Learning about food, photography, and writing. Sharing what I find.


Monday, September 20, 2010

New City, New Ingredients

I am alive, believe it or not. Not cooking nearly enough, but alive surely.

For the past month I've been traveling and getting ready to move to the UK from the US, so my cooking has been at a minimum and my energy level even lower. I am finally here, but living in a temporary situation until our flat is ready. I'm renting a room for now from an old English lady who just entered a Plumb Tart into the baking competition at her Horticultural Society. Yes, this is someone's real life I'm speaking of. She is great and the kitchen smells often of chocolate cakes and banana breads.

I am also starting a full-time Master's Degree program next week, so my brain power has been devoted to remembering how to study. It's easy to get excited about going back to school in a city like Oxford.

I will have to be on a bit of a blog hiatus until my life settles in, though I have a couple back-log posts to get in, including:

Grace's Grandmother's Baked Sea Scallops
Italian Clifftop Food

So keep your eyes peeled.

I am joining up with another crew of foodie folk in my new city, so maybe we'll see a guest blogger or a tag-team meal in here soon! See you all soon . . .

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

California Nectarine Cobbler

The best souvenirs are edible ones.

My in-laws returned from a trip to Fresno the other day, their carry-ons stuff with nectarines.

Now, these things would have been delicious in almost any form, but I've never made a cobbler before, so they became the guinea pigs. I went with the Joy of Cooking for this one, though I was quickly cursing those little old ladies who edited the dessert section. I basically made this up as I went along, forced to fill in their blanks with what very limited knowledge I have of baking. Again, these could have been drizzled with gasoline and still tasted heavenly. So, despite the insufficient directions and the real ugliness of the preparation, the cobbler wasn't a total disaster.

The preparation is very "Joy of Cooking" in its rusticity. You can just see how the cobbler was born out of leftover biscuit dough and overripe fruit. In fact, good ol' Joy had me flipping pages three times over to get from the biscuit recipe, to the pie filling recipe, and back to the cobbler recipe to confirm (for the thousandth time) that they really didn't mention how to prepare the filling.

When you have it all in one place, it's very easy to get a basic cobbler together. Read on for assembling the California Nectarine Cobbler.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Veggie Phyllo Galette

I am going to admit that a few weeks ago I couldn't have told a galette from a tart. Even now, one just looks lazier than another to me.

Tart: Try hard to make your crust look pretty.
Galette: Don't.

Some peasant in ancient France probably laughed at the people who assigned a name to her poor attempt at dealing with the excess crust hanging over the edge of her tart pan.

Whatever the reason for the existence of a galette, eating one is pretty nice (as are most things that involve pastry crusts). I heard about a vegetable version of this usually fruit-based food (recipe found here and modified to make my galette) and I thought it would be a good summer side dish. I also wanted an excuse to buy more phyllo dough, so I decided to make it a Summer Veggie Phyllo Galette.

What you don't see above are the three cheeses all melty underneath the veggies. Mmmmmmmmm.

It wasn't terribly hard to make, honestly. Read on to learn how.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sweet Cherry and Apricot Crunch Pie

Do your cooking endeavors evolve as much as mine do from start to finish?

For example, when I set out to make a pie yesterday, I thought the bright-pink stalks that were poking out of a plastic bag in the fridge were rhubarb. I made it through two of the three major steps to prepare a Deep-dish Rhubard Crisp Pie when I realized these stalks had massive leaves attached to the hidden ends. It was Swish Chard. Not quite the same.

So, I had a lovely maple & oat crust all baked and a top-crumble chilling in the fridge, but nothing to put in between. It was then that I decided to kill two birds and make a "get-rid-of-the-aging-fruit" pie. I had wrinkly apricots and more cherries than could be eaten by two. So, while I pitted 50+ sweet cherries, I googled "summer cherry pie," found a recipe, totally modified it, and came out with this:

All in all, a beautiful disaster, if I may say. I shall call it, Sweet Cherry and Apricot Crunch Pie.

