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August 30, 2017

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

My first batch of homemade crackers was made years ago teaching pre-kindergarten in New York City, and we made cheese straws in the classroom kitchen to be served at parents’ night.  Though I knew making crackers was easy enough for pre-schoolers to do, it seemed to me there were plenty of good crackers to purchase, so it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.  These crackers are so easy to pull together in five minutes flat while your oven preheats, and they are totally worth the clean up — especially if you whip up a few batches.  

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

1 cup blanched almond flour

2 tablespoons raisins

2 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 ½ teaspoons olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

 

Special Snack for a Party or Any Day!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Blitz all the ingredients in the food processor.  Process for about 10 seconds, or until thoroughly combined.  The dough will form a ball in the food processor bowl.  Roll out the dough to  ¼-inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper.  Transfer the bottom sheet with dough to a sheet pan.  Using a large chef’s knife, cut the dough to make 1-inch wide rectangles or the shape of your choice.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden.  Let cool on a rack 15 minutes, and then break crackers apart.  

August 28, 2017

Jicama, Orange, and Fennel Salad

Nutrient dense and delicious!

Jicama, Orange & Fennel Salad

I don’t often think of serving oranges in summer, but this salad is so refreshing and the familiarity of the oranges encourages people to try it even if they aren’t familiar with jicama or raw fennel.  Because the jicama is a great source of prebiotic fiber and the arugula is a cruciferous vegetable, this dish is an especially healthy choice to add to summer cookouts or fall tailgate buffets.  

To make enough for a small platter of about six servings, you will need 4 navel oranges, 1 small jicama about the size of a small orange, 1 small fennel bulb, and 1 five-ounce box of mixed baby arugula and spinach.  

Prepare the oranges by slicing the segments away from each membrane, and set them aside.  Peel the jicama and fennel and slice them into thin strips.  

Whisk together for a dressing: 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 garlic clove, minced, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons maple syrup; then whisk in 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. You can also boost the flavor by adding 1 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds to the dressing.  

Refrigerate the ingredients and dressing until shortly before you plan to serve.  Assemble the salad by putting down a layer of arugula and spinach and layering jicama slices over the greens.  Drizzle with dressing and then top with fennel.  Arrange the orange sections on top and perhaps add more dressing.  

Playing around:

Spicy: You could spice things up using radishes instead of jicama or add them to these ingredients.

Sweet: You could add blueberries or watermelon, or use either of these in place of the oranges.

Green: You could add cilantro or parsley to the bed of greens.

Serve at brunch after eggs, or with burgers and hot dogs at a cookout, or as an accompaniment to shrimp or fish tacos.  For a light lunch you could add pumpkin seeds and avocado and serve the salad on its own.

March 10, 2017

Think Outside the Box…

Think Outside the Box … of Crackers

Sweet Potato Toast 

Here’s a great healthy food swap that’s oh so versatile.  Use a round of toasted sweet potato in place of a cracker or bread for an hors d’oeuvres or even breakfast.  It’s Whole 30 compliant, and it’s a neutral start you can adapt for lots of different palates.  Make it savory or sweet… the possibilities are pretty much endless! 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees or use a toaster on the highest setting if you are preparing one or two large slices.  Scrub the sweet potatoes and leave their skin on.  Any variety of sweet potato will work.  Slice them evenly to ¼” thickness.  I slice them crosswise if I’m preparing an hors d’oeuvres, as pictured here, and lengthwise if I’m using them for a larger gluten-free toast.  Lay them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or place them directly on the racks of your toaster.  Bake them for up to 20 minutes, flipping over about halfway through cooking, until the slices are beginning to brown.  

For a light savory hors d’oeuvres with a distinctive taste, I paired Japanese sweet potato toasts with a bit of arugula and some Goat Lady Dairy Smoky Mountain chevre.  

Try it any other way you can think of or check out the nearly 7,000 posts at #sweetpotatotoast.

