Zucchini Potato Latkes

So, I don’t know what inspired me to make latkes, of all things, with the 18 million pounds of potatoes I’ve stocked up in my quest to recreate all of my favorite (and, oh, there were many) potato dishes in Spain. Latkes were certainly not on that list. Nor do I have any particular story to tell about these. No family recipe; no special memories from my childhood. In fact, I don’t even recall seeing a recipe for potato pancakes — or latkes — anywhere else recently to spark an interest in making them myself, as is usually the case when I decide to make something I’ve had little experience with pre-food allergies (and why would I see one anyways? It’s not even latke season, is it?).

All that said, I was somehow determined to master this recipe. I was so determined that I made four versions of these in about 5 days. And believe it or not, I’m still not close to halfway through my potato supply. I finally settled on a version I was happy with this afternoon, and cooked up some fresh-from-the-market apples for the accompanying sauce. Gennaro and I snacked on them before watching the ulcer-inducing 28-24 Michigan-Notre Dame game, where our beloved Wolverines managed to pull off the win. The perfect fall Saturday: potato pancakes with applesauce and Michigan football. Perhaps I’ll have to start my own potato pancake tradition. If only it would always include a victory.

Zucchini Potato Latkes:

Makes about 12 pancakes

1 1/2 cups peeled, shredded russet potatoes (I shredded mine with a box grater), tightly packed

1 cup shredded zucchini (tightly packed)

1 teaspoon sea salt, divided

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour

1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon oil (I used grapeseed), plus more for frying

Directions:

1. Place shredded zucchini and potatoes in a collander or strainer with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Squeeze out excess liquid and let sit for about 10 minutes. Sqeeze again and set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, water, egg replacer, 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Add vegetables and onion and mix until everything is combined. Set aside.

3. Heat a cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add about a tablespoon of oil. Drop batter by 1/4 cup and flatten with the back of measuring cup or a spoon. Drop batter for about 3-4 pancakes at a time. Fry on medium-high heat for about 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes, reducing heat to medium. Remove to a plate and continue with remaining batter, using a tablespoon of cooking oil for each batch. To reheat latkes, or if you have a batch that didn’t cook all the way through, heat pancakes in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until crispy and heated through.

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Grilled Plums with Crumble Topping

How do all you gluten-freeers our there feel about oats? As I understand, it’s a sensitive (literally) topic for some, one which invokes a very mixed set of feelings. Though I am an oat lover, I can’t claim this to be much of an endorsement for others, as the grains on my sensitivity list extended only to wheat. That said, Bob’s Red Mill, Gifts of Nature, and Gluten Free Oats (duh!) all sell certified gluten-free oats, and many studies indicate that oats are safe for folks with celiac or a gluten-intolerance. Still, I understand why many are wary. Your body knows better than any study out there, so sit this one out if oats aren’t your thing.

I saw some very pretty organic plums at the market this morning. They were originally scheduled to make an appearance in another crisp trial. However, somewhat sick of making crisps, I thought I’d do things a little different here. Well, different for me. Grilled fruit is certainly not a novelty. In fact, it’s sort of the trend, it seems, these days. Nevertheless, I’d never done it. I guess you could call this a deconstructed crisp. It’s the perfect late summer post-dinner treat.

To sweeten the topping, I used NuNaturals NoCarbs Blend, which consists of a mixture of stevia and erithrytol, the latter being one of the most easily digested of all sugar alcohols (others include xylitol and maltitol). Erythritol is derived from corn, so be wary if you have a corn allergy.

After singing the praises of NuNaturals Vanilla Liquid Stevia for quite some time, the lovely folks at NuNaturals perhaps caught on to my enthusiasm, sending me some of their other products as well. I must say, I continue to be impressed. The topping is just the right amount of sweet, minus the stevia bitterness, which is conspicuously absent from NuNaturals’ products. I may be “paid off” so to speak, but I couldn’t be more sincere when I say that NuNaturals has made me a believer in stevia. After trying several other brands, I once feared I would never be able to break my agave habit. Now I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle of the stuff.

I served mine with my Vanilla Frozen Yogurt, but Purely Decadent Vanilla Ice Cream would be a nice accompaniment as well.

Grilled Plums:

4 ripe black plums, halved and pitted

Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted, for brushing

Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup gluten-free oats

1/2 cup almond meal (you can find it at Trader Joe’s)

1 teaspoon NuNaturals NoCarbs Blend

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Spread

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Prepare topping: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together all ingredients for the topping except for the buttery spread. When dry ingredients are well mixed, add buttery spread. Break into mixture with your fingers until evenly distributed. Lay topping mixture flat on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Make sure to watch the topping carefully during the second half of cooking, as it can quickly go from being perfectly browned to burned.

