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4.23.2014

! Tonight !

In the time since you and I last spoke, I’ve been to New Jersey and back for my sister-in-law’s wedding and have eaten a lot of New Jersey pizza. It was hard. And while I continue to dig my way out of the giant to-do list that accumulated in my absence, I wanted to quickly remind you: tonight, a crew of musicians is performing original music inspired by my first book A Homemade Life.  8 pm! The Royal Room! 5000 Rainier Avenue South! Seattle! Come on out! The whole concept is one of the weirdest, best things I’ve ever heard of, and I can’t wait.  I baked four Winning Hearts and Minds Cakes for the occasion - five, but we sort of accidentally ate one - and I’ll be there to sign books and talk a bit. High five, Bushwick Book Club!

See you tonight.

P.S. I wrote a little post for the Bushwick Book Club blog in which I share what I’ve been reading and listening to lately and out myself as John Green fangirl.

4.06.2014

That word is eat

June has mastered a new word, and that word is eat.  It’s one of many things I like about her.

 
Because Brandon works most nights, I get up with June most mornings. I have developed a condition that my friend Andrea calls Bionic Mom Hearing, so I sleep with earplugs and a pillow over my head. It’s a sight I think you would enjoy. But she manages to wake me up anyway (MAAA! MAAA!), so I get a bottle of milk from the fridge (prepared the night before, a small gift to my future self), retrieve her from her crib ("UP! UP!"), carry her across the hall to our bed, lie down and listen to her little mouth working at the bottle and feel sentimental for 2.5 minutes before she starts yelling for me to unzip her sleep sack ("OFF! OFF!"), help her climb down from the bed ("DIT DOW!"), and follow her down the hall in search of a book ("BUH! BUHHHH!"). She is a blur of hair.


I struggle to figure out how much to write about her here, or how to write about this weird new parenting gig.  For the first 32 years of my life, I didn’t think I wanted a child; I wasn’t even remotely interested until, very suddenly, I was. And now here I am, in the thick of it, seeing my everyday - and my cooking, because it’s the anchor of my days - through the lens of this very different life. So I’m feeling it out, I guess: how to write now, how to write in a way that Old Me wouldn’t be totally bored and annoyed with, while acknowledging that New Me is... a new me. I like the new me better than the old one, in ways that I never expected: I had no idea I could be so patient! Able to read the same book fifteen times without screaming! Willing to walk around with chewed-up graham cracker smeared on my coat! I also never expected to spend so much time thinking about applesauce, and more to the point, Judy Rodgers’s roasted applesauce.



I’ve written about Zuni Café at least a half-dozen times on this site, which strikes me as a lot for someone who grew up in Oklahoma and lives in Seattle. But because my mother’s twin sister Tina lived near San Francisco, where Zuni is, and because I spent a lot of time at Tina’s house as a kid, a teenager, and in college, I got to eat at Zuni Café a few times in my formative years, and I do think it formed, and informed me. Judy Rodgers’s cooking was simple, seasonal, understated, and somehow also bold, the flavors so spot-on, so confident, that they made a deep impression. In a lot of ways, The Zuni Café Cookbook taught me how to cook. You can imagine then, how thoroughly I had my mind blown out of my head when, four years ago, after I wrote about her polenta, Rodgers (Judy? Can I call her Judy?) sent me an e-mail. (!!!!) She passed away last December, but it makes me happy to know that June will eat in her restaurant someday, and that she’s growing up eating Rodgers’s excellent applesauce.




It’s basically impossible to make anything elaborate for breakfast when June is around. And that’s fine, really, because I was a cold-cereal person long before she showed up. So cold cereal it often is! Or, if I was a superhero the night before and made a batch of oatmeal, we’ll have oatmeal. Or, if I was a superhero a few nights before and made oatmeal, so that I could later be a superhero and make leftover oatmeal muffins, we’ll have leftover oatmeal muffins. And if not, I try to at least make sure there’s applesauce and plain yogurt.