PLAYING AROUND: 

Toasted Sweet Potato topped with sweet or savory flavors

  • Almond butter, banana slices, chia seeds, and a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Kite Hill non-dairy cream cheese and fresh blueberries
  • Good ole’ PB&J
  • Avocado and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomato, and chives
  • Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese and arugula or rosemary
  • Bacon, egg, and avocado
  • Beet Hummus and chives
November 30, 2016

Green and Gold Immunity Boosting Stew

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I’d rather not fill a prescription at the pharmacy, and it’s not just because of the crowds in line.  The first seasonal colds and viruses circulating through my community, and more recently in my own body, remind me of the value of a good homemade “medicine.”  It’s a boost to our immune systems when we eat whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, especially foods that deliver a great Rx of anti-inflammatory properties.  I’ll take a bowl of soup or stew over a dose of NyQuil anyday!
You probably already have your favorite recipes for bone broths or chicken soup to nurse a cold or ward one off, so this recipe is a plant-based alternative that counts on shiitake mushrooms, butternut squash, lima beans, and kale to deliver a healing elixir.

Green and Gold Stew
makes 2.5 quarts, or 6 hearty servings
stems from wild mushrooms to make mushroom stock
extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 lb. shiitake mushrooms or other wild mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
5 cups butternut squash, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans
1 bay leaf
​8 cups homemade mushroom stock
6 cups thinly sliced Lacinato kale (leaves from a small bunch)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Clean the mushrooms one by one with a damp paper towel and cut off their stems.  Place the mushroom stems in a medium saucepan with 8 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer while you prepare the rest of the stew.  Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Cook the onion until soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Transfer the onion and garlic to a large bowl and set aside while you cook the mushrooms.  Add a slick of oil to the hot pot and toss in about half of the mushrooms, cooking and stirring occasionally until they begin to brown.  Add the browned mushrooms to the onion mixture and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.  When all of the mushrooms have been browned, return the onion and mushrooms to the pot and add the squash, lima beans, and bay leaf.  Remove the mushroom stock from the heat and strain it through a sieve into the bowl that held the onions and mushrooms. Discard the stems. Pour the stock over the stew vegetables and bring everything to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  Season with a few big grinds of black pepper.  Cook 40-50 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and add the ribbons of kale, stirring to combine.  Cook 5 minutes longer until the kale is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

January 29, 2016

Lentil Cashew Stuffed Peppers

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Lentil-Cashew-Stuffed Peppers
serves 4

1 tablespoon curry powder
1 cup raw cashew milk (recipe below)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup curly kale leaves, roughly chopped
¾ cup diced tomatoes
1/3 cup unsulphured raisins
½ cup cashews, roughly chopped
2 cups cooked French lentils or brown lentils
sea salt, to taste
4 red, yellow, and/or orange peppers, cut in half lengthwise, cored, and seeded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk the curry powder into the cashew milk.  Set aside.  In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent.  Add the kale, tomato, and raisins, and sauteé for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the kale leaves begin to wilt.  Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped cashews and curry cashew milk  to the skillet.  Stir until the kale and raisins are evenly coated and allow to cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, combine with the cooked lentils, and season with salt to taste.  Stuff the pepper halves with the lentil-cashew mixture, arrange in an oiled baking dish, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the lentil mixture is heated through.

Homemade Raw Nut Milk: Almond Milk, Walnut Milk, or Cashew Milk
(makes 4 servings)
1 cup raw almonds, walnuts, or cashews, soaked overnight in refrigerator
3-4 cups water
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
3 Medjool dates (optional)

Combine the nuts with just enough water to cover.  Soak overnight in the refrigerator.  Drain the soaking water and discard.
Combine the nuts, water, vanilla, and dates (if using) in a blender.  Using 3 cups of water makes a creamy milk, and 4 cups of water makes a thin milk.  Blend on high speed until smooth.

Strain the nut milk through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps or nut skins. Refrigerate in an airtight jar for up to 3 days.  Tastes best after being chilled for several hours.  If separated, shake vigorously or give a quick pulse in the blender.

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December 8, 2015

Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Bites

Healthy Holiday Tip #3: Serve your favorite sweets in smaller portions. When there’s a big spread, a one-inch square of fudge or brownie is more than enough.  Remember most people would rather sample a bit of everything than commit to larger portions.  Serving bite-sized sweets and hors d’oeuvres sends a subtle signal about reasonable portions.  