3. As topping cooks, prepare plums: Heat a grill pan (or grill) on high heat for 3-4 minutes until very hot. Brush with a light layer of melted buttery spread (if using an outdoor grill, you may want to brush plums with the buttery spread directly). When grill is hot, add plums flesh-side down. Cook, without turning or moving, for 3-4 minutes, pressing down gently on each one to get nice grill marks. Turn plums and grill on the skin-side for another 4-5 minutes (still on high or medium-high heat, time will depend on the ripeness of plums).

4. Remove plums to a plate or bowl and add crumble topping when it’s still a little warm.

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Gazpacho

I hope the readers of Delectably Free like Spanish food, because I returned home from Spain yesterday with an arsenal of recipes to try, and a whole new source of inspiration.

Ah, the Catalan cuisine of Barcelona. It was admittedly difficult finding both gluten-free and vegan menu options and I, admittedly, slipped into a bit of a seafood habit, which had not been a regular part of my diet since February. While I would love to be the “perfect vegan,” I went into veganism with the belief that it was not about being perfect all the time, but about doing something good for myself and for the planet most of the time. I just had to get that out there, so no one gets some crazy idea that Barcelona is a paradise for gluten-free vegans, which is hardly the case (unfortunately).

That said, there is plenty to eat in Spain that does not include Seafood (or meat, for that matter). Among those things, gazpacho — the sweet, slightly tangy, garlicy, flavorful and fresh, chilled soup that was universally good wherever we went. When I studied in Spain 6 years ago, I came home with the same gazpacho cravings I’ve been experiencing now. I quickly disocovered, however, that gazpacho in America does not equal Spanish gazpacho. Here it was either too chunky and underflavored, or overflavored and not in the right way, or just somehow not the same.

That’s why my approach upon this return is different: make it at home and get it right. Luckily for me, I happened to get it right the first time. Perhaps it was all the recipes I practiced in my head, tweaked with each new gazpacho I enjoyed in Spain. When one had a distinct cucumber flavor which I enjoyed, I made a mental note. I liked the gazpachos that were a little tangier, so I made a note to go a bit heavier on the vinegar. Less peppery than the one at Taller de Tapas. A bit thicker than the one served at my hotel.

As much of the above “tweaks” came down to personal preference, I’d love for anyone making this recipe to tweak it to their preferences as well.

Gazpacho:

3 medium, very ripe red tomatoes, chopped

1 medium cucumber (a regular, slicing cucumber you find during the summer), peeled and coursely chopped

1 small or 1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped

1 small/medium yellow bell pepper, coursely chopped

1 small clove garlic, peeled

1/4 cup really good extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons raw, naturally fermented red wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process with a sharp steel blade until relatively smooth. Taste for seasoning. Chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Serve garnished with some minced onion, bell pepper or cucumber.

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Bethany Getting (Got) Married

Please forgive the few week hiatus as the hubs and I make our way to Barcelona. I’ll be sure to document all of our eating adventures while we’re there. In the meantime, please enjoy this little snapshot of our wedding day (a.k.a. the best day of my life), courtesy of my uncle Andy. I’m looking forward to getting back to cooking soon.

And yes, my full name is actually Bethany.

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Green Lemonade

Not to be all “I’m so busy and important this summer,” but….I am pretty darn busy these days. So if the frequency of my posts seems spotty at best, I assure you that it’s only temporary. Come September I’ll be an unemployed recent law grad with not a care in the world (other than finding a job…which may provide me with just a tad bit of anxiety). But now — a week away from the wedding — I’m a little busy. I would say no one tells you how much work planning a wedding is, but I have to admit, I’d been warned. Somewhere along the way, at least someone suggested I elope (words of experience). And when I visited my future sister-in-law and her husband before their wedding last May, I could help but think, as they frantically — and sleeplessly — worked to finish up the final details, that I should try to do things differently. Somehow, I thought I would be an exception to the rule. I was completely and utterly wrong. No matter how hard you try, wanting to have all of your family and friends there to celebrate one of the pivotal moments of your life is just one of those things that takes work. There is no avoiding it. Though I’m sure it will all be worth it in the end.