I live in a state of many apples, so, I don’t know, I got into the habit of making applesauce. It feels wrong to buy it at the store when I can get good fruit at the market on Sunday and turn it into applesauce in barely half an hour. For a long time, I used a stovetop method (much like the one in this ancient post), and sometimes I added half a vanilla bean, which I like a lot.  But then Kristen Miglore, the genius behind Food52’s Genius Recipes column, wrote about Judy Rodgers’s roasted applesauce. Like most of Rodgers’s recipes, this one is dead-simple, but all about the details. It’s just apples, sugar, salt, and butter (and maybe apple cider vinegar, though I haven’t needed it yet), and the sugar amount is much lower than other recipes I’ve used, because oven-roasting helps to concentrate the apples’ sweetness. You peel and quarter them, toss them with a tiny bit of sugar and a tinier bit of salt, dot them with butter, and you’re mostly done. (The only tricky part, if you can call it that, is seasoning the apples, because you’ll do it to taste: you might use one teaspoon, or you might use two. As tricky parts go, it’s not tricky.) In the oven, the apples soften and caramelize at their tips, and they also dry out slightly, which I like, because it makes for a pleasingly chunky sauce, one that June can eat with her hands, if that’s how the morning is going.

In any case, making applesauce is one of those brainless tasks that I can do once a week, while having a glass of something after June is in bed and before we are in bed, and the next morning, when I hear her through the earplugs and the pillow and the sleep, I feel good for having done it.

P.S. Seattleites! Listen! Delancey and the Pantry are hosting a Friends of The Seattle Public Library cookbook sale on Saturday, May 3, and Sunday, May 4.  There will be hundreds of cookbooks, priced as low as two bucks, and your support helps the library. Come! And in other news, The Bushwick Book Club has written songs inspired by my first book - I can’t believe I just typed that sentence; AWESOME - and they’ll be performing them at the Royal Room on April 23, at 8:00 pm. See you there?


Judy Rodgers’s Roasted Applesauce
From the Zuni Cafe Cookbook and Kristen Miglore’s Genius Recipes

3 ½ to 4 pounds apples (Rodgers uses crisp eating apples, like Braeburns, Pippins, or Galas; I used Pink Ladies)
Pinch of salt
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slivers
A splash of apple cider vinegar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Put them in a (ungreased) baking dish just large enough to hold them in a crowded single layer. (I find that a 9x13 dish is perfect.) Toss with a little salt and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. (Unless they are very sweet, in which case you might not need any sugar at all.) If they are tart enough to make you squint, use 2 teaspoons of sugar. Dot the apples with butter, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the apples start to soften, about 15 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil, raise the heat to 500 F, and return the pan to the oven. Leave the apples to dry out and color slightly, about 10 minutes more. When the tips of the apples are golden and the fruit is tender, remove the pan from the oven, and coarsely mash the apples. (You could use a potato masher, but I just use the back of a wooden spoon, and I leave mine very chunky.)  If you like, season the applesauce further with salt and sugar to taste, and then consider a splash of apple cider vinegar to brighten the flavor. (You can try a drop on a spoonful to see if you like it; I haven’t found that my applesauce needs it.)

Yield: about 3 cups of applesauce

3.27.2014

Book tour, housekeeping, and you will now have Hole songs stuck in your head

My publisher tells me that finished copies of Delancey, hot off the presses, are due to arrive in their offices early next week. (!)

I have a lot of feelings about this, both of the excited and terrified varieties, because it means that the book will finally be done, donedoneDONE, but also that it’s too late to change anything about it, make it better, or otherwise obsess over it. It means that it’s no longer mine, in a sense. But on the upside, it soon will be yours!  It also means that you should grab a pencil and get out your calendar, because I’m taking this show on the road.



I’ll be traveling around, doing readings and signings - regrettably, not karaoke’ing Hole’s greatest hits - for a good chunk of May.  Brandon has to stay home and make pizza, and June has to stay home and work on her pronunciation of pizza, so I hope you’ll come out and keep me company. I got to meet many of you when my first book came out, and it was, by far, the best part of the whole book thing. I’ve been hoping that I would get to go on tour again with this book, and I feel so, so, so very lucky that I do. Please come say hello!