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Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies
from Food&Wine December 2015
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 candy canes, crushed (1/3 cup)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper; allow 2 inches of 
overhang on the long sides.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, combine two-thirds of the chopped chocolate with the 2 sticks of butter. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until melted. Scrape the chocolate into another bowl and let cool slightly. Add the remaining chopped chocolate and the peppermint extract to the heatproof bowl and melt over the simmering water; remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk 
the eggs with the brown sugar 
until combined. Whisk in the chocolate-butter mixture until glossy and thick. Sprinkle the flour and salt into the bowl and stir until just incorporated. Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan. 
Dollop the peppermint chocolate onto the brownie batter and swirl in with a table knife.
  4. Bake the brownies in the 
center of the oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, 
until the edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the brownies cool in the pan for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

This recipe appeared in Food & Wine December 2015.  It comes from Clarie Ptak, the California native who opened London’s hugely popular Violet Bakery.  If you’re looking for a new baking cookbook, the American edition of The Violet Bakery Cookbook could just be it.
December 8, 2015

Healthy at the Holiday Table

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Keeping healthy habits can be a challenge at the holiday table.  In all the enthusiasm for making special memories and serving dishes we remember fondly, it’s all too easy to end up with a buffet of foods that offer mainly empty calories in unhealthy fats and sugars. Good enough while you’re caught up in the moment, but oh so regrettable when your body rebels the next day.  Moderation makes all the difference.  I don’t shy away from making special sweets and rich dinners at this time of year, but I’m sure to serve them alongside beautiful salads, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.  Keeping a base of solid nutrition is especially important at this time of year when festivities, busy schedules, and travel have us indulging day after day.

So today I’m sharing some easy tips and recipes to brighten your holiday table with good food that’s good for you, too.

Healthy Holiday Tip #1: Always serve a salad.  Make it colorful and interesting with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  Start your meal with a hearty salad and you’re less likely to overdo it at the cheese platter or dessert cart.  If there won’t be a salad where you’re going, grab some raw vegetables or a green smoothie before you go.

Healthy Holiday Tip #2: Lighten up old favorites with whole grains, natural sweeteners, or more healthy fats.  The cheese balls pictured here swapped out cheddar and cream cheese for two lighter alternatives.  It’s easy to makeover baked goods, rice, dips, and dressings.  Try whole grain rice instead of white rice, white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Healthy Holiday Tip #3: Serve your favorite sweets in smaller portions. When there’s a big spread, a one-inch square of fudge or brownie is more than enough.  Remember most people would rather sample a bit of everything than commit to larger portions.  Serving bite-sized sweets and hors d’oeuvres sends a subtle signal about reasonable portions.  

Christmas Beets for an Hors d’ouevres or for a Salad
I served these at a recent party alongside assorted cheese, brownies, spiced nuts, olives, and biscuits.  The beets recipe was the most requested.  So they’re that good.  Because beets are high in antioxidants, folate, manganese, and potassium, they make a great immunity booster to counter the sugar at the holiday table.

This recipe makes a lot – about 6 cups – but they’ll keep well for a week in the fridge, and they make a beautiful gift – just fill small Mason jars with your beautiful red beets and tie a ribbon around the jar.  Pass along with a button of goat cheese for a delicious winter salad.  ​

​Spiced Pickled Beets
adapted from Food&Wine December 2015.
Makes about 6 cups

3 pounds medium beets
coarse sea salt
1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups sugar
3 bay leaves
one 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
¾ teaspoons whole cloves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Scrub the beets and put them in a large baking dish with 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt.  (I used a combination of golden and red beets, but they were all red after being pickled overnight.)  Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife slides easily through the center of the larger beets.  Uncover and set aside to cool.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into ¾-inch wedges.  Transfer to a large Pyrex bowl or deep dish.

In a large saucepan, combine 1½ cups water with the sugar and vinegar.  Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, cloves and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.  Pour the liquid over the beets and let cool before covering.  Refrigerate over night or for at least 8 hours.  Drain before serving or some time within a day.  The drained beets will keep well in the refrigerator for up to one week.

These were a beautiful addition to a salad.  I served the beets over baby arugula and spinach with toasted walnuts and tiny rounds of seasoned goat cheese.

December 8, 2015

Hint of Lemon Mini Cheese Balls

Healthy Holiday Tip #2: Lighten up old favorites with whole grains, natural sweeteners, or more healthy fats.  It’s easy to makeover baked goods, rice, dips, and dressings.  Try whole grain rice instead of white rice, white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  The cheese balls pictured here swapped out cheddar and cream cheese for two lighter alternatives.
I think “Hint of Lemon Mini Cheese Balls” is a terrible name, but the people who loved these most all remarked on the trace of lemon, and they really are just little bites of cheese.  I welcome comments offering a better name!
These make a great swap for a traditional cream cheese and cheddar cheese ball, and they deliver great taste for about half the fat of a traditional cheese ball.  Goat cheese, like almond cream cheese, is a healthier choice than the traditional counterpart.