Let me consolidate my ridiculous process for you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Baguette Apizza

Do I only eat pizza, you ask? Well, in a perfect world and in my version of Heaven, yes. Only good pizza, of course (I affix the prefix "a" to pizza that makes the cut).

So, this "pizza" is really more like bruschetta or an open-face panino, but what the hey.

These were created after a visit to a ten year anniversary celebration at Roots Market in Olney, MD. However, ingredients were items I almost always have on-hand. Just add a freshly baked baguette and you have dinner (or at least a very sharable appetizer).

Assembling these things is not rocket science, but ingredients are vital. For example, I like the firm, fresh mozzarella that comes bobbing around in liquid or that can be plucked directly from the liquid at an olive bar. When combining cheeses along an Italian theme, I like gorgonzola with my mozz. Plain, pitted calamata olives add oodles of flavor to everything and marinated artichoke hearts are divine. As always, fresh herbs are the icing on the savory cake.

I don't need to do much explaining, but here's the play-by-play on putting these babies together.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"I'm Sorry It's Been So Long" Rosemary Cake

I have been neglectful. My time to blog has been monopolized by some wonderful things and some truly gaggable things, to reincorporate a term I've also neglected in recent times. The following are my excuses (somewhat good, somewhat lame):

1.) Weekend travels. When I got a full time job, my blogging got pushed to the weekends. When I started going away every weekend to visit friends, see family, and attend the odd shower and/or wedding, my blogging got pushed to . . . never.

2.) Over commitment. Though I love to write this blog, it pays me no money. So, considering I am quitting my job to move to England and spend more money to live, eat, and educate myself, I've been doing some freelance writing and editing for not-very-mucho-bucks on the side. It has consumed the remaining hours in my week and drained my brain of writing drive.

All that is to say, I hope you will have me back. I am less than two week from my job's finale and, this week, I "forgot" to talk to my Senior Writer about picking up more stories to draft. So let's talk about cake.

This, my friends, is Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Fresh Whipped Vanilla Cream (argggg I can't help but hear John McCain whenever I want to address my friends).

I did just say "rosemary" and "cake" in the same sentence. And, as you can see, there's also Dark Chocolate involved (I think Dark Chocolate should always be capitalized, now that I did that, inadvertently, above). Sometimes I think we foodies are pretty weird about combinations and it feels awfully pretentious to throw an herb into something just to "make it your own" (darn American Idol has infiltrated my vocabulary). But, my husband has said multiple times that rosemary is the BEST of all herbs, so I figured, "Melty chocolate for me . . . rosemary for him. Why not?" They look beautiful side by side.

I also LOVE that this uses only olive oil for moisture (with whole milk and eggs for texture and richness). It is a nice alternative to butter and an obvious dairy substitute when you need/want one. I plan to use it frequently now that I know I can.

The assembly is really quite simple, though it uses one weirdo thing: Spelt Flour. Probably substitutable, too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Using up the Rhubarb

Around this time, that is often the dilemma. "Well, we've made one delicious dessert with as much of this rhubarb as we could fit in a pie pan. What do we do with the other 5 stalks?" Compote, that's what.

I'll be honest, I thought compote sounded a little too much like rotting food refuse in the back corner of the yard, but it's really quite pleasantly different from comPOST. So, just before the rhubarb made its way to "too limp to consume," I stumbled across a recipe for Rustic Rhubarb Tarts.

They were like nothing I've had, but they were certainly delicious. The recipe is kind of specialized, but I'm learning that any real baker just has to have loads of flour types on hand — spelt and all (come back soon to see my next post, which will detail my adventures in spelt flour).

The recipe for the tarts above came about when I read this post, but I have modified it a bit.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Upping the Salad Ante

This is a total cop-out post for me, but an absolutely vital post nonetheless.

To me, a salad is best when:
  • Its base is made up of fresh greens—preferably a mixture of green leaf, red leaf, and baby spinach.
  • There are no less than three and no more than four toppings, usually a combination of the following:
    • A crumble-able cheese
    • A variety of nut
    • A single fresh vegetable or fruit
    • A variety of protein (other than the nut, i.e. a meat)
  • The dressing is handmade by:
    • Me
    • My grandmother
    • Anyone else who shares my love of aged balsamic and copious amounts of olive oil
  • It is sprinkled with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Most recently, I have come to know the joys of homemade roasted nuts. It's nice and cheap(er) to buy raw nuts at your local grocery store, and it's embarrassingly easy to make them into something delicious.

