnocchi class.

I am excited to inform you about two completely new classes that are being featured in April! First one up is called Lemon Lovers. If you truly love lemons this class will deliver. Fried lemons? Yes! Preserved lemons? Yes! The best lemon dessert of all time? YES! I would guess you’re pretty intrigued by now. This class is offered at both locations, so take your pick.

noodlesThe second new class you’ll see on the calendar is Noodle House D.I.Y.  From soba to mai fun and chow fun to udon… Asian noodle shops offer a staggering array of noodle dishes, and we’ll teach you how to prepare four recipes that you can easily make at home.

I don’t have enough room to list all of the other exciting classes in April, so please take a look at our calendar for the lineup. I hope you feel a renewed sense of optimism, too!

Sara Salzinski has been a chef instructor at the Chopping Block since 2002 and loves sharing her knowledge of all things food-related with her students. She loves interacting with her students, making them feel right at home and at ease. Sara is also the Curriculum Coordinator at TCB which means she develops the classes, menus and recipes. A lot of Sara’s inspiration for classes and recipes comes from personal experience. When Sara and her husband, who is also a chef instructor, are at home they join forces and make countless mouth-watering creations that are then taste tested by their 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son.