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Mini Cheese Balls
makes about 40 bite-sized servings

8 ounces Goat Lady chèevre or other mild goat cheese
8 ounces Kite Hill plain almond milk cream cheese
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Beat the cheeses, honey, and lemon zest together on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth.  Freeze for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, blitz the almonds and thyme in a food processor or blender until finely ground.  Place the herbed nut mixture in a shallow dish.
Divide the cheese mixture into small portions, about 2 teaspoons each, and roll each into a small sphere.  Freeze 10 minutes.  Roll each cheese ball in the nut mixture.  Serve right away or cover and refrigerate for up to five days.  Note that the coating will lose its crunch over time.

These make a great hors d’oeuvres on their own or with rounds of toasted baguette, and they are a wonderful addition to so many salads.  Try them on a salad with roasted beets or with figs and caramelized onions.

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November 21, 2014

Shaved Fennel with Apple, Manchego, Walnuts and Honey

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I always crave contrast in the textures of foods at the table.  Shaved fennel, sweet-tart Honeycrisp apples, aged Manchego cheese, toasted walnuts and a touch of honey with a simple vinaigrette make this salad a bright, fresh counterpoint to so many creamy, sweet, and heavily dressed fall dishes.  I served this salad for a presentation this week on healthy menus for the holidays, and the enthusiasm for it reminded why I love to offer something a little unexpected starting with a favorite taste of the season – Honeycrisp apples, in this case.   These flavors complement the traditional Thanksgiving menu so well, and the preparation is really simple.  If you’re new to cooking with fennel, note that raw fennel does not have the licorice flavor it takes on when cooked.  It tastes so different when raw that quite a few people the other day remarked they did not know they could like fennel.

makes 4 to 6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt
2 ounces Manchego cheese
1/2 fennel bulb
1 Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apple
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon honey
4 small fennel fronds for garnish

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and sherry vinegar. Season with one-eighth teaspoon salt, or to taste. Reserve.
2. Cut the Manchego into batons about 2 inches long by one-fourth-inch thick. Slice the fennel lengthwise very thinly, preferably with a mandolin. Place the Manchego and fennel in a large bowl.
3. Core and halve the apple. Cut one-half of the apple into a one-fourth-inch dice. Thinly slice the second half lengthwise, preferably with a mandolin. Add the diced and sliced apple to the bowl, along with the walnuts.
4. Gently toss the salad, adding just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the ingredients. Divide the salad among four plates. Drizzle each plate with honey.  Evenly sprinkle the chives over each serving, and garnish each plate with one fennel frond. Serve immediately.

October 28, 2014

A Taste OF Spain – – cooking at the Edible Schoolyard

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PictureSeafood Paella with scallops, shrimp, clams, and mussels. Buen provecho!

Love Greensboro. Our city is home to the first and only North Carolina site for The Edible Schoolyard.  Housed at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, it offers hands-on learning opportunities for children of all ages, and I have been so fortunate to participate in their cooking classes for adults and youth.  Generous corporate sponsors such as Whole Foods Market and The Fresh Market provide the food ingredients for children’s cooking classes and adults’ cooking classes, and community volunteers like me are so happy to help expand the reach of The Edible Schoolyard and Greensboro Children’s Museum.  When you buy a ticket for a cooking class there, all of the proceeds support GCM’s programs for school children.
Tonight we had a group of thirteen try their hands at a menu from across Spain.  We fixed seafood paella, Piquillo peppers, apple and fennel salad, and the classic Spanish dessert – flan.  

Here are the recipes from tonight’s dinner!

Seared Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Roncal Cheese – via Jose Andres, Made in Spain
serves 4

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 scallion, white part only, thinly sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 piquillo peppers
4 ounces Roncal cheese*, cut into 2-inch sticks
fresh thyme sprigs
fresh parsley sprigs

*note – Roncal cheese is not widely available, so feel free to substitute another Spanish cheese – I often use aged Manchego.

Whisk 4 tablespoons of the olive oil together with the vinegar, shallot, and scallion in a mixing bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Cut a small slit into each piquillo pepper and slide a stick of cheese into each.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of  olive oil in a medium sautée pan over high heat. Add the peppers and brown on both sides until the cheese begins to melt, about 30 seconds.  Transfer the peppers to a serving platter, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with leaves from the thyme and parsley sprigs.  Serve immediately.

