Thursday, February 24, 2011

to poach or not to poach?

When it comes to duck breast, there really are endless possibilities when it comes to cooking method: baked, roasted, pan-seared, name it! I generally lean towards pan-searing - not only does it lend itself to a great, crispy skin, but it also helps achieve a delicious brown crust on the actual meat, thanks to our good old friend the Maillard reaction! Now, that's all fine and dandy, but pan-searing duck breast really makes a mess! With all that fat, grease goes flying everywhere, and you have to be careful not to get the pan TOO hot, or else it will start smoking! Deep cleaning, fire alarms, no good.  So, I decided to have a competition.  Could a plain old, naked duck breast simply poached in olive oil be just as good, if not better than the trusty pan-seared version? We shall see!!  Of course, this was dinner, so I had to have a few accompaniments to the duck breast. Flavors to play with: kumquats, cinnamon, and unsweetened chocolate. Pretty simple altogether but ultimately, quite delicious!

Kumquat Confit
1 c sliced kumquats
1/2 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 T sugar
Juice of one orange
Salt and fresh ground pepper

First, let's just talk kumquats. I LOVE kumquats. Especially picked right off tree...they're like little pops of goodness.  And if you've never had one fresh of a tree, go FIND said tree, even if you don't know whose it is, and pluck one off.  Yes, skin (sweet), pulp (sour!), seeds  and all!  So acidic that they make you pucker, but sweet and delicious all at the same time!  I could literally eat handfuls of them.  But, then the acidity kinda burns my tongue after a while. I guess I'm just a masochist.  Anyways, onto the confit! 

Make a sachet out of cheesecloth and tie up the star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, then add the sachet, sugar, and the orange juice. Turn this down to a simmer and add the sliced kumquats.  Poach the kumquats until they're tender, about 6 minutes or so.  Strain the kumquats, reserving the liquid to reduce later.  Cook the remaining liquid over high heat until it has reduced to a thick, almost syrupy consistency.  Add the kumquats back in, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste - you may only need salt!  Reserve the confit for later, keeping it in the pan to heat it up later.

Now it's time to get busy with the duck breast. 

Duck breast #1: fat on, trimmed a bit, and scored so the fat can render in the pan.  Tip time! When you're scoring duck breast, instead of just slicing straight down into the fat, it's best to lay your knife horizontal to the skin and drag it across.  This way, you won't run the risk of cutting into the actual duck meat, and will get the perfect scores every time!  I sprinkled ground cinnamon, finely grated unsweetened chocolate (you can use cocoa powder) and a little salt and pepper over both sides of the duck breast.

Duck breast #2: all fat and silver skin removed. And that's it.  Quite curious?

To poach the duck, you need a sauce pan large enough to hold the duck breast, and enough olive oil to cover that duck breast as well.  Heat the oil over medium-low heat for a few minutes - if you have a thermometer, get the oil up to about 140 degrees.  I don't have one, so I had to keep a close eye on the oil so it didn't get too hot!  It depends on how large your duck breast is, but for medium-rare, it should only take about 8 minutes or so.  After removing the duck, place it on a paper towel, pat dry to remove any excess oil, and let it rest for a few minutes.

For the pan-searing, heat a saute pan over medium heat - no oil necessary because of the fat! Place the duck breast skin side down in the pan, rendering the fat and cooking until the skin is crispy.  Flip the breast over and lightly brown the other side of the duck breast, cooking for a few minutes. Again, for medium rare, this should take about 8-10 minutes (unless it's from a giant duck)!  Remove the duck from the pan and let rest for a few minutes as well.
 Start warming up the kumquat confit - while it's getting up to temperature, slice each duck breast across the breast.  For the final dish, I didn't want to discriminate against one duck breast by giving only THAT one the spices.  I placed a small amount each of the grated chocolate and cinnamon underneath the poached duck, and sprinkled it with salt and fresh ground pepper.  

SO - poached or pan-seared!? I love my pan-seared duck, but the olive-oil poached duck was really delicious.  The meat was tender, and you really just got the flavor of the duck coming through.  The pan-sear was delicious, no doubt, but inevitably, there is a strong flavor of the rendered fat - obviously, since that's what it was cooked in.  Delicious, but sometimes distracting from the actual duck flavor.  Also, the poached duck really gets cooked a bit more evenly since the heat is attacked from all angles at the same time, for the same amount of time! Maybe do a little best of both worlds? Poach the breast, but render the fat by itself, cooking it until it gets crispy to serve on the side?!