Here's my latest creation (so easy it's, like I said, embarrassing):

Sweet & Savory Walnuts:

All you will need is:

To assemble, stir in enough honey to coat the desired amount of nuts and sprinkle moderately with Kosher salt. Dump it all onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in a 350º oven for 4-6 minutes (until the nuts on the edge go slightly golden and you can smell the sweetness wafting from the kitchen).

Remove and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack until the nuts reach room temperature. They will be crunchy, salty, and sweet, guaranteed to pump up the salad volume. I put them on a baby spinach salad with Gorgonzola and sliced pear. Of course, the Menzies Family Vinaigrette was the icing on the cake . . . or the dressing on the salad, really. I could eat this every day . . .

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Biscuits, I Say! (This time with Feta & Green Onion)

Can there EVER be enough biscuits in this world? I really, truly don't think so. The following recipe is going to do nothing but perpetuate my addiction. The combinations are endless. I've already done two variations (in three days) and I plan to add to that list very soon.

Here is the most recent variation:

Feta and Green Onion Drop Biscuits

The preparation is dangerously easy. Though, once I run out of buttermilk, I will probably take a break from filling my stomach with these lovely things. Wanna make them?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Easy Springtime Apple-tizer

First of all, I highly recommend blogging while being circled by a Monarch Butterfly. How to Un-stress Grace, by Mother Nature.

Second, I recommend an easy, light recipe to celebrate today's weather perfection. There's a breeze in my hair, sun on my face, and good eats in my belly. The "good eats" of which I speak were a creation inspired by a friend's own creation I enjoyed at the 2010 New Year Extravaganza a few months back (They were delicious, Sarah!). I tweaked the idea little bit just to see what it would taste like. 'Twas good and simple. Good, simple, and beautiful.

How to assemble Happy Spring Apple-tizers:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Farfalle e Fettuccine

On my third try, I have finally created a successful batch of handmade pasta. Honestly, I am shocked that this series of misfortunes ended positively, but the Fettuccine you see below tasted just like Italy (especially when slathered with my father-in-law's quickest and most excellent basil & garlic pesto).

After learning the technique from the most perfect little Italian lady in Orvieto, the first ever batch I tried on my own went in the trash before it could even call itself dough.

The second batch, attempted only moments after discarding all evidence of the first disaster, at least took shape, but ended up tasting pretty floury and got kinda lumpy. Plus, we got lazy and didn't roll it out nearly enough. Thick, floury, and lumpy don't make happy ravioli.

I decided to try again, though I definitely didn't learn from some of the mistakes that ruined this batch's predecessors. The process has the semblance of ease, but it can go very wrong if you're not being conscientious, aware, and patient. There's that word again. My biggest weakness in the kitchen (and in life).

Allow me to share Signora Menichetti's technique and my advice for avoiding disasters when making Handmade Pasta:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Per Your Request: Butternut Squash Phyllo Pizza

Thank you to everyone who voted for the Second Adventure in Phyllo Dough. It was a real pleasure seeing the response and working on a recipe requested by the masses! As you can see above, your choice produced a stunning and rich result.

There's nothing like the perfect combination of flavors. Better yet, there's nothing like bacon to bring out the perfection in all other flavors. This Butternut Squash and Bacon Pizza is a delightfully authentic Italian flavor combination, with a bit of a twist (my new friend, Phyllo). At our favorite pizza place in Orvieto, Charlie's Pizza, the Ghiotta Pizza was a hit among us American visitors. Its squash, onion, pancetta, and gorgonzola topping medley was well balanced and exciting to our palates that were so inundated by tomato. I was thrilled when this recipe choice won the vote because of its connection to so many wonderful memories in the Charlie's Pizza dining room . . .