In the meantime, you can pre-order Delancey, if you feel sufficiently moved, at any number of places, like Apple iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, University Book Store, Books-A-Million, Powell's, or an independent bookstore in your area.

With no further ado, here is the tour schedule. (I’ll also post it, as well as any updates, in the "click here for events and whatnot" link in the sidebar.)

Seattle, WA
Tuesday, May 6 at 7:00 pm
University Book Store
4326 University Way NE

Oklahoma City, OK 
Wednesday, May 7 at 6:30 pm
Full Circle Books
1900 NW Expressway

Tulsa, OK
Thursday, May 8 at 7:00 pm
Book Smart Tulsa
Fifteenth and Home
1512 East 15th Street

Washington, DC
Saturday, May 10 at 6:00 pm
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Avenue NW

Brooklyn, NY
Monday, May 12 at 7:30 pm
Greenlight Bookstore
686 Fulton Street

Wellesley, MA
Tuesday, May 13 at 7:00 pm
Wellesley Books
82 Central Street
Tickets are $10 and refreshments will be served.

Wayzata, MN
Wednesday, May 14 at 7:00 pm
The Bookcase
824 East Lake Street

Santa Cruz, CA
Thursday, May 15 at 7:00 pm
Bookshop Santa Cruz
1520 Pacific Avenue

Pleasanton, CA
Friday, May 16 at 12:00 pm
Towne Center Books, "Read It and Eat"
555 Main Street
Tickets are $32 and include lunch and a copy of DELANCEY. Reservations required.

San Francisco, CA
Saturday, May 17 at 12:30 pm
Book Passage
1 Ferry Building, #42

Mission Viejo, CA
Sunday, May 18, beginning at 10:00 am
Books Are Better Shared
Norman Murray Community Center
Tickets are $25. Registration required.

Seattle, WA
Thursday, May 22 at 6:30 pm
Book Larder
4252 Fremont Avenue North

Vancouver, BC
Monday, May 26 at 6:00 pm
Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks
1740 West 2nd Avenue
Tickets are $45 and include refreshments and a copy of DELANCEY. Reservations required.

Portland, OR
Monday, June 9 at 7:30 pm
Powell's City of Books
1005 West Burnside Street

Happy almost-weekend.

P.S. Make yourself a Black Manhattan tonight! I had one last weekend, with Amaro Nardini in place of Averna, and I’m still thinking about it.

3.21.2014

Call it a meal

We have reached the point in winter, or spring, or whatever it is, when even I am tired of making, eating, and talking about soup. I’ve been meaning to make a batch of vegetable and pearl barley soup for the past week, and I even forced myself to chop up everything the other night before bed, thinking it would inspire me to get on it the next morning, but, eh. Eh. I’d rather do what I did twice last week: throw a cauliflower in the oven, eat the whole pan, and call it a meal.


Roasted cauliflower! Old news! You know how to roast cauliflower. I know how to roast cauliflower. But here I am, talking up roasted cauliflower, because this particular version has become - just as Bon Appétit said it would - my new go-to. The recipe comes from the "BA Arsenal" section of the February 2013 issue, and it’s hardly even a recipe (which is, more and more, my favorite kind of recipe). You’ll probably have it memorized after the first read-through. And I’ll bet you have everything in the house already - except maybe the cauliflower, and that’s easy enough to remedy.