I digress. Back to the dish.  The chocolate and cinnamon were both nice subtly additions to the duck.  On the pan sear, they got a little toasted, which was tasty, and for the poached duck, the chocolate melted just a bit underneath the heat of the breast - also tasty! Put it all together with the kumquat confit, and you've got a match made in heaven! The confit is pungent, yet savory and not too sweet, and the spice combination with the duck add a nice depth of flavor to the entire dish.  (I added a few dots of Blis bourbon-barrel aged maple syrup on the side...epic!) This is definitely a dish, now out of cooking method competition, that I'll be recreating in the future!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

seared black cod with thai flavors, and a kick to boot! (?)

Ahh black cod how I love you! Your ability to take on a melange of flavors - yet still retain your delicate, velvety flakiness through and through.  Braised with miso to take on some sweetness, pan seared with Thai flavors for a bit of a KICK(!), or even simply grilled with a little olive oil and lemon, to let the fish really shine - all different takes, all equally delicious! Fortunately, my fishmonger has some beautiful sides of black cod available, fresh as can be - it looked like it was my lucky day! Tonight, I was in the mood to head to the far East for a little bit of a kick with my black cod.  The cod was marinated in a vinaigrette of sriracha, rice wine vinegar, lime, and fish sauce, then paired with a cool Asian slaw. For two people, I used about 2/3 of a pound of black cod.

FIRST!! Make ginger oil!  In a small jar, combine about 4 oz of finely minced, peeled ginger with about 1/2 olive oil.  Let this stand at room temperature, covered for about 2 hours - after that time, strain out the ginger pieces and reserve the oil for later.

Fish Marinade
Juice of three limes
An equal amount of rice wine vinegar
2 T fish sauce
1 T sriracha
1 t palm sugar
1/3 cup canola, or some neutral oil

Whisk this together, or shake together in a closed jar until the mixture has emulsified.  Place the cod either in a shallow dish or a Ziploc and cover with the marinade.  Let this marinate for at least 15 minutes - but not too long! The acid from the lime juice will start cooking the flesh of the fish.

While you're letting the fish marinate, you can start with your slaw! You can really use any number of vegetables, but mine consisted of carrots, scallions, green papaya, mint, and cilantro.
one step towards a beautiful julienne!
Really, using a mandoline as above to julienne vegetables is completely unnecessary, but I like to use this gadget as often as possible.  It's fun! Plus, you always get uniformly thick pieces of whatever it is you're slicing.  

1 large carrot, julienned
1 green papaya, julienned
2 scallions, green parts only, julienned
1/4 cup mint, chiffonade
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1 t soy sauce
1 t hoisin
1 t mirin
1 t rice vinegar
1/2 t sesame oil
1.5 T ginger oil (from above!)
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Prepare all of the above items and toss together in a bowl.  Then, in a separate little jar, combine all the goodies for the dressing and shake away! Wait until you're ready to plate to dress the slaw.

And on to the main event!! Remove the cod from the marinade and pat dry.  Heat a saute pan, big enough to hold the fish, on medium-high heat and swirl in just a tad bit of olive oil. You really don't need much since there's already some in the marinade.  Once the oil is shimmering, lay the fish, flesh side down into the pan and let it sizzle away! Cook for a few minutes on this side - remember, fish is very stubborn.  It will NOT let go of the pan until it wants to - so please wait for the fish to WANT to turn, lest you'll end up with a pan full of fish bits and a gnarly looking fillet.  When it's ready - flip! Let it just cook through and remove the fish from the pan. 
nice and crispy!
Now you're ready to plate! Toss the slaw with enough vinaigrette to dress it all, but don't overdress! Place a nice little mound of the slaw in the middle of a plate, top with a bit of the cod, and sprinkle with some more mint.  For that extra kick, add some sriracha on the side - and squeeze a bit of lime over top. 

Sidenote: Seriously, I have a sriracha problem. I want it on EVERYTHING! My chefs know to leave it out when I'm eating because, whether or not their Haitian fish stew with habaneros IS spicy, I will definitely want it spicier. Without fail.  