Friday, March 12, 2010

Phyllo Poll

I am taking a poll! Which of the following items would you most like to see me attempt with my remaining phyllo dough? Voting will close at MIDNIGHT on Saturday March 13, 2010 (before we "Spring Ahead"). The winning dish will be my next blog post and, I hope, another fabulous Phyllo Dough Adventure.

I have posted the voting machine to the right, but please see these links below for further information on each recipe! Let the voting begin!

Guava and Manchego Phyllo Pouches

Spinach, Feta,and Pine-Nut Phyllo Tart

Spicy Chicken Phyllo Rolls

Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Rosemary Phyllo Pizza

Isn't this fun?

Monday, March 8, 2010

An Adventure in Phyllo Dough (Lemon Mousse Napoleons)

I made that.

Seriously, if you had told me a year ago that I would have the patience—never mind the skill—to put together a dessert like the one you see above, I would have laughed right at you. It's unbelievable what a few random ingredients can inspire inside a person.

This whole thing started with a leftover pint of heavy whipping cream. I sought advice on things to make, and I heard a resounding, "Moooooooousse!"

Now, when I think of mousse, I go right to chocolate. But, having sacrificed my chocolate consumption for Lent this year, I had to get creative. I immediately thought of a nutty mousse (almond, pistachio, even peanut), so I started "epicuriousing" (akin to "googling"). I stumbled across this fine selection, which combines my newly-acquired skills in Lemon Curd-making with an altogether untouched ingredient to date: PHYLLO DOUGH.

This scary substance is just as treacherous as it looks and even more frustrating than I ever imagined, BUT it is unparalleled in its texture and flavor, especially when encasing finely chopped nuts of the highest order: Pistachios.

With only a slight singe to the forearm and no less than 8 expletives, I finally arrived at a batch of Lemon Mousse Napoleons fit for a king . . . or an emperor.

(This recipe is a modified version of the dessert of the same name found on, my favorite, Epicurious.)

  • 1/2 cup shelled natural pistachios
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground or whole coriander (it all gets pulverized, so I used whole)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 3 sheets phyllo dough (roughly 17 inches x 12 inches each)
  • 4 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1 cup lemon curd (see my previous post for this recipe)
Preheat the oven to 325º.
Finely grind 1/3 cup of the Pistachios, the Sugar, the Coriander, and the Cardamom together in a food processor.

Chop the remaining pistachios into small bits and reserve.

Unfurl your Phyllo sheets.

If you bought them in a large stack, remove three sheets onto the counter and cover their surface completely with plastic wrap and then a slightly damp kitchen towel. If your counter top needs protecting, place a large cutting board on your surface and gather your utensils and elements for the assembly of the Pistachio Crisps (brush, filling, butter, a steady hand). Uncover and place your first sheet of dough onto the safe cutting surface and re-cover the other two sheets. Brush the entire thing with the Melted Butter.


Sprinkle the entire sheet with half the ground pistachio and sugar filling.

Place the second phyllo sheet over the now-sprinkled first sheet and gently press down to pack. Brush the top of the second sheet with butter. Sprinkle remaining filling on the second phyllo sheet and cover with final phyllo sheet, pressing again to pack. Brush top with remaining butter. Cut off roughly one centimeter from all edges for a clean trim and chill for about 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, carefully and fully cut the large rectangle into roughly 20 equal squares.

Now cut each square into two triangles and lift them with a spatula onto a non-stick baking sheet or a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cover the entire set of triangles with another piece of parchment if you have it and weigh down the pieces by placing a second baking sheet on top (sandwiching them between the two sheets and parchment). VERY IMPORTANT: Bake them in the lower third of the oven for 10-13 minutes until they reach a light golden hue. I beg you, keep your eye on these. They will be ready suddenly and will overcook quickly. You want a buttery aroma, but don't let it go past buttery to scorched, as I did on my first batch. Thank you. :)
Remove the finished crisps from the baking sheet (you will have to lift the top baking sheet carefully and most likely reassemble a couple crisps). Allow to cool on a rack for a few minutes.