When I roast cauliflower, I usually just, you know, roast it: sliced cauliflower, olive oil, salt, boom. But Allie Lewis Clapp, food editor of Bon Appétit, apparently swears by the combination of cauliflower and onion, the former caramelized and the latter "just-this-side-of-burnt." (Color = flavor! Assuming, of course, that you don’t go too far and actually burn the onions, which I did once; see photo below.) To the cauliflower and onion, she suggests that you add a few sprigs of thyme and a few whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic, all of it slicked with some olive oil. Then you chuck it in a hot, hot oven, and after barely half an hour, the cauliflower winds up velvety, meaty, even rich, and the onions relax and soften into sweetness, and the garlic is tender enough to spread on toast, and a dark, savory, somewhat bewitching smell has filled your kitchen - or your entire house, if you’re me and your house is small and the exhaust fan doesn’t really work, even though it roars like the engine of a semi scaling a mountain pass. Then you grate some Parmesan over the whole pan, slide it back into the oven, and pull it out when the cheese has melted and crisped into crisp, lacy, frico-like webs and shards.


At this point, you could divide it between a couple of bowls, put a fried egg on top of each, and call it lunch. You could also divide it between four plates and call it a side dish.  You could toss it with pasta, probably, though I haven’t tried it, and serve it with more Parmesan. Or you could just eat it, period, which is what I’ve been doing. If you have any leftovers, they’re good at any temperature - even cold, eaten straight from a Mason jar while sitting in your car outside the pottery studio after class.

Happy weekend.


Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower
Adapted from Bon Appétit and Allie Lewis Clapp

One word of caution: don’t slice the onions too thinly here, or they’ll be more likely to burn.  I’d aim for ½-inch-thick slices, if I were you.

1 head cauliflower, trimmed
1 medium onion, sliced
4 thyme sprigs
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan or Grana Padano, for grating

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment.

Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, and slice it top-down into roughly 1/3-inch slices. Some of the slices will crumble, and that’s fine. Scoop all of the cauliflower into a large bowl, and add the onion, thyme, garlic, and olive oil. Toss well. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Arrange the mixture in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan. Roast, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is mostly tender, golden brown, and caramelized at the edges, 25-30 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, and grate a generous amount of Parmesan over the vegetables. (The original recipe calls for ½ cup, but I didn’t measure mine; I just eyeballed it.) Return the pan to the oven, and continue to roast for another 5 or 10 minutes. You’re basically cooking it to eye: you want the cauliflower to be nicely caramelized, but you don’t want the onions to burn.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

3.10.2014

A short leap

Our friend Ben is in town for a visit, and this past Friday, while we waited in line for lunch at Il Corvo - always worth the wait, in case you ever walked by and wondered - I told him about some lamb meatballs that I wanted to write up, but that I had a problem: the only photo I have is of the raw meat and seasonings in a bowl. Ooh, Ben said sharply, sucking air between his teeth, which I took to mean, That’s going to hurt.

And yet.  AND YET.


Maybe it will ease the blow to know that the reason why I have no meatball photo is that, by the time they’re done cooking, they smell so irritatingly good, and I’m so irritable and hungry, that my claws come out and I throw myself on the pan. Anyway, I think my mother will love this recipe, and if I hold off on posting until I have a proper photo, it’ll be almost like I’m depriving my mother, my very own mother, of happiness.

I am not the first person in the world to own The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by the brilliant Deb Perelman, and I am also not the first person to be tempted by her recipe for Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs.  Deb mentions in the sidebar that the recipe can be made with ground lamb instead of turkey, and what I am, in fact, is here to report that, yes, absolutely, it can!  I’ve done it myself five or six times now. There is probably no meat that doesn’t go well with toasted sesame seeds, garlic, cumin, coriander, and chile, but in most such cases, lamb would be my intuitive choice. The meatball that we’re talking about here has the basic flavor profile of falafel, right, and since lamb shows up in cooking across the Middle East, falafel to lamb is a short leap.  I don’t know, but I sort of want to call these Falafel-Spiced Lamb Meatballs.  Deb, I’m screwing up everything.

In any case, it’s nothing more complicated than mixing up ground meat and seasonings in a bowl and rolling them into balls. It’s the kind of cooking that can be accomplished with only minimal attention, while the rest of your brain is lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves crashing on the white noise machine in your kid’s room on the other side of the wall.  (Or, you could listen to Spilled Milk. Did you know that we’re going weekly? And that you can donate to the show, which helps us buy ingredients and pay for hosting and wins our devotion to the grave and beyond?) The resulting meatballs are juicy, fragrant with cumin and coriander and garlic, and when you chew, there’s a faint, wonderful crackle of toasted sesame seeds between your teeth. The crackle might be the best part.