Delicious!! The fish was sweet and flaky, with just a hint of the marinade - not overpowering at all, but it definitely penetrated through the flesh.  The slaw brightened up the entire dish and added a nice crunch.  And the sriracha. Oh, the sriracha. I don't have to go into that, but if you like spicy, I would definitely recommend a little bit of this as a "condiment" if you will.  Delicious, refreshing, hearty, and filling! What more could you ask for?!

Monday, February 14, 2011

a sad day in restaurant history

The moment you walked in, you knew you were in for a good time - Mariachi music blasted through the speakers, tissue-thin papeles picados waved through the air in a rainbow of bright colors, and delicious smells came wafting through the kitchen doors every time they swing open.  

This was the place you came when you wanted real, regional Mexican cuisine.  I'm not talking about tacos, burritos enchiladas, and the like - I'm talking the most authentic, delicious chile rellenos, cochinita pibil, salpicon de huachinongo, and the like that you can find this side of the Mexican border! Not to mention delicious margaritas! Zarela Martinez, one of, if not the foremost authority on Mexican cuisine served her last meal at Zarela yesterday evening.  The restaurant was jam-packed, wall-to-wall with Zarela's loyal followers who have been coming anywhere for the past 23 years to even just a year, like myself, to have one last taste of her amazing food.   The simple salsa cruda de tomatillo and pico de gallo nortena were just what anyone needed to whet their appetite.  From there, you could have the most delicious flautas with guacamole, and epic tostadas de jaiba - small tortilla rounds topped with a light, fresh and spicy crab salad that had been tossed in a lime vinaigrette.  And these are just appetizers!  The options were endless, and most certainly nobody left hungry.  

And you didn't only go to Zarela for a meal - you went to meet people.  There were always the most interesting people there - the types who you form instant bonds with that last forever.  I can't tell you the amount of time that I spent befriending new people and spending hours talking about cooking, exchanging recipes, and making plans for future culinary adventures. 

Last night was one to remember - the stories told by everyone about their amazing experiences at the restaurant and the memories they had, along with the rounds of applause and standing ovations that Zarela got any time she stood up from her table - a truly bittersweet end to an era.  Buenas noches Zarela, you'll always be in the heart of Midtown!

Monday, February 7, 2011

the perfect time for chili

With all these blizzards happening all over the country, what better way to cope than with chili? Granted, it was a bit mild in the city today, but when I actually made this, it WAS chilly, and this delectable treat was also ready just in time for the Super Bowl! Although, really, this chili is so epically delicious that you don't need the Super Bowl or cold weather as an excuse to make it.  This ain't your momma's chili either - this chili is seriously ROBUST.  It's made with bison meat and a melange of warming spices, with a kick to match - ancho chili powder really takes it to the next level.  No funny business. The best part about it? It's really simple to make and packs a punch with all the flavor that goes into it!

Bison Chili
2 pounds ground bison (if you can't find it, you can use beef)
1 large bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/2 c)
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 c)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5oz cans stewed tomatoes
1 c ketchup
1 c water, more if needed
1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 t ground cloves
1 t ground allspice
1 t salt
1 t ground cumin
1 t cinnamon
1 t mustard powder
1 t cayenne pepper
3-4 T ancho chili powder (depending on how hot you want it!)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T red wine vinegar

Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  Toss in the ground meat and start to brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Add in the pepper, onion, and garlic.  Cook all these together until the meat is cooked though.  Drain and discard fat, if any (bison is REALLY lean, so there's not much!). Toss in the tomatoes, ketchup, and water, and stir to combine.
AHHH Mast Brothers!
Next, add the chocolate. Please note I was SO excited to use this chocolate from the Mast Brothers!! They're such total lumberjack hipsters - really, just two awesome guys from Iowa City who decided they couldn't find great chocolate anywhere, so they just started making their own.  Pure, artisanal chocolate made with love. Their chocolates are RIDICULOUS. 

the culprits behind the chili's deliciousness and beautiful color
 Moving on...Add all of the spices, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegars (you really can use any kind of vinegar you want!) and stir until well combined.  If you're so inclined, you can toss in a can off red kidney beans, but I like to have mine beanless. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, stirring frequently to avoid burning. 
the transformation begins...
When you're ready to serve, top it off with a little Greek yogurt and sliced scallions - absolutely delicious! The yogurt helps to cool the spices down a bit and the scallions add a nice green element to the chili show (color and flavorwise).  This really is such a wonderful combination of flavors - the spices give it such depth and a nice warming effect, with none of the individual spices overpowering the others - you can get hints of each coming through with each bite. This chili freezes beautifully, so making an extra large batch isn't a bad idea!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

breakfast of champions

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? I know the answer, but you'll just have to e-mail me to hear my philosophical musings about that one - but keep pondering.