In all honesty, this whole process would have been a lot more Hellish had my mom not been so helpful early on (and now). From booking the venue, the band, the church to going to my tasting when I was stuck out in New York to designing, folding and sending out all my invitations, she has been a saint. But the last minute stress of working out seating arrangements, writing the program, figuring out the final head count and many other details along the way has taken a toll — one that rivals studying for the bar exam — on my ability to do much else.

I’m determined to stay healthy, however, in spite of all my stress (which really isn’t all that bad, really. There are much worse things I could be doing/worrying about). In fact, I’m determined to reverse my pre-bar trend of a pot of coffee a day and frozen (albeit vegan, gluten free and organic) dinners as late night snacks. I know there are millions of versions of green lemonade out there. Truthfully, mine probably isn’t all that different from others I’ve seen. But I thought it was worth sharing as a reminder of the refreshing, super-healthy variations and possibilities for all the beautiful summer vegetables available right now — a juice that will keep you going during those busy times. Or, as I like to say, a juice to give you some juice (ok, that was corny…it’s late and I’m tired). Plus, I couldn’t wait to share my first creation from the juicer that I’d rescued from my parents’ basement, where it had been collecting dust for way too long.

Green Lemonade:

Press through a juicer: 3 stalks kale, 1/2 of a lemon (washed; I left the peel on), 1/2 of a sweet, crisp apple (I used pink lady), 1/2 of a crisp cucumber, 1-2 stalks celery

You can add more of any of the above ingredients to your taste. I also like to add parsley or ginger as a variation. A green apple is also nice, but I would omit the lemon so your final product is not too sour.

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Beet Cake

The. Bar. Is. Over. I don’t care if I don’t pass; I never, EVER want to take that thing again. That’s all.

On a bright note, everything after taking the bar exam seems relatively easier. I was delayed at Laguardia for 9 hours on Sunday before flying to Michigan. But I relaxed in that tiny, little Delta terminal as if it were Bora Bora, with not a care in the world (um, OK…I may be exaggerating a bit here. I did start to get a little cranky around hour 5). If it doesn’t involve sitting on a hard chair for 7 hours spewing out what’s remembered of the 165,000 laws once crammed through your brain, I’m a happy camper — even if that means a happy camper camping out at an airport filled with unhappy campers and crappy airport food.

But the best part of being done is that I can finally cook again!!!!! Toward the last hour of the exam, ideas started swirling in my head of all the different recipes I wanted to try. Raw oatmeal cookies. Baba Ganoush. Dandelion Pesto. Focus Beth, you still have 15 questions to go! That’s how much I’d been missing my tiny, little New York kitchen. My version of a therapists’ couch.

Now that I’m back living with my parents for a few weeks before the wedding (to start, rather than finish, my involvement in the planning process) my options are limited to what they have in the fridge, since I don’t have a car here. Two beautiful, cooked beets later, I came up with this moist, delicious and rather healthy cake. So no, I haven’t gotten to the raw oatmeal cookies or the Dandelion pesto (I did make a really nice eggplant dip last night that I’d love to post soon), but I was pleasantly surprised with this yummy cake.

I tried to make this one as low in fat as possible. But I figured a little coconut oil never hurt anyone. This one’s also sweetened only with stevia. It’s actually on the not-so-sweet side, almost like a muffin sweetness-wise but with the texture of a fudgy chocolate cake. For those with sweeter sweet tooths, please feel free to add a few (maybe about 5) more drops of stevia. On that note, I’m adamant about using NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia. It has a wonderful flavor and never gives off that dreaded, bitter taste. You could certainly make a nice frosting for this one, but I think it’s perfect with a scoop of Purely Decadent Vanilla Ice Cream. Pure Heaven — and that’s not just my post-bar bliss talking.

Chocolate Beet Cake:

2 medium-sized beets, boiled and peeled, chopped

1/2 cup water

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup light coconut milk (shaken)

1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified

1 teaspoon plus 5 drops NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia (plus another 5-10 drops for a sweeter cake)

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo-Fava Bean Flour

1/2 cup potato starch (not flour!)

1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon celtic sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. In a blender or food processor, puree beets with water until smooth, like the texture of a really thin applesauce. Measure out 1 cup of the beet mixture and add to a mixing bowl. Whisk in the applesauce, coconut milk, coconut oil and liquid stevia. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining (dry) ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until everything is just incorporated.

4. Grease a 9 x 1 1/2″ round cake pan with a little coconut oil. Pour in batter and spread until smooth on top. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for about 15 minutes before slicing.