Deb serves hers with a smashed-chickpea salad that’s bright with sumac and lemon, and the combination is delicious. I like them with anything, though most often a pile of roasted vegetables. They would be perfect with couscous, or stuffed in a pita with shredded cabbage and chopped cucumber and some yogurt or tahini sauce, or even just heaped on plain rice with a cucumber salad on the side.  The main thing to know is, they would be perfect.


Falafel-Spiced Lamb Meatballs
Adapted slightly from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

Deb’s recipe calls for browning these meatballs in a pan and then finishing them in the oven, and while that certainly yields a stunner of a meatball, both in flavor and beauty, I regularly take a lazier route: I only bake them. Then I can basically walk away, and ta da, the meatballs cook themselves. Cleanup is also very easy, thanks to the parchment on the sheet pan.  Do what you will.

2 tablespoons (15 grams) sesame seeds
1 pound (455 grams) ground lamb
2/3 cup (40 grams) fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup (60 ml) water
1 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
Pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
Olive oil, for cooking

Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you plan to skip the stovetop browning and only bake these, line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment.

Put the sesame seeds in a small skillet, and place the skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds smell toasty and are beginning to turn golden.  I never pay attention to exactly how long this takes, but it’s not terribly long.

While the sesame seeds toast, put the lamb through cayenne in a medium bowl.  When they’re ready, add the toasted sesame seeds.  Mix with a fork (or with your hand, my preference) until evenly mixed. Form the meat mixture into 1½-inch, or golf-ball-sized, balls.  (This is easiest to do if your hands are wet; that will help to keep the meat from sticking to you.) If you plan to brown the meatballs on the stovetop, arrange them on a tray or large plate; if you plan to only bake them, arrange them on the prepared sheet pan.

At this point, if you’re lazy like me, put the sheet pan in the oven and walk away. After about 10 minutes, pull out your thermometer (all hail the Thermapen! Possibly my single favorite kitchen tool!) and poke one or two of the meatballs: when they’re ready, the internal temperature will be between 160 and 165 degrees.  If they’re not hot enough, slide them back in, and check again shortly. Again, I never seem to keep track of how long they take to cook. Somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes, I think?

If you’re a better person and plan to brown your meatballs as Deb directs, heat a generous slick of oil in a large ovenproof skillet or sauté pan. Brown the meatballs in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan or nudge them before they’re good and brown. Be gentle as you turn them: they’re soft! Transfer the meatballs to a paper-towel-lined tray or plate, and continue cooking in more batches until they’re all browned. Then discard the oil, wipe all but a little of it from the pan, and return all of the meatballs to the pan. Slide into the oven, and bake until a thermometer reads an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees, or about 10 to 15 minutes.

Yield: about 4 servings, or roughly 25 meatballs

Note: These meatballs freeze beautifully.  I like to cook about half of them right away and then freeze the remaining half on a sheet pan lined with parchment.  When they’re frozen solid, I transfer them from the pan to a plastic storage bag. They thaw quickly - and actually, I’ve even baked them while they were still slightly frozen. It took a bit longer, but no harm done.




2.26.2014

Felt like it

HELLOOOOOOOO

I’m just off the plane from a week in Oklahoma City with June and my mother, clearing out my teenage bedroom. Fun-wise, it was right up there with surgery in the pre-anesthesia era, especially my senior prom Party Pics. On the upside, Mom and I made a wonderful pea soup (only with half the amount of ham hock, and with dried herbs instead of fresh) and worked our way through approximately four bars of chocolate and an undisclosed amount of wine, and I determined (take note!!!) that the only way to handle letters from exes and otherwise is to shove them dutifully in a box and then pray it gets lost in the mail. We woke up too early every day, and I stayed up too late every night (reading We Are Called to Rise, the best novel I’ve read in a long time, and I would say that even if my editor hadn’t send it to me, though she did), and today, after my usual Wednesday admin at Essex, I was so tired that I had to stop for a three o’clock espresso, and I still yawned afterward.