On another note, it's been a while since I've had a straight up egg.  I mean, yes, I've had eggs incorporated into things, maybe some sort of random omelet or frittata here and there, but frankly, I don't think that counts.  I'm talking: straight up, fresh out the coop EGG.  If only I had some Araucana eggs - I think the fact that they are such a beautiful color - sea foam green, seriously - really makes them taste better. I know, don't judge a book by it's cover...I'm absolutely guilty of that. 

When it comes to eggs, I like them with a set white and runny yolk.  There's something about a runny yolk that gets me every time - whether it's just for a plain old egg, on pizza, in pasta, you name it!  So, you can imagine that I lean towards poached eggs - but poaching eggs are such a pain in the behind! Swirl the water, add vinegar, make sure the egg is uber-fresh.  Entirely too many variables in that equation.  Then, one fateful day while reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the seas parted. It all started with Julia Child's Oeufs Mollets, or perfect six-minute boiled eggs.  Boil water. Cook egg for that exact amount of time. Run cold water. Peel. Enjoy.  The rest is history.  I actually like my eggs cooked for 5:45, but that's just a minor detail.

Breakfast: eggs it is! This recipe is one of my favorite things to eat in the morning.  It's super simple, literally takes less than ten minutes to make, and is purely outstanding!

Eggs 'Julia' with Smoked Salmon and Lemon
1 serving
1 large egg
A few slices of your favorite smoked salmon
1 lemon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

If you have time, let your egg(s) sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes or so.  Bring a small pot of water to boil - once it's rapidly boiling, it's time to lower in your egg. Be gentle! The egg can easily crack, and that is truly just a sad moment in egg cooking history.  Allow your egg to cook for anywhere between 5:45 to 6 minutes.  While the egg is cooking, lay/fold/toss/whatever-tickles-your-fancy the smoked salmon onto a plate.  I sometimes like to create a little "egg-cup" out of the salmon!  Immediately remove the egg and run cold water over it to cool it down and stop the egg from cooking.  When the egg is cool enough for you to handle, crack the shell all around and peel off.  Place the egg atop the smoked salmon, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Zest the lemon with a microplane over the egg and salmon - as much as you please! The more the merrier.  Finally, slice the lemon into wedges and squeeze one over the plate.  Enjoy!

So, so delicious.  The flavors are all delicate (I don't use a too heavily smoked salmon), but they really pack some punch!  The textures are all smooth and velvety, and the lemon juice and zest truly perk up the dish. Heaven.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

ringing in the new year

 Happy Chinese New Year - the year of the rabbit! Of course, that means I have to do something in honor of the holiday.  Thankfully, I somehow managed to get my hands on a first edition copy of Irene Kuo's "The Key to Chinese Cooking"a few years ago.  Kuo is basically the Julia Child of Chinese cooking - the woman knows her business!  And this book, from 1977, is a testament to that.  She speaks of all the different Chinese cooking methods, preparations, ingredients - you name it! And, all in wonderful illustration form.  Actually, hilarious illustration form, with motion lines and everything.  The best thing is, even though these are some vintage recipes, they are still relevant and just as delicious today! So, I know that there are specific, traditional foods for Chinese New Year, but I was in the mood for some duck - especially after reading some of Irene's recipes.  In reality, I would've loved to have cooked Peking Duck, but I clearly did NOT plan ahead (typical), and that takes a good couple of days to cook it properly.  And I only had a couple of hours! So it was time to run and pick up all the necessities.  Dish of the night: Shanghai Duck with Scallion-Bamboo Rice.