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Study Snacks

With a little over two weeks left until the “big exam,” I’m the girl I never thought I could be. I’m buying jarred pasta sauce, pre-cooked rice from prepared foods sections, and, yes, even frozen meals. All I can say is, thank goodness for Amy’s Organics. That said, being that I still have another 1/2 week of 3-4 hour lectures to listen to a day, snacking is a must — not so much for my physical or mental endurance, but for my emotional endurance as well. If it weren’t for snacks to look forward to, I’d have lost my sanity weeks ago. Here are a few of my recent favorites. They’re easy, simple and satisfying, and protein-carb balanced as well (mom taught me well).

Apples with yogurt-almond butter dip: Combine 1 part smooth, roasted almond butter with 2 parts Wildwood unsweetened plain soyogurt. Add in a few drops (I use about 7-10 for a 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup almond butter to yogurt ratio) liquid vanilla stevia to taste. Use as a dip for apples, pears, pretzels (if you can find GF!) or anything else you can think of!

Mini Mexican Pizzas: Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with corn tortillas. Bake for 5-7 minutes, until outsides are golden brown. Spread tortillas with canned refried black beans (I used Trader Joe’s with jalapeno), prepared pico de gallo or chunky salsa and a sprinkle of daiya vegan cheddar cheese. Return to oven and bake for another few minutes, until cheese is metly and outsides are crisp.

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Walnut Beet Dip

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Spain: A Culinary Road Trip, which Gennaro bought for me a few years ago after witnessing my sheer excitement every time Spain: On The Road Again (the PBS show with Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow) was on T.V. In anticipation of a honeymoon in Barcelona, I’ve been re-exporing some of the book’s lovely recipes, many of which are simple and accessible, despite the fact that a big-time chef’s name appears on the cover.

I made this dip about a month ago and was instantly addicted. It’s the kind of dip that really makes any type of cracker or bread just a vehicle for the dip, which is rich and flavorful and, dare I say, somewhat healthy to boot (with omega-3 packed walnuts and vitamin-packed beets). I apologize for the rather imprecise measurement of the beets. I was originally not planning on sharing the recipe. But since I veered slightly from the original and enjoyed it so much, I thought I would pass this one on to all of you. I’m sure slight variations on the amount of beet used won’t change the fact that this is one great recipe. The original recipe also calls for water, in addition to much more olive oil that I used, making it more of a puree than a dip, as it is presented here. Feel free to add a bit of water or more olive oil as needed to reach desired consistency.

Walnut Beet Dip:
Adapted from Spain: A Culinary Road Trip

1 cup walnuts

1 1/2 large beets, boiled, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons good olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame tahini (I used raw)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons curly parsley, minced

sea salt

Directions:

Puree walnuts in a food processor with a sharp blade until finely ground. Add beets, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley and puree until combined. If the consistency is too thick, you may add a bit of water to thin it out. Add enough salt to taste, plus another spinkle of lemon juice or drizzle of olive oil if desired.

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Sugar-free, Vegan Chocolate Mousse

When one imagines the many ways they might spend a rare, few hours of free time — catching up on trashy reality T.V., perhaps; exploring a new neighborhood; sitting at a coffee shop while people-watching and reading the paper — I suspect spending an hour-and-a-half at the DMV in midtown Manhattan is not one of the things that first comes to mind. Nevertheless, that is precisely where I found myself this morning, looking to exchange my expired Michigan license for what has turned out to be quite the elusive New York card. First, it was the realization that New York requires — no exceptions — a valid, original social security card. I couldn’t find mine (thankfully, it’s since been recovered. Phew!) Then it was the quite demoralizing rejection when I finally reached the front of the line this morning, where I was informed that that I need a letter from Michigan confirming the date my first license was issued, since Michigan doesn’t have a date of issue on the actual license. Ugh. Fighting back tears (yes, real tears — I take my free time very seriously these days) I sighed and walked out with my head down, both frustrated and defeated.

While it was only a minor hurdle in an otherwise good day (I found out that my grandpa — Opa — was free to go home from the hospital today. Yay!) it was nevertheless enough to make me want to run to the nearest ice cream shop (in my case, the nearest vegan ice cream shop) and pig out. That’s what us girls do when we’re stressed, right? (To be fair, I suppose there are guys who do so, too, though I know Gennaro would reach for a beer rather than an ice cream in such situations. Then again — to be fair — I suppose there are girls who would go for the beer, too. But me? I’m all about the pity party ice cream).

