Meatless Monday... A bit of a cheat?

Monday, June 8, 2009

OK, so I have to admit that I don't have a recipe prepared for my Meatless Monday post today. I have an AWESOME recipe that involves portobello mushroom caps, goat cheese, a bit of balsamic vinegar and either pine nuts or walnuts, but I don't have pictures for that yet! So I'm doing a bit of a cheat to tide me over... Two posts in one, if you will. The portobello recipe is soon to follow.

But first, to whet your appetite... My favorite type of dinner. It *is* a meatless dinner (albeit still involving dairy). The PICNIC! Sunday night John and I had my favorite kind of dinner, a spontaneous picnic on the porch. The meal included fresh bits of blue cheese and smoked Gouda, some gorgeous french bread, smoked almonds and some olive tapanade from the farmer's market. Perfect. The only thing that might have been better would be the addition of some D'Anjou pears (sliced, of course), maybe some Pink Lady or Jonagold apples (sliced...), and some lovely dark chocolate and French Beaujolais wine. I'm also a sucker for the olives from the olive bar... Seasoned, plain, jalapeno, Kalamata, whatever. But then, this was ad hoc at home in Blacksburg and not in Lyon, France (my favorite place on the planet). I think maybe Gracie likes picnics too (you think?).

That was a fab dinner.

This weekend I also made some lemon curd, courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers, The Bakerina! A couple of years ago she wrote a post about her Meyer Lemon Curd. I found Meyer Lemons in the Dekalb Farmer's Market last year and made my first batch, and I'm pretty sure I discovered a secret path to phenomenal sunny yellow heaven. So, of course, when John and I stopped in the Fresh Market in Roanoke on Saturday and they had some of these lovely things I HAD to scoop them up!!!!

The lemons (unbelievably gorgeous, aren't they?):

The recipe for the Meyer Lemon Curd can be found on The Bakerina's site, via this post.
Note: whoops, corrected that link, folks, sorry to have misdirected you initially.

Actually, I'll just paste the recipe here:

Bakerina's Meyer Lemon Curd

2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest (obtained by zesting or grating the peel on your lemons, taking care not to lift off any pith)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 tbsp* chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks

Run the zest and sugar together in a food processor for about one minute until the sugar smells intensely lemony. You can also grind them together in a mortar and pestle, or rub the peel into the sugar with your fingertips.

In the top of a double boiler (or in a bowl that you can fit over a pan of simmering water), beat the eggs and egg yolks, add the sugar and beat until everything is combined. Put the bowl over simmering water and stir with a whisk. Feel some of the eggs and sugar with your fingers; if you can still feel sugar granules, keep stirring. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the lemon juice and cook to 160 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, just watch for the following signs: The curd will become very foamy; then the foam will subside and the whole mix will start to thicken and tighten. When the curd starts to approximate the texture of loose sour cream, that's when it's time to pull it from the stove.

Strain the mix into a clean bowl, or into the washed-and-dried bowl of your food processor, and beat in the butter, piece by piece. Chill the bowl in an ice bath; when the curd is cool, decant it into a container and refrigerate -- after you perform a quality-control test, of course.

* You can use up to 8 tablespoons for a richer curd.

One of the first steps (combining the lemon zest & sugar):

You have to stir the mix CONSTANTLY to keep it from sticking or burning:

The straining gets out the solids as well as the larger lemon zests (don't skip this step!):

As you chill the mixture in the icewater bath, it thickens up nicely (as reflected in this shot, where I scraped down the sides of the bowl):

Last time I made the mistake of just putting the curd in jars and eating (some of) it straight. A lot of it wound up going to waste, mostly because I just wasn't sure what to do with it. This time, I remembered reading on the 10 Signs Like This blog (sadly, not updated in quite some time) that Jamie mixed the lemon curd with whipping cream and made a sponge cake roll. I decided to do the same thing (mix it with real whipped cream) and make a lemon pie. I proceeded to whip the cream (1 c. heavy whipping cream + 1/3 c. sugar + 1 tsp homemade vanilla*). If you've never actually made whipped cream from the liquid and are intimidated, don't be. Use the ratios above, and beat with whisk (or, preferably, electric beater), until it looks like this, and holds a peak:

I mixed half curd, half whipped cream, and put it in the pie crust I'd already baked (um, yeah, I bought the crusts; they are Pillsbury. I'm not entirely nuts, ya'll!!). I frosted it with whipped cream and stuck it in the fridge.

For some reason it didn't gel as well as I might have liked (maybe too much beating when trying to mix in the butter? not enough butter? who knows?)... So I covered it and put it in the freezer to firm up. Sure enough, 20 minutes of chilling on the counter today and it was perfect for eating. Awesome summer fare, just a touch icy and cold, but soft enough to be completely edible. What can I say?! It's delicious.

* post on the homemade vanilla to follow =) But here's a sneak preview pic!


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