Apple and Fennel Salad
serves 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt
2 ounces Manchego cheese
1/2 fennel bulb
1 Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apple
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon honey
4 small fennel fronds for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and sherry vinegar. Season with one-eighth teaspoon salt, or to taste. Reserve.
Cut the Manchego into batons about 2 inches long by one-fourth-inch thick. Slice the fennel lengthwise very thinly, preferably with a mandolin. Place the Manchego and fennel in a large bowl.
Core and halve the apple. Cut one-half of the apple into a one-fourth-inch dice. Thinly slice the second half lengthwise, preferably with a mandolin. Add the diced and sliced apple to the bowl, along with the walnuts.
Gently toss the salad, adding just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the ingredients. Divide the salad among four plates. Drizzle each plate with honey.  Evenly sprinkle the chives over each serving, and garnish each plate with one fennel frond. Serve immediately.

Seafood Paella on the Grill
serves 10

olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups seafood stock (recipe follows)
1 large pinch saffron
2 pounds clams, scrubbed
2 pounds mussels, debearded and scrubbed
20 jumbo shrimp, tails on, peeled and deveined
2 two-pound lobsters, par-cooked in salted boiling water for about 12 minutes, drained well and halved lengthwise
20 sea scallops
4 lemons, halved
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups short grain paella rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 jar piquillo peppers, chopped or thinly sliced (about 8 peppers)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Combine the seafood stock and saffron in a medium pot and bring to a simmer on the grill.  Add the clams, cover and cook until the clams open, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove the clams to a bowl.  Add the mussels to the broth, cover and cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.  Reserve the stock for cooking the rice.  Discard any shellfish that do not open.
Using a sharp knife, cut the lobster lengthwise.  Separate the claws from the knuckles and slice the tail into 4 pieces.  Crack the claws with the knife so they will be easy to pull apart.  Cut the knuckles into two pieces.
Brush the shrimp, the cut sides of the lobsters, the scallops, and the lemons with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.   Set each aside as it is grilled: Grill the shrimp for about 1 minute per side.  Grill the lobster, cut-side down, about 5 minutes.  Grill the scallops until almost cooked through, about 1 minute per side.  Grill the lemon, cut-side down, until charred, less than 1 minute.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large paella pan over the hottest part of the grill.  Add the onions and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes.  Add the stock to the rice and stir together well.  Cover the grill and cook the rice for about 20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.  Arrange the shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, peas and peppers over the rice.  Squeeze the juice from 4 of the grilled lemon halves over the top.  Tuck the remaining four halves into the rice.
Remove the paella from the grill and cover with foil or a clean kitchen towel. Let the paella rest for 5 minutes before serving.   Sprinkle the parsley over the top.

To make your own seafood stock:
16 ounce can plum tomatoes
1 head of garlic, halved
8 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 two-pound lobsters
shells from two pounds of peeled shrimp
Combine the tomato, garlic, parsley, and bay leaves in a large stockpot.  Add the shrimp shells and the bodies from the two lobsters, each split in half.  Cover with three quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the stock for 1 hour.  Remove the stock from the heat.
(Alternately, you may use this broth to par-cook your whole lobsters, and after you remove the whole lobsters you can separate the bodies and return them to the stock pot, refrigerating the par-cooked claws and tails until you are ready to use them.)
Remove the stock from the heat after it has simmered for 1 hour.  Transfer the lobster bodies and 4 cups of the stock to a blender and crush the shellfish.  Then stir the crushed shellfish mixture back into the pot until well combined.  Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer.  Press down on the solids with the back of a spoon to release all the liquids.  Discard the solids and set the stock aside.

Caramel-Topped Flan from Dorie Greenspan
makes an 8-inch round custard

For the caramel:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
squirt of fresh lemon juice

For the flan:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Line a roasting pan or 9″x13″ baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off heat.

Put a metal 8″x2″ round cake pan– not a nonstick one– in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel, or use a glass or ceramic pie dish, 8′ at its base.

To Make the Caramel:
Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.
Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

To Make the Flan:
Bring the milk and heavy cream just to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.
Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don’t worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan–the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.

Storing: Covered with plastic wrap in its baking pan, the flan will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. However, once unmolded, its best to enjoy it the same day.

Serving: Bring the flan to the table and cut into wedges. Spoon some of the syrup onto each plate.