In the mean time, whip the Heavy Cream into soft peaks and then gently fold in the Lemon Curd until entirely incorporated.

To assemble the dish:
  • Place one crisp on the plate.
  • Top with one heaping tablespoon of mousse.
  • Place another crisp on the top of the mousse, in a contrasting position to the first crisp.
  • Place a second heaping tablespoon of mousse atop the second crisp.
  • Place a final crisp in a pleasing position and angle on the very top.
  • Sprinkle the entire dish with the chopped pistachios and a dusting of sugar (granulated or powdered).
  • Make sure to get bits of the pistachio to stick to the bright white mousse, it'll look divine!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shepherd's Pie Warms My Heart

There are few American comfort foods that I actually crave. I'm not much of a Tuna-Noodle Casserole girl and my mom never made American Chop Suey. Rather, I lean toward other cultures' comfort foods: (Real Italian) Spaghetti, Meatballs, and Sausage; piping hot Miso Soup; and good old Irish Shepherd's Pie.

I especially like to think about how a dish like Shepherd's Pie came into being. It is so obviously a dish of necessity rather than snobbery. So, if you prepare it with this in mind, the flavors will be rich and your mind will flash with images of rolling Irish pastures (Okay, maybe not really, but you'll have a full, warm belly at least—something invaluable in the perpetual rain and gloom on those rolling hills).

When a friend requested a good Shepherd's Pie recipe, it was a chance for me to simulate some of the many delicious versions I've had on both sides of the Atlantic. We start with the basics:

A cheaply and easily acquired fresh herb—Parsley.

Then we fill in the nutritional and flavor blanks with the most basic of roots and veggies (Celery, Carrots, Onion, Garlic, and Potatoes).

These are things in virtually every refrigerator and sitting in crockery on every counter around the world. Here's how to put it together into Shepherd's Pie, a great Irish tradition.

Full Ingredient List:

1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine (not cooking wine, instead use that last little bit from dinner the night before. I used Pinot Noir)
2 lbs. lean ground lamb (I am so glad I found lamb to use. Yum, yum, yum. You can always use ground beef, but it just isn't the same)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 packet of brown gravy mix (this is really for thickening purposes, so you can just used flour or corn starch instead. Be sure to compensate for flavor-loss with a little extra salt, stock, or Worcestershire sauce)
1/3 cup beef stock
4 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

5-6 red potatoes, quartered
1 Tbs. kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. butter

Preheat the oven to 400º.
Start with the dicing. Keep the pieces small and uniform. These guys are the supporting cast, not the lead.

Warm the Butter and Olive Oil over medium heat.
Add in the Carrots, Celery, Onion, and Garlic.

Sautee until soft and slightly browned (season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste).

Mix in Tomato Paste and Wine evenly, stirring until alcohol smell dissipates and mixture thickens slightly.
Add Lamb to pan and cook until no longer pink (During this process, start water and Kosher Salt boiling for Potatoes.  Add them into the water when it starts to boil).
Once the lamb is browned, stir in Worcestershire Sauce, Gravy Mix, and Beef Stock.
Simmer the lamb filling on low heat while you drain the cooked potatoes.
Allow potatoes to steam in the colander for a few minutes, until the edges whiten slightly (thanks to my Daddy for this great mashed-potato trick!). Back in the pot, mash the potatoes with the Heavy Cream and Butter.

Once you have mashed them roughly, use a standing blender or an immersion blender to whip them to a very smooth consistency (this makes piping easier and gives a nice contrast to the heavier filling).
Drain off all fat from lamb filling (if any).
Stir in chopped Parsley, reserving a pinch for garnishing the finished product.
Transfer filling to baking dish.

Place potato topping in a pastry bag with a "star" frosting tip at the point. Pipe the potatoes to cover and seal the entire dish.

Place entire dish, uncovered, into oven and bake for 25 minutes or until bubbling around all edges. Place under broiler to brown the potatoes for about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining chopped parsley.