Then I heard Jillian’s voice in my head again (see: crushed lentil soup post). I could feel her shaking her head at me as I was en route to Stogo (the aforementioned vegan ice cream shop). You finally get to see what your ab muscles look like and you’re going to throw it all away because of a botched trip to the DMV? I could hear her talking me out of it (not only am I near-crying in public places now, I’m also having internal dialogues with a trainer I’ve never met. Yep, in case you were wondering, studying for the bar really will make you crazy). But ohhhh, how wonderful a big scoop of chocolate ice cream sounded — how could such a wonderful indulgence not melt all my troubles away?

After a few more minutes of crazed internal dialogue, I made a compromise by deciding to tackle an at-home mousse — a sensible solution, don’t you think? Perhaps I’m not going crazy after all…

Chocolate? yes. A little (healthy) fat? Yes. But sugar and carbs were not invited to this party. My newfound friend, NuNaturals vanilla liquid stevia is the star of this show. And, since I’ve been craving cherries for some reason lately, I topped it off with a few fresh slices (and a few toasted almonds, just ’cause). It’s all very “Cherry Garcia” — without the wrath of your personal trainer (or not-personal celebrity trainer you’ve never met), that is.

Serves: 2-3 very comfortably; double for a crowd (or for a really bad day)

Vegan Chocolate Mousse:

1 12-oz. package Mori-nu extra firm silken tofu at room temperature*

1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified

1/4 cup good cocoa powder, unsweetened

1/2 teaspoon NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia**

Directions:

1. Over a double boiler, heat coconut oil, cocoa powder and liquid stevia until warmed through and shiny.

2. Add mixture to a blender with silken tofu and blend until smooth.

3. Pour mixture into a bowl, cover, and let set in refrigerator for at least an hour, the longer the better. Serve alone or topped with your favorite fruit, nut or other healthy treat.

* It’s important you use this brand because — as far as I know — it’s the only brand that’s packaged so that the tofu is safe to be out at room temperature. It’s equally important that you use room temperature — rather than cold — tofu because otherwise the coconnut oil will harden before it’s blended into the mousse, which is never a good thing, unless you want chocolate chip mousse.

** Use NuNaturals. My mom reported the dreaded “stevia bitterness” after using a different brand.

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Crushed Lentil Soup

Jillian Michaels has been kicking my butt. Every morning. I hear her voice as my alarm clock goes off, her signature “don’t phone this one in” line reverberating as I contemplate pressing snooze. I don’t; instead dragging myself out of bed, mentally preparing for what is sure to be another grueling workout ahead.

Of course, all this torture is self-inflicted. I’ve made up my mind to do at least a little something for myself this summer, given that the majority of my day these days are spent sitting behind a desk, studying, with a rare break to eat or walk Woodley. But I must say, I’ve become slightly addicted to Jillian’s workout DVDs. I now own all of them, after discovering — via exercise T.V. — that the full, 40 minute version of “Banish Fat, Boost your Metabolism” (they’ve since cut it down to a meager 25 minutes — not nearly as hard) was more challenging than any gym boot camp or personal training session I’ve ever done. But perhaps even more shocking was that I wasn’t bored while doing it, despite feeling like I might die. Despite having to break out my emergency-only “breathing machine” once (“emergency-only” usually meaning an asthma attack, which I may or may not have had during the workout). Despite sweating enough to wring out my shirt afterward. Despite all that, I actually find myself enjoying working out these days. In the comfort of my own home. With Jillian Michael’s no-nonsense attitude motivating me perhaps only half as much as her perfect abs staring back at me on my T.V. screen. Maybe that’s just because anything is less boring than studying for the bar exam…

So, what does any of this have to do with crushed lentil soup? Well, I realized that I don’t really want to be one of those people who kills themselves for an hour only to throw it away on a high-carb, high-fat meal afterward. Still, my appetite has been a bit more voracious these days, given my early-morning calorie expenditures. This soup was a quick and satisfying solution to my newfound problem.It’s  high in fiber. Low fat. Low carb. High protein. And not too heavy. It’s great with a salad and takes only a little more than a half hour to come together. This Middle Eastern take on red lentils is a nice change-of-pace from the traditional — and also very good — Indian Dahl.

Crushed Lentil Soup:

1 medium-sized sweet onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups split red lentils, rinsed and picked over

6 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

pinch of cayenne pepper

parlsey or cilantro, chopped, for topping

Directions:

1. In a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, saute onion with olive oil over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until transluscent.

2. Add lentils, water, cumin, coriander and salt. Stir. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occassionally.

3. Stir in lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Remove from heat. Serve immediately, sprinkled with some freshly chopped parsley or cilantro.

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