But I wanted to say hi. Just felt like it.

2.16.2014

Always to acclaim

Happy Two Days After Valentine’s Day! I hope you celebrated in style, which is more than we did. I typed most of this post on Valentine’s night, while Brandon worked at Delancey, slinging pizzas for all the lovers.  I did, however, rally to bake a banana bread.  Nothing says, I love you (or, You married your grandmother), like a banana bread on Valentine’s Day.

This is not a post about banana bread, just to clarify.
 

This is a post about lime curd.  Not lemon curd, but lime: "the superlative citrus," as our friend Niah, who is also the bar manager of Essex, likes to say. And if it seems like I only post sweets and baked goods anymore, I know, I know, you’re right. I’m sure it’ll pass.

This particular lime curd comes from a cookbook of my mother’s, Gourmet’s America, published in 1994 - a year that, I should admit, just for the sake of completeness, I spent mostly driving mopily around Oklahoma City, newly won driver’s license in my wallet, listening to Nine Inch Nails’s The Downward Spiral and having a lot of feelings for Trent Reznor.  Meanwhile, back at home, my mother was doing something of more lasting import, which is to say: while combing the bookshelf in the kitchen, pulling together ideas for a party, she found this recipe for lime curd. The idea was to serve the curd next to a pile of sugar cookies, and then your guests could "frost" their own cookies. She tried it. I remember ducking through the living room at some point during the party, noticing the stack of cookies and beside it a bowl of curd, creamy yellow with shards of green zest. I grabbed a cookie on the way up to my room, smeared it with as much lime curd as I could fit onto the edge of a knife, and wished, for the rest of the night, that I had taken two.



My mother has repeated the lime curd / sugar cookie trick several times since, always to acclaim. And when I became interested in a few things that were not Trent Reznor*, it was the first curd I ever made. I was intimidated at first, but fruit curd is easy alchemy: a stovetop custard, sort of, but with fruit juice instead of milk. This one isn’t a purely lime curd - it uses both lemon and lime juices, plus lime zest - but it nails it. It’s undoubtedly lime, fruity and fragrant, but the lemon helps to perk it up, to cut the sugar, eggs, and butter with added acidity. It’s an ideal texture for frosting a cookie, or for filling a cake, or folding into whipped cream to make a mousse.

That said, I don’t make it as often as I should, but that’s only because of my own biases: when I think of sweets, I think of chocolate first and citrus later. But it came to mind recently, when Matthew and I were brainstorming a forthcoming Spilled Milk episode on limes, so I made a batch. And when it tasted as good as I remembered, I took it to a book club meeting - some of us Delancey ladies have banded together to read books and, apparently, eat lime curd - along with a box of Walker’s Pure Butter Shortbread Scottie Dogs, and I am pleased to report that we enjoyed it more than Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin.

* For the record, I still have a thing for "The Perfect Drug." And, as I learned in a New Yorker profile, Reznor is a better dog owner than I am, because he actually remembers to brush his dog’s teeth.


Lime Curd
Adapted from Gourmet’s America

2 large eggs, beaten
1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, diced
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
2 Tbsp. lime zest
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
A pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan – I used a 2-quart – and set it over medium-low heat. Whisk until the butter is melted, and then continue to whisk constantly (or almost constantly; you don’t want to let it curdle or scorch) until the mixture is thickened, like jelly. As it thickens, you’re looking for it to hold the mark of the whisk, and if you lift the whisk, the mixture should hold its shape when it plops back into the pot. This will probably take about 10 to 12 minutes. When it’s ready, remove the curd from the heat, and press through a mesh strainer into a storage container.  Chill well before serving.

Note: If you want your finished lime curd to still be flecked with bits of green lime zest, you could skip the straining step. But I always worry about finding bits of cooked egg in my fruit curd, so I like to strain mine - and then I lose the zest, but oh well.