Archive for May, 2009

Meyer Lemon Tart with Berries

meyer lemon tart with berries

One of my favorite spring and summer desserts is a lemon tart with berries and whipped cream. This is one of those pastries where everything melds into the perfect balance of flavors and textures — the lemon’s tartness nicely contrasts the sweetness of the berries and the luscious cream ties it all together. If you have Meyer lemons, so much the better as they are sweeter and have a more complex citrus flavor then the standard variety.

Lemon tart with berries is also the ideal dessert for anyone wishing to make a dish from local and seasonal ingredients. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are popping up in markets and backyards throughout the area. Meyer lemons are also in abundance right now. You can find them at most farmers’ markets, and maybe even closer by in a neighbor’s yard (or your own) as they grow beautifully in the Bay Area. If you don’t have your own tree, but have seen one at someone else’s house, I bet they’d share if you asked nicely and promised to bring over a nice slice of tart.

meyer lemon tart

I’ve tried numerous lemon custard recipes, but my favorite is the Tarte au Citron recipe in the Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller. And, as luck would have it, this recipe is freely available at Epicurious.com, so you don’t have to buy the book to get it (although if you’re in the market for a gorgeous book full of amazing recipes, I recommend it). I love Mr. Keller’s lemon sabayon because the consistency lies beautifully in the tart crust, it isn’t too eggy and the lemon flavor really shines through. Also, don’t let the fact that you need to cook the custard in a bowl over a pot of simmering water dissuade you. This is not hard to make.

The Bouchon recipe calls for a pine nut crust, which I have made in the past and liked. That said, I prefer to make a regular butter crust for my tart as I think the lemon and berry flavors are interesting enough on their own and don’t necessarily need a nutty component.

This is a great dessert to prepare ahead of time and then serve chilled. Topped with some berries that have macerated in a bit of sugar and lemon juice, along with a dollop of freshly-made whipped cream, you have the perfect seasonal dessert.

sabayon

Frameline33

Lemon Sabayon

from Bouchon by Thomas Keller

Makes: Enough for one tart

Ingredients:

2 large eggs, cold

2 large egg yolks, cold

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

For preparation instructions, go to Lemon Tart recipe at Epicurious.com

Sweet Berries with Lemon and Sugar

Makes: Enough berries to garnish each tart slice

Ingredients:

2 cups berries, washed and stemmed

¼ cup sugar

1 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably Meyer lemon)

Preparation:

1. Wash and hull berries. If using strawberries, cut into slices.

2. Place berries in a bowl and mix in sugar and lemon. Stir and set aside for at least ten minutes.

3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

tart crust

Flaky Pie or Tart Dough

Adapted from a recipe by Kim Laidlaw

Makes: Enough for one 10-inch tart

Ingredients:

1 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup ice water + 1 tablespoon

Preparation:

1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, and salt. Sprinkle the butter over the top and process for a few seconds, or just until the butter is slightly broken up into the flour but still in visible pieces. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture evenly, then process until the mixture just starts to come together.

2. Dump the mixture out of the bowl onto 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Press the dough together into a mound and then wrap with plastic and press into a flat disk. Refrigerate the dough until chilled, about 30 minutes or up to 1 day, or freeze for up to 1 month.

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Fresh Spring Pea Soup

english peas

I think that I shall never see
A vegetable as perfect as a pea

It’s not often that I resort to poetry. Well, I guess my feeble attempts are more rhyme, but whatever the case, I stand by my plagiaristic attempts at verse. English peas really are the perfect vegetable. You can eat them in pasta dishes, soups, casseroles, or in rice. They’re great raw or cooked. Pureed is nice as well. And then there are always dried peas for split pea soup. They are also highly nutritious. And oh, did I mention they’re delicious as well?

English peas shouldn’t be confused with snow peas or sugar snap peas. Unlike those varieties, you cannot eat the pod of the English pea. Only the actual pea is edible. Most people purchase their shelled peas in plastic bags from the freezer section of the grocery store. When not being used as malleable ice packs for bum knees and bumps on the head, freezer section bags offer a pretty decent cache of peas. Manufacturers shell the vegetables at the height of the season and then immediately freeze them, so you can usually be assured that those frozen green dots will be sweet. As for canned peas, I won’t even raise the topic except to say they are mushy and should be avoided at all costs unless you need something green in your earthquake supply bin.

But why use frozen peas now, when they’re available fresh and ready to be shelled? There’s a reason the term “sweet pea” is so pervasive. Peas just picked have a bright sweet flavor that is just not available in the freezer section. When newly picked, peas have a lush verdant flavor that just screams SPRING.

Don’t be put off by the idea of shelling your peas. First of all, most farmers’ markets offer a stand with already-shelled peas for lazy customers (including me). But if you can only find peas in the pod, rest assured that it takes less than five minutes to shell a batch. And, if you have kids, they will most likely think that shelling peas is fun, so you can pawn off the job while also getting them excited to eat the peas later (and they may even steal a few morsels while they labor away).

There are a lot of great recipes for peas, but one of my favorites is Fresh Spring Pea Soup. Cooked with caramelized onions, plus a hint of basil and mint, the peas sweet earthy flavors really burst through; plus the soup’s vivid green color is quite pretty.

So start shelling and take advantage of one of spring’s most memorable treats.

fresh pea soup in a bowl

Fresh Spring Pea Soup

Makes: 2 large or 4 small servings

Ingredients:
3 cups shelled English peas
1 cup sliced cipollini or spring onions
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1 Tbsp chopped basil
1 Tbsp chopped mint
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. Heat a soup pot on a medium flame.

2. When pan is hot, add olive oil and onions. Lower heat and cook for about five minutes or until the onions start to soften and become golden in color.

3. Stir in your shelled peas and add a dash of salt. Cook uncovered for about five minutes, stirring every so often.

4. Add the broth and cook until everything is heated through. Taste the peas to see if they’re done. Like pasta, they should be al dente: not mushy but cooked through.

5. Add the basil and mint and then puree everything using either a hand or stand blender. If using a stand blender, be sure to allow an air hole at the top or else the steam my cause the soup to shoot through the top.

6. Return the soup to the pot, adding the crème fraiche or sour cream along with some salt and pepper to taste.

7. Serve immediately with croutons or good bread.

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