Serve piping hot with sweet baby peas as accompaniment (I was going to put the peas in the pie, but then I forgot them on the counter. Putting them on the side is quite nice, though. They add a little sweet, clean flavor to the richness of the pie and they won't be over-cooked this way, either!).

So yummy. I hope you enjoy it, Kathy (and everyone else)!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Meat and Beer - International Favorites

With the combination of a new job, a long-weekend road trip, and an all-in-the-family stomach bug, I haven't been cooking much lately. I think that means it's time for another International Favorite.

You know by now that, last year, Penn and I lived in Italy for about four months. Penn studied art and writing . . . and I ate. Okay, I did a little drinking of cappucino and Prosecco, too. And, fine, I did join the Travel Writing course towards the end of the trip when I was so full of pasta and the joys of Italian living that I just had to learn how to write it down—and well. But, sorry to disappoint, this entry won't be about Italy. I don't have enough strength back after a bout with that nasty virus to even venture to describe all that is heavenly about Italian eating. That'll be another day's work.

Today, we'll go to Prague.

We planned our post-Italy trips perfectly, if I may say so myself. We weren't ready to come back the The States, but we desperately craved food that didn't end in a vowel and that we didn't have to twirl around a fork. The culture shifts and culinary contrasts during our three weeks of Italy detox kept us invigorated and excited. Prague was so different from our little cliff-top hometown in Orvieto, Italy. Right when we needed a change, Prague was there to provide it.

The most important variation was dietary. Knowing that I was SO done with risotto, God put a Mexican restaurant across the street from our hostel in Prague, a city that is located 6,000 miles from the origins of the chimichanga as I know it and the Latino country that makes my favorite type of cuisine. Praise Him for transporting a burrito to the Czech Republic (and for the English-speaking host who had heard of Magners on ice and made a mean spicy pork taco. Seriously, the pork filling for his various dishes was some of the best I've had. I don't know how authentically Mexican it was, but it was just what we needed).

Prague has its own food, too, don't get me wrong. We were just thrilled by the plethora of cultural influences there—they are powerful examples of the excitement the Czechs felt when, in the late 80s, they were finally allowed to open their doors to their global brothers and sisters. We felt accepted in Prague, even though we were obviously tourists—American tourists at that. Having only been able to mix with others for a couple of decades, they haven't been jaded by centuries as a tourist hot-spot. With all the hype surrounding Prague in the traveling industry, I don't think I would have appreciate it nearly as much if we hadn't gone to the dinky, silly Museum of Communism on the cusp of Wenceslas Square in the Old City. I was so moved by the fact that, while I lived a fat and happy toddler-hood in Connecticut, the young people in Prague were leading a Velvet Revolution to be able to dress, travel, and live as they pleased in their own country. What a captivating city to explore. Plus, beer flows like water in Prague, plentifully and cheaply.

We, as artsy folk, reveled in the spectacular architecture, new and really old, in Prague. It is a wandering traveler's dream. I could have walked around the streets all day long (actually, we did). In our wanderings, we tried all sorts of spaetzle and dumplings, pork knee, goulash, and their famous cinnamon and sugar trdelnik pastries.

Because we needed this flavor change so desperately, we really enjoyed it all. We're not talking gourmet stuff here, but it feels like eating something a little old lady drummed up just for you. You do have to try to seek out the restaurants with the old-world feel and ask for recommendations from the locals (or the crazy American kids who lead the free tours around the city, one of the best things we decided to do).

If I had to pick my favorite culinary specialty we came across in Prague, I would go with the slightly sloppy-looking but ever-tasty assortment of meats and sauces that we washed down blissfully with more than our fair share of Pilsner Urquell after a sweaty and exhausting walk up to the Prague Castle.

This little pub was dark and narrow and went deep into the side of an old set of buildings. We found it on our way back down the steep street that had guided us to the ancient castle. After scarfing most of the contents of this platter, I came home determined to put marinated onions on everything. They are amazing. They lose all that can be offensive about onions and gain all that is wonderful about vinegar and spices. I think I even ate the pickles in the middle, though I am usually a devoted sour dill girl (sometimes a sour, dull girl, too. Just ask Penn).