The duck is (ingredient-wise) relatively simple - as you can see in the following recipe, it's a bit involved and takes some time, but the end result is outstanding.  The bamboo rice (a random grain I picked up at Kalustyan's) is regular rice that has been soaked in bamboo juice, giving it a beautiful peridot shade and a nice fragrance to it.

like little alien grains.

Note: Plan ahead! You can make the sauce ahead of time - it takes an hour to cook. This recipe is for the most part verbatim, because I am thoroughly entertained by the way she wrote her recipes. If you ever see this book at a used book store, pick it up!

Shanghai Duck
The Key To Chinese Cooking
1 duck, about 5 lbs
2 T salt
2 large scallions, cut in half
4 quarter-size sliced peeled ginger, each 1/4 inch thick
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 whole star anise
3 cups water
2 T dark soy sauce
1 T dry sherry
2 T hoisin sauce
3 T crushed rock sugar
1 T sesame oil

Bring a large pot (big enough for the duck) of water to a boil and slither in the duck. I love the terminology Irene uses in this book!  When the water boils again, swish the duck to rid it of any foam and drain it. Remove the tail. Rinse the duck in cold water and pat dry.  This procedure cleans the duck and tightens the skin for better coloring later. Rub the salt over the outside and inside of the duck. Let it macerate on a plate while you prepare the sauce for simmering.

Put the scallions, ginger, cinnamon stick ,and star anise in a double-fold piece of cheesecloth and tie the bundle securely.  Place it in a heavy pot just large enough to take the duck; add 3 cups water and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Cover and simmer over very low heat for 1 hour, pressing and turning the herby bundle occasionally to extract the flavors. Then remove the bundle, press it between 2 small plates over the pot and discard the residue. 

For the duck! Bring the liquid to a boil again then add the soy sauce, sherry, hoisin sauce, and rock sugar (I used granulated sugar), and stir until the sugar dissolves. Lower in the duck, breast down.  Turn heat to medium to maintain a strong simmer, cover, and simmer the duck for 45 minutes, basting and shifting occasionally to color it and prevent it from scorching. Then turn the duck breast up and simmer covered another 40 minutes, basting and shifting occasionally.  Turn off the heat. 

Now comes the special basting;; it may seem strange at first, but the process is designed to give the duck a beautiful glaze, so do it despite any misgivings. Place a colander over an empty pot and set it next to the one containing the duck. Lift the duck into the colander. Skim off most of the fat from the sauce, add the sesame oil, and bring the sauce to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and pour the hot sauce over the duck.  Then transfer the colander with duck to the empty pot and bring the sauce again to a boil, and pour it over the duck again. Repeat 4 to 5 times.


Scallion Bamboo Rice
1 cup bamboo rice
1/4 cup minced onion
2 T olive oil
2 cups water or stock
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced, green and white parts

Standard rice!  Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and swirl in the olive oil.  When it shimmers, add in the onions and sweat for a few minutes.  Add in the rice and coat with the oil.   Pour over the stock or water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on the rice to make sure all the liquid doesn't evaporate before the rice is through cooking.  If necessary add more liquid.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in almost all of the scallions.  Serve warm and top with more sliced scallions.

About this duck: all I have to say is WOW.  This is a serious vintage, throwback recipe - back from the day when cuisine in general, let alone Chinese cuisine, was not at its peak (as far as the vast majority was concerned).  A lot of people assume(d) that Chinese cuisine is just heavy, deep fried, sauce smothered chunks of meat. This is just the opposite! Kuo hits the SPOT with this Shanghai Duck.  Perfectly balanced flavors - and delicate at that.  The meat of the duck was falling off the bone and extremely tender, and just touched with the flavor of the sauce.  Even though the flavors are strong on their own, they came together in perfect harmony.  The rice added a nice color (obviously) to the dish, but really helped in brightening up everything with the bite of the scallions.  I must say, well worth the wait!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

spices to warm the soul

This goes out to all my veggies and vegans! Although I made this with a combination poultry stock, it can absolutely be made without and be just as delicious.