Are we noticing a theme here? Just when our bodies and bellies are at their breaking points, whether from long walks up hills to important historical landmarks or long stints jammed in a flavor rut, the part of God that cares about my victual vitality directs my path to a special treat. Or maybe food just tastes better when you're desperate.

P.S. If you ever go to Prague, stay here, Miss Sophie's Hotel:

It was the cheapest, cleanest, most WiFi-filled hostel we came across during all our travels! Make sure you stay in the main building, pictured above. The prices may have gone up since we stayed there, but it was a GREAT find for us. And just look at that building!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Meyer Lemon Curd Bars

The first thing we wanted to do when we got married was get a dog. When real life got underway (jobs, budgets, a move across an ocean), we realized that committing to a puppy wasn't realistic. So, we settled for the next best thing. No, not a cat (I love all domesticated animals equally). Obviously, I'm talking about a lemon tree. DUH.

Penn is great with the two-and-a-half foot tall tree. He initiated the research to figure out how to help it survive outside the tropics. He keeps it watered and well-lit. I love watching each year as the buds emerge.

The first year, we felt pretty successful when the flowers bloomed instead of dying.

From there, the lemons came out the size of Tic-Tacs and grew to full size over the course of a few months. Our first season taking care of the tree yielded six full, juicy, gorgeous Meyer Lemons.

The flavor is distinct and bright. The juice in each lemon is astounding! Each year, we have wedges for many months' worth of cocktails and recipes. The best part is, as long as it's still hanging on the tree, it won't spoil.

That brings me to my most recent adventure with my babies, our Meyer Lemons. We have two left on the tree this season and my mother-in-law recommended featuring them on the blog! I looked around for recipes and such, but finally settled on a combination of two items suggested/provided by my co-foodie sister-in-law, Laura. I believe I have created a staple dessert for my household.

So, here's how I concocted Grace's Meyer Lemon Curd Bars (the following is a combination and modification of the Key Lime Bars from Betty Crocker's Diabetes Cookbook and this fantastic Lemon Curd recipe on Epicurious):


  • 15-20 Goya Maria cookies (discovered by UncleCharlieDad at the local 7-Eleven. They come in a sleeve and are a basic, hard butter cookie)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Grease sides and bottom of a square pan (The smaller the pan, the thicker the crust. It's really your preference).
Using a heavy-duty pestle and a strong, medium-sized bowl, break the Cookies up into fine crumbs. Reserve a spoonful of crumbs to sprinkle over the final product.

 Melt the Butter and stir it into the crumbs, along with the Sugar.

Press the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan.

Bake the crust in the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes (I determined it was ready when it got really fragrant and slightly golden).
Remove the crust from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before chilling completely in the fridge while you prepare the other elements.

Meyer Lemon Curd Filling:
  • The juice from 1 full-size Meyer Lemon (roughly 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tsp. finely grated, fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 Tbs. butter, cut into bits
Zest the Lemon into a small bowl first (it's easier when it's still full of juice).

 Juice the lemon into a small bowl.

Whisk together the juice, zest, Sugar, and Eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.

Stir in the chunks of Butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of the whisk and the first bubble appears on the surface, about 6 minutes (This happens suddenly, so be aware! Don't let it turn into scrambled eggs!).
Transfer the lemon curd to a bowl, covering its surface with plastic wrap.

Chill in the fridge until cold, at least one hour.

Creamy Topping:
  •  1 1/2 cup crème fraiche (I sorta made up a recipe for this, but I recommend finding some at your grocery store so that you can count on it working texturally)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
Whisk the Creme Fraiche and Powdered Sugar together thoroughly.

Remove the crust and curd from the fridge.
Spread the curd evenly atop the crust to form a second layer.

Do the same with the creamy topping and sprinkle surface with reserved cookie crumbs.

Cut into squares and serve!

Though I'm usually a chocolate person, I loved this lemon dessert. The cookies are a good balance for the sour lemon and creamy cream. Just look at my babies now!

I think I'm going to go have a piece of toast with a little of the extra Meyer Lemon Curd I reserved.