So here's what I think - lentils are totally underrated.  They are ridiculously good for you, come in many a color, shape, and size, and can totally be a chameleon when it comes to cuisine.  Hot, cold, soup, side, salad, Indian, French, you name it! Quite versatile if I don't say so myself! I haven't had lentils in a while, so I was feeling in the mood - I also think my recent carnivorous overload may have amplified a craving as well for a more vegetarian option - even vegan if you so desire!  The one thing I love about vegetarian dishes is that you really let flavors, spices and herbs shine, as opposed to letting a main animal protein steal the show - and you have to be creative with plating! No shrimp heads, drumsticks, or shanks here.  And for me, that's more of a challenge.  So be it! This dish is absolutely comforting and satisfying, whole-heartedly filling and delicious. Best yet, it can be made vegan, tricking even the most anti-vegan of them all! Granted, I ended up making mine with chicken/turkey stock, but I just got excited. Enjoy!

Warm Moroccan-Spiced Lentil Salad 
1 cup lentils (I used 1/2 black beluga and 1/2 French green)
2 1/2 cups water, vegetable, turkey, or chicken stock
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T fresh ginger, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 t kosher salt
Fresh ground white or black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup minced carrot
1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for garnish
1/2 preserved lemon rind, minced
½ c blanched almonds

Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium to medium-low heat. Once the pan is heated, swirl in the olive oil.  Throw in (gently!) the minced onions and garlic, and cook for a few minutes, allowing both to sweat - but not caramelize or burn!  Once the onions are soft and translucent, add in the spiced, stirring to coat. Cook this for about a minute, stirring constantly - at this point you will have an AMAZING aroma in your kitchen! Add the lentils, and stir until all components are sufficiently mixed. 
I can't beleive it's not butter! Really though, it's ginger
perfectly coated with the spice trifecta (at least for this dish!)
Pour in the water/stock, bay leaf, and ginger slices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the lentils are just al dente.  (PS: speaking of ginger - if you buy a giant chunk of a root and aren't using it all, you can place it in a ziploc bag and keep it in the freezer. It's just as good as new when you use it, AND a heck of a lot easier to slice and dice!) Start tasting around the 20-minute mark - if they reach your desired consistency and still have some liquid left, turn up the heat, stir constantly, and let it reduce down.  If the lentils aren't cooked through enough, continue cooking, adding more water or stock if necessary.  You may notice my little packets of turkey and chicken stock above - would I liked to have used my own stock? But of course! I still do have to make the chicken stock from the other day's delicious roasted chicken, but of course I haven't found the four hours to make that happen! These are the next best thing - from a fairly common "trading post" of a store brought to you from California.  They are essentially condensed packets of stock that you add to one cup of warm water, and you have a pretty delicious, simple, immediate stock.  And it's pretty convenient that they have turkey as well!! One thousand times better than bouillon cubes I think.

While the lentils are cooking, preheat the oven to 350F.  Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Once they’re through, allow the almonds to cool and roughly chop them – either by hand, or by pulsing them in a food processor.  You can also start mincing the carrots, parsley, and preserved lemon.  If you don't have preserved lemon, you can use a couple tablespoons of lemon zest, and a bit of lemon juice.  It'll be a bit more acidic, but still good!   

If you're feeling ambitious, you can go for a brunoise cut on your carrots - using baby carrots makes this task a lot easier since they are already fairly uniform in size.  Either way, it's not necessary, and you can just go for a rough chop all around.

See that steam rising above? It gives of the most amazing aroma!
When the lentils are done, remove the bay leaf and ginger slices (and eat them because they are delicious!) and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  To this, add the minced carrot, parsley, preserved lemon peel, salt, and a couple grindings of pepper.  Thoroughly mix and taste for seasoning.  At this point, you can add some juice from the preserved lemon pulp, or just squeeze in some fresh lemon juice. Stir like crazy, plate, and enjoy!

Seriously, lentils can take on any form – and they are delicious with this combination of flavors! Allowing the spices to toast just a tad before adding and cooking the lentils really release the flavors and ‘warm’ them up even more than they generally are – and none of the spices overpower the other (which can happen with these three, since they really are intense!).  The fresh carrots, parsley, and lemon help brighten up the dish while the toasted almonds give it a nice crunch.  The greatest thing about this dish is that you can eat it hot, room temperature, or cold – perfect for leftovers!  Next time I make this, I think I'll use a wider assortment of lentils - just to play with color! And this is for you vegetarians and vegans out there - just go for it with either water or vegetable stock, and it will be